Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The "American Race"

In America today it seems like having an "American race" wouldn't be completely out of the question. Our country is a "melting pot" of many different ethnicities and many different cultures. As we learned from one of the theoretical articles today, interracial marriages are on the rise. Mr. Kunkle made the point that it's hard to find someone who is completely Caucasian or completely African-American. If you look back far enough, you can usually find an interracial marriage in any given family. So it seems to me that there is such thing as an "American race" in today's world. It's a kind of smorgasbord of different skin colors, ethnicities, and cultures.

I read the theoretical article by Barrett and Roediger "How White People Became White." This article takes a more historical spin on the issue of race and racism. At one point it talks about a continuous political argument going on concerning whether new immigrants should be considered part of the "American race." Honestly this term very much offends me when it is used in the context of keeping people out of this special "race."

Just looking at the term "American race" makes me question its historical usage. The word "American" tends to invoke thoughts of freedom and equality. But in this time, the "American race" included only people considered "white." And "white" didn't mean having white skin; it meant that you had white skin, were from Eastern Europe, and were living in America at the time of the revolution. Now basically that excludes the Irish, Germans, Italians, etc., not to mention the African-Americans, which is so stupid because blacks fought in the Revolutionary War right along side whites. 

I guess I am just saying that the "American race" of old is absolutely backwards, but the "American race" of today can actually be something. We just have to take this idea of a country race and run with it. We have to come to the realization that race isn't the color of our skin or our ethnicities. Skin color doesn't matter--or at least it shouldn't. It's time we understand that.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Graffiti is commonly thought of, especially by the government, as something that destroys public property. To me, it is just large names painted on freeway underpasses, trains, and large buildings. Sometimes the designs or colors are cool, but they never really mean anything important to me. When Mr. Kunkle first told us about Banksy, I was intrigued. Here was this great artist who went around drawing graffiti, not just in London but in the United States as well, without taking credit for it. And not only that, his artwork has a deeper meaning behind it that is meant to impact the world for the better.

This piece of Banksy's work is located near Qalandia. This image is of two children digging under the security wall. Ironically, the wall that is supposedly keeping them safe actually is keeping them from paradise. I think Banksy is trying to draw attention to the 
fact that isolating yourself from the rest of the world sometimes stifles the freedom and opportunity of the people. Sometimes when you hide yourselves off from the rest of the world in an attempt to keep yourselves safe, you actually bring harm to yourself. He wants Israel to wake up and see that it is time to become part of the world instead of withdrawing within itself. 
This drawing that Banksy painted in London shows how graffiti is really art. This man shows the stereotypical image of an artist painting graffiti on a wall next to other images of graffiti. He seems to be trying to make a point to the government that graffiti is art and erasing it is destroying art.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


I learned the art of changing at Nkrumah, a skill that would later become second
nature to me. Maybe I was always good at it. Maybe it was a skill I had
inherited from my mother, or my father, or my aunt Dot, or my Nana, the was some
people inherit a talent for music or art or mathematics. Even before Nkrumah,
Cole and I had gotten a thrill out of changing--spending our days dressed in old
costumes, pretending to be queens of our make-believe nation. But only at
Nkrumah did it become more than a game. There I learned how to do it for
real--how to become someone else, how to erase the person I was before (pg. 62).

In the first part of Caucasia, identity seems to play a crucial role in the lives of Cole and Birdie, especially Birdie. As illustrated in this quote, Birdie changed who she was, so she could fit into her new school (which happens to be all black--and she looks white). It seems to me that Birdie is reaching the stage where she no longer has her own identity. Her identity, instead, is determined by the people around her and how she can fit in. She wears this mask over who she really is, making it hard to get a feel for what she is actually like--insecure. Birdie cares so much about what other people think that she doesn't stay true to herself.

The sad part is that as she changes on the outside to hide who she really is on the inside, who she is on the inside actually changes. "But I [Birdie] did feel different--more conscious of my body as a toy, and of the ways I could use it to disappear into the world around me." She is becoming even more insecure because she had temporary gratification of fitting in to the world around her. It's like she has this temporary high from changing her look that she does it over and over again to get that same feeling back. It seems to me though that Birdie learns this way of life from Cole.

Cole was the first one to start changing when both girls started attending Nkrumah. She altered her habits, looks, and actions to become like the popular girls. Birdie simply followed her example, so she (Birdie) "lose her [Cole] for good." Even the mother recognizes the problem with changing who you are and what you look like to fit in with other people. In her words, it is "the end of freedom."

"The end of freedom." The end of their ability to be themselves. Once they change for one group of people, they have to continually keep that change up, so no one knows who they really are. They get caught up in a web and eventually change permanently. If only they didn't feel that they had to change to fit in. Kids can be so vicious sometimes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Speaking in Tongues

In "Speaking in Tongues" by ZZ Packer, Tia and Marcelle are alienated from their church because they are "too old to sit with the children" and hadn't spoken in tongues yet, allowing them to sit with the adults. I was curious about why speaking in tongues would be so important to the people of Hope and Grace Apostolic Church of the Fire Baptized. What I knew about tongues was that it is a spiritual gift given to help those who have it lead people to Christ. My interpretation of it was that not everyone was given this gift, just as everyone is not given every other spiritual gifts. It seemed discriminatory to isolate those who couldn't speak in tongues from those who could. I figured it would be a good idea to research the concept of speaking in tongues a little more to see what I could come up with.

I'll start with a brief history lesson on tongues. The opinions of Christians on the practice of speaking in tongues are divided into three large categories: Glossolalists, Cessationists, and Skeptics. Glossolalists believe that those who practice speaking in tongues today are speaking the same language as those who spoke tongues in the Bible. They are divided in that some people believe that what the people in the Bible were speaking was a heavenly language. Others believe it was xenoglossia--the ability of a person to speak in unlearned languages. Cessationists believe that those who claim to speak in tongues today simply speak a cluster of unintelligible, gibberish words. They also believe that the tongue-speakers of the Bible were blessed with xenoglossia. Skeptics' beliefs are fairly predictable. They believe that all occurances of speaking in tongues, whether present or in the Bible, are made up and complete falsehoods. (For more information on speaking in tongues go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossolalia)

Based on this information, I would characterize the people of Hope and Grace Apostolic Church of the Fire Baptized fall under the Glossolalist category. While Glossolalists typically perceive speaking in tongues as a gift from the Holy Spirit, the people from this church seem to believe that unless you were a child or a nonbeliever, you should be able to speak in tongues. This belief leads them to shun those believers who can't speak in tongues or (in the case of Tia) force her to pray or worship until she speaks in tongues. This almost seems backwards to me. According ZZ Packer's story, the church members believed that "you could only speak in tongues when all worldly matters were off your mind, or else there was no room for God." Following this philosophy, it seems as though you can't be forced to speak in tongues; it has to come to you when you personally are completely in tune to God. I don't think Tia was completely focused on God while Sister Gwendolyn had her in a headlock and forced her to recite the Lord's Prayer. It seems to me that the members of Hope and Grace Apostolic Church of the Fire Baptized genuinely want to believe that Tia believes in God, but they are going about cementing her belief the wrong way. Who would have thought that speaking in tongues could cause so much trouble, considering many people today have never heard of it?

Monday, December 8, 2008

"So It Goes"

I have come to the conclusion that I really don't like it that Vonnegut says "so it goes," after every mention of death in Slaughterhouse Five. I understand that for Billy Pilgrim, death is no big deal. He has the ability to go back to the moments in which a person who has died is still alive and relive it over and over again. Death is a part of life that can be beaten because every moment, past, present, and future, can be lived again and again whenever Billy or a Tralfamadorian wants to. Plus Billy and the Tralfamadorians understand that events happen, and they can't be changed. Future events are set in stone, and past events happen the same way no matter how many times one relives them.

The bad part about death is that for most people death is the end. It is a big deal for them. They couldn't even think to say "so it goes" every time someone dies. Except for Billy, humans don't get to see loved ones who die again. When they're dead, that's it. No more seeing them, talking to them, being with them. They no longer exist for those whom, unlike Billy Pilgrim, are stuck in time. So to me, it's insensitive of Kurt Vonnegut to continuously say "so it goes" in the face of death because for the normal people without the ability to travel through time, death is not something to be blown off.

I've been wondering whether Billy Pilgrim or the Tralfamadorians have any plans to teach the rest of the Earthlings how to become "unstuck in time." It seems like the Tralfamadorians don't have much reason to kidnap random humans and bring them to their planet. And why let Billy Pilgrim go home and not Montana Wildhack? Maybe they wanted Billy to spread the knowledge of time and other dimensions he had learned in Tralfamadore. Maybe Montana chose to stay in Tralfamadore because of the baby. Billy almost seems to be condescending to those who don't know about time travel and death not being the end. On the other hand, Billy does try to tell others about Tralfamadore and what he learned there by going on a radio show. Unfortunately, everyone thought he was crazy, including his own daughter. So maybe it makes sense for Billy to try and hide his experience and keep his talent of time traveling to himself. But still, it's not really fair to expect everyone to take death easily and simply say "so it goes" in the face of it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Constitution Contradictions?

From elementary school to high school, we are taught about the formation of the world. Every time we discuss this in science class, we are taught the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution. Although I respect the school's right to teach this, I believe other students and myself are denied the opportunity to learn about other theories on the start of the world/universe. Separation of Church and State has censored students from learning the theory of Creationism and being able to compare theories and come to our own conclusions. Granted, no science teacher ever comes out and says that the Big Bang was definitely the was Earth was created and evolution helped it along, but by only teaching that theory, they are basically putting students in a position to assume that it is true.

The ironic thing about this situation is that the Constitution apparently contradicts itself. The Constitution sets up the Separation of Church and State, and the First Amendment guarantees free speech, eliminating censorship (according to some). If, as I believe, not teaching other theories besides evolution and the Big Bang (due to Separation of Church and State) is censorship, then the First Amendment makes Separation of Church and State illegal.

So I think it's time to stop censoring science theories and allow students to hear all the theories on the beginning of the world and the universe. We need to have faith that students are smart enough to consider all the evidence and come to a conclusion on which theory they think is right by themselves. Not teaching a theory because it may have to do with religion is as stupid as burning a book you haven't read because someone said it may negatively impact students.

Separation of Church and State isn't even feasible anymore. Religion affects people's opinions and beliefs and leads to discussions over which beliefs or opinions people may have. Religion is discussed in school because it is relevant to almost every topic. You can't even have politics without religion. So I say that it is time to change the contradictions of the Constitution. Separation of Church and State has been taken too far. Believe me; I am not advocating that the church takes a hold of the government or that the President becomes the head of the Church. I just want people to stop being so concerned about separating Church and State that they never talk about real issues and they start to censor valid issues.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Instead of remembering the bad things, remember what happened immediately before...Because of all that, my father always remembered the second before my mother left him for good and took me with her. No. I remembered the second before my father left my mother and me. No. My mother remembered the second before my father left her to finish raising me be herself.
Have you ever noticed that of everything that has happened to us in our lives, we tend to remember the bad things the most vividly. I look back on elementary school and remember some of the good times, but for the most part, I can remember little instances in which I was made fun of or hurt in such a way. Those are the memories I will remember forever. So what happened to treasuring our memories?

Sherman Alexie is on to a good idea in his story "Because My Father Always Said He was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at Woodstock." He addresses the idea of remembering the good times right before the bad times, instead of remembering the bad times themselves. Then when you look back on your lives, you can feel like you've had your share of good times without becoming too concerned with the bad aspects of your life. But then again, sometimes it's valuable to remember the bad times and learn from them, so they aren't repeated.

Another way Sherman Alexie addresses memories is in his descriptions of the dad's, the mom's, and the son's different memories of the same event. Multiple people can experience the same event but remember it completely differently. Everyone comes from a different perspective because everyone is different. Events can evoke one emotion in one person and a completely different emotion in someone else. In this way, everyone can learn something different from the same event.

Memories are important...they teach us different things and help us to learn from our mistakes. But it is important not to dwell too much on bad memories. Instead, remember the good times that happened right before the bad times. Treasure and safe guard good memories and learn from the bad ones. And remember...memories are different for everyone. No two people are exactly the same..and that's the way it should be.