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It was really shocking to see that little girl choose the lighter skin tones as the children possessing all the positive qualities and darker skin tones (like her own) as the children possessing the negative qualities. It was heartbreaking to see and even more so because she was smiling at some parts–almost as if she didn’t fully feel the weight of what she was saying. Adolescence is already a period fraught with insecurities and struggles and this little girl (and I’m sure so many other children like her) has to deal with another added layer of insecurity that deals with her very identity–a racial issue that I don’t see many white American children grappling with. These insecurities may be racial or centered around ethnicity or both and to have to deal with that at such a young age seems like it would cause many children to grow up quickly.

I don’t think the mother was able to handle the question well because she was equally embarrassed and shocked of her child’s honesty broadcasted on national tv. At first, it seemed like the child was influenced by sources outside of the house (tv, friends), but as the mother continued responding, the mother/family’s role in shaping the little girl’s views became more apparent. The mother, while very flustered, seemed to pass right over the issue that her child held these views. She didn’t reflect on her own parenting and possible culpability, on society, on her own views, but seemed to defend her daughter instead (as opposed to the other video in which the second mother did address these points). The fact that this first mother went to defend her child so quickly with little reflection was a bit disconcerting.

I was really surprised when watching this video because it feels as though as a society we have not improved when it comes to race–we still see the differences in color as keenly as we did in the past. It is a bit shocking, but on further analysis it seems quite possible because of all the messages our media is sending these days to children and because race is not openly discussed in schools–leaving that to parents who may or may not do a great job in making sure their children become tolerant, open-minded individuals. I wonder if things would improve on this front if we were to have open discussions of race and racism, but am also reminded of how taboo it is to speak of race openly outside of art and college courses.

“I grew older and made my life here. Not here in the United States, and not alla in Santo Domingo, but here in the world of words. They gave me ground to stand on as I pushed away from my family and their Old World ideas of what my role as a female should be. They gave me ground to stand on as I resisted being labeled in the New World as an “other,” and outsider who had better assimilate if she expected to share in the goodies.” (Alvarez 1749)

In this excerpt Julia Alvarez writes of her own personal experience and how writing became a place of salvation for her in this borderland or hyphen of Domincan-American. It offered her solace as she “pushed away” from the “Old World” values that her family espoused, which must have been a difficult thing to do because of the sheer fact that she is no longer standing in solidarity with her family in this new world. She pushed away from them because they had different “ideas” of what it means to be a woman that they took with them from the Dominican Republic and in this new world women have more opportunities. Furthermore, writing allowed Alvarez to “resist” being seen as an “other” that had to assimilate–which suggests that writing allowed her to be seen as an “American” and enjoy the benefits without having to assimilate.

“I will tell you what is wrong. It show no gratitude. It is boastful. I celebrate myself? The best student learns to destroy the teacher?” He mocked Yoyo’s plagiarized words. “This is insubordinate. It is improper. It is disrespecting of her teachers–” (Alvarez 1745)

I thought it was great that Alvarez used Whitman in her story–the classic figure of independence, individuality, and rebellion to be the catalyst for Yoyo’s own rebellion. Whitman’s “American” spirit inspired Yoyo to take pride and ownership of her talents and of her life–and it directly contrasted with Yoyo’s father’s view of life. In his background and in the way he was raised, humility, modesty, obedience, and reverence of authority were qualities that were important–and necessary–to his way of life. He doesn’t see the ambition and the beauty of wanting to do even better or of doing better in one’s own way that Yoyo is suggesting with the use of Whitman in her speech. I think certain more traditional households with immigrant parents face these same issues–the children are being raised with more independent and self-reliant attitudes and values (from their interactions and education at school and from growing up in America) whereas the parents may come from a more traditional and reserved background that frowns upon these values.

A cycle

None of her daughters was very encouraging. They resented her spending time on those dumb inventions. Here they were trying to fit in America among Americans; they needed help figuring out who they were, why the Irish kids whose grandparents had been micks were calling them spics. (Alvarez 1740)

Laura Garcia’s daughters are growing up in America and “needed help figuring out who they were,” yet Garvia is unable to help them with that–being a Dominican transplant in New York. She is unable to fulfill certain “mother-responsbilities” such as giving her kids guidance in a new world because she too is learning what it means to be a Dominican in New York. The daughters have the usual teenage troubles of growing into themselves, but also the extra expectation of becoming American in this country. Rather than being able to be a confidant to her children in that way, Garcia spends her time on working on inventions. It is interesting that there seems to be a cycle of the ex-newcomers (immigrant Irish grandparents) calling the “new immigrants” (Garcia’s daughters, Dominican immigrants) racial slurs–just as they may have been subject to growing up. One would think that those experiences or the ignorance they faced in the past would promote more understanding in the future.

Gene glanced suspiciously at the food on my plate. “Is that tongue?” He indicated the stew on my plate, making a face.
“It’s better than hamburger, which is probably all you eat.”
“Look, Sammy, I’m an American, not a Colombian, and Americans don’t eat tongue.” (Manrique 1732)

In this excerpt by Jamie Manrique, Gene–Sammy’s nephew–sees him eating tongue and jokingly rejects it as “an American.” To Gene, being American means one cannot be a Colombian–one cannot be a hyphenated anything. Sammy points out Gene’s Americanization by noting that hamburgers were all Gene ate (hamburgers being a quintessential “American” food). It is an interesting situation because it shows the two paths hyphenated Americans can take growing up. Sammy and Gene are Colombians born in America, but Sammy is comfortable with both of those cultural aspects and identities whereas Gene, who is much younger, seems to have a harder time accepting his Colombian roots.

It’s hard to realize I’m alive
in the improbably rush
of these days.

Weeks accumulate in droves
Sundays full of numbers
chimerical Thursdays
when time
betrays itself
and returns to zero hour. (Corpi 1616)

In this poem Lucha Corpri writes of slowly losing one’s life from all the daily demands and grind. Time and days blur and it becomes “hard to realize” that one is actually alive. This strong statement opens the poem and the speaker is overwhelmed by the demands in her life. We feel the pressures in the rhythm of the second stanza, through the short lines, monosyllabic words, that seem to beat out a quick tempo–mimicking the constant responsibilities in her life. Time becomes nonsensical–“accumulat[ing] in droves,” or being “chimerical.”

Insatiable harpies
the scyscrapers
devour the stars
eating their fill of the moon
caging the wind
which in turn wreaks vengeance
on flowers and umbrellas (Corpi 1616)

In this poem by Lucha Corpi called “Undocumented Anguish,” Corpi seems to be writing in the perspective of a jaded person living in the city–presumably an “undocumented” person–as suggested by the title. The voice of the poem expresses pain and suffocation as evidenced by Corpi’s use of the words “insatiable,” “harpies,” “devour,” “eating,” “caging,” “wreak,” and “vengeance.” These words are angry words that point to destruction of some sort. The speaker is an undocumented person working in an urban city, feeling as if they are being “eaten” by the city (or at least their hopes and dreams as “stars” and “moon” suggest) or losing control of their life here. The city is “insatiable” and will only continue breaking the person’s spirit.

Which is more effective as a means of getting a political message across? Who has more freedom of speech? Whose manners of speaking are legitimate, or carry the most symbolic power? What are the balances of cultural capital?

This video is effective as a means of getting a political message across because it uses a more familiar situation to frame an issue. While the other video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gydQNZVmWU) has a more apparent political premise, this video too has a message to get across in more subtle means as we see with the housewives and their offensive questions. In this video, the instructor is able to make a joke of the housewives and their bigoted concerns without them knowing and this humor allows viewers to connect with the message in an easier way. Although the instructor does not confront the women regarding their ignorant beliefs, she is able to show us how wrong they are for their behavior by making fun of them. This video has more symbolic power (despite the other video showing quite a bit of symbols also) because the symbol is the whole class and the dynamics within the conversation they had and the meaning it carries. The housewives do not wish to communicate respectfully with their nannies, rather they want to learn Spanish to exert power and influence over them and intimidate them. It is a mockery of what the instructor had in mind (she was originally trying to teach them how to better effectively communicate with their nannies and promote understanding) and in retaliation the instructor uses their ignorance to give them a taste of their own medicine/vindictiveness.

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