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The Caribbean!

 The perception of the Caribbean is very limited in the US
Commercial - Come Back to Jamaica - frozen in time, primitive paradise
Difference with 2nd commercial - poverty, political instability
Monolithic stereotype - strong accent, hairstyle, reggae music
      "fluidity of racial identity in Latin America and the Caribbean offers hope that the region's racial and ethnic tensions can be transcended"
One island, two countries
     Race, Culture and color in Haiti and Dominican Republic
     Haiti-first Black ruled country, when the Europeans left the lighter skinned were in charge
         Forced to unite in national Haitian identity, language, religion
"Social Capital" Trading status for lighter skinned partner
How is race and color different in the US?
     The economic gap between light-skinned and darker-skinned Blacks is similar to the gap between Whites and Blacks
"Jiggaboos, Wannabes, and Nappy Headed Hoes"

Journal Entry:

Today's class was very interesting because it illuminated a culture that I never knew very much about.  I distinctly remember in high school a day when there was a substitute teacher for one of my classes--a student made a comment about the teacher being Black, and was met with a surprisingly stern response, "I'm Nigerian-American, not Black."  The whole class was silent and confused, but the moment passed and we never had an experience like that again.  I remember my feeling that this man must have been ashamed of stereotypical perceptions others might put on him because he looks like any other "Black American" but does not think he is.  I think that now I have a more full understanding of the tensions that can arise between immigrant populations, Caribbean cultures, and Black identity in a diverse American setting. 

As I was reading the Waters article about adolescents and immigrant identity, the passage about "cultural inversion" truly stood out to me.  It described the tendency of involuntary minority groups (like Native Americans and Blacks) to resent and separate themselves from behaviors they feel are associated with "Whites," such as academic excellence and speaking standard English.  I hope that with examples like Obama and Oprah as role models for the Black community, "cultural inversion" will become less prevalent and different "faces" of Blackness will be accepted and respected especially in adolescent groups.

 

Asian Images

 Two nights ago, I attended an event called Asian Images, put on by the Asian American Students Association.  It advertised performances by Alvin Lau and Magnetic North, the latter of which is an Asian-American hip hop duo I would have loved to see perform for the first time, after hearing their music for years.  I went to the event with my roommate (Chinese-American) and my friend Ryuta from Japan; when I arrived, I saw Jamie and Stephanie from our class!

The event was introduced by Nguyen Pham as a night of breaking stereotypes: Asian-Americans doing hip hop, who can serve as role models for all of us in self-expression and following our dreams.

The first entertainer to take the stage was Alvin Lau, Chinese-American spoken word poet with a very outgoing and free personality.  He travels around the country performing his work, and one of the first comments he made was, "Whenever I come to these Asian cultural events I always get the feelings that the audience is expecting me to have a certain level of Asianness in my poetry, it's like pressure but not that much.." He said he feels that being Asian-American is not the most important part of his identity, and that he is "a poet first, before everything else."  His first poem was ironically an angry attack on Tiger Woods, because he thinks Tiger "could have been so much more" as a hero for ending racial oppression and opening the global dialogue about race. "Instead," Alvin shouted, "You became one of them.  Just another White, rich, supporter of oppression and the status quo."  Stephanie Otani and I exchanged glances throughout the spoken word performance, knowing that we would bring this up in class in a few days!  After the show, we talked about the irony of Alvin Lau being able to "be a poet first" and Tiger Woods not being allowed to just golf if he pleases.  The anger and indignation of Alvin's poem seems to Stephanie and I a bit immature and without empathy for Tiger's privacy and personal experience.  Funny how we spent our class criticizing and dissecting Tiger Wood's approach to racial identity and compared it to Obama's choice, but Stephanie and I ended up defending Tiger's right to privacy in his racial identity next to Alvin's poem.

 Eurasians were treated much better than Amerasian generation (often abandoned with no father support)
When people talk about Japan...they talk about how it is homogenous..an idea that is strongly tied to the state

Tokugawa Period
People didn't think Japan was homoegenous, and ethnic difference was emphasized to distinguish groups (cultural markers)
Edo Period
Japan - closed country, no influence or trade from the West
1868-1912 Meiji Era
        Perry brought the racist ideas to Japan
        Colonialism - Japan saw what the West was doing, and didn't want that to happen to them so they built up their army
               Took their own colonies, co-prosperities but feeling inferior to the West 
                Using ideas of race to force superiority over the other countries
                Used education to get people to go along with their ideas
                Took over Hokkaido and Ainu cultural tribe, change to "yamato"
                Lots of people from Southeast Asia, Filipino, come to fill jobs AND YET the pure race idea persisists
The War Period, when the American-Japanese experience began
         Japanese men felt emasculated to have White men come and take the women
Ainoko - child born between people
Doubles - Daburu, connotes two cultures, two people in one as opposed to hafu (in 60's)
       Young people like this term, a stage of empowerment
Reggie Life - African-Americans in Japan
       Doesn't speak Japanese, interviewed only English-speakers
             It's been parents who make the movements for Double
Language becomes a real way of separating people
        Okinawan entertainer challenges stereotypes by learning traditional cultural knowledge


Notes from Today's Class

Class Notes:
 "How you need to brand yourself" Professors here are the best at self-marketing
     Marketing is extremely important if you care about your ideas
People expect you to market yourself
A sense of meritocracy: if you really have talent, you rise to the top
Susan Boyle example: many people look at our appearance and assume things that we know are not true
WIC program provides nutrition, education for low-income mothers and kids
     seeing nutrition education as more than just doling out facts..we all know it's a deeply psychological thing

"I'm not exluding you, so why are you making something about it?" is a very common response when race is brought up

What is my responsibility to educate other people about race?
Clarify and articulate your own thoughts about how you feel about educating others about what you know.

Journal Entry:
In my Service-Learning class, EDUC 116X, this issue came up on the same day as our CSRE 173 class on the same topic..what a coincidence!  In the morning, I got to hear the experiences of other students who have had to act as "racial facilitators" in class or in their group of friends, and it made me feel comfortable sharing my own memories, both recent and in the past, about educating others about different racial experiences.  In the afternoon class, which I share with no other Black students, a girl spoke up about how she doesn't understand why someone would not want to educate the class about their background and what they know.  I took the opportunity to reiterate what was said in CSRE: "Sometimes, it just gets tiring and burdensome when people in a class come to expect you to comment on certain things or represent your entire racial group.  No one should be forced to carry that large responsibility."  

However, I find myself speaking up on behalf of more groups than "just Black people" when I play racial facilitator roles.  There are times when I speak for the multiracial, Asian, and even Latino perspective because I have personal experiences or accounts from friends that I believe will be valuable to the discussion.  In a classroom environment, this tends to be a little unsettling for some classmates at times.  If I am in a class with some Asian students and I decide to speak about the Asian community or display  Asian-American cultural knowledge, I will get some confused looks from those Asian students.  I don't feel as if they disagree with the things I say, but that they would rather comment on something that I couldn't possibly understand fully.  I would question this, if it were ever said out loud--but it stays underneath the radar in the realm of micro-aggression.
 It's been quite a while since I viewed the documentary "None of the Above" in CSRE class, but I didn't find the time to write my blog entry directly afterward.  I appreciate that Professor provided some quotes in his e-mail tonight to jog my memory and give me a place to start.  I will talk about some of the quotes now, and how they relate (or not) to my own experience:

“At first I felt special, then I felt different”
I believe this transformation may have applied to me when I was very very young, but memory of feeling "special" at home and then "different" at school is vague to unclear to my mind.  Rather, I can recall feeling very different in elementary and middle school, and actively changing my mindset to something more positive--the idea that as a multiracial American, I could serve a special person to educate others and discourage racism and stereotyping in my community.  Something also interesting to note is that as I have gotten older, my appearance has become less racially ambiguous (I am viewed by most people I meet as a Black woman).  As a child, I had much lighter skin and lighter hair, which led to more "What Are You?" than I experience today.

“I learned not to talk about myself”
This is an interesting quote, because it marks the moment when I started to "get tired" of always being the racial facilitator of a "teaching moment" for my peers.  At first, I was glad to have such a special role in my group, and I appreciated the responsibility that came with my multicultural background.  But after a while, I discovered that not everyone would be very receptive to my "teaching moments," and that some people never wanted to be reminded of my race at all.  So in order to blend in or assimilate with more homogenous racial groups, I learned not to talk about myself very much, and to be more of an observer or listener in conversations.  I believe I became more quiet or shy over time, due to this conscious effort to avoid conflict in racial dialogue.



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Soompi takes on race!

 I came across a discussion thread in the Soompi Forums with this topic title: What Race Box Do You Check On Surveys/Forms? I thought it would be pretty cool to see what Soompiers' responses to this topic are..so I'll use this entry to post some of the replies..

dancingbymyself
I usually check asian/pacific islander because thats what non-asians usually identity me as. For my college apps and stuff I checked white though because I heard asians get shafted on that kind of thing. I guess I could check other... but that makes me feel like an alien or something. I'm half korean and half irish.

Xcstasy
Two or more ethnicities. I get so pissed when they don't have that, and make you choose one ethnicity.  I'm half filipino / half black

tatsuri
Black/African American, depending on which is on the form. For mixed ppl, if they have 1 drop of black blood in them, they have to check black. I don't get it.

mekka
Tatsuri! So, if you are Korean/Asian and Black, you are Black right? All mixed races are considered biracial, what is so difficult for you to understand.

maharu
lol I check off White first cause thats my dominant culture and then Asian if theres another box

Amethist
I always check 'other' because is I check asian it would not be fair towards my white side, and vice versa.. And I'm eurasian too btw

XDBSKLUVRX
since im mixed (black, native american, hawaiian, korean) i have to check the 'other' box, but the teachers tell me to put in black since aparently i have tan skin..

Very interesting indeed! Maybe I will bring up some of these in class..

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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

 It's easy for us to expect people in positions of power to act responsibly with that power, using it for the greater good.  At its core, this concept goes to the heart of our moral and philosophical beliefs about what is right and who has the ability to know and act on it.  When it comes to ideas of community, most of us tend to believe that a leader has a responsibility to help the community to which we perceive they belong.  Obama was criticized for not emphasizing "Black issues" in his presidential campaign, and even worse are Black Republicans, viewed as traitors to their inherent community interests.  Amongst our friends, we might be surprised and disappointed when a gay friend refuses to advocate marriage equality, or even when a woman identifies as pro-life.  

We have these notions of community that bind and restrict even the most personal of choices, for people at all levels of power.  I have been questioned multiple times for my involvement in the Asian-American community, by people who think my time would be better served advocating for Black interests instead.  What it comes down to is where I feel appreciated and accepted...but there is also the possibility that "Wherever you place your effort and dedication, positive reciprocation springs forth."  If I were to make "The Obama choice" and dive into the Black community, using my skills to navigate the cultural landscape and fight to become a true part of it, I do have reason to believe that I would also feel satisfied and fulfilled with a sense of purpose.  

That brings me to the "Tiger Woods choice" of avoiding conversations of race and community and just playing golf.  In a way, I empathize with Tiger because I don't like to be "tied down" to any one cultural identity.  There seems to be a certain amount of freedom that comes with being multiracial (even more with being racially ambiguous) because you can float around in the space outside of the exclusive racial circles and sample each one throughout your life if you choose.  But as we discussed in class, this "floating" sensation is rather lonely, and I believe I project this loneliness on powerful people like Tiger Woods.  Because the moment he uses his podium on the world stage to speak about race, he becomes less "marketable" to the world, he alienates himself from certain groups who like to claim him and paint him their own color.  So I personally would have liked to see him open up a dialogue about race in this country when he had the chance, but I am not very disappointed in his choice not to--I understand.

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Parker, on Kamiya, on Obama

 Out of all of the quotes on the page we received in class, one of the shortest ones stands out to me the most.

Obama: "My identity might begin with the fact of my race, but it didn't, couldn't end there.  At least that's what I chose to believe."

I feel like it might even be a uniquely Black sentiment to refer to the "fact of your race" because of what a significant issue is made out of your physical features as a Black person, as opposed to someone who is part White and part Asian or Latino.  Is this evidence of the historical one-drop rule? Perhaps.  But Obama does not dwell on this historic injustice--he moves forward and turns it into a larger search for self-identity.  The fact of my race has certainly had an important part in making me who I am so far, but I rarely think of myself in terms of being a "Black woman" except when that label is attached to me by another person or community (receiving a special academic achievement award or scholarship from a Black organization, etc.)  It's almost as if I don't "own it" and I just wait for someone else to give me the distinction of being Black.  This is curious indeed...but now it's time for class!  I shall revisit this at a later time.

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      I wish class could have lasted longer today, so we could discuss more of the stories in What Are You? and learn more about one another.  Everyone in the class brings something unique and interesting to the group atmosphere, but we all share some part of the common mixed race narrative, even if it's just the heightened ability to empathize with another's experiences.  
     I spent a lot of time reflecting on my role as "racial facilitator" (not sure if I remembered the exact title correctly) as I revisited my normal Soompi chat rooms.  I also pondered just how valuable it is to be in a position of seeing the "true colors" of people I interact with online.  When fellow soompiers in the chatroom insist on using the N-word as a part of their normal daily vocabulary, despite my expressed discomfort with that usage, I feel disrespected and ignored.  It makes me wonder whether this is the price I must pay if I am to be treated like an "honorary Asian" by this group.  Just like we discussed earlier, there are tradeoffs that come with "honorary" status in any culture; sometimes, the group may silently request to never be reminded of any other "allegiance" you have to another community.  There are moments when I speak up against a Black stereotype and I am told to "lighten up" or "take a joke" instead.  I hope we get to discuss the topic of racial humor in one of our future classes, because so much of today's racialized dialogue happens in the context of jokes and laughs, but rarely for me.  It is my belief that how a person is raised might determine whether she finds racial humor appealing, boring, or offensive.
     
       During my meeting with you, there was a brief moment when I saw myself through the eyes of an expectant and disappointed Black community.  I was excited that I would get to lead a class discussion on Asian-American identity issues, but then called myself back when I considered how such a discussion would “look weird” because of the absence of Black-centered topics.  How would the students in my class, Black or otherwise, look upon me at the head of the class as I speak so passionately about my involvement in the formation of Asian-American cultural identity?  Would they instead focus on the overpowering silence of my “Black voice,” and judge me as ignoring, denying, or turning my back on “my own race?”  I have never directly heard the response, “it should be alright, it shouldn’t matter,” concerning that question, except from you.  Perhaps others in my life, my mother or Aunt Margaret, some of my friends, or Professor Alfano who helped me complete my Soompi research project, felt the same way, but they never told me so.  I never asked, and I never voiced my concerns about not appearing Black enough for my audience as if it were a question of academic credibility, until now.

            Your response to my admission of fear and uncertainty reassured me that I did have the right to be passionate about a culture that I was not born into, that I have no real obligation to study or participate in only the Black culture if it is not my full and personal desire to do so.  Over the weekend, I had a serious discussion with my best friend about the kind of person I hope to become, and who I am today.  Having such a talk brought out waves of repressed feelings of helplessness and insecurity that I thought I had “taken care of” or washed away since my days of being called an “oreo” in school or getting dirty looks and glares for dating boys that don’t look like I do.  But everything came rushing back to my mind, and in an instant I felt powerless to move forward and grow into the confident, worldly, and multicultural woman I was meant to be.  Harry, my best friend, recognized this, and told me that this would be the moment I always remember as the day I opened my mind and my heart, and started to grow.  He explained to me that if only I had told him about the inner struggles I was having with my cultural identity, he could have introduced me to people very close to him that would be able to help me find the answers I’m looking for.  He’s right: I kept that secret from everyone because I did not know who else could possibly understand or help, or just validate my own thoughts.  Thank you for being there at the right time, Professor, and for listening to everything I had to say even if it was jumbled and did not make perfect sense.

            Last night, I went to see Donna Brazile, prominent Black political strategist and commentator on CNN speak at Kresge Auditorium.  The room was filled with the spirit of the Black Community, as this was an event to honor the 100th anniversary of the NAACP.  While I was standing outside the auditorium reading a book, I overheard a few women talking about whether they need to purchase tickets, and I smiled and answered that the tickets were being sold for ten dollars at the door; I then returned to reading my book.  One of the women, her smile glowing with anticipation, eagerly asked me if I was “part of the local chapter (of the NAACP).”  I replied that I was not, and began to explain how I heard about the Donna Brazile event and chose to attend.  But she was not interested in hearing my “alternative” explanation; her smile slowly disappeared when she heard that I was not involved in the largest and oldest Civil Rights Organization in the country, and she was disappointed.  I still wonder if I am disappointed in myself, and what choices I have to make if I am.

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