Identity, Power, and Injustice in Mudbound

I watched the Netflix movie Mudbound, which takes place in rural Mississippi during and after World War II. It’s really good, and I suggest you watch it. Here’s my attempt at a two sentence summary (spoiler alert):

A black family works as sharecroppers on a white family’s farm, and a young man from each of these families goes overseas to fight in World War II. The movie depicts the racial climate in America at the time, but the white man that went to war was saved by a black soldier, becomes accepting of African Americans, and eventually murders his KKK-supporting father.


To me, this movie was about how culture and experience creates various Us versus Them frameworks. In Mississippi at the time, sharecropping resembled slavery in many disturbing ways, and the integration of blacks and whites was frowned upon by many. This created a clear Othering of blacks by many whites. Interestingly, we see that the two soldiers are able to become an “Us” as they were on the same side in war. Americans, no matter their race, were fighting to defeat the Germans. The white soldier becomes good friends with the black soldier as they bond over their war experiences and traumas, and he ultimately delivers justice to his father (who tortures the black soldier).


Throughout the movie, we see white police officers taking part in racist acts. The producers did an excellent job of showing that the racist sharecropping and other injustices (including lynchings) often weren’t done in secret – it was often those in power that took part in the racism. The white community controlled the narrative, and there was no where for many blacks to report the wrongdoings. Blacks were seen as subalterns, silenced, and subject to the power of whites.


When the African American soldier returns home, he realizes that the racist climate is the same as when he left. He just gambled his life for the safety of all Americans, and some of these same Americans continue to spit on him and make him exit stores from the back door. Not only did African Americans unjustly serve many white peoples’ wealth (e.g., sharecropping), but they were paradoxically seen as equal when lives had to be risked to protect America’s freedom. Despite who actually fought for it, this freedom served the whites in Mississippi and not the blacks.

I think the producers of this movie wanted to elucidate the wrongdoings of many Americans in the not so distant past. In particular, I think they wanted to show the injustice of black people who risked their lives to fight in the war and ultimately returned to racism in their home town. This was done incredibly by the producers – the black soldier is tortured by the KKK in the movie, and this was extremely powerful. Broadly speaking, the central question that this movie successfully asks is: What makes someone a part of Us and what makes someone else a part of Them/the Other?

Injustices Related to Socioeconomic Status and Health

The below podcast was recorded by Josh Pelland and James Schubert.

Captions are available in the above YouTube video. The full text of the transcript is also included below for your reference.

All right. Hey everybody, my name is Josh Pelland. My name is James Schubert. Today we’re gonna be talking about socioeconomic status and its effects on health. So kind of the background story on this is that I saw a research poster in Ohio State’s exercise science labs to the effect of disproportionate obesity among Hispanic women. And after digging into this a little bit, there’s definitely a clear positive relationship between obesity prevalence and declining socioeconomic status.

So this comes as a relationship between the higher consumption of fast foods, sodas and other hypercaloric options in these populations. And this is definitely a big cause of this may be due to cost. And it seems almost like a paradox where people from higher socioeconomic statuses would have more money at their disposal so that they could spend it on you know high calorie foods, but in reality, it ends up being that these higher caloric foods end up being cheaper than Organic options such as stuff from grocery stores, like Whole Foods and farmers markets, and even then farmers markets and Whole Foods might not even be available to these people in from these lower economic backgrounds, especially in their own communities.

Yeah, and, I’d like to address a common misconception that a lot of people have. So a lot of people would assume that the direction of causality between socioeconomic status and poor health would be so somebody becomes poor and thus their health deteriorates, because they might not have access to sufficient health care professionals, etc. But actually, the research would indicate otherwise. So a low socioeconomic status at birth is what predicts subsequent poor health down the line. So kind of on that same note, with regards to the gradient between socioeconomic status and health, only about a third of that gradient is explained by lower socioeconomic status leading to more health risk factors. So Examples of this include poor water quality, smoking and drinking. So that’s a disadvantage they’re already at. But again, that only explains about one third of it. So there’s a couple hypotheses related to this. The first one is like the psychosocial hypothesis. So there’s this idea of having low social capital. So if you feel like you have a low ability to actually change your circumstances that somebody This is situation a poor person might find themselves in so that this stress response can actually deteriorate health itself. And probably the more pertinent to our discussion. This second hypothesis called the Neomaterialist hypothesis. So this is the idea that as income inequality grows, there’s less of a direct benefit for the wealthy to improve public resources. And as a lot of us know, wealthier people tend to have more resources and more influence in order to lobby and actually influence whether these public resources are improved, so as this gap increases, we see the lower income groups having less access to these public resources that might actually influence their health.

Yeah, and this is also related to what Spivak has told us about the concept of whether or not the subordinate can speak. So we’ve all heard this term of the either the silent majority or minority, whichever one. But in this case, the lower income groups don’t get a proper seat at the table for the issues that impact them, because they can’t necessarily do as much right now to change their situation that like that is currently at hand for them, because they don’t have the same resources that were previously mentioned as someone from a higher socioeconomic status, because it’s not as easy as you know, going outside and changing your life and you can’t do that like at the snap of a finger. It takes a lot more time and it takes a lot of money to you know, choose these healthy options at the grocery store, pay for a gym membership and put yourself in positions that you can be an extremely healthy person sometimes. So in these lower income situations, the harsh reality of it all might be that some people have bigger problems to worry about. They might not necessarily be going through their day thinking that, oh, I need to go get my 45 minutes of exercise and when you know they need to go work and they need to pay their electric bill or they need to pay their water bill, it really comes down to what they what they deem as more worthy of their time. And sometimes as sad as it might be health might take back a backseat to all this because making ends meet is really more important sometimes than living a healthy lives lifestyle. Like you have to everyday we make sacrifices. And sometimes the sacrifices need to be made so that we can even continue to live, whether that’s healthy or not. We have to make that we constantly fight to make that decision of whether or not you know I want to go on this walk or if I’m going to finish the 35 minutes of of homework that I need to do, it comes down to what you see is more beneficial to your everyday life. Right. So, and kind of jumping off that, you know, like, there’s definitely implications related to you know, we got to pay the bills, we got to

get the kids to school, whether we’re working one job, two jobs, three jobs, whatever. I think this also relates to the concept we’ve learned in this class, like basically throughout the whole semester related to othering. So from the concept of from the perspective of the one, they might think that the lower like, essentially that their health is a choice and that, you know, it’s very, it’s very simple in theory right, exercise sufficiently, meet the national guidelines for exercise throughout the week, and, you know, choose healthy foods, eat an appropriate amount of calories during the day and that, that’s all you have to do. It’s a choice, whereas I think they kind of lack a true a true empathy for this popular In terms of their ability to, you know, the disadvantages that they’re at in order to actually achieve those things, and I think that kind of links in with what James has been discussing, as it pertains to, you know, what are their true day to day worries for for these people, right, like if they have to work extra jobs, they’re not worried about getting those extra 60 minutes of.

Go ahead.

Yeah, so sometimes it’s, it’s, we, we kind of touched a little bit on this, but it’s like, more easier said than done. Not all these things are, you know, it’s it’s not the easiest thing for some people to find the amount of time that they can really spend, because at this point, time, time realistically is money for a lot of people. And they could be either working for you know, those couple of hours a week. So I guess if you do an hour a day, instead of working that five hours and making however much money at that, at that rate, you end up choosing to sacrifice that to, you know, be healthy, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea. But in the grand scheme of things, the money ends up playing a large factor in this because it really supports our everyday lives. And if you can find a way so that you can work it into your lifestyle to become healthy, and take the time, then more power to you. But sometimes you have to pick and choose your battles. And whether or not being the healthiest person or being a person who’s alive at this point is it’s one of those tough decisions that you have to make because either way, it could either help or hurt you.

So, a thought that just popped in my head kind of as it pertains to the current coronavirus situation. So, we know that like the federal government has stepped in and made like, essentially testing free for everybody. But how do you do you have any thoughts regarding like, how these low income groups might be impacted as it pertains to the current pandemic we’re experiencing? Whether they don’t have access to sufficient health care professionals or they’d, you know, rather not go to the hospital when they need to and spread the infection to more people. You have any thoughts on that?

Yeah, I so a sports fan, you kind of noticed or at least noticed that as this has gone on, you’ve heard about these, you know, these basketball players that are getting diagnosed with it, and then in two weeks, here they are, they’re fine now, or I guess in quotes, we’ll we’ll put that in quotes, fine. They’ve recovered and it’s all because of their situation puts them, like their profession of being, you know, a multi-million dollar basketball player gives them a lot more opportunity and resources to go and meet with, you know, the best medical professional in the country. Because, of course, as we all know, athletes have this had this chance to and it’s interesting because you’re only hearing about like this, you know, not the 1%. But you’re getting close to that 1% of people in the country that are really the only ones that can figure out a solution to this. And I mean, if I were diagnosed today, I’m not even sure what I would do, because I don’t know if I can afford to go and support myself and pay for a test and then pay for staying in hospital for however many like, days or however amount of time. And it’s just it’s interesting because this is like a direct example of the advantage of socioeconomic status, really playing a huge benefit, like for know, this small group of people because they, it’s really not a worry in their head. They kind of already know that they know who they can talk to, and that they can get it solved quick, but some people just don’t have that,

that blessing. So but my sister, she lives in Colorado, and she actually lived in Hawaii for a couple of years before she moved to Colorado. And I was talking on the phone to her yesterday, or maybe it was two days ago, but whatever, and she was like, yeah, I’m just like really thankful that I’m actually employed and I have health insurance right now because when I was in Hawaii the company I worked for I didn’t have health insurance so like, right that like this is and I would consider myself and my family to be like, like very privileged in the grand scheme of the country, let alone the world. So it’s just it’s just something interesting to think about.

Any final remarks? Yeah, there even a lot of people that I know who are currently graduating that their job search has jumped through the roof because a lot of places since you’re working online, they can’t afford to even hire people anymore. Like I have, I’ve had a couple internships come my way that haven’t really, they can’t, they can’t support them anymore because there’s no point for them and giving you know, some college kid a computer and teach them to work from home because it’s not, it’s not economically sound. But I can only imagine that all these people who are losing their jobs, I read something the other day that said, we doubled the amount of people applying for unemployment in the first month of the coronavirus epidemic than in the six months of the 2008 stock market crash. So we we have this huge influx of people right now who are losing job benefits, they don’t have their healthcare anymore and they’re kind of just on their own and they’re kind of they have to fend for themselves and try and stay healthy however way they can by isolating themselves.

It’s very interesting. And just last thing to finish up to kind of loop back around to that first hypothesis I mentioned related to psychosocial stress. So like a lot of people underthink this but the resultant psychological stress from these issues related to unemployment, lack of health insurance, etc. does not have an effect on their health. That, that stress in and of itself deteriorates health and we know the number one killer beyond all the death of the coronavirus is heart disease and that is very negatively impacted by a chronic state of stress, so I’ll just leave you all with that. Any last thoughts, James?

Um, I don’t think so. Just try and stay healthy and do what you can to stay as healthy as you can.

All right. Thanks, everybody.

Diplomatic/military relations between the US and Pakistan since September 11, 2001

The United States was one of the first nations to establish relations with Pakistan after they achieved independence from the British Raj in 1947. Since then, the relationship has had its ups and downs, but the September 11 attacks sparked significant changes. Pakistan, which neighbors Afghanistan and provided conveniently placed US military locations, became a key American ally as President Bush initiated the war on terror. Essentially, Pakistan was a necessary ally for the US’s terrorism concerns. Pakistan also benefited in ways such as US financial and military assistance as well as the US lifting sanctions on their nuclear weapons program. The relationship is largely driven because the United States is able to use its economic power to incentivise Pakistani aid. Perhaps more importantly, President Bush indirectly threatened to treat Pakistan like the terrorists if they didn’t cooperate. This is encapsulated in his famous quote, “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” (Collins, p. 2-6).

While Pakistan provided logistical resources and captured terrorists, the alliance created after the September 11 attacks has not been without conflict. A few years after the September 11 attacks, both countries grew frustrated with each other. The US suspected Pakistan of hiding terrorists while some Pakistanis did not feel as if the US was sufficiently protecting them from Afghanistan. In 2011, the successful assassination of Osama Bin Laden occurred in Pakistan, which made the US governemnt and public skeptical of Pakistani intentions (Goldberg and Ambinder, 2018). On the other hand, Pakistanis were upset that America made this attack without notifying them.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist was published in 2007, and polls from that year show that Pakistan was one of the most anti-American countries in the world. This was at least in part due to public opinion in Pakistan that America was manipulating them and directing their destiny (Hathaway, p. 11, 21). Further, at this time period, data suggests that although Pakistanis largely rejected terrorism, they feared the US and generally did not support the war on terror (Wike, 2007). From the perspective of Pakistan’s citizens, aiding the war on terror came at the cost of lives and some aspects of their domestic security. Also in 2007, polls in the US showed that 64% of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of Pakistan (Newport, 2007). This likely influenced treatment of Pakistani Americans in the US.



Collins, Liam. “United States diplomacy with Pakistan following 9/11.” A case study in coercive diplomacy. WWS 547 (2008).

Goldberg, Jeffrey, and Marc Ambinder. “The Ally From Hell.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 2 Jan. 2018,

Hathaway, Robert M. “Leverage and largesse: Pakistan’s post-9/11 partnership with America.” Contemporary South Asia 16.1 (2008): 11-24.

Newport, Frank. “Americans’ Attitudes Toward Pakistan Largely Negative.”, Gallup, 5 Mar. 2020,

Wike, Richard. “Musharraf’s Support Shrinks, Even As More Pakistanis Reject Terrorism… and the U.S.” Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, Pew Research Center, 30 Dec. 2019,

Socioeconomic Status and Health – Josh Pelland

The obesity epidemic is a massive public health issue in the developed world. The below short podcast is a good primer on the epidemic and potential factors. It also mentions the populations it particularly impacts – low-income groups.


Through my involvement with the health/fitness field, I’ve heard about higher rates of obesity in certain populations. This disproportionality is in congruence with what is mentioned in the podcast. Further, in Ohio State’s Exercise and Behavioral Medicine Laboratory, I noticed a research poster to the effect of Disproportionate Obesity Among Hispanic Women. Since obesity can have a profound impact on one’s quality of life both directly and indirectly, this sparked my interest in the underlying cause of this disproportionality.

Data suggests that African Americans and Hispanics experience the highest obesity rates. Also, there is a clear positive relationship between obesity prevalence and declining socioeconomic status. A well-regarded explanation for this is a higher consumption of fast food, soda, and other hypercaloric options in these populations (Public Health, 2019). This may be due to healthy options being more expensive as well as “food deserts” in which poorer areas lack access to grocery stores with healthy options.

I read of another interesting hypothesis in Robert Sapolsky’s Behave. Sapolsky describes that feeling poor – being of low socioeconomic status in the presence of significant income inequality – may be a large factor. This is described by a lack of social capital (e.g. reciprocity and trustworthiness) resulting in psychosocial stress. These psychosocial stressors can result in physiological responses that deteriorate health and may influence factors related to obesity. Below is a representation of this theory from a 2001 paper by Kawachi and Berkman.

This is furthered by the neo-materialist hypothesis: as income equality grows, the less direct benefit the wealthy experience from improving public resources, and the more resources the wealthy have to lobby. The concept of de Beauvoir’s the One and the Other is in full effect as lower income individuals are seen as lesser. Also, this is related to Spivak’s concept of whether the subordinate can speak; lower income groups don’t get a proper seat at the table for issues that impact them. As a result, low-income groups may not get cleaner water, better public schools, or safer streets. These hypotheses compound and result in a systemic disadvantage of health and subsequent quality of life in low socioeconomic groups.