Thursday, January 15, 2009

Race in the Election

The UltraViolet December 2008

Setting aside your political beliefs and however you may feel about the outcome of this election, when you look at it from a diversity standpoint, there is definitely something to be proud of and excited about.

Barack Obama, an African- American man and the democratic candidate, ran against John McCain, a Caucasian man and the republican candidate. As I am sure you already know, my fellow students, this is a huge deal.

Although I and most of you reading this were not alive during the Civil Rights Movement, we need to remember that it was not long ago that many Americans were fighting for rights which seem somewhat trivial to us now. Only fifty years ago, Obama and McCain would not even have been able to drink from the same water fountain without serious consequences.

Despite the time it has taken us to do it, America has taken a huge step in diversifying our nation and, more specifically, in diversifying our government. Whether you are white, black, Hispanic, or any other race, Americans are starting to feel good about the steps we are taking towards creating a more inclusive country.

In Marlborough’s African-American Culture Club AACE (shameless plug: You guys should come Friday at lunch in C220 it’s really fun!), we have made it a part of our club’s weekly discussions leading up to the election to set aside some time to talk about this great African- American man’s achievement and about how things are playing out. It is not the young Democrats
club or the young Republican’s club so I can’t speak for everyone in the club’s political views, but I’m sure I can speak for the majority of the club when I say this election has generated a general sense of pride.

Just like many other African-American heroes, Obama has heightened the status of African- Americans across the country. By making it this far in the election (keep in mind I am writing this not knowing the outcome), he has already done something that no other African- American has ever done.

So, to me, it doesn’t necessarily matter if the “Bradley effect” has played a role in this election. The way I see it, Obama has already started to pave a new road for minorities and for all Americans.

-Arielle ‘09

What is “acting black”?

The UltraViolet October 2008

To be black today can be bewildering. How do you “act black?” Is it sitting in the hall beat boxing in a circle with your girls, or is it walking, talking and strutting your stuff with an attitude, being loud, or is it wearing the latest Jordans and Nikes to school? What is it?

If you think you’re the only one confused, think again. Many African Americans like me are confused about how to see themselves.

Despite common stereotypes, not all African Americans have the same values and cultural traditions. We all come from different backgrounds and realities. Those in upper, middle, and lower class neighborhoods can have totally different experiences from one another. Essentially what I am trying to say is that not every black person will have the answers to your cultural questions and will “act black.” We all really are different.

Take a journey in the shoes of middle class black America to understand what I am saying. In today’s society, there are many black middle class kids. Speaking as one of these kids, at times it can be confusing to figure out where I belong. Do I revert to the so called “bouche” side where I would be considered acting white? Or do I revert to the side where I’m considered “ghetto”?

Being black and in the middle can mean a hard road and some get-lost-in-confusion, losing your true identity. Middle class black kids, as well as many others, have it hard when they are forced to figure out where they stand. We’re a little too bouche to be “acting black” and not bouche enough to be upper class, “classy.” But do we really have to stand on any side of the line? No! There is no way to “act black.”

People don’t walk around saying “Hey, you’re acting Asian because you got an A on your test.” It’s the same concept. We cannot make such broad generalizations.

There is no way to “act Black.” Sure, there are certain parts of our culture than many Black people accept as a part of themselves, but that doesn’t mean all the stereotypes are true.

On a real note, there is no way to act anything except to act like you. Being real is being you. It’s not fronting about who you are. It’s feeling like wearing purple and green high tops and feeling like you look good in them and not caring what other people think. It’s not trying to be all of the stereotypes that have historically burdened your race. You are so much more than your race. Don’t let others hold you to a standard and degrade you to a judgment. Acting black, Asian, white, Latino, and any other race, means being yourself.

- Ashtynn ‘09 (founder of Common Ground)

Intolerance in the family?

The UltraViolet May 2008

By Ali ‘09

When I first heard about this diversity column, I was a bit surprised. Living in a liberal city that is inhabited by every shape, color, and diverse diversity possible, I thought Marlborough especially had somehow overcome these lines of segregation. I never thought that such prejudice and division would be present in our community.
Well, last week, I was proved wrong. My uncle just sent me another one of those frustrating, disgusting, spam-ridden emails that suggest that America is going to hell because …Barack Obama is a Muslim.

The pictures depict an America where Playboy models are cloaked, where gas prices are exorbitantly ridiculous, and where the national fast food chain (boldly named McHammed’s) oppresses billions of people a day.
This angered and still angers me to no end. On a political level, after the ridiculous Jeremiah Wright controversy, I thought people had finally realized that Obama is, in fact, not a Muslim.
On a religious and biological level, I thought people realized that religion is not a genetically inherited trait. Just because Obama’s father was a Muslim does not mean he is a Muslim. And even if he was, please explain to me why America will henceforth be succumbed to the perceived “evils” of Islam.
Whether my uncle was trying to influence my political bias or just send me some “comical” pictures, the responsibility is now in my hands and those of the 27 other people that received the forward from my uncle. Defending a clear use of stereotyping is easy, but it seems once the issue becomes personal, the proper response becomes more difficult.
This fear-mongering message that stereotypes Muslims as evil is propagated continually because people simply click “send,” but the truth is, I’m not doing anything to stop this exponential growth.
No, I didn’t respond to my uncle in a vehement, strongly worded email, for my obvious upset has been overshadowed by the family dynamics with my uncle, who is already the ugly duckling in the family. No, I’m probably not going to express my personal disgust with his ignorance, because…well, I suppose in order to maintain the partial sense of sanity in my family.
The dilemma is: when issues become more than just an issue discussed at a Presidential debate, the “right action” isn’t taken. Regardless of whether this is my shortcoming or the “norm,” I think I have realized why Marlborough has this diversity column: for my sake, for my uncle’s, or for anyone else who has been on either side of this seeming petty situation.

Afraid of the Afro in the window?

The UltraViolet December 2008

By Julie ‘09

Every day I pass the Runway boutique on La Brea Avenue on my way to school. I have seen it every morning and afternoon for the last five years. In the window, it advertises things like local designers, art shows, and vintage clothing. Every few days they change the window dressing and often I find myself admiring the clothes displayed. Despite all this, I had never gone inside. This is because next to all of the appealing advertisements in the window, there is a huge picture of a black woman. The pictured shows a gorgeous, curvy black model sporting an Afro.

My reluctance to go into Runway was not a racist decision, but one of intimidation. I felt it would be awkward if I were to walk into this store that I pass twice a day and that sells clothes I really like, because I am white. As a white girl living in West Los Angeles, what would I have to write about racism, you might ask? Throughout elementary school I heard the spiel about multi-ethnic rainbows, tolerance, and appreciating differences. Every year since I entered school I attended a dozen assemblies emphasizing the same clichés about creating a color-blind world. Other than those lectures, I never felt I had much experience with prejudice. In my case, I think I just accepted the message and let it go, passing it off because I am a white girl who isn’t actively racist, so obviously, it doesn’t pertain to me.

But how much has all the talk done, if, in my own life, I still make distinctions based on race? This question really stuck with me and nagged me as I continued to pass Runway twice a day. Was I going to let a picture discourage me from shopping there? Finally, I decided it absolutely should not. All the talk I had heard about racism would not change society if I, one individual, didn’t welcome ideas of tolerance and diversity into my own life.

On a recent Thursday afternoon, I decided I would go inside the store. I have to admit I was a little more than nervous as I walked inside. I was greeted with a friendly “Hello” from the clerk, a smiling black woman with braids and a scarf in her hair. A quiet sigh of relief took over me as I browsed the racks. I was much more comfortable at Runway than I had expected to be. I had a blast hanging out in the store and took my time looking at everything. I felt just as at ease in this store as I would have if the model in the window had been white.

When I went into the store that day, I realized I was wrong to have dismissed the clichés about prejudice. Although I am not stereotypically racist, before that day I had subconsciously made the decision not to go into Runway because of my race. That afternoon the message I had heard since first grade finally sunk in: as long as we continue to segregate ourselves, it’s impossible to have a color-blind world.

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