The Unarmed; Harmed

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JoePrince-Logopond

Harm to the unarmed:

There’s no opinion to post about this. It shouldn’t only be regarded as sensationalization, but also as evidence to what many already know, fear, and have to bitterly accept as the current situation; and to many others, this sort of downward-progressing news will be viewed with stubborn disbelief or disinterest. Skepticism will always have a place with regard to the intake of news, but that doesn’t mean something terrible did not take place.

“Life is the moments”; whether that sort of abstract wording refers to the inconsistent happy moments in a person’s life, or to the sad ones is of no consequence to the depth at which the words can be read. In any moment we can dip into the pooled experiences of those around us and try to feel what others have felt.

I started to write this post with a specific incident in mind. I see now though that the emotions brought up by the recent Black-American tragedy phenomena are alive; alive in the sense that they will continue to exist, develop, and hopefully, one day will be no more.

Here at what was intended to be the end of a very short post, however, I find that purely conceptual writing will only float atop someone’s attention span unless is can be anchored to something more heavy and concrete. These are my half-paved concrete anchors:

Rest In Peace Terence Crutcher


Now, in my usual fashion, I am, again, late to the party. I started writing this post a couple months ago, about 3 days after the killing of Terence Crutcher went viral. Other than just being my normal busy (but mainly procrastinating) self, it’s taken me some time to consider why this story hit me so hard. Obviously I don’t like hearing about any sort of injustice, especially when it is race-based, and even more so, when it results in unnecessary violence or death.

But can I really tie mixed race into a subject like this; a subject [the taking of life, influenced by race-based matters] that has this much capacity to transcend social boundaries and be felt by any other human being? Yeah, but only some small aspects. More importantly, I want to take this tragedy and turn it into something that can help prevent future incidents from occurring.

You don’t need to actually be of two racial backgrounds to understand that that are (at least) two sides to a story/situation. However, being that I’m half white, and more importantly, white-passing, I definitely feel the benefits of my complexion in day-to-day life. Race has [literally] been an issue in the US since the nation was founded/colonized. Now, with a highly controversial president-to-be, rising racial tensions in the eye of the public media, and a constant downpour of serious clashes between minority communities and police forces (whether on large scales, as is the case at the Dakota Pipeline, or the one-by-one “incidents” of prejudiced shootings), we, the people who have watched the ongoings of homogeneous communities in the US from afar, have an opportunity to lend our voices, hands, and eyes to the community at large.

You don’t need to wait for the earthquake, anyone with determination and solid boot heel can kick the dirt themself and shake things up.

More to come…. (lots to think over, for everyone)

A quick reflection

Below is a reflective essay I wrote for the Final of the same class that prompted me to start this blog. Though it is not a piece that perfectly fills the shape created by my blog topic, I still think it is relevant because it shows a separate, yet equally comprehensive side of my writing. After all, these posts I make about race are engineered in a workshop that is my noggin. But it’ s a workshop that produces a variety of goods, not only the kind that serve to relay race-based concepts.

Reflection

It all ends here. Okay, maybe it doesn’t ‘ALL’ end here, but something is coming to a close. That something is the semester, meaning that all my classes are finishing up and I’m seeing them out the door, handing out caffeine-stimulated, sleeplessly edited party favors. But like any good host, I wait for the guests to grab their coats, but while I wait, I like to reflect on how the night’s festivities unfolded. You know, highlight the positives in fiery orange and the negatives (or setbacks) in broccoli green so I remember to move them to the edge of my plate and get something else next time. I am happy to say that this night has ended with more orange than green. My writing has definitely progressed (at least in my eyes) more than it has cracked beneath the blows of peer review and critique.

When I started the semester I was a fairly confident writer, though, albeit I had acknowledged my year long absence from academic – english writing and the effects it would have on my grammar and vocabulary. Be that as it may, this class has been all kinds of enlightening for me and for my writing. For starters, the premise of the class, learning how to read and write online, was what drew me to it in the first place. I may be an avid poster on Facebook and Twitter (or at least was at some point), but I had never even considered something as passion-driven or time consuming as writing my own blog. Nor had I paid much attention to the specificities of what it takes to analytically read someone else’s online writing. I can say with confidence now that my skills with digital writing and reading have not only blossomed, but are advancing. I am still no pro at navigating WordPress, no speedster when it comes to citing links or photos, and the amount of time I spend writing and reading online is still unimpressive when compared to your average Starbucks patron.

However, I do find myself paying attention more to things like, intended audience, voice, sourcing, and figurative language when I am reading or writing. Something else that has come as a result of the work we did in class, but is more prevalent in my daily conversation than in my writing is the idiom/ figurative language section from George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”. To be honest, when we read it for class I thought it was equally as intriguing for writing and speaking as it was dry for reading. That has not stopped me from interrupting stories and conversation to point out the incorrectly or haphazardly used metaphors or idioms spoken by my friends and peers.

Now comes the blog. As far as I am currently concerned, this blog of mine will continue on after the semester as an ongoing project. Each post so far has attempted to cover an issue or question regarding racial heritage and social perceptions of it. The most difficult part about making this blog and these posts hasn’t been any single, specific thing. The hardest part has been trying to create a fresh angle on an personal, yet universally recognized topic in this country: race. My goal was to speak up; to make sound in a room I didn’t respect as capable of echoing. This goal is on its way to being met, but I set it far out, across a lake filled with icy brain freeze and fearsome creatures that bite at anything that makes ripples in their water. You could say my writing has gone off the deep end, but that would be cheesy, and incorrect because what is an idiom about a pool doing at the end of a paragraph about a lake.

My approach to writing has definitely changed. If anyone wants to know how, see essay above.

Let Voices Ring

sapi-voices
Image from: http://www.portset.uk.co

So I talk a lot about my own opinions on what race is or why it’s relevant, and usually from the personal perspective of someone who lives in between worlds. Well, I’m going to keep that up in today’s entry, but the only thing I’ll tweak is whose perspective it is.

 

A little bit ago I interviewed some friends of mine who are also multiracial and had them answer some questions about how it factors into both the daily life and their lives as a whole. One of these friends is also a Dickinson student, but a couple years younger than me. The other is a good buddy from home and happens to the person who helped me to come up with #mixedkidproblems as  a twitter hashtag back in high school.

Both are guys whose outward appearance may not give away their ethnic recipes as much as others’ might.

Avi
White father and Black Mother, grew up in Pittsburgh, PA

What is your oldest memory of being aware of the racial divide in your family history?

 “I would have to say that my oldest memory(ies) of racial divide is the celebration of holidays, which normally only contain one side of either family.”

Do you identify with one ethnic/cultural background more than the other(s)?

“I identify even with both races, however there are instances where I choose/select a particular ethnicity in order to blend and empathize with others.”

What do strangers assume your race to be? 

“Most strangers would probably think I’m mixed. But I hardly ever get a correct answer of black and white. It’s always some other mixes.”

Have you ever felt prejudiced against?

 

“There are times that I have felt prejudiced against, but my reasoning/understanding doesn’t necessarily point towards race.”
I also mixed it up a bit (get it?) and threw in some miscellaneous questions as well…
What’s your favorite cuisine?
“Favorite cuisine is either Asian, Southern, or Mediterranean.”
Biggest fear in college?
“Biggest fear is graduating without a job.”
If someone was going to buy you a store gift card, which store would you prefer?
 “Store gift card to some food place that I can’t normally afford.”
Connor
Father is also mixed: half Chinese, half white, and mother is white. Born in Seattle, grew up in Maryland.

What is your oldest memory of being aware of the racial divide in your family history?

“Probably in elementary school when I had back to back family trips to Louisiana and Chicago.”

Do you identify with one ethnic/cultural background more than the other(s)?

“Definitely identify more as Asian than white.”

What do strangers assume your race to be?

“People think I’m Hawaiian or Mexican.”

Have you ever felt prejudiced against?

“Yes.”
What’s your favorite cuisine?
“Mexican food.”
Biggest fear in college?
“Becoming a slave to the Establishment.”
If someone was going to buy you a store gift card, which store would you prefer?
 “Total Hockey.”

I mention ‘white’ a couple of times in my descriptions. This is not because I believe there is a single ‘white race’, however in the United States ‘white’ has become its own classification, and in the case of racial stereotypes and stigmas [besides maybe some fresh off the boat Europeans and Australians], the white population shares an overlapping identity.
These interviews also helped me to hear new opinions and experiences that differ or align with my own, thereby educating myself while I do my bit to create conversation with my peers.

Don’t die tonight

Though he makes some larger-than-life statements, I think young, passionate voices like that of Vince Staples bring an edgy and necessary slice of commentary to the discussion of prejudiced institutions at home.

His words don’t cover all the details, so don’t watch this thinking they do. (aka how you should watch the news)

Instead, take this song as one [loud] voice of many with something to say.

Race-ism

Racism: A term that’s proper definition has been up for debate between scholars of sociology, politics, history, and a number of other research disciplines since its traditional definition was thrown out in the kindling of heat of the pre-civil rights era. Acclaimed sociologist and expert on race, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, author of Racism Without Racists (a book I read freshman year that really opened my eyes to the functions of post-Civil Rights era racism), borrows Ruth Benedict’s definitions of racism from her own book Race and Racism.

“the dogma that one ethnic group is condemned by nature to congenital inferiority and another group is destined to congenital superiority”

So racism occurs when a group with power abuses those without, based on the former’s belief that the latter is naturally substandard; the abuse is lashed out by way of utilizing existing disparities between the empowered and everyone else.

So I want to speak my mind on what I think causes racism. I myself am not well-versed in the many theories of where racism’s roots are buried. I have heard answers ranging from “divine right” to “a mental illness”. What I believe and, to be honest, end up preaching [through discussion], is that racism is the product of miseducation and natural human bias, with a dash of social pressure. Most of the people that I’ve talked with who hold their ground on racial prejudice and preference are people who are stubborn to begin with. They often are just as stubborn on other issues like politics, class, gender, and so forth. People aren’t naturally racist any more than one race is superior to another. Though, historically, many have disagreed with this kind of thinking.

In my own experience, education has given me the opportunity and tools necessary to understand different cultures and people. That doesn’t mean that I know ALL about people in other places. Hell, most of us don’t know shit about ourselves or the people around us. I think that education’s main role is to help people understand that learning about something will make is less unfamiliar, and therefore less threatening or frightening.

Be brave and educate yourself. If you fear what you don’t know, get to know it. We’re all tiny sub-categories of the same essential core shared by all people; that core is humanity, being a part of the human experience.

 

 

If Your Mom is Yellow and Your Dad is Blue, to the World You are Green

Color

To some who participate in the discussion of race and how to draw its boundaries, color is shrugged off as only surface tension. By surface tension I don’t mean relation to density, but more literally that color is a concept whose tension only permeates through an outer “surface” layer of racial issues.

In my last lengthy post I touched a bit on how multi-racial individuals may perceive the idea of racial categories and which ones they belong to. What I want to bring forward now is something a little more obvious; something easier on the eyes. The color of a person is, for many of us, one of the first things we notice about someone upon seeing them. In many circumstances it may be one of the first things we inquire about when only hearing of said person. Now does that make the inquirer or observer racist, biased, or politically incorrect? Maybe not.

Social norms, alone, are incentive enough for even the most open minded person to make a mental mark of another person’s skin color right off the bat. Where prejudice might make an appearance is when we ascribe characteristics or behavior to someone else, based solely off of color

But why should I explain all that? Well… in order to talk about color from the perspective of a mixed person, I find it important to first give some background on perceptions of color and how they can be interpreted.

Renowned ballerina Misty Copeland once told an interviewer that her mom’s words,  “Yes, you are Italian, you are German, and you are black, but you are going to be viewed by the world as a black woman” resonated with her once she entered the white-dominated world of professional ballet. When I read these words I immediately felt a connection with this woman I’d never payed attention to before. I may be half Chinese, but because of my outward appearance, I may never pass as Chinese in the eyes of many who limit race to homogeneously dominated physical traits within a people. My sister is just as much Chinese as I am, but her skin color is much whiter than mine, leading some people to believe she couldn’t possibly be 50% Manchurian-Chinese. But she is.

As it is, the color of my skin is most similar to someone from the Middle Eastern country, Persia maybe. I have many friends whose mixed parentage resulted in a color that is neither that of the father or mother’s. It can really add to uncertainty in one’s racial identity when the first thing people notice about you becomes precedent for their conceptions of who you are, especially when they’re not even close to correct, they may be dead wrong.

Again, these are things I hope we can all take a second to consider. In a country where racism is still alive and prevalent, and even on a campus where forms of social justice are pitted against themselves because of high social tension, a bit of understanding goes a long way.

Also, here’s some music from one of my favorite rappers with his thoughts on a not too dissimilar topic: 

Check, please

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JumpStart, by Robb Armstrong, from GoComics.com

As I’ve said before, and will most definitely say again, racial identity can play a huge part in someone’s life. But that doesn’t mean it has to. I, myself, know plenty of people who have a mixed heritage, some being 99% this and 1% that, others are split right down the middle, who have little interest in dual-culture efforts or the separation of racial background. When people ask me about my ‘ethnicity’, I will most often say that I’m 50% Chinese (sometimes I’ll specify that my family lives in Taiwan or that my recent ancestors were from Manchuria) and 50% white. White? Did they ask me what color underwear I avoid? Why is white an appropriate answer? Better yet, where is white an appropriate answer?

Well let me backtrack to the asking of the question. If you’re someone who’s physical features, voice, or lifestyle do not fit the stereotypical mold(s) associated with your race, then maybe you too have been stumped by the question, “Please check the box that best describes your race.”

Whether it be in the form of an official US census or a project handed to you by a classmate, this sort of question is not easily avoided in the United States.
-Are you of Hispanic or Latino origin?
-What is your race? Mark one.
-Please fill in the bubble with your race. Mark all that apply.

As a bi- or multiracial person what is the best/right choice? If they ask to only check one box, which do I check? I may be half and half but I look more white, and most people assume I’m white? Why is the color (or shade) white an option but Chinese is another possible answer? What about my various European ancestries, where is that box? If I am allowed to check more than one, how much my ethnic background do I need to divulge? Who checks the box that says ‘other’? The choices are usually limited, and speaking logically, how could they not be? Even if the point of the question/survey isn’t gathering racial data or numbers, it may very well have an effect on whomever is attempting to check the box.

But so what? Why does it matter what one survey asks or what a stranger assumes about you? Things like race, they’re just social constructs. Well that’s just it. We live as social creatures, for the most part, constantly planning our days around contact with one another, with society. To some, questions like those above are answered with a swift flick of the wrist and not thought of again until the next survey. But I am writing to reach the audience that raises a brow at this kind of question; those that scan the boxes up and down before marking them.

And if you’re thinking that boxes on a form or survey are just boxes… check again, please.

Connections: Identity and Community


Writing, whether online or on paper, is going to have structure. This structure may not be taken from a book or an instructional video, it may even lie hidden, unknown to the writer, but it will be there. The way people compile information in their heads and spit it back out will almost always follow a trend or pattern. Another way of saying it is that people innately create connections between thoughts and actions, including when we write. Making a connection between what we read or watch, and what we write is similar, just one frame larger in the full picture of analyzing the relationship between pen and paper.

The guidelines to writing well are not slim or short; there might be an endless number of guides to writing, probably one under forgotten syllabi in the side drawer of your desk. Digital rhetoric, for example, is one thing to be aware of when reading or posting online. In James P. Zappen’s article on digital rhetoric one of his key points for writing online is Identity and Community.

Now how will I make sense of writing about writing on a blog that is titled ‘mixed kid problems’? It’s actually kind of simple. Identity and Community, the two terms Zappen emphasizes as important factors in digital work, will be the topic of my blog post today. However, the terms and their skeletal bodies of the processes by which people form identities, are simply going to be shifted over to the concepts of bi and multi-racial ethnology. What you get is mixed identity and mixed community.

Is this a random connection based on a coincidence of similar words? Perhaps.

It might also be what I meant by how connections work in people’s head, and subsequently, how it finds its way onto parchment.

Identity can be as easily understood as the lyrics to your least favorite country song, or as difficult as it was for most of us throughout high school. And what if you are searching for yourself? How can you find it, much less know it’s been found?

Of course these are questions we all ask, it’s kind of part of the human experience in life. So instead, I would ask whoever has thought of these questions, those of us who know what it’s like to want to fit in (probably not a small demographic), to take that uncertainty and paint it on their face, on their skin, on the tongue which we use to convey language, and on the eyes of our peers. Coming from two different worlds, and trying to understand both, can be tough no matter the distance in between. Just imagine if you asked worlds (planets) to come together; close like Earth and Mars, or far like Mercury and Pluto (still a planet to me).

If my words seem too abstract for you, then good. Because a person defining themselves, while at the same time being defined by other people is not a sensation that clings to the concrete.

As I continue this blog my posts and ideas will, of course, become more defined/exact. If you have a ship full of thoughts you should probably anchor them to something if you want others to share in them.

Here’s where I start: