Traveling to the Core

At the beginning of the course, we were instructed that everything we learn and do in class has a purpose. I never understood how this could be possible, but my learning development has allowed me to deepen my thinking and understanding of societal issues and racialization. Geraldine Heng defines race as follows; “…race is a structural relationship for the articulation and management of human differences, rather than a substantive content”. This definition and understanding of race have deep roots in the Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, the course, and our society.

The lithosphere essay investigated the trilogy’s first book, The Fifth Season. The lithosphere is the outer part of the Earth (National Geographic) which can relate to the surface level. At this point, our understanding of the connection between Heng’s definition and the trilogy was surface-level. I understood the definition and the connection it had to the book, but I didn’t go any further with how it connected to a bigger picture. Within my lithosphere essay, I addressed how orogenes were racialized due to their possession of powers to cause seismic events. Orogenes possess the powers but are seen as unworthy and dangerous which causes them to be discriminated against. Stills, who are people without these powers are superior in their society. A character named Uche was an orogene; “these people killed Uche. Their hate, their fear, their unprovoked violence. They. (He.) Killed your son. (Jija killed your son.)” (The Fifth Season, 58). His death was a causational effect of predetermined notions about orogenes that were crafted through racialization. This process of racialization has correlations with the process that occurs in our world. However, in ours, it is based on the color of one’s skin. Specifically, black people are victims of this process and continuously are pressured by society to feel less than other groups of people. Structural racism allows society to be structured strategically, where there are groups of superior people and groups that are inferior. Within the earlier part of the semester, I viewed racialization as only involving the color of one’s skin. My previous educational experiences taught me racialization and how this has structured society to separate people based on race. However, throughout the semester, this understanding has broadened and deepened. Heng’s definition of race identifies that human differences are managed but not substantive content. Race is based upon viewing the lithosphere of a person and not their core. In our society, race is determined by the color of one’s skin, but not the characteristics that an individual possesses. We see people on the outside but fail to acknowledge the characteristics on the inside. Going deeper into the class, we traveled deeper into the core and found connections between the trilogy and the racialization that occurs in our world. 

As previously stated, race is a way for society to structure the differences among humans and determine who is seen as powerful and powerless. To understand this further, we discussed as a class what it means to have excellence and be hated for it. The second book in the trilogy, The Stone Sky, described a fictitious world called “Syl Anagist”, a highly advanced and urban nation known to be dominant. Sylanagistines, members of this nation, built a plutonic engine that was known to be highly developed and powerful. This threatened others and led to people becoming jealous which grew into hatred. These feelings of hatred and jealousy caused the failure of this nation. The people of this nation possessed the craft and skill to produce something so powerful, and this threatened people. Individuals in a society may feel threatened because of jealousy and fear that the inferior will become the superior. This idea is connected to the hatred of Jews. Throughout history, there has been a consistent hatred of Jews. Jews are known to be successful and intelligent, which as seen in Syl Anagist, threatens people. This jealousy fuels the hatred people have towards a specific group of people. Race allows society to pinpoint certain characteristics of a group of humans and use that against them, for one group to be seen as superior to the other. In the trilogy, orogenes and sylanagistines have power and intelligence but are seen as less than the others. They are seen this way because racialization has structured society to pick out groups who are superior and inferior. This concept allowed me to think deeply about racialization and what goes into this process. It is not just about the color of one’s skin, it is about any characteristic that can be seen as different. Society uses this to construct groups of people based on certain characteristics. Furthermore, this can be seen in our society with certain professions. Jobs such as doctors and lawyers are seen as elite and ultimately considered more important than other jobs such as janitors and plumbers. The treatment of these different groups of individuals is consistent with the eliteness of the occupation. In the trilogy, the fulcrum is a place for orogenes to be trained in their powers. Ykka, an orogene is known as “feral” because she is not fulcrum-trained. Essun, another orogene is fulcrum-trained, which means she is seen as higher ranked than non-fulcrum-trained orogenes. Essun says to Ykka, “‘[w]hat, now you want to adopt…’ You shake your head, incredulous. ‘Violent bandit ferals?’”(The Stone Sky, 71). The language used by Essun clearly shows how society feels about ferals. Fulcrum-trained are seen as superior compared to non-fulcrum-trained. Essun is stating that she doesn’t trust ferals to do the needed job because they were not trained in a valued institution. This shows a difference in the treatment of people based on their training and profession. If you possess a profession that is seen as elite in society, you are treated as superior. This day in society, everyone is expected to attend college and receive a well-respected occupation. There is a different level of treatment based on your salary and occupation. This concept of our society connects to racialization on a deeper level, and this process goes beyond the color of one’s skin. Racialization infiltrates every sector of society from skin color to occupation. This deeper level of thinking allowed me to open my eyes to the many factors that go into racialization and how society can orient itself to idolize one group over the other.

The collaborative essay with my peers discussed how small events can lead to a catastrophe. This was connected to earthquakes and how small seismic events such as fault movements can create something big and impact many. This allowed me to go deeper with my understanding of racialization and the parallels between the trilogy and our society. The primary concept of how many small events can lead to bigger ones led me to connect to the layers of the earth. As you go down deeper into the core, you are passing through many layers. This can represent the levels of thinking I endured throughout the semester. At first, I viewed Heng’s definition as just that, structuring society based on skin color. However, this transformed into thinking about the many sectors in society and how racialization can influence more than skin color. Furthermore, once you reach the core, there is a great amount of intense heat and pressure (Core). Beginning of the semester, I never realized the impact of these small occurrences and how they can add up to an enormous amount of pressure on a group of people. The class discussions of the trilogy and other societal connections allowed me to view the world critically. This brought me to the conclusion that as a society, we are feeling the pressures of the small injustices that lead to racialization. Understanding the injustices that have been crafted and executed by society due to uncontrollable characteristics. Furthermore, I have reached the core of my understanding because I have learned that thinking deeply and carefully has allowed me to change my way of thinking. Before I entered this semester, everything I learned was very prominent and evident. My previous educational experiences taught me to think about what is right in front of me. My thinking strategies were very cut and dry and my thinking was done in a manner to get the job done and make a conclusion. However, this has changed heavily. Now, I think about the implications of everything and think about the connection to a larger meaning. I have broadened my understanding of society and the process of racialization. I have learned that racialization doesn’t always occur with skin color, but it also occurs in educational institutions and job occupations. 

Over the semester, I have grown as a student and as an individual. I have developed the skill of looking at multiple perspectives when learning. This has allowed me to dig deeper into the meaning behind this class, the trilogy, and societal issues. This difference in my thinking matters because it has allowed me to develop as a person and an intellectual. I have learned that taking on multiple perspectives when I am viewing an issue in our society has allowed me to realize how many moving parts play, like tectonic plates. These moving parts can represent small yet significant instances of injustices and how they can construct a society to have superior and inferior groups of people. This adaptive way of thinking has enabled me to slow down when thinking and consider the moving pieces of the topic. Overall, I have developed many skills throughout the semester that have transformed my thinking and way of learning.

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