COMM370 – Week Four

14 Feb

The beginning of Omi and Winant’s Race Formations reminded me of studying Hawaiian identity last semester in 373.  Hawaiians have to prove that they have a certain amount of native blood in them in a blood-quantum in order to recieve certain benefits from the federal government.  In that case, they had to prove that they were Hawaiian in order to pass as truly Hawaiian.  In Omi and Winant’s article, those people that considered themselves white sometimes were considered black because of having 1/32 “Negro Blood” in them.  I understand the theory behind blood-quantums because it helps establish certain programs for people, but, in practice, it promotes racism.  In an idealized world, if people identified as black, then they would be black and vis versa with whiteness or any other racial designation.  That information should be voluntary rather than required.

The article continues the thought of race as “a pre-eminently sociohistorical concept.  Racial categories and the meaning of race are given concrete expression by the specific social relations and historical context in which they are embedded.  Racial meanings have varied tremendously over time and between different societies” (15).  It is important for the book to get this running theory out there as soon as the book begins because it becomes a guiding force for the rest of the articles.  Race is not about physical characteristics but about the history and culture behind people that apparently look different.  Therefore, it is never safe to presume that someone is “black” because they may very well be from Brazil where those distinctions are not as clearly made like they are in the US.

I found that Buck’s explanation of motherhood in “Constructing Race, Creating White Privilege” was very startling.  That white women’s black children were prevented by limiting the amount of power of women in society.  Then, black women’s white children became purely black (just a lighter pigment) in order for the child to become an indentured servant or slave.  I suppose this whole idea never really donned on me, but it seems like a clever and malicious tool by the White man to control reproduction.  Another thing that I found striking was that, obviously, the white elite determined what was white, but made it so that poor white people still felt slightly better because at least they weren’t black.  It is also interesting that the white upper elite twisted the ideas of freedom and independence as something that at least white people had.

The most powerful idea that I found in Brodkin’s “How Jews Became White Folks” was her question, “did money whiten?”  I found this question to be particularly powerful because it shows the huge economic sign of status that determines one’s fate.  Jews became whiter because they managed to be upwardly mobile.  Sure, they were not as high as regular white people, but at least they found ways that could benefit their lives.  WWII also seemed to boost the status of Jews probably because of massive guilt for the Death Camps in Eastern Europe.  Therefore, the Jews became whiter because of money, social mobility, and others guilt.

Bonilla-Silva’s exploration of “Color-Blind Racism” is rather compelling, although I sometimes found myself a little confused with her definitions of the four major tenets of color-blind racism which are: Abstract Liberalism, Naturalization, Biologization of Culture, and Minimization of Racism.  These four categories allow for white people to remove the pressure upon themselves and worm their way out of appearing racist.  I suppose that the categories were mostly made out of examples in interviews of the type of subtle racism that manifests itself.  I found the most disheartening category to be Naturalization because of the “That’s the way it is” mentality.  I often find this mentality manifest itself in comic books where I (among many others) openly criticize the industry for their negative depictions of women and people comment that I’m making a big fuss because that’s just the way the industry is.

Once again, the articles open my eyes to the plight of Asian-Americans which is a culture that I have not really had an opportunity to understand or experience.  The most obvious form of racism of Asians for me was the examination of accents and how they make immigrants “suffer heightened racism because of their accents, including job discrimination and perpetual taunting and caricaturization.  The most poignant example for me would be South Park’s Asian character who has squinty eyes and large teeth.  He answers the phone with “Hewwo, this is shitty beef!” for “Hello, this is City Beef” or something of the sort.  Granted, South Park’s goal is to offend anyone and everyone with its brash political commentary, but it is interesting how uncompromising they are and their ability to perpetuate this stereotype over accents.

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