Mixing It Up

Observations and ideas about race, ethnicity and mixing.

Avengers: Infinity Wars (SPOILER ALERT)

NOTE: This whole post is one giant spoiler alert about the movie, so read at your own discretion.

 

Marvel just released a new movie titled Avengers: Infinity Wars on April 27th, where almost all of the heroes in the Avengers Universe of Marvel unite to battle the super villain, Thanos, and prevent him from executing his incredibly Malthusian agenda of killing half the universe’s population so limited resources will be distributed more evenly. During the 2 hrs and 40 mins of the film, the audience gets to see heroes trying their best to prevent Thanos from collecting all of the infinity stones (that would allow him to eliminate half the population). One of the most exciting moments in the film is when the heroes from the United States need help, and travel to Wakanda (with all of it’s technological advances) to get it.  Seeing Wakanda glorified again as a beacon of progress and technological advancement was empowering, without Wakanda’s barriers the Earth’s defenders would not have been able to hold off Thanos’ army at all.

 

However, this positive moment was short lived, as in the end of the film Thanos wins and turns half the population to dust, some victims being superheroes. One of the superheroes turned to dust was Black Panther, after only being featured in one other Marvel movie. The “death” of Black Panther was perhaps the most disheartening, because of how important he was as the main character in Marvel’s first black superhero movie and also because of how short his reign was. Black Panther was released only two months before its hero was literally turned to ash.

Perhaps the next Marvel movie will entail a way to reset time and bring back all of the beloved characters; one can only hope.

Hip Hop Desis and the Status of Blackness

The discussion fostered around Nitasha Sharma’s Hip Hop Desis on Tuesday was incredibly interesting, and I am still thinking about some aspects of it. One part of the conversation in particular that struck me was started by the discussion question about the status of blackness. As a class, we discussed the difference between blackness as a commodity experienced through the media (for non-black people) as opposed to the actual lived experience of black people. This part of our discussion specifically stayed with me because it got me thinking about the white privilege I have, specifically around driving.

The term “driving while black” came up during the conversation which is what started my thoughts on this topic. When I’m driving down the highway and I notice a police car is cruising next to me, I make sure to drive the speed and feel pretty comfortable that I won’t get pulled over. If anything, I worry about accruing points on my license. I don’t worry about being wrongfully pulled over, and if I were to be pulled over I would not fear for my safety or my life.

When I’m driving with my friends that are black, I do get nervous when I see police cars. I get really worried. But even then, I’m still not worried my own safety, I’m worried about the safety of my friends. I don’t know what it’s like to–without fail–feel a course of adrenaline run through my body every time I see a police car or a police officer; and I feel like that’s something that I won’t ever be able to truly know. I can continue to educate myself so that I’m aware that police brutality is disproportionately inflicted on people of color (which is important), but I will never truly know that fear.

 

Appropriation as Othering and Unifying

I think Sharma’s last chapter in Hip Hop Desis was compelling in that she distinguishes between “appropriation as othering” and “appropriation as identification.” In reference to “appropriation as othering,” she talks about how “the popularity of hip hop and Black styles among other Desis is often decontextualized” to the point where the meaning of hip hop is not understood. What then happens is the glorification of images that “marginalize what these people in these ghettos and housing projects are going through,” which is othering these Black communities and their experiences. However, not in all instances does this prove to be case. For artist Chee, including derogatory terms in his music such as the N word and putting sand in front of it is strategic as it points to the “discriminatory and exclusive practices of the United States, which Middle Eastern and South Asians like himself are victim to.  Here, he is identifying to a similar experience that other minority groups can relate to and not using the derogatory term to other, but unite.

Hip Hop Desis

I found it interesting how Hip Hop Desis concluded with the idea of “the Black experience [being] foundational to race relations in the United States,” and how because of this, “South Asians in America must look to and learn from the perspectives of America’s racial other,” (283). In order to better understand how to navigate issues regarding social justice for everyone, it’s encouraged that South Asians should create solidarity, and learn the histories of different groups as a way to understand them. I agree, not only for South Asians, but for other non-black people of color – both who go through similar oppressive experiences, and just in general – that they should make an effort to understand the adversity that Black people go through. I think in doing so there would not only be a more well-built foundation for solidarity, but they would also be inspired by some of the movements that speak to justice for everyone, like Black Lives Matter.

Hybridity at Dickinson

The article on hybridity caused me to reflect on the types of hybridity seen on campus here. Although Dickinson is a predominantly white institution, I believe there are great efforts made both consciously by the administration but also subliminally by students and staff that promote a diverse and accepting environment. However, it is the implementation of hybridity that needs to shift. While the administration promotes structural hybridity, there needs to be greater strides taken to promote organic and situational hybridity.

Intentional hybridity is often the point of contention on campus and can be seen through actions made by the administration. This can be seen in their recent decision to cut the New York Posse Scholarship program to promote more scholarships to other students of color, Mixing It Up Mondays, and through diversity summits and lectures. While these forced efforts promote diversity, they are not the most effective. It often occurs as a “resolution” to conflict, such as the blackface incident with the men’s lacrosse team. While their efforts encourage conversation, it is up to the students and staff to promote hybridity through other initiatives, which are more effective.

Situational hybridity often occurs amongst students through sports, clubs and organizations where the interests of students being people of different backgrounds together to become friends to unite and accept each others’ differences and unite towards something they all share in common. One such club is the International Club that promotes cross-cultural communication and embracing people’s backgrounds. Through events of celebrating holidays such as Holi and through their cooking series, situational hybridity occurs and is cherished. These elements of campus life promote situational and organic hybridity among students. We need to promote these more to make Dickinson more inclusive and accepting, creating a more positive environment for everyone.

General Amin as a Leader

I really enjoyed reading Hasu H. Patel’s article, “General Amin and the Indian Exodus from Uganda.” The text was easy to comprehend and the information was laid out very clearly. I was initially shocked at the beginning, after learning that General Idi Amin Dada announced a mass expulsion of Asians. I think it’s surprising that a leader would do that, so soon after taking office, and I was also surprised that most of the African press did not comment and wished to adopt attitudes of non-interference. Another point the article touched on, which made me confused, was that General Amin believed racial intermarriage was the best form of integration, but did not exempt children of Indo-African parents from the Indian Census. I feel like if he genuinely believed that racial intermarriage would help rectify the situation, he would allow these people to be left out of the census. Overall, after reading this text, it seems that General Amin was a leader who did not get much support or respect from the public, which was definitely expected based on his actions and statements.

Hip-Hop Desis and music

I found the conversations around this book and hip hop in The United States to be so compelling because of how so many different groups perform this style of music. It is interesting how in this case south asian identities used music to perform and incorporate ideas of blackness into their own identities. I think this idea of mixing takes shape in many styles of music. For instance, many white american musicians are rappers, and are often critiqued for trying to mix in this sense. Terms of appropriation and stealing cultures arise, as many do not feel that should be performing something that belongs in a black space. This instance is much different than what we see in hip hop desis, and I think many people need to be more aware of it. IT is unique because those rappers in the book are also apart of marginalized minority groups, and through music are trying to face and combat that. These concepts work outside of hip hop also, and the mixing of groups and music comes up in the world a lot. I first think of reggae, and how many groups try to embody that music and lifestyle. It is quite unique that some forms of music are associated with different races, and all the things that arise when other races and ethnicities try to make that music a part of their identity.

Black Panthers Red Guards

Looking at this reading was very interesting because I had learned about the Black Panthers in high school but never heard about the Red Guards. In this reading I learned that the Red Guard Party strategically adopted methods used by the Black Panthers to make a stand about Asian discrimination in America while simultaneously creating solidarities with other oppressed minority groups in segregated America.  With this historical plagiarism, Asian Americans pushed against their stereotype of the model minority and performed blackness in order to refrain from assimilating to whiteness.  Although one could argue that adopting anything other than an Asian identity could be interpreted as assimilation, adopting the culture of the oppressors in society was rightfully avoided. David Hilliard, chairman of the Black Panther Party is quoted as saying, “if you can’t relate to China then you can’t relate to the Panthers.”  However, through Chin’s The Chickencoop Chinamen we see organic hybridity between Asian Americans and African Americans, as one of the characters (Kenji) explains “maybe we act black, but it’s not fake.”

 

Dickinson shift towards Intentional Hybridity

Hybridity on predominantly white institutions rarely happens and when it does happen, people don’t want to recognize it explicitly. They would rather prefer it to be subtle. Administrations always tries to implement hybridity. Most of the time, the kind of hybridity that institutions such as Dickinson tries to enforce ends up being an intentional hybridity, where the administration brings people who are in conflict together in the interest of their own benefit. Just recently, Dickinson administration decided to suspend accepting bright New York Posse students. In their defense, they made this decision because it wanted to “attract” more students of color. They want to prioritize their intentional hybridity where they stop accepting NY posse students and give partial scholarships to recruit only students of color while those students pay the rest of the remaining fees. They want to gain more money and students for their own benefit. Instead of allowing organic and situational hybridity to foster naturally on this campus and find other means of making money, the administration made a big wrong move to target Posse. It is really unfortunate that NY posse students had to be the ones to suffer from decision of the administration. And it seems that Dickinson for a long time has also mistaken Posse scholarship as an affirmative action scholarship for students of color, which is basically a slap to the face of all posse students on this campus. Posse is not a scholarship meant for student of color but rather a leadership and merit based scholarship for students of all backgrounds. I question if Dickinson partnered with Posse in 2001 with the intention of only attracting students of color or young leaders. Sometimes intentional hybridity works and other times, it doesn’t. I really hope this intentional hybridity works and foster a healthy organic and situational hybridity environment for all students on campus.

Organic Hybridity

Bhavnani’s piece on hybridity and its application to the film Mississippi Masalawas definitely super interesting as it made me think about the ways in which society constructs identity and culture, and the situations in which culture and identity coexist separately or fuse to form something new. “When elements of identity and culture are present such that each element remains as a discrete and a distinct unit,” Bhavnani defines this as being situational hybridity. On the other hand, organic hybridity is the “fusion of identities and cultures which create a mixture in which it is difficult to specify the significance of any one individual axis of inequality.” I can see this organic hybridity in my home through my mother’s cooking in the states. My mother cooks with spices that are very traditional to her Salvadorian heritage, but she has also acquired new spices that are in her signature dishes now due to our Mexican neighbors who introduced her to them. Her Argentinean best friend, has also introduced her to making pasta dishes the Argentinean way, but of course my mother never fails to manipulate the dish and add her own twist to it that is very much rooted in the flavors of her home abroad. I think that organic hybridity happens on an everyday basis, but we fail to notice it or make anything of it because it has become the norm.

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