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A Year of Fear: Reflections on the Pandemics of Covid and Racism

By Mr. Adam Jewell, History and Social Sciences Department Head

A Year of Fear: Reflections on the Pandemics of Covid and Racism

The flash and noise of sirens, the rush of adrenaline and fear, constant fear, all-around you, rushing out the door, jumping in an ambulance, and racing off to the hospital, is scary, to say the least. In the winter of 2016 and 2017 and again in 2018 this was the norm for my family, my daughter, all of one year old, growing into being a toddler spent winters suffering from RSV to the point that going to the doctor’s office, would lead to a trip to the hospital, often the ICU, NICU when she was really young. As Covid began to overtake us, first through stories and conversations with advisees from China and South Korea, and then finally here at our doorstep, these fears that seemed to have disappeared as she got older came roaring back. We shut down our campus, public schools also closed, and the thought of even interacting with others became a daily fear, a fear that brought back the days of doctor’s visits and ambulance rides and the very legitimate fear that my daughter just could not breathe.

Juxtapose that with the reality of my black and brown friends, peers and students. Look around at the overwhelming fear of violence and even death that surrounds them. These did not start with George Floyd’s murder, nor did they start with my most visible memory of police violence from my life, that being Rodney King. Indeed, as an historian, the long, destructive impact of systemic racism, lynchings and chattel slavery are chilling realities of the African American experience I spent nearly thirty years of my life researching, learning, and talking about. Those words, “I can’t breathe” etched into our collective memory by Eric Garner and the very fact that my own daughter often could not breathe represent to me personally the twin pandemics we are faced with today: systemic racism and Covid.


Nazi Propaganda and its Effect on the United States

By Cadence Summers, VI Form

Nazi Propaganda and its Effect on the United States

An unknown man heils a banner of President George Washington and two banners embroidered with the Swastika on either side. On February 20, 1939, seven months before the start of World War II and George Washington’s birthday, 20,000 Americans gathered in Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena, in support of the Nazi party. For decades, the narrative that the United States was a strictly anti-Nazi nation in the years leading up to and during World War II has eclipsed that of the much more sinister truth. In the years immediately prior to the United States entrance into World War II on December 7, 1941, there were at least 100,000 Nazi sympathizers in the United States. White supremacist groups such as the KKK, who’s numbers were near four million in the 1920s, guaranteed millions more American antisemites and possible Nazi sympathizers. Nazi Germany ruled much of American society, in addition to the entire population of Germany, with an iron fist of deception and its most dangerous weapon: Propaganda. 

Hitler regarded propaganda as a “truly terrible weapon in the hands of an expert.” The man he appointed to oversee the creation and dispersion of propaganda proved that it can be as lethal as machine guns and torpedos. Joseph Goebbels headed the Reich Ministry for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment (RMVP) for the entirety of the Holocaust. The Third Reich’s prolific propaganda was due to his shrewd and wicked genius. His tactics for propaganda creation and dispersion increased its efficacy as he, and his team, including visual artists, writers, and filmmakers, created propaganda that would appeal to each man, woman, and child in Germany. The RMVP targeted German adults with countless antisemitic newspapers and posters that vilified everyone who did not fit the ideal Nazi narrative, from Jews to communists to the Allies. Nazis isolated and indoctrinated children using a system of altered school curriculums, children’s books, summer camps, and youth organizations. Often children were indoctrinated before their parents because they were young, naïve, and impressionable and would therefore mold more easily to the new onslaught of Nazi ideology. Nazi propagandists believed that if children were indoctrinated, then hesitant parents who grew up with Jews and were friends with them would be persuaded to align themselves with Nazi ideology in order to protect themselves and their children from the regime. 


Cultural Assimilation and Preservation in Boston’s Chinatown

By Lina Zhang, VI Form

Cultural Assimilation and Preservation in Boston’s Chinatown

Since its founding, Boston’s Chinatown has stood at a linguistic and cultural crossroads between English and Cantonese, American and Chinese. When the first Chinese immigrants arrived in Massachusetts in the 1870s, driven out of California by discimination and violence, they settled in a neighborhood that had already housed multiple immigrant groups before them. In the mid-twentieth century, anglicized names such as Hong Far Low Restaurant, Ruby Foo’s Den, Quong Wah Long and Company soared on wooden or neon signs above the groups of people filling the streets and speaking southern Chinese dialects, occasionally interrupted by the foreign English words of a gawking, white tour group. To the outsiders, Chinatown with its opium dens and gangs was sensational, exotic, lawless, and profoundly unAmerican. Today, however, a paifang stands at the entrance of Boston’s Chinatown with the words 天下为公, or “The world is equally shared by all.” Mandarin has replaced Taishanese, stores advertise hotpot and milk tea in Chinese, and it is common to see people of all races inhabiting this space. After more than a hundred years of coexistence, Chinatowns are still not fully American, but they are not fully Chinese either.

For as long as the Chinese lived in the United States, Chinatowns have risen and disappeared in different parts of the country. These neighborhoods often decline when they encounter a wide range of challenges, including financial hardship, ageing and out-migration, and cultural assimilation. After the disappearance of Chinatowns in Providence and Maine, Boston’s Chinatown became the last Chinatown in New England, serving the Chinese communities of all six states. Compared with the vibrant Chinatowns in San Francisco and New York, Boston’s Chinatown is relatively small and unknown. Neither the first point of contact for Chinese immigrants in the United States nor a current center of tourism and activism, its first residents lived in pre-constructed apartment complexes that had already housed prior immigrant groups. The population of Boston’s Chinatown reached just over ten thousand residents in 2020. Despite these limitations, Boston’s Chinatown has constantly adapted over the years, developing its own culture without the renown that other Chinatowns enjoy. However, it is interesting to consider whether Boston’s Chinatown still possesses a unique ethnic identity or if it is simply a declining residential pocket of Chinese Americans in a rapidly gentrifying, urbanizing environment. 


Accountability for the 400,000 Deaths: The RICO Act’s Application in the Legal Opioid Industry

By Holden LeBlanc, VI Form

Accountability for the 400,000 Deaths: The RICO Act’s Application in the Legal Opioid Industry

Carolyn Markland, a grandmother from Jacksonville, Florida, was a lover of animals and spent years fostering rescue pets after retiring as an environmental engineer. Markland, however, struggled with back pain due to a degenerative disc disease for years. After trying different medications with little relief, a doctor prescribed Markland the fentanyl-based drug Subsys to subdue her pain. Markland took a dose of Subsys before going to sleep on July 2, 2014. When Markland’s daughter went to check on her mother the next day, she discovered her dead in her bed with a Subsys canister lying at her side. Although Markland’s overdose was the first death connected to Subsys, many more were looming. Along with thousands of others, Markland died from overdosing on prescription opioids, but to understand how this happened, it is essential to recognize the changes in the United States’ policy towards opioids.

Opium, the active ingredient in opioids, is a substance that blocks pain by stimulating the release of the chemical dopamine in the body. Opium is a naturally occurring substance found in poppy plants, which humans have cultivated for centuries seeking their medicinal effect. For most of America’s history, up until the mid-twentieth century, doctors utilized opioids like morphine and later heroin as a crude form of anesthesia for surgery and for managing debilitating pain. After soldiers who received these powerful opioids became addicted in the early twentieth century, however, the United States government banned heroin and severely limited morphine use in 1924. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, opioid use in the U.S. remained relatively low, as much of the population viewed partaking in drug culture as morally wrong and deviant.


The Causes of Silicon Valley’s Success

By Kartik Donepudi, VI Form

The Causes of Silicon Valley’s Success

There are 472 million entrepreneurs in the world. Each year, those entrepreneurs found a total of 305 million startups, and 1.35 million of those startups are tech related. However, entrepreneurship is a risky business; in 2019, approximately 90% of startups, defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees, failed. With such a high failure rate, it is imperative that tech startup founders do whatever is necessary to ensure the survival of their companies. They must have funding, talent, space, and proximity to resources like academic research and laboratories. Accordingly, it is of great importance that tech startup founders find the right location to set up shop.

Imagine you are a tech startup founder with the next big idea in your back pocket. You know your startup’s product will be wildly successful. You simply need the funding to get started, talented employees to begin research and development, and a place to open company headquarters where you can find a wide customer base and easy access to resources. Where do you go? The answer is the home of today’s greatest startup ecosystem: Silicon Valley.

Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley has been a center of technological innovation since the late 1800s and produces many of the world’s largest tech firms. Modern giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook find their homes in the Valley alongside pioneer companies of previous eras in technology; older firms like Lockheed Martin, Intel, and HP have blossomed in the region since their foundings in the mid 1900s. An abundance of local talent stemming from schools like Stanford University has fueled the region’s startups for more than a century, and in the modern age, talent from the best colleges around the world flocks to Silicon Valley to make it big as the next tech leaders.


Questioning the Criminalization of Gangsta Rap: How Explicit Lyrics Reflect Economic and Racial Inequality in the Wake of Deindustrialization and the War on Drugs

By Frances Hornbostel, VI Form

Questioning the Criminalization of Gangsta Rap: How Explicit Lyrics Reflect Economic and Racial Inequality in the Wake of Deindustrialization and the War on Drugs 

In 1992, rapper Tupac Shakur carved the powerful mantra he had created across his torso: “Thug Life.” In bold, unfading, blue ink, the message would last forever on his body and resonate off of it. The message of “Thug Life,” however, did not convey one, coherent story. As with anything celebrities do, the media, political figures, and the general public began to weave another section of the messy web that is Tupac’s legacy. The word “thug” inspired images of criminals who are violent, malicious, and crude.2 Many snatched the opportunity of Tupac’s branding himself with the public’s negative usage of “thug” as confirmation that he was accepting the media’s labelling of him. Some took it as permission to call Shakur a criminal before he was ever accused of a crime.

Many thought the way of life he depicted in his lyrics incited violence, holding him responsible for some real, criminal acts of violence that followed the release of his music. Linda Davidson, the wife of Officer Bill Davidson, would sue Time Warner, Interscope Records, and Tupac Shakur, blaming them for the fatal shooting of her husband. In April 1992, Officer Davidson pulled over Ronald Howard, a teenager from Houston, for a broken headlight. As the officer walked up to Howard’s window, the teen shot Davidson, who would die three days later. How could Tupac be responsible if it was Ronald Howard who was convicted of the crime? At the time of the shooting, the music of Tupac Shakur’s album, 2Pacalypse Now, blasted through an audio cassette in Howard’s car. Linda Davidson claimed the music’s obscenity and violent imagery directly encouraged illegal behavior, like the shooting that led to her husband’s death.3 Although the Judge eventually dismissed the lawsuit against Time Warner, Interscope Records, and Tupac, criticism of the rapper and the genre of gangsta rap was still very much alive.