Diversity

All posts in the Diversity category

Black and White in Possession

Published July 24, 2016 by lorijss

Black and white in Possession

The use of “white” and “black” in Possession by A.S Byatt is worth exploring. White is used 263 times in the text. “White” was used so many times that it has caught my attention and is impossible to overlook but perhaps ignored by many scholars. As a result, I will explore the different uses of the word white. Firstly, in Possession, the word white is associated with beauty while black is associated with “evilness.” When describing Maud, the protagonist, Byatt writes, “the whiteness of her, which was part of her extreme magnetism. (301)” While evident in the novel, it is mostly evident in the tale, “The Glass Coffin.” Perhaps Byatt is trying to show how the terms blackness and whiteness are used in language. However, an African-American reader reading “black” as evil and “white” as beautiful, may see it as an insult or even racist. Perhaps Byatt is showing the damaging effects of the terms in fairytales. The representation of dark of black as immoral is consistent in “The Glass Coffin” and makes one wonder if white represent the opposite in the rest of the book.
“The Glass Coffin” tale seems to highlight the repetitiveness of “white” in the novel. When the tailor first enters the “strange household,” in the fire corner stood a “black-and-white goat. (66)” Because of how hardworking the tailor is, the little man gave him the choice of three gifts. A soft leather purse, the second “a cooking pot, black outside, polished and gleaming inside. (67)” Lastly, “a glass key glittering with all the colors of the rainbow.(67)” When the tailor left the strange household, he stumbled upon a box and saw, “a face, the most beautiful face he could’ve dreamed of or imagined…a still white face.(71)” It is clear, the purported association of whiteness with beauty. The princess then goes on to describe how her brother let a stranger in their home. And how he took pleasure in his company and she felt sorrow clearly for feeling left out. She said the stranger strode into the chamber where she’d awaken with his, “black curly hair and dangerous smiley face. (72)” Persons of African descent have black curly hair so that can be interpreted as such.
“White” in the novel becomes the backdrop by which a stark contrast to “black” in the tale can be made. When the princess said her brother had gone hunting with the stranger—upon return, she states, “And out of the dark woods came the black man, leading his horse on one arm, and on the other a tall grey hound with the saddest face I have ever seen on any creature. This accentuates the notion that blackness leads to sorrow. She continues, “he told me my brother had suddenly gone away, and would return no more for a great and uncertain length of time and had left me, and the castle, in charge of him, the dark magician.(73)” By stating dark magician she is implying that his darkness is up to no good.
As with any fairytale, there is a winning victory of a knight in shining armor rescuing a white princess. “The Glass Coffin” is no different as this is how the “black man” died in the tale: “The black artist appeared on the threshold, wrapped in a swirling black cloak, smiling most ferociously…when he came up, put out a hand to touch the lady, whereupon our hero with all his might at his heart, and the glass splinter entered deeply and he fell to the ground.(73)” The author makes the black artiste dress black in an effort to make him more evil, bad, or immoral.
The tailor won the heart of the white princess by not only freeing her from the box with his glass key but by defeating the “black artist.” The tale concludes, “Then the lady told her brother that the little tailor had rescued her from her sleep and had killed the black artist and had won her hand in marriage.(75)” Symbolically, Maud is the white princess and the tailor is the ideal version of Roland, the male protagonist, who could win Maud’s heart.
Much later on in the novel, we find Byatt writing, “He waited. Two people, a black man and a white woman exhausted their cards. (370)” I believe that this line has significance. Why not just say, two people? A man and a woman? Why say a black man and a white woman? Perhaps Byatt is showcasing diversity and how black and white as words defined in the English language, are just that—language and are completely separated from the psyche of persons or should be separated from the psyche of individuals. We know that this is not the case in “The Glass Coffin” but we can say “black on the outside, polished and gleaming on the inside” means beauty is in the eye of the beholder or beauty is only skin-deep. Also, “the glass key glittering with all the colors of the rainbow” could symbolize diversity.

 

notes:

A search of “white” in Possession on kindle produces 263 results.
Did not find any articles on subject matters –the use of “black” or repetitive use of white in Possession

Racist Remarks by BYU professor sparks controversy

Published March 11, 2012 by lorijss

Racist Remarks by BYU professor sparks controversy

According to the article above, on the 18th of February, Randy Bott, a BYU professor of religion, spoke to the Washington Post and said that the LDS Church’s historic ban of the priesthood for men of African descent was a “blessing” because at the time they were not “ready” for the priesthood authority.

This news is sort of old but since I am currently a student at BYU taking time off of course I am going to discuss this. It’s professors like those that give BYU (in present day 2012) this notion of being a racist institution that African Americans need to stay far away from. I have had my own personal experience with racist BYU religion professors. Religion classes at BYU are a requirement for graduation so no one attending BYU can escape taking them and I believe that these classes are prone to racism lurking in the mist of it’s curriculum. Anyway, I was in one of my religion classes and the professor was explaining something I don’t remember what it was specifically and then said “nowadays you can’t even say the word ‘nigger’ or ‘chicano’ when back then it was okay to say those words.” This is an old white professor who was basically saying that his family or the whole social environment in which he grew up in use to say the words “nigger” and “chicano” when interacting amongst themselves and it used to be okay to do that. Okay for who exactly? I can’t even dignify this professor’s statement with a response anyone with modern day common sense can see what is wrong with that religion professor’s statement. They should stop with those religion classes all together or make them current.  Men of African descent being banned from the priesthood authority was a blessing because they weren’t ready for it? Anyone who can’t see that as racist is racist. How would LDS blacks feel sitting in a religion class hearing a religion professor saying things as blatantly racist as that? Well black LDS people who can actually point out what is racist as opposed to what is religious, because religion can be used as a means to accept injustice against your own self. Why? Because God said so. I call this religious racism or religion being used as a means to justify or even perpetrate racism when we as a society are suppose to be moving past this. You get the picture. An African American professor named Darron Smith was speaking out against things like this at BYU and BYU authorities fired him. Anytime BYU is in the news it’s always about something regarding race and racism. BYU needs to get itself checked. Stop running away from the issue and confront it. Weed out all those old racist professors and hire some professors of African descent then that would be progress for BYU-Provo.

Slave Game Alleged At Gwinnett Elementary School

Published March 3, 2012 by lorijss

Slave Game Alleged At Gwinnett Elementary School

Slavery is just one of those things that stand out in the history of the Americas. It could be possible that the children were influenced by what they learned in their history class enough to incorporate that in the tag-like game that they were playing. Or it could be that the educator him or herself did not know the implications for allowing or instigating a game like this to be played among the children. In other words the educator was ignorant of how insulting it would have been to the children’s parents. Perhaps maybe the educator was there is no other word, a color-blind racist. The good thing that came out of this though is that the school has implemented a diversity program hopefully that will have  an effect on the teachers and then in turn have a positive effect on the students.

In the above video the school district launches an investigation into the controversial Math problem about “slaves.” This  shows the subtle ways in which racism is perpetrated in our society to this day in the 21st century. Slavery is put into a word game in a math work sheet for children is just one of many shocking things that perpetrate the notion of racism in society despite the ideal that American society is trying to move away from this. I know this news article is old but no matter it is shocking.

What do you know about Black history month?

Published February 9, 2012 by lorijss

This video show the racism and stereotypical behavior towards or about people of African descent at BYU. I am sure all the white respondents in this video are nice, friendly, fun, welcoming individuals, who mean no harm or don’t intend to insult black Americans. Also they obviously don’t consider themselves “racists” or “color-blind racists.” In response to some of the white girls’ thoughts: “Classy”obviously should not or does NOT equal white, and white does NOT or should not equal “classy.” Classy is also very subjective in other words self-defined, but may seem to be more defined by people who are members of the white American culture and ideology which is the most dominant & prevalent culture and ideology in the US. These statements about being “classy” can be interpreted as “racist” or color-blind “racist.” What does it mean “to act” like a “black guy” or what does it mean “to act” like a “white guy?” That question is open to many debates and discussions that I won’t lend a hand to in this post. For the sake of this post, the white girls in the video are basically trying to say that “acting white” is “better”without actually being conscious that that can be interpreted as “racist.”

In this video, all the white respondents can be viewed as racist in it’s own right because they are first of all White Americans. White Americans since the beginning of the United States have always enjoyed unearned privileges at the expense of non-whites, specifically people of African descent. In this video the whites can be interpreted as standing at the pedestal looking down on Black Americans or anyone of African descent without intending to or meaning to, this is on the basis of their own ignorance.  So African immigrants which includes immigrants from Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana or Caribbean immigrants which includes, Jamaica at BYU are put into this box of stereotypes that white Americans have. This is due to their ignorance which is a direct result of their upbringing, or their inexperience with having  interactions with people that are directly from African countries and immigrated or black Americans that are born and raised in the US . Whatever the case may be either way the white respondents in this video have had both little social interaction with black Americans or meaningless social interactions with black Americans.  In addition to that these whites don’t understand the concept of white privilege and in order to understand that they have to step outside the box that they’re in & accept their white privileges. In order to accept that  they have white privileges, however major and minor it is, is by going out of their “way” to be in an environment where they’re interacting with blacks or non-whites on a day to day basis, even leaving the US will do. After doing that go back to interacting with whites and they will see it loud and clear if they open their minds. At least that’s what I think. Therefore, as a result of this lacking in experience that I just discussed, these whites are unable to form sensible responses when interviewed. Whether or not they were being interviewed by that dude their views of black Americans would still be ignorant and stereotypical, therefore it can be interpreted as “racist.” On top of that white Americans are the majority at BYU and most of the positions of power and affluence are filled with people that are White Americans. Honestly my personal experience at BYU as a black Caribbean/Jamaican has showed me that BYU is not only the whitest and most white-washed institution in the US but as a result of that both the most “racist” and “color-blind” racist institution. Still due to the fact that most whites at BYU are Mormons who have served a mission, which is basically spending 2 years in another country for the purpose of spreading Mormonism. The melting of stereotypical views is hopeful especially for those who have served missions in African countries, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

What are your thoughts on this video?

“Arabs are only shown in large numbers…”

Published February 1, 2012 by lorijss

In the media in this society, magazines, books and television shows and movies, portray or ‘orientalize’ non-westerners more so than offering unbiased portrayals.  I agree with Said, “Arabs are only shown in large numbers. No individuality, no personal characteristics or experiences (823).” This is an image always portrayed by the American media, like popular media networks that create this illusion that they are being unbiased. If the media were being unbiased they would portray the personalities or individual Arabs and talk about the culture and ways of the Arab world. The only time Arabs are shown on the news is in relation to war and political upheavals. Like Said said “most of the pictures represent mass range misery or irrational…gestures (823).” Only European Americans and even Europeans who are not living within supposedly US borders are usually portrayed as having their own personality and own individual experiences. Even African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans who live within the American border, are not portrayed as having individual personalities the way the European American is portrayed. Instead like the Arab, the supposedly ‘ethnic’ subpopulations of the US are portrayed always in large masses and in large groups.

Subpopulations in the US are always portrayed from the point of view of the European American who may have one-sided and stereotypical views of subpopulations that are non-white or of non- European decent whether they are conscious of it or not.  The European American or European are sometimes generally portrayed as being ‘cultureless’ and ‘raceless’ and not as having their own point of view but having a view that is seen by their own way of life, as universal, just and right while other groups that are not European decent are portrayed as having a culture and a race. Mostly the former group is always portrayed as uncivilized, underdeveloped, and inferior, sometimes evil, and treacherous by the mass media. People get their perception of Arabs from the media and this becomes like a cycle, stereotype and prejudices thus remains intact.
The book Orientalism by Said, states that before the attacks on the US on September 11, 2000, the Arab was portrayed in “simplistic stereotypical terms.” In television and films” the Arab was portrayed as an “oversexed savage, a treacherous, if clever, marauder or an oil sheik (824)” who regardless of being seen as ‘inferior,’ lacking “intelligence” or being “uncivilized” and backwards was able to make the West feel as if they are lacking in something that their culture and lifestyle says that they should have and control, such as oil. One hundred million people are seen as all the same despite being located in different regions of the world, always portrayed in large numbers, and seen as being one and the same persons.
Academic knowledge and discourse legitimize colonial rule through its vocabularies and images. Even today while Britain for example, no longer has colonies in almost half of the globe, the effects of colonial rule still rings true today. The countries are seen as having the language of their colonizer as the formal language.  People in these previously colonized countries may view themselves as in the way their colonizers viewed them. For example, in Jamaica now there is a phenomenon called “the bleaching” in which people who are dark skinned do not see themselves as beautiful so do things to make their skin seem lighter. This is apparently a result of slavery and colonialism in which to be white and fair was seen as superior and to be black was seen as inferior and subject to the slavery. Even in the media today, problems that occur in countries are sometimes portrayed as having only to do with the third world countries and nothing to do with Western Europe and the United States.
References:

Orientalism by Edward Said