Culture Viewed with a Mask or Veil

            After Dr. McCoy passed out the essay prompt on Friday for the Spring 2016 African American Literature course I found myself immediately gravitating towards a particular epigraph stated on the prompt. I found the words of Glenn Ligon, an American conceptual artist who explores things such as race and identity within his work, to be compelling and interesting. On the prompt Ligon’s words are stated as such, “Perhaps it is a feeling that cultural products are used as substitutes for sustained and meaningful contact between people. It’s like send me something from where you are, but don’t come here.”

During our class discussion yesterday, my group and myself dissected the last part of Ligon’s statement which writes, “It’s like send me something from where you are, but don’t come here.” As a group we talked a lot about how some people try to understand other cultures only to say they did, not because they actually care. The sad truth is that some people, for example, may study abroad and work with people of very different cultures from them not because they want to understand that culture but maybe because it will look good on a job resume one day. A lot of times trying to understand other cultures may be stemmed from a selfish reasoning.

How do we shift the possibility of someone trying to understand us and our cultures for the wrong reasons? I started to think about this idea while also considering the idea of the mask and the veil. Throughout this course we have considered the mask and the veil to act as an analogy to the idea of being able to see something clearly from the inside but the person on the outside cannot fully see in. I believe that the idea of the mask and veil relate very well when discussing culture. Like Ligon’s statement some people may choose to put up a mask or a veil due to the fact that they may not want other people to fully see in or in words of Ligon, “don’t come here.” In this case I feel as it is our own right as humans to wear that mask or veil whenever we chose. If we do not feel comfortable sharing special aspects of our culture with others I see no wrong in putting on that veil.

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