Are you mocking me?

If you have ever experienced having an annoying sibling or have a friend mock you, at home or in a public setting, I am sure you know how it feels when you realize that there is a limit to jokes like those. Some people mock your tone of voice or something that you have said and for a few minutes you might find humor in it but then after a certain point, it becomes vexing. Sometimes it just isn’t comedic. Some react more than others and that goes for any joke that just gets old.

When someone takes it up to a personal level and mocks the way that you walk, an accent that you have, the color of your skin, your hair type or your culture in general, it is no longer a joke. The reason for this is because the way in which someone walks, the accent that they speak with, the color of their skin and their culture are all characteristics that define who they are and how they go about their lives every day. When someone is teasing you in that manner it is offensive because it really means that, that person has taken the time to analyze your appearance, actions, and culture and found something within all of it that was funny. It’s funny when you do something out of the ordinary and acts a certain way on purpose so that you can catch someones attention or make them react to it but when you aren’t doing anything to draw that kind of attention it is not only insulting but, disrespectful.

Now, let’s forget about the jokes that your siblings or friends ever made to mock you, let’s forget out them taking it up to a personal level and let’s acknowledge those who actually find humor in someone else’s culture and appearance. All of what makes someone unique is what defines all human beings and so when someone mocks another person’s style or culture it is wrong.

During our class discussion on “Nobody knows the trouble I see” by Bernice Reagan Johnson, we spoke about the standards in African-American literature and culture and acknowledging the use of another person’s work.  Reagen exemplifies singing or peaching in an African-American Baptist church as a something that relates to that topic. She says that when one sings in a unique tone or style it comes from finding individuality and a form of personal development in a way. She states that “Originality of voice and style is the true sign of a seasoned teacher. A true master is one who creates an offering with such power and originality that a new direction is established within the genre.” In the case that we all create our own offerings with our own form of power, its the same with blackface or any form of racism, whether it means posing with blackface, with a gang sign and posting it on social media as a joke or as simple as voting for someone who doesn’t really care for the issues that go on in low-income areas with predominantly African-American and Latinx groups of people. Whether someone does it blatantly or behind closed doors, they would be taking advantage of someone else’s form of power and signature.

 

Hate and Humor

James Arthur Snead was a man who studied English, European fiction and taught courses on modernism and German literature at Yale University.

According to YAMP (Yale Aids Memorial Project), various students and professors expressed how they viewed him as a person and as a professor before he passed away from aids. Two individuals who posted on the page and who knew Snead personally shared deep experiences that they had with him.  Peter Schneibner met Snead on a bus during the late 1980s and although he was fond of him and his personality, the experience that he had on the bus through him off. When Schneibner and Snead were on the bus together and on their two-hour road trip their bus driver pulled over for a fifteen-minute break. When Snead got off of the bus to use the restroom for a few moments a man who happened to be white pointed out that Snead was dangerous.

Schneibner shared:

“When he went for a pee, an old white guy sit­ting in front of me turned around and told me to be care­ful with the blacks. I should be very sus­pi­cious, he warned. A black guy talk­ing in a for­eign lan­guage can’t be any good, and sit­ting in the first half of the bus is bad behav­ior. By law, of course, blacks used to have to sit in the back seats.”

With the information that was shared with him, Shneibner did not change how he viewed Snead which was definitely a positive thing but, I found that that situation was quite funny  because the following individual, Mark Schoofs who posted about Snead says, “He had a way of car­ry­ing him­self so that race wasn’t able to obscure him. He was a vis­i­ble man, the oppo­site of Ralph Elli­son’s char­ac­ter, but it wasn’t because he acted white or avoided race. Hardly.”

I found humor in the story about the white guy calling Snead dangerous due to his skin color and talent in knowing multiple languages because according to his classmates, friends, and people that he knew, they found that Snead didn’t care much about race. He cared more about the historical events that have to lead us to where we are now or to how things were during the times in which he was alive. It is funny how there are people who want to be hateful or harmful to another person but don’t realize that their hate doesn’t matter much and shouldn’t matter as much as they think it does.

Masks keep you safe

According to the context of W.E.B Du Bois’ story, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” African Americans have been, “born with a veil, and gifted with with a second sight in this American world,— a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.”

The story, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” was written in 1903 and Du Bois lived during the late 1860s when slavery was over but if you were black you were still chained to the racist systematic laws that existed and you were constantly surrounded by racist white people. When I say, racist white people, I don’t mean that all white human beings in the United States were racist but, the majority of the people allowed stereotypes to control their way of thinking and because of that, they were even more ignorant than anything. To be ignorant means to not give someone else a chance and to not allowing your self to be open to learning new things because a selfish mindset that you may have.

In class, we interpreted Du Bois’s statement about African American people being born with veils and being gifted with a second sight as living two different lives in a way to fend for their own life. People of color saw this veil as a tool that protected them and allowed them to learn how to act in the society and time period that they lived in and how they should conform to what white people would want at that time.

I titled this post as “Masks that keep you safe, ” because we also discussed the poem written my Paul Laurance Dunbar who wrote We wear the Mask. This poem stuck to me and it took me about an hour to really understand and take in the meaning of the poem. In order for me to truly comprehend the poem, I searched and listen to Maya Angelou’s version of the poem and her combining it with her own. I find that reading a poem verses listening to it serves a completely different effect on how you take it all in. Now, I will say, We wear the Mask is a phenomenal poem that depicts exactly what African Americans went through once they were forced to live by white standards. The lines that stood out to me the most and that I would tie in with W.E.B Du Bois’s line about being born with a veil from“Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” are:

“We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—”
Although the concepts are different the idea of being obliged to cover your true identity for the purposes of satisfying another group of peoples needs is what correlates. As W.E.B Du Bois’ story, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” stated “African Americans have been, “born with a veil, and gifted with a second sight in this American world,— a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.”
Having to wear a mask all of the time ties in with the idea of having a second sight to survive in the American world that minorities struggle in. When you wear a Mask or a veil you are yourself behind whatever it is you are covering first. You see everything how you would regularly see things and you would have your original perspective but because of the society that minorities lived/live in they had/have to react differently compared to how they would have wanted/want to react originally to many racially related issues.

Why would a person of color hold a grudge against a white person?

Before answering the question titled for this blog post, I would first like to define some key terms and answer some questions for you:

  1. Human

According to the biology online dictionary:

“Humans are the hominins capable of creating and using complex tools, solving problems by sense and reasoning, using symbols and language, and creating complex social structures. Over time, humans have demonstrated behavioral modernity and advancement.”

2. African American

According to collins dictionary,

“African-Americans are black people living in the United States who are descended from families that originally came from Africa.”


I defined the word human first because I would like to make a point in saying that all humans are equally capable of applying themselves to complete any task given on Earth.  All humans are intelligent beings and can achieve any goal that they want with the use of communication, experience, memory and their physical abilities. Notice that the definition does not say anything about race, ethnicity or having different abilities, body types, muscles, or blood. It simply states what all human beings are capable of.

People of color are constantly mistreated, disenfranchised, and are underprivileged because of a research study that Johann Freidrich Blumenbach did on the measurements of craniums which led him to dividing human beings in to five different categories. The categories are “Caucasian, Mongolian, Malayan, Ethiopian, and American.” Once there was a separation of race between human beings because of their distinct appearances over time people took advantage of their own characteristics, power, and potential to seek other resources from other locations and from other human beings that were of a different race. Caucasian individuals from different countries across Europe took advantage of other racially categorized groups in different times and ways. Dating back to when Johann Friedrich Blumenbach formed this idea, it followed through with the slave trade organization that commenced in about 1650.

The slave trade organization was a controlling, manipulative and violent historical event that was used for financial growth, greed and gain in power from the Americas and Africa. Thousands of African human beings were captured and sold to other “masters” or other European “business men” who wanted more territory, power and access to resources from South and North America. Through the process of the slave trade organization many people lost their lives or were brutally mistreated. African and Indigenous women were raped in the Americas and in Africa and this led to the population of mixed people that exist today. Since the mid-1600s, up until 1865 when slavery was abolished, the  majority of Caucasian individuals from Europe who settled in to the United States of America treated individuals of African descent whether it was half, a quarter or fully black like they were wild animals. After slavery was abolished the 13th Amendment claimed that it was illegal to own a slave but segregation still existed, racism still existed and if you were African American you would constantly struggle financially and socially. One wrong move and you would get arrested and treated like a slave again. Up until the 1960s when Jim Crow laws were abolished but, again, African American people and other people of color were still mistreated in terms of getting a job, financially, they were underprivileged all because of their complexion. It wasn’t until the late 1990s to early 2000s that employment discrimination laws were passed, that African American high school children were graduating on time or were graduating at all, that people of color were progressing economically, and were able to succeed in the U.S. 

This leads me to explaining my second key term, “African American”. All human beings experience different things in their lives. We are all very distinct not because of out complexion, or our appearance. We are all distinct because of our experiences and the cultures that influence us. Humans are born in different locations and assimilate to different cultures over time and learn to adopt to different styles of life. People of color are black, indigenous, latino, or of other mixed ethnic groups. When living in America and being a person of color or specifically African American you have your own experience. Racism still exists and according to NBC News, the article, “Poll: 64 percent of Americans say racism remains a major problem” by Andrew Arenge, Stephanie Perry and Dartunorro Clark, “64 percent said racism remains a major problem in our society. Thirty percent agreed that racism exists today, but it isn’t a major problem.”

More than 50% of Americans acknowledge that there is a racial discrimination issue in their country. Given that the majority of people of color in America experience discrimination it seems like the issues isn’t complexion the the way in which people of color carry their skin. Every person has been influenced by culture but many people who happen to be Caucasian feel like because it isn’t like their own that they should discriminate, be racist against or mistreat others. Although not all white individuals are actively racists or follow white supremacists groups, actions speak louder than words and the statistics above prove that. If racism still exists, all Americans need to work on being culturally educated and learn to respect one another’s as they teach in Kindergarten. Americans need to show that they acknowledge each others experiences rather than focus on their own.

So to answer the question properly I would say that people of color should not hold grudges against people who have not prepared to actively not follow the kind of system that we live under. All humans are influenced by others and they experience complete different events and have different perspectives. People of color forgive those who are ignorant and just don’t know how to respect their culture but their is an expectation of learning from a mistake that was made. At the end of the day, this all shouldn’t be about color it is now about how people should learn to understand their similarities and differences between one another and where boundaries may lay between those two categories.

Racism exists and the cure isn’t to temporarily try to understand someone else’s pain or culture, it is to truly care about people around you day by day.

 

Importance of African American literature

 

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, African American literature is defined as a “body of literature written by Americans of African descent.”

Before, taking any classes in college I did not know that literature could be driven by any culture. Literature is a form of communication and a way of conveying knowledge and it is what has controlled humanity’s mindset for decades and still does. When children begin their schooling they are taught the alphabet, phonetics, words, and they learn how to read sentences and eventually they’re timed by how fast they can read and interpret their reading. Eventually it becomes a habit of simply taking in what is on the page and configuring puzzled and metaphoric quotes and vocabulary words.

African American literature is also taught to children but in a a different way. Once the minds of children have been stimulated enough so that they can comprehend complex stories and important factors such as geographic locations, cultures, the existence of various languages and the importance of all of those components, teachers have the opportunity to teach history. The most important historical concepts that are taught in educational institutions in the United States are from the origins of North America and how we got to where we are today. The importance of teaching children those concepts are so that they can understand that everything that has been done to level up to where we are now, should not be taken for granted. 

African American literature is a form of reading a history textbook. When you open a book written by an Afro-writer, especially written before the 1980s like the “Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison or “Not with Laughter” by Langston Hughes, you are not reading your average book, you are reading a piece of perspective. When I read the “Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, my eyes glistened and I was shocked by how much I learned about the culture and the amount of respect African Americans had received before the 1960s. I was able to find that African American individuals were still treated unfairly after Jim Crow laws were passed and the way that I learned that was through vivid details that seem like exaggerations but were 100% true. Although the story was not exactly true, it exemplified the actual mannerisms and events that would happen during those times.

Literature is written to provoke others to learn more and to respect what they are reading. African American literature should be respected by not only Americans but by other people who come from countries that have also been affected by the historical events that provoked Africans to write their stories and share them.

The article, “Who reads an American book”, Smith questions, “In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American book?” Although these questions are asked to prove a point. I find that Afro-literature in general is so important to read that everyone should be educated about not only African American literature but, Afro-latino literature, and direct African literature. Most of the time in schools we are taught to focus on the American perspective but if you are able to read what happened during the early 1800s for example in Virginia, Colombia and Senegal you can then gain access to the a broad perspective of what was happening globally rather than just knowing one perspective.

Literature allows everyone to express their thoughts and share information. At times, literature can also be a shout of help for others. For Afro- writers, literature can be both.

 

 

COLORED ONLY

In Jackson, Mississippi, 1961, there was a signed ordered by the police stating “WAITING ROOM FOR COLORED ONLY” in hospitals and medical centers to segregate between the blacks and whites. According to “Civil Rights and Healthcare: Remembering Simkins v. Cone (1963)”, during this time period, African American doctors, dentists, and surgeons were only allowed to practice on other African Americans.

Of course during that time, the majority of white people thought African Americas were filthy and didn’t want much to do with them unless they were serving them. Of course medical practice is very serious so they’re only going to trust “their kind.” If a sign like this is up, it just shows that they didn’t even want to sit with the “colored group.”

Eventually, “the United States Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case) deemed that the two hospitals’ policies of racial discrimination for both patient admissions and visiting physician staff privileges violated the fifth and fourteenth amendments of the Constitution.”

This was a positive changed for the “colored group” in that they didn’t have to feel so secluded and treated as if they were animals. In reading the article, “The difference between blacks and animals”, Alice white states, “animals were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites.”

When I that sign I felt like it related so much to that quote because in this day and age you only see signs like that if “NO DOGS ARE ALLOWED” in to a store or an area in a park. It just shows how much white people back then belittled African Americans just because of their complexion.

 

Second-line and Sanctus

Dr. McCoy offered an extra credit opportunity to the class about a month ago. This entitled us to meet Steve Prince, an artist from New Orleans who creates charcoal art depicting a blend of his African American experiences with historical attributes of discrimination. When I went to meet Steve Prince during his presentation of all of his famous works and his explanations, I remembered one specific piece–“Second Line.”

As I was flipping through Fortunes Bones by Marilyn Nelson I found an image that looked pretty similar to “Second Line”, it had the same name “Second line” (28). It was a photograph taken by Leo Touchet. On the next page (29), the poem Sanctus there. It represents “Second-line” in the fact that it has to do with a funeral but yet the people in the image are dancing and singing “Call us home, Lord, call us home. Call us home, Lord, set us free.”

(In a way, this connects to my previous Blog Post “7000 bodies deepbecause the people who seem like they are celebrating are actually in pain because of their loss of a close friend or relative. )

In Steve Prince’s portrait, “Single-line” the people also have umbrellas in their hands, instead of dancing, they’re playing the trumpet. According Prince it had to do with their faith in Christianity and trumpets happen to be biblical in the book of Revelations. I remember Steve saying that no matter how sad black people are, they will find a way to celebrate and reveal their happiness, rather than pain because the person is now assumed to be in Heaven.

This similarity is important and relates to the class because of the name of the course “Race & Medicine.” Although we mean medicine in a literal sense, now that we’ve completed the semester I view this class as medication for those who don’t know enough about Race. There is one race and that is the human race, but during this generation for some, race is still a black and white thing. We as humans are still segregated in our own ways whether it be politically, economically, status wise or racially.

The opportunity to meet Steve Prince was like a test to see how much the medication helped me as a student in Dr. McCoy’s “Race and Medicine” class. It was a chance to understand race from a deeper and literal perspective, rather than imagining what happened to African Americans through books that we read in class.

Second-line, Second-line and Sanctus all helped me understand the idea that what we define race as, is actually a cultural aspect to humanity.

We all suffer. We all bleed. We are all human.

Why do we play the race card with children?

Let Black Kids Just Be Kids says that “People of all races see black children as less innocent, more adult-like and more responsible for their actions than their white peers.”

Not My Bone’s by Marilyn Nelson says “I was not this body, I was not these bones, This skeleton was just my temporary home… You can own a man’s body, but you cant own his mind. You are not your body”(25).

When people view others by race, they aren’t accepting their internal characteristics as a human being; especially with children. The internal characteristics that human beings withhold are what should capture another person’s attention the most.If a child isn’t acting in the way that you want them to behave or expect them to behave you can’t really blame them, you can only blame the parents and their environment.

If you are a teacher that has a black student in their class, you shouldn’t teach them or treat them any different from the Asian boy or the white girl in the class. In doing so you are only reciprocating to societies standards and not improving yourself as another human being on this planet. We are all human, live on the same planet and in order to continue sharing the environment in which we all live in, we have to learn that we are not our bodies.

We can’t continue to place our complexions in to categories and separate people economically and financially just by their appearance.

Black children are just as innocent as white children. Children are children. The issue that I think that this article is pointing at is that white children happen to be a lot more protected in regard to money or opportunities. As of 2014 according to Black Demographics, “African American Income”, majority of African Americans make between $35,000-$100,000 a year. White household incomes according to “Demographic trends and economic well-being”, make between “$50,000-100,000”.

White households have a head start on making higher salaries because many happen to have money passed down to them. Many happen to get in to better universities, can afford to attend high end schools and programs from a young age. The list goes on, but historically African Americans are still at a disadvantage for opportunity and are still treated differently from white people.

These differences shouldn’t create a deviate the treatment towards any one, especially children. White and black children are innocent no matter what their conditions are like.

Like Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”

 

7,000 bodies deep

Beneath the southern surface of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, 7000 bodies were found. According to “Up To 7,000 Bodies Found Buried Beneath University Of Mississippi Medical Center” about 80 years ago, the State Lunatic Asylum had shut down due to constant causes of death such as “tuberculosis, strokes, heart attack, and occasional epidemics of yellow fever and influenza.”

This article correlates with Zone One by Colson Whitehead because in the novel there are dead bodies everywhere either walking zombies or dead bodies outspread everywhere. The University of Mississippi Medical Center is dealing with a similar situation in that they have discovered what I imagine to be the same amount of bodies as in Zone One. As all of the deaths in the Asylum were from painful diseases, I would imagine that the zombies too went through a painful process to become who they’ve become in Zone One.

Despite the fact that the dead bodies are about 80 years old now, the correlation between the two situations is that regardless of the way you die, it is painful. Not only is it painful for the person dying, its painful for others around them to watch them torture others as zombies or for others to finally find out where the people related to them who lived in the Asylum have been buried all this time.

Although many may not know those who were found beneath the Medical Center, the story is still unfortunate. There were probably family members worried sick after the Asylum shut down about where their relatives were buried.

The quote “People fear death even more than pain. It’s strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over” by Jim Morrison helps me conclude the idea that death for both the zombies and the people who died in the Asylum was painful while they were living. Once they died the only pain left was for those who cared about them or the people today finding out the devastating story of the conditions in which those people were left to die under.

 

Poverty epidemic

Poverty is the state of being poor or the state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount

Throughout the semester, all of the novels and articles that we’ve discussed relate to poverty. The article and novel that I felt correlated with poverty the most were “Hookworm, a disease of extreme poverty, is thriving in the US south. Why?” written by Ed Pilkington and Zulus by Percival Everett. Zulus and the Hookworm article both dealt with negative biological affects on people and poverty.

Zulus dealt with the life of a women, Alice Achitophel, who becomes impregnated by a rapist and has to deal with the environmental tragedies of a nuclear disaster. Alice is the last women on earth who is pregnant which is an issue for the apocalyptic time period during the novel. The only food available is cheese because everything else is contaminated. Of course, pregnant women happen to eat more than the average person because they’re eating for two persons. Her being pregnant causes issues with the distribution of food because it’s already an issue that there is barely enough food for everyone. When there’s a person who is obese and pregnant, that causes an imbalance in the fact that 1 person is getting an advantage.

Hookworm is a disease that “enters the body through the skin, usually through the soles of bare feet, and travels around the body until it attaches itself to the small intestine where it proceeds to suck the blood of its host.” This parasite conquers the amount of food that you admit in to your system which then “causes iron deficiency and anemia, weight loss, tiredness and impaired mental function.” If you’re already dealing with poverty and struggling to get food for survival that has nutritional values, a disease like this takes more of toll on you.

In comparison to Zulus where poverty is already affected by a greater cause , the impoverished areas in the United States where hookworm is popularly contaminated with, is dealing with poverty due to similar reasoning. According to the article “Causes of poverty in America”, those reasons are poor economy, lack of affordable housing, drug use, lack of education and medical expenses. The issues with both situations are that the people are lacking resources.

Here in the United States, one of the states that have been affected the most by hookworm is Alabama.The people affected by hookworm in Alabama lack resources in that poverty is a large factor. If you are poor, you can’t afford a $15,000 septic tank to filter the water coming in from the terrain under your home.  According to “Hook worm infections and Sanitation Failures Plague Rural Alabama” only “half  the households with septic have a failing system, or worse, no means of waste disposal at all besides a pipe directed at the backyard.”

This is sad because people are trying to maintain their resources and fix the issue but they all cannot afford to do so. Similarly in Zulus, Alice’s secret of being pregnant was held by people who were trying to deal with the same issues, which is to go back to their normal lives and survive normally.

“Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn’t commit.”

Eli Khamarov

–So is an unwanted disease.–