tl;dr: TV Show Recommendations Here

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

On this blog, I’ve talked about the Bechdel Test and the mythical existence of media that passes it with flying colors. The Bechdel Test can also apply to a multitude of other groups, including LGBTQ characters, people with mental and physical disabilities, people of color, etc. The following is a list of TV shows that master the spirit of the Bechdel Test as it applies to people of color. Similar to my list on female representation in media, it’s all TV shows, but I do want to talk about one film: Dear White People.

Dear White People

While it has its bumps and flaws (it’s the director’s first film), Dear White People is a dramedy about the various experiences of African American students at a very prestigious, predominately white, university. Or, as Dear White People‘s clever PSAs say “being a black face in a white place.”

Justin Simien has created a diverse cast of characters–not just ethnically, but characters with a diverse range of perspectives. His characters come from privilege and from poverty, some are political animals and others are willfully oblivious. That said, I do think that Dear White People‘s viral YouTube campaign might actually function better on its own than it does as a film. Here are some examples of its best work on YouTube:

But the film touches on such important issues–cultural appropriation, racial identity, political correctness, white privilege–so well, that it was one of my favorite films of 2014.

Everything else worth watching is on the small screen.

Shows Worth Watching That I’ve Actually Seen: 

Note: I’ve recommended all but one of these before, but many are worth calling out in a new context.

  • Avatar: The Legend of Korra: I’ve talked about Korra before, in the context of awesome lady characters, but it also has some interesting portrayals of race. While Avatar: The Last Airbender has a slightly more ethnically diverse core cast, Korra‘s protagonist is dark-skinned–a rarity in mainstream media (though, for all its cult popularity, Korra isn’t exactly what one might call mainstream). What’s more, the creators have clearly done some thinking when it comes to the racial identities of some of its main characters:

For more on the decision-making process of Korra’s exact skin tone, I would check out this tumblr post by Bryan Konietzsko, co-creator of Korra. I would also recommend reading it in contrast to the experience of this comic book colorist.

  • Orange is the New Black: Duh. OITNB is one of the best shows out there on so many levels, but especially regarding gender and race.There just aren’t any other shows–certainly no mainstream shows–that are discussing race so boldly, and so broadly. Season 2 amps it up a lot, and even diminishes the use of its “Trojan Horse” character in Piper Chapman.
  • All The Shonda Rhimes Shows: My favorite thing about Shonda Rhimes’ shows (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder) is that many of her characters of color have strong, interesting roles that have nothing to do with the color of their skin. At the same time, Rhimes by no means ignores their race–in fact, all of her shows have dealt with issues of race quite powerfully at some point or another. Scandal in particular has this intense discussion of power:

And recently, the show has started to provide some commentary on Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter.

Other shows that are by no means amazing, but still have some great diversity in casting, include Castle as well as Bones.

Recommendations That I Haven’t Seen: 

  • Black-ish: A sitcom featuring an upper-middle class African-American family, particularly focusing on the father figure, who is concerned about his children’s cultural assimilation in their white, suburban neighborhood.
  • Cristela: Another family sitcom that chronicles the life of Cristela Hernandez, a Mexican-American law school graduate who is working as an unpaid intern at a law firm, while living at home with her family. Stand-up comic Cristela Alonzo is the star, as well as the writer and producer. She is the first Latin-American woman to star, write, and produce her own primetime show.
  • Fresh Off the Boat: A comedy series that is inspired by the life of chef and food personality Eddie Huang and his book Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir. It is the first American sitcom to star an Asian-American family as protagonists on network primetime since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl, which aired for one season in 1994. I would recommend reading this review, from one of my favorite television critics.
  • Jane the VirginA comedy series loosely based on a Venezuelan telenovela of the same name, Jane the Virgin is about the events that take place in the life of Jane Villanueva, a religious young Latina woman whose vow to save her virginity until marriage is shattered when a doctor accidentally artificially inseminates her during a checkup.
  • Empire: The only non-comedy on this list, Empire is a musical drama that centers around a hip hop entertainment company, Empire Entertainment, and the drama among the members of the founders’ family as they fight for control of the company.

I haven’t seen Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat or Cristela because they’re all family sitcoms–just not a genre that I’ve ever been interested in. But I’m glad they exist to balance out similar shows like Modern Family. I admit that despite its popularity, I hadn’t heard of Empire prior to doing research for this blog post, and I’m not sure if I’m going to try it out. Jane the Virgin, on the other hand, is a show I’ve been hearing about for a while and that has already garnered awards attention for its star, Gina Rodriguez. I’m looking forward to checking this one out.

Do you have any suggestions of your own? Let me know in the comments!

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tl;dr: According to My TV, There Is Greater Racial Diversity in Jordan than in the United States

Disclaimer: I am approaching this topic from the point of view of a white female, living in one of the whitest metro areas in the country. Additionally, this post will primarily, but not exclusively, focus on the the representations and stereotypes of African Americans in the media (mostly because this is where all the data is). 

When I studied abroad in Jordan, I overheard a Jordanian woman telling an American that Jordan has greater diversity than the United States. Considering Arabs make up approximately 93% of Jordan’s population, this is a wildly false statement. However, I can understand where this woman may have gotten the impression that there is no racial diversity in the United States: American television. American TV–particularly American reality shows–are very popular in Jordan, and our TV shows and films are widely (and cheaply) distributed in downtown Amman. And, guys? Our media tells a vastly different story from our reality.

This UCLA report, published in 2014, found that:

  • Among film leads, minorities were underrepresented by a factor of greater than 3 to 1.
  • Among film writers, minorities were underrepresented by a factor of 5 to 1.
  • Among broadcast comedy and drama leads on television, minorities were underrepresented by a factor of 7 to 1.
  • Among the creators of cable comedies and dramas on television, minorities were underrepresented by a factor of 5 to 1.

A few weeks ago, we discussed representations of women in media, but didn’t touch directly on women of color. You think that post’s statistics were shocking? Check this out:

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Among the top 500 grossing films of the past 21 years, only one live action film has featured a woman of color. And while I love Whoopi Goldberg and Sister Act, the film is kind of ridiculous, and not without problematic racial stereotypes (the sequel is actually much better when it comes to representation of minorities).

The Academy Awards reflect a similar, disturbing trend:

Black_Women_and_the_Oscars.jpg

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Halle Berry is the only African American woman to have won Best Actress in a Leading Role. Not only that, but she is the only woman of color to have won the award. Only four African American men have won Best Actor (one Latino actor and two Asian-American actors have done the same). So not only are people of color underrepresented in the highest-grossing films, but there is also a distinct lack of representation in the most critically acclaimed films.

The above infographic also reveals who the largely white voters are willing to crown victor when a woman of color does win. The “Mammy” stereotype is a deeply troubling and common stereotype. Other African American women have won Academy Awards for roles as criminals, slaves, and welfare queens. All of these women are great actresses who deserve every drop of praise they have received–I especially admired Lupita Nyong’o’s performance in 12 Years a Slave–but where are the awards for women of color in roles that have nothing to do with the color of their skin? Well, as The Representation Project shows us, these roles are virtually nonexistent.

You would think this lack of diversity in big budget and awards-garnering films would imply that theater-goers are not interested in stories featuring people of color, but fluctuating television ratings tell a different story.

The 2014-2015 television season has the most diverse lineup in years. Not only that, but some of the most diverse shows on network television are also the most popular: Empire, Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, and Jane the Virgin are all doing quite well in a television season that has seen other shows (in particular romantic comedies) drop like flies. How to Get Away With Murder, Grey’s Anatomy, and Scandal are all ratings beasts, and all feature excellent gender and racial diversity.

However, some TV critics have suggested that this diverse line-up only exists because TV ratings are so low (and that comparatively, it’s not even that diverse). Networks are casting about for an audience, any audience, that will turn on their TVs between 7 and 10pm. And shows with minority leads are cheaper to produce, and have a wide audience. The same thing happened in the 90s–I remember the diverse lineup of shows of my childhood: Kenan and Kel, Sister Sister, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I watched most of these shows in re-runs, but they were all hugely popular when they were airing week to week. But when the networks with multicultural shows started to make more money, they started to produce more and more white (usually white male) led shows. For a more complete understanding of the situation, I would recommend reading Flavorwire’s “Are This Season’s Diverse Shows Ushering In a New Era of Multicultural Television?” 

My favorite quote from Miss Representation applies equally well to the problematic representation of people of color: “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Here’s the evidence:

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But it goes further than a lack of jobs and political leadership. We talked last week about institutionalized racism and implicit bias–biases that are often perpetuated by the media. In the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO last summer, traditional news outlets partook in a smear campaign against Michael Brown. It was subtle, but CNN, Fox News, and other outlets chose to focus not on the tragic death of an unarmed teenager, but on Brown’s theft of cigars, stating that he was “no angel.”

In my last post, I cited a number of jarring statistics: one out of three black males will be incarcerated in his lifetime, prison sentences are (on average) 20% longer for black males than for white males (for the same crime), black students are three and a half times more likely to be suspended than white students.

Isn’t it just possible that a lack of people of color in the media, the presence of damaging stereotypes surrounding people of color who do manage to get on TV, contribute to the treatment of victims like Michael Brown, and these awful statistics? Because it couldn’t be more clear to me.

I realize I didn’t include any videos in today’s post. Don’t worry though–I’m planning a post for tomorrow that will heavily feature videos and film recommendations.

tl;dr: How Institutionalized Racism Has Infected Our Justice System

The following is the post I meant to write last week, but then I got busy. Fortunately, my posts for this week fit into last week’s theme. For the rest of this week, expect a couple of posts on representations of people of color in the media.

In my last post, we discussed how institutionalized racism has affected the United States’ education system. Today, I’d like to talk about how it has affected our criminal justice system.

For an overview of how messed up our prison system is, check out this Hank Green/Visually video:

The system Hank describes is particularly true for people of color:

Don’t believe me? Check out these statistics:

  • On average, prison sentences for black men are nearly 20% longer than those of white men for similar crimes.
  • A 2008 study conducted in Los Angeles found that not only are black men and Latinos more likely to be stopped by police officers on the street, but black men who are stopped are 127% more likely to be frisked than stopped white males.
  • Those wrongfully convicted and later exonerated by DNA are disproportionately African American.

For more resources on racial profiling:

Racial profiling in LA: the numbers don’t lie. 

The Reality of Racial Profiling.

I would also strongly recommend checking out this Vox article on the unequal treatment of minorities in drug arrests: “Everyone does drugs, but only minorities are punished for it.” Or, if you’re a visual person like me, check these out:

Drug_use_by_race

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Us_drug_arrest_rates

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Which brings us to a statistic I think most of you have probably already heard: One out of three African American males will be incarcerated in his lifetime. 

(Source)

In my last post, we talked about the black male achievement gap, and how the challenges faced by young men and women of color have led to dropout rates among African American and Latino populations that are significantly higher than their white counterparts. So what happens to the kids who leave school? The disproportionate number of African American boys who are suspended from school–even preschool? Many of them end up in prison–a path that is referred to by experts as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

For more information on the school-to-prison pipeline, check out these resources:

Fact Sheet: How Bad Is The School-to-Prison Pipeline? 

Race, Gender, and The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Expanding Our Discussion to Include Black Girls

For a more personal account of how the United States criminal justice system disproportionately sentences people of color, I would recommend checking out 15 to Life: Kenneth’s StoryThe film follows Kenneth, a young African American man who was sentenced to life in prison at age 15 for armed robbery. The film primarily focuses on his appeal 10 years after he was incarcerated, but also discusses the wider problem of juvenile life sentences in the United States. The United States is the only country in the world that sentences juveniles to life in prison.

15 to Life is not available on Netflix, but it is sometimes available on POV’s website. As always, if you’re looking for a film to screen for a community or educational event, it’s also available through POV’s Community Lending Library.

For more information on juveniles in prison, a problem in the United States that disproportionately affects youth of color, I would recommend checking out the 15 to Life discussion guide.* It discusses in detail the history of the juvenile justice system, sentencing juveniles to life without parole, and discusses specific cases that have affected sentencing practices in juvenile cases.


*Full disclosure: I’m biased, since I provided a substantial amount of research for this guide.

tl;dr: Introducing the Black Male Achievement Gap

Disclaimer: I am a white female who comes from an upper middle class family. I live in one of the whitest cities in the country, and I used to live in one of the worst states for African Americans to live in. I recognize that I am approaching this topic from a position of privilege, and that a discussion of race from my perspective is not without holes. So I want to say that my goal here is not to act as an educator, but instead recommend videos and articles that have helped me to understand the presence and affects of racism in this country. I hope they do the same for you. 

The effects of institutionalized racism are reflected most starkly in our education and criminal justice systems. Today, I want to discuss the American education system and the black male achievement gap by recommending the documentary film American Promise, and a number of accompanying resources.

One of POV‘s services is to lend out DVDs of its films to schools, libraries, and community organizations for free. Its Community Lending Library features approximately 80 films on a variety of topics; from uplifting stories about donkey libraries to examinations of genocide. Its most commonly requested film to date is American Promise. This film follows two young African American males over the course of 13 years, from kindergarten to their high school graduations. The filmmakers watch as their son, Idris, and his friend Seun grow up in the academically and socially challenging environment of the Dalton School, one of the most prestigious–historically white–private schools in New York. The film brings to light provocative questions about race, class, gender, and differences in opportunity in our country.

American Promise is available to watch on Netflix.*

If you don’t have time to watch the full film, I would strongly recommend watching the half-hour long Behind Every Promise, which includes excerpts from the film alongside interviews with Idris and Seun.

American Promise introduces viewers to the phrase “black male achievement gap“–referring to the phenomenon in the United States wherein African American males, even when given the same educational and economic resources as their peers of other races, are likely to fall short of their counterparts in virtually every measure of academic success.

For example:

  • Across age groups, black students are three times more likely than white students to be suspended.
  • While boys make up the large majority of students who are suspended (about eight in 10), about 12 percent of black girls are suspended and 7 percent of Native American girls are suspended. That’s a rate higher than that of white boys (6 percent).
  • Currently, only 15% of black students attend schools that are well-resourced and high performing, while 42% attend schools that are both under-resourced and performing poorly
  • Only 16% of black males hold college degrees, compared to 32% of white males.
  • In 2009, 4.8% of black students dropped out of grades 10 through 12, compared to 2.4% of white students.

For more statistics, visit:

Black Preschoolers Far More Likely to Be Suspended 

American Promise in Context 

Dear Colleague Letter: Resource Comparability 

The above statistics, and the anecdotal evidence of American Promise, make it impossible to ignore the reality that young people of color lack access to the same opportunities as their white peers in our country.

Something interesting to note, is that in schools where this achievement gap is markedly smaller, administrations report classroom characteristics that should be obvious when considering how to support student achievement:

  • A clear sense of purpose
  • Core standards within a rigorous curriculum
  • High expectations
  • Commitment to educate all students
  • Safe and orderly learning environment
  • Strong partnerships with parents
  • A problem solving attitude

I’m not here to propose solutions to this problem–I don’t have the qualifications to make the attempt. But I do know that one of the first steps to solving any problem is recognizing that it exists. Educate yourself. Watch the film. Read articles regarding race, African American and Hispanic youth, and the American education system with a critical eye. And if you do choose to take action, I would strongly recommend checking out the following organizations and movements:

America’s Promise Alliance: America’s Promise Alliance brings together hundreds of national nonprofits, businesses, communities, educators and ordinary citizens in support of making the promise of America accessible to all young people. America’s Promise Alliance frames its work around what they call the “Five Promises” to be kept to all young people: caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, an effective education, and opportunities to serve.

The GradNation Campaign: America’s Promise Alliance launched the GradNation campaign in 2010. It is now a large and growing online community of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to end America’s dropout crisis.

American Graduate: Supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, American Graduate has partnered 80 public media stations with 1,000 community organizations and at-risk schools to increase understanding of all facets of high school dropout rates, including the important role that caring adults play in the lives of young people.

Finally, some additional resources:

American Promise Overview

American Promise companion book, Promises Kept.

American Promise Workshops and Toolkits

The Trouble with Black Boys: The Role and Influence of Environmental and Cultural Factors on the Academic Performance of African American Males 

How School Segregation Divides Ferguson–and the United States

These resources are limited to what I have come across through my work with POV and independent research. If you have your own resources or films to recommend, let me know in the comments!


*If you are interested in screening American Promise for any kind of public event, you’re going to face copyright issues if you use Netflix. Check out the Community Network at POV and see if you can borrow the film for free (if you are screening the film at a university, college, or private school, you have to buy the film).

tl;dr: Why is Peace So Difficult? Part 2

Disclaimer: Still kinda biased here. 

Jerusalem and the settlements are two of the most contentious issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict and the path toward peace, but the Right to Return is perhaps the most emotional. In 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to leave their homes under controversial circumstances.* The United Nations has since defined Palestinian refugees as those who fled** Palestine in 1948, and has recognized their (and their descendants’) right to return to the homes they left behind. Unlike the settlements, the right to return has a more symbolic significance in peace agreements–most Palestinian refugees living outside of Israel and Palestine today say that they would accept financial compensation and a place to live inside the West Bank or Gaza. Over time, it has become more and more obvious that it would be nigh impossible for these families to return to the exact locations they or, in most cases, their grandparents originally lived. But accountability and recognition are key pieces in any conversation about reparations between Israelis and Palestinians–the persistence of the Israeli government in denying the Palestinians’ right of return has played a heavy emotional toll on peace agreements.

(Source)

There are a number of films that touch upon the Right to Return, but two of the best that I’ve seen are A World Not Ours and Salt of This Sea.

A World Not Ours is a documentary film that depicts life in one of the most populous refugee camps in Lebanon. The film aired on PBS during POV’s most recent season, and I helped POV put together the films discussion guide, which you can check out here. What’s cool about A World Not Ours is the filmmaker’s position–he’s Palestinian, but he grew up in Europe, making him more relatable to the average non-Palestinian viewer. I came away from the film with a real understanding (or as authentic an understanding as one can have from watching a documentary) of what it means to be a Palestinian refugee–with no state to call home, no right to a passport, no right to leave what was supposed to be a temporary home, no job prospects. Its themes spread further than Palestine and Lebanon, as well–there are strong themes of identity, family, and depression in the film as well as its more political overtones. A World Not Ours is a film that puts the viewer in the shoes of its subjects in a special way I haven’t seen before in a documentary feature.

Unfortunately, A World Not Ours is not available on Netflix or any free streaming sites (it may show up on POV’s website to stream for free again, but for now it’s unavailable). If you want to screen it for a public viewing though, contact POV. They lend out this film and dozens more like it for free!

Next up is a dramatic film. Salt of this Sea is about an American-born Palestinian woman who attempts to return to the homeland of her grandfather. Soraya is an interesting, truly unique female character–I don’t think I’ve seen anyone like her depicted on film. She doesn’t go through the journey typical of films like this one–the story of a naive woman who grows to be angry and political over time. No, she starts the film off angry and just gets angrier as the film goes on. Soraya is unapologetically proud of her Palestinian identity and refuses to deny it, even when it would be incredibly convenient for her to do so.

Themes of the Right to Return are very present in this film–Soraya struggles to regain money and property once held by her grandfather, and she has lengthy conversations with her Palestinian friends about what it means to be Palestinian. For her, being Palestinian has everything to do with the land. She has spent her whole life aching to return to a place she has never been.*** Her friends in Ramallah (the capital city of the West Bank), on the other hand, have spent their entire lives living under military occupation, and would give anything to leave. It’s a beautiful film, and it encourages great dialogue–it’s also a thriller that features a bank robbery and a clever getaway scheme. It’s super easy to watch, too: it’s available on Netflix.

Did you actually watch the films, or have you already seen them? Let me know what you think in the comments!


 

*Yes, yes this is a Wikipedia link. What did you think this was, a PoliSci paper?

**Using the word “fled,” as opposed to “left,” is a good example of my bias, and a demonstration of the minefield that is discussing this topic.

***This is an incredibly common sentiment, something that I encountered regularly when I studied abroad in Jordan (where a vast majority of the population is Palestinian). I have friends there who refer to Palestine as “home,” even though they have never been there. It’s heartbreaking. The sense of loss I witnessed in Jordan plays heavily on my own biases.

 

tl;dr: Why is Peace So Difficult? Part I

Disclaimer: My bias might flare up in the next couple of posts. Just FYI.  

One of the most controversial issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict is that of Israeli settlements. You’ve probably already heard of them and even know what they are: Israeli communities built in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem (there used to be settlements in Gaza as well, but Israel withdrew from the area in 2005). These settlements are illegal under international law–they disobey the Geneva Convention’s ruling that states cannot move their own civilians into occupied territory–and are one of the biggest blockades to the peace process. I’ll let Al Jazeera go ahead and explain why:

One great film on Israeli settlements and what it’s like to live under Israeli military law is 5 Broken Cameras.

The film was nominated for an Oscar (Best Documentary Feature) in 2013, and aired on POV in its 26th season. It’s cleverly structured around each of the filmmaker’s broken cameras, most of which are broken in clashes with the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces), and tells the story of his family, living on the edge of the newly created separation barrier in the village of Bil’in. 5 Broken Cameras is available to watch on Netflix.

If you think you don’t have time to watch one of the best films to feature the Israel-Palestine conflict, check out the following infographics. Vizualizing Palestine is an excellent resource, with some of the best crafted graphics I’ve seen on Palestine.

This one is a great infographic companion to 5 Broken Cameras, and details facts and figures discussed in the film:

5 Broken Cameras: Growing up with the Bil'in Resistance(Source)

Oh, and that wall we talked about? Yeah, also illegal:

Where Law Stands on the Wall(Source)

Other sources to check out include B’Tselem and Jewish Voice for Peace, both of which are Jewish nonprofits acting in solidarity with Palestinians. Stay tuned for info and film recommendations on the Palestinian’s right to return later today.

tl;dr: Sometimes Israel-Palestine Is Scary, But Sometimes There Are Circuses

Disclaimer: My personal opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict would be described by most as “pro-Palestinian.” I don’t like the language that is used here–it implies that I am “anti” something, but it’s the most commonly used descriptor for my stance on the issue. My opinions are strongly held, but in sharing these educational videos and articles with you, I want to be as objective as possible. I think its important to remain non-partisan in an educational setting. As such, the videos I’ve provided here were the most balanced that I have found to be worth sharing, but know that my choices may have been influenced by my personal feelings.

I’ve dedicated most of my academic and professional life to studying the Israel-Palestine conflict. But I still don’t understand half of what is going on. It may be one of the most hotly contested, complex situations in living memory, and it’s virtually impossible to talk about without making someone angry. I’m sure someone out there will read what I’ve written here and find something to rage quit over.

I think it’s still important to try to encourage dialogue about the issue. It’s a complex subject–not exactly dinner table talk–but it’s an important discussion to have. It is also relevant to your everyday life (if you’re an American). Israel is one of the top recipients in the world of US foreign aid. The projected military aid to Israel in 2015 is over $3 billion.

So, before you decide this issue is too complicated for your understanding, or too heated for your comfort, think about where that money is coming from. No matter where you fall on the issue, you should know what you’re spending your tax dollars on.

The following are educational videos by some amazing people who have managed to boil this conflict down into short, easy to digest segments. Check them out–they do a better job explaining this mess than I ever could.

Let’s start with an easy one. John Green! Yay, totally not scary. It is even in cartoon-form:

Of all of these creators, John Green and Crash Course do the best job of remaining nonpartisan. This is good from an educational standpoint–I’ve learned through my work with high schools that educators’ primary concern when teaching this subject is usually “balance.” John manages to not omit any facts that may be construed as contentious, while also emphasizing that no one party is at fault for the conflict. I particularly appreciate his explaining that very little of the present day conflict has to do with theological differences. It’s a common misconception, and I’m glad he took the time to debunk it. I would also recommend checking out For Critical Thinkers for more information on the roots of the conflict, and a more technical analysis of the present-day situation.

Next up is Test Tube. I can’t recommend this channel highly enough. I would have put it in my first post if I hadn’t just discovered it a couple of days ago. Test Tube provides content on a variety of topics, and their examinations of newsworthy issues are short and sweet.

The above explains the significance of Jerusalem in the conflict, as well as its role in peace talks. Jerusalem is one of the five key factors to focus on when studying Israel/Palestine peace agreements: settlements, water, the right to return, borders, and Jerusalem. The fight over this city began long before Israel was brought into being as a state, but it is crucial to understanding the present-day conflict, and prospects for peace.

Note, the following videos were made over the summer and some of the facts are outdated, but still give a general idea of the situation at hand.

If you’re interested in catching up with more recent news, I would highly recommend watching the following Vox video. Vox has also come up with a great primer article on the conflict, “9 questions about the Israel-Palestine conflict you were too embarrassed to ask.” So you might want to check that out, too.

Operation Protective Edge, the most recent Israeli military operation in Gaza, officially ended in August, but Gaza is still in a major state of crisis. The operation left over 2,200 people dead, the vast majority of them Gazans, and many remain homeless, injured, and ill. Billions of dollars were pledged by the international community to help aid Gazans, but almost none of this has materialized.

The situation in Gaza is closely tied to the fate of the West Bank, but it is often cast in a darker light, in part due to Hamas–which the US has classified as a terrorist organization. Because of its status as a terrorist organization, Hamas is given little credibility and is often ignored on the grounds of “we don’t negotiate with terrorists.” Fair enough, but it’s important to understand that Hamas is a complex political player, and is a huge factor in understanding the present day situation in Gaza. Test Tube does a great job explaining who Hamas is and what their role is today:

Sometimes reading up on Israel and Palestine can be disheartening, and a lot of the time I feel like not much has changed over the course of hundreds of years:

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But then sometimes there are circuses in Palestine, and there’s a spark of hope. It’s worth reading through all of the depressing, confusing, heartbreaking material, just for that.

I hope these videos served as a good intro to this week’s topic–let me know what you think in the comments! Stay tuned for more posts on settlements and the right to return, coming up later this week.