This week, like some of the posts already up, I want to talk about my upbringing. Of those I read, they mentioned private schools and predominantly white schools and/or areas. My experience was the quite the opposite.
I went to public schools all my life, until coming here. I grew up in Pottstown, which is a relatively small town in south-eastern PA. Pottstown is a diverse town. There is a main street that runs through the town, “High Street.” People would associate each side with “the bad side” and “the good side” of High Street. I lived on Cherry Street which happened to be on the “good side”. Thinking back, the majority of my neighbors and my area were predominantly white. The “bad side” of Pottstown was primarily black. Further down certain areas were also bad areas I was told not to go to at night with friends. I never thought of it in racial terms when I was younger.
I attended Edgewood Elementary School from k-almost all of 6th grade. Mod’s were built at the elementary school temporarily as the middle school underwent construction. This school was very mixed in terms of race and ethnicity. Some of my closest friends were other races than my own. As I mentioned in one of my comments, I believe to Dana, I actually was envious of having such pale skin and freckles (I don’t ever tan- I burn) compared to the bronze skin of some of my friends. Continue reading
“Linsanity” — how many times have we all heard this phrase, either on TV or in the news? Even if you’re not an avid NBA follower, which I certainly am not, I’m sure at least some of you have heard this phrase at least once within the last couple weeks. However, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Jeremy Lin, I’ll give you some background information:
After graduating from Harvard in 2010, Lin went undrafted into the NBA. That summer, Lin played for the Dallas Mavericks on their Summer League squad before signing a two-year contract with the Golden State Warriors, his local NBA team growing up. In early December of 2011, Lin was picked up by the Houston Rockets, but was later waived to the New York Knicks, right before the new year. Lin saw some action in the beginning while playing for the Knicks, but by no means was he a standout player. Nevertheless, Lin received a shot to prove himself after the Knicks faced a losing streak, and was promoted to starting point guard. Lin excelled on the court, and went from being a barely known basketball player to one of the most famous athletes in the NBA overnight.
The linsanity phenomenon has created so much media attention, both in the US and abroad. Many sports critics argue that the amount of media attention Lin is receiving is mostly because of his race. On the contrary, some people argue that all this attention Lin is receiving is simply because he is excelling on the court. Regardless of what people believe, the fact is that most of the media attention Lin is receiving is centered on racial stereotyping. ESPN, probably one of the most well respected American sports networks, was forced to apologize for an anti-Asian slur directed at Lin, following one of the Knicks’ losses. Written by Anthony Federico (who has since been fired), the headline “Chink in the armor” appeared TWICE in an online story about the Knicks’ loss.
You’d think that anyone intelligent enough to land a job at ESPN would know that making racist comments is completely unacceptable. An article written by Hadley Freeman at The Guardian points out something interesting about racism: while it certainly isn’t anything new in sport, Freeman argues that racism against Asian Americans is different, compared to racism against African Americans, for example. Her claim is that because racism against Asians is not confronted as much, it is somehow seen as acceptable. People might even be totally clueless to the fact that what they’re saying is hurtful to someone of the race, perhaps because Asian Americans are barely represented culturally.
Jeremy Lin has had to face stereotypes not only from the media, but also other businesses, like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Like ESPN, the ice cream company admitted they made a mistake with its Jeremy Lin-inspired ice cream flavor. Apparently, the company received a great deal of criticism for adding fortune cookies to the flavor — an act that many people viewed as politically incorrect. According to a Yahoo News article, Ben & Jerry’s stated that they weren’t trying to offend anyone with their limited-edition “Taste the Lin-Sanity” flavor. Maybe Hadley Freeman is right — are people just completely oblivious to what is okay and not okay to do or say regarding the Asian race?
Thinking back to the initial prompt for this week — I don’t think everything is OK when it comes to racism. I think the US has made a lot of progress in this category, but on the whole, racism still exists today. I think the Jeremy Lin example is so interesting and relevant to this debate. Can no one be appreciated for just being good at something? Or do people always need to stereotype. It shouldn’t matter where someone is from or what they look like. If they’re good at whatever it is — sport, in this case — nothing else should matter. Someone shouldn’t receive more or less attention because they are male, female, black, white, whatever. I hope people start to appreciate Jeremy Lin more for his talent, instead of focusing on where he is from.
The best way that I have been able to contextualize the issues of identity and race in America is to relate them to the problems other countries have. For my blog, I am going to share a few personal experiences from studying abroad and then describe how they made me think about American society and the problems we have here. The first experiences are the conversations I participated in with my Spanish family about race, and the second experience is an identity/crime issue.
If you read my last blog post, you know that I lived with a host family while living in Granada. My family was very curious about everything, from my religion to my thoughts about gay marriage and politics. Before this experience I had no idea about the problems other countries had about race. I can tell you now that America is certainly not the only country with issues. I remember watching TV with my Senora one day and there was a story on about an interracial couple facing some sort of legal issue. My Senora became enraged, and started telling me about these two people she knew that used to date, and one was “so white” and the other was “so black”. She made it seem like the whole city knew about this scandal, and that it was seen in such an awful way. The way she expressed herself with no filter made me think that this was typical chit-chat in Spain, and talking to her about this issue really made me realize how much America has grown since slavery. I believe concepts like interracial relationships will become more and more accepted as time goes by. I told her that in America there are undoubtedly people against interracial relationships, but that there has been progress in its acceptance among society. It didn’t seem like there had been much progress in Spain.
Now, onto identity issues. I do not know much about law, but I was shocked at the lack of legal importance in Spain. One night when I was out in Granada, I was walking home through the Albaicin (which is the old quarters of the town) and a man went after my friend and tried to rob her. I went back to help and was pushed over in the man’s attempt to grab my purse. We got away fine because a group of guys came down the hill and yelled at him to get away, but the memory still frightens me. I think this can be related to an identity/gender issue, because if it were men that were walking along, they would not have been attacked (according to my host family). When I told them about this experience they said that there really was nothing that could be done, and that filing a police report would be pointless. From this experience, I began thinking about the differences between Spain and America. This event really surprised me, because I believe that in America it would not be taken so lightly. I know that there are differing ideas about identity between countries, but the complete what seemed like lack of respect for women was appalling to me because everyone talked about it like it was just something that usually happens. In fact, when I told my host family (all women), they fed me numerous stories of their own about getting robbed, and practically blamed it on themselves. I think in the America there is still a problem of women being seen as prey and not as respected as men, but I do believe that our legal system is helping to combat this issue. I am certain that identity and gender roles have evolved to different extents in different countries, and that our country is one of the most developed. But has it developed enough? Should we be proud of our development in relation to many European countries, or is this not an accurate way of measuring right and wrong?
If you think going to Bucknell for four years was like living in a bubble, then you never grew up in Rye Brook, NY. Being raised in this homogenous community and attending the same school district, there was only one African American family in town The family, who actually lived around the corner from me, had four children; two of them graduating from my high school while the youngest two transferred before senior year. One of the girls who transferred was actually in my grade and in my kindergarten class in 1995. (In order to protect the identity of this girl, I have chosen to not use her real name. So for the purpose of this assignment, I will refer to her as Alex). For those of you who don’t know me well, I tend to get absurdly tan when I go away to tropical climates and completely change skin color (I am too embarrassed to post a picture to blog so if you are truly interested in my transformation, I’ll email you a picture)! I will never forget this story, since it’s my mother’s favorite to tell. I had just gotten back from President’s week vacation in Puerto Rico in February of 1995. Being my usual self and despite wearing massive amounts of sunscreen, I came back chocolate brown. Alex and I took the same bus to school each morning and waited together at the bus stop. The first time she saw me, she gave me the weirdest look and for the rest of the day, as we colored pictures of our vacations and ate snack, she could not stop looking at me. The next morning while we were waiting for the bus, Alex asked my mom a simple question, “Mrs. Silverstein, why is Dana black and you’re white?” Continue reading