Making Sense of a Census

https://www.google.com/amp/s/millennialsofsg.com/2017/01/16/chinese-privilege-singapore/amp/

I officially learned about race while sitting in my elementary school classroom years ago when I was taking the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, a state test that begins in third grade. Before then, color and ethnicity was how I distinguished myself from my siblings and friends. But in that moment I was given 5 categories of races to choose from. A look into the way the question of race is approached in a non western perspective is presented in the book Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore (2009) by Daniel Goh and Philip Holden. The authors point us to new views of the construction of race in these countries but also allow us to see how they are similar to the wider world through institutionalization.

         The authors clearly show how the current “state multiculturalism” that exists in both countries are rooted in the colonial past that has framed them (2). It is not just present in a political sphere, but also has a significant effect in the way people see and interact with one another. The authors discuss how this influence creates a “common sense” among the people in a multicultural nation. In critiques of this institutionalization, people see “limits” in “the recognition and interrogation of cultural difference,” which questions how people today can escape a colonial legacy that perpetuates a narrow view of the demographics of the nation (3).  The authors say, “the institutionalizations of identities has foreclosed commitments to cultures other than the official categories of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others (CMIO) inherited from the British colonial administration.” (3) This shows  how the decisions of colonizers can directly influence the prioritization of groups in the distributing of resources. It lives on in the forms that people complete, and in turn informs the lives they get to live in their multicultural state.

         I find it interesting how the categories seem so fixed and known to be referred to as the CMIO acronym. I think about my experience as a young kid having to choose between the categories of White, Black, American Indian, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. I don’t believe there was even an ‘other’ option my first time taking the PSSA, as I remember having to choose a race I have never identified with on several occasions over the years. But even if and when I had the chance to chose other, I knew I still didn’t belong. Even when I answer yes to the ‘Hispanic or Latino’ question today, I still feel out of place when it comes down to race. And so I wonder what it must be like for a child, adult or anyone being a descendent from immigrants having to choose between CMIO. I wonder how my experience gives me a different world view from someone my age in Malaysia or Singapore trying to make sense of their place in institutionalized multiculturalism.

 

Works Cited

Goh, Daniel P.S. and Philip Holden. Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore. New York, Routledge, 2009

BP 5

Foreground: A Key to Understanding

 

Cover of Vietnamerica graphic novel

Have you ever judged a book by its foreground? For many pages of G.B Trans graphic memoir Vietnamerica(2010), its precisely what readers are doing. Foreground is a usual tool used by artists in order to convey a certain message, where the subject or focus of the image is manipulated by the artist in order to move the readers eyes and attention to one specific aspect of the piece of art. On pages 9 and 10 of the graphic this memoir this tool is used.

Foreground on these pages creates an effect of sadness. In the pages 9 and 10 the scene where the grandmother’s death is described, the narrator’s mom is walking with an image of her mother. In the panel after this one the image of the grandmother is magnified and is made the focus of that image. Panels with big images are presented and then in a panel afterwards a specific part of the image is magnified. This tool allows the readers to understand the main idea the author/artist is trying to portray, given that with pieces of work like this one it can be hard to understand the authors/artists intent with artistic actions.

In addition, foreground also creates the effect of emotions intensified to the reader. In regards of the image of the grandmother, the readers are forced to focus on the grandmother and the grieve of the scene. The text on this page shows that the narrator was not close to his grandmother but given that the focus was made to be the grieve from his grandmother’s death, the readers are able to understand the narrators love for his mom. The text says he went to Vietnam for his mom and to be there for his mom through this difficult situation regardless of not knowing many people there, his love for his mom drove him to Vietnam.

The way foreground is used in these pages and memoir connects to the idea of each layer of an image having its distinct significance. For instance, the background of an image may intend to depict a contrasting idea of that of middle ground and foreground. This can be seen when the background of an image is drawn with dark colors and saddened features, but the foreground may be the opposite with bright colors and happy emotions intended. Foreground adds the necessary sub explanation that’s needed to complete an image and understanding.

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Works Cited:

Tran, Gia-Bao. Vietnamerica. New York, Villard Books, 2010.

 

Colorful Transitions in Vietnamerica

Cover of Vietnamerica graphic novel
What better way to tell your story than by the creative use of drawings, color, and free-flow structure? From the first few pages, G.B. Tran’s Vietnamerica (2010) emits layers of meanings through its structure, colors, form, and language. One of the noticeable structures is the many blank single-colored pages that act as a separator for different sections/eras of the novel. They have little to no other content on the page and function as a transition for different time periods (past and present).

The pages range in color from maroon, to white, to semi-pitch black, to bright blue, to dark navy blue, and to bright red. The maroon page comes before GB’s trip to Vietnam for his grandmother’s funeral. The white page comes after a portrait of Tran outlined in black with outlines of his parent in blue and red overlapping. The semi-pitch black page comes after the all-white page and appears before a section in which Tri’s family is forced to make the decision to move to a village outside of Mytho. The dark navy-blue page comes before the section that begins with GB packing his stuff in New York. The bright red pages come after a section where Tri is getting tortured for information.

This pattern of using different colored blank pages as transitions from past events to present day allows the readers to get a hint of the tone of the next section and gives reader a chance to read the next section with a blank slate (without thinking too much about previous information they were just given in prior sections). These blank pages remind me of clean slates, which is significant considering the narrative is bouncing back and forth from past and present. It allows readers to digest what they’ve just read and prepare for the next section. The choices of colors themselves also provide some sort of indication of the tone for the following section. For example, the dark navy blue page indicates that the tone of the next section is one of dreariness, routine, or lackluster.

In providing these plain, colorful blank pages, the graphic novel takes readers on a rollercoaster of an emotional narrative. They allow readers to empathize in some way with Tran’s experience, which gives the novel more meaning that just pictures and colors on a page.

 

Works Cited
Tran, Gia-Bao. Vietnamerica. New York, Villard Books, 2010.

B4.

Lingering Memories, From Vietnamerica

Flipping through the pages of GB Tran’s novel, Vietnamerica (2010) You’ll see colorful spreads and complex panels, layers of images one over the other, creating an epic illustration of one man’s life. These busy and bright pages, are separated by single pages of smoke. Large illustrations of smoke rising from incense or a cigarette. Within the billowing plumes Tran illustrates, he encapsulates memories within in them, in small panels inside these plumes. Indicating a flashback to the reader, and highlighting the lingering and fleeting nature of memories – like smoke.

Tran first introduces this element when reimagining Gia Boa’s parents in their youth. He illustrates their young and smiling faces between images of their current selves and even younger, frightened versions of themselves. The bright colors of the in the panels depicting their happy young selves, overpower the darker colors around it, and signify the fondness and the clarity of these memories. In rendering these memories from the smoke on incense, Tran connotes the sweetness and fondness of these memories, as he associates the reflection of these happy moments, with the sweet smell of incense. In using smoke to encapsulate these memories Tran highlights how distant they are as smoke will linger but eventually disappear only leaving the sweet smell of incense behind, like the sweetness of distant memories.

Tran also encapsulates darker moments from the past within plumes of cigarette smoke. In using the smoke that billows off the tip of Gia Bao’s father’s cigarette to depict and encapsulate his memories of post war Vietnam, Tran connotes a sense of bitterness. These memories linger like cigarette smoke, as they are potent and pungent and linger much longer that the sweetness left by incense.

In combining illustrations of memories within plumes of smoke from incense and cigarettes, Tran indicates flashbacks to readers in a repeated format. Furthermore, Tran also combines the power of sight and smell by connecting the images from the characters memories to the sweet and bitter sent of incense and tobacco. These sensory oriented elements enhance the text as it gives multiple layers of meaning to the captions, and highlights the complexity of these memories and the impact that they have on Tran’s characters.

Works Cited:

Tran, Gia Bao. Vietnamerica. New York, Villard Books, 2010

Blog Post 4

Caroline Berezin

Imagery and Escapism

Some tragedies are difficult to confront. Claudia Rankine’s poem from Citizen: An American Lyric (2014) titled “February 26, 2012 / In Memory of Trayvon Martin” uses imagery to show a desire to escape from the police brutality that affects the black community in the United States. Specifically, Rankine utilizes images of nature, which evoke a sense of peace that juxtaposes the event that the poem was inspired by. Imagery is a type of descriptive language that appeals to the senses and prompts the reader to create a mental picture inspired by the language.

Rankine’s repeated images of nature echo throughout the poem. In the fourth paragraph, mentions of the sky are woven between mentions of struggle and pain. Rankine writes, “On the tip of a tongue one note following another is another path, another dawn where the pink sky is the bloodshot of struck, sleepless, of sorry, of senseless, shush.” (89). The image of the pink sky falls in the middle of the sentence, which is concluded by a series of words that connote negative emotions. In this line, I was drawn to the image of the sky as it contrasts strongly with the emotions evoked by “struck, sleepless, sorry, senseless, shush” (89). Then, Rankine uses the image of blossoms to juxtapose violence, slavery, and brutality. Following a list of instances of violence and institutional racism, Rankine writes, “a throat slices through and when we open our mouths to speak, blossoms, o blossoms… The sky is the silence of brothers” (90). Rankine’s brutal image of hanging is juxtaposed here by the image of blossoms, which the reader associates with softness.

The effects provided by Rankine’s imagery are significant, as they offer a glimpse into the speaker’s coping mechanisms for grieving Trayvon Martin. By returning to images of blossoms and the sky, Rankine shows a desire to escape from the realities of police brutality.

Works Cited

Rankine, Claudia. “February 26, 2012 / In Memory of Trayvon Martin.” Citizen: An American Lyric, Graywolf Press, 2014.

B2

Socioeconomic divide or Systematic Racism

Once we have solved the gap in socioeconomic divide, issues of race will follow. According to Ijeoma Oluo author of So you want to talk about race, and recipient of the 2017 Humanist Feminist Award by the American Humanist Association, the statement above is a false misconception.

In So you want to talk about race, Oluo shares how identifying as a black, women of color in a white space, such as Seattle, has placed her in many positions of vulnerability and anger while explaining to her white friends how their white privilege works to oppress her every day struggle against systematic racism & oppression (Oluo, 35). In “Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s”, Omi & Winant, sociologists from University of Santa Barbara argue how systematic oppression of people of color roots itself within social and political power of hegemonic institutions such as the education system, government, Church ect (Omi, 67).

In reference to the ignorance of hegemony’s power to facilitate and prevail systemic racial oppression, friends of Oluo must understand the tickle down of this all-controlling inescapable void of oppression against all are non-white identifying. Yes, socioeconomics is a single aspect of how racism can effect the life of a person of color, but no it is far from the encapsulating answer to race.

Works Cited (MLA)

Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk About Race. 2018. Print.

Omi, Michael W. H. Racial Formation in the United States: from the 1960s to the 1990s. Routledge, 2013. Print.

B1

Kindergarten Culture Day

Remember culture day at school? When people would bring in different food as a means of representing and educating others on their nationality. It was honestly a beautiful time, celebrating our different heritages through food. But the problem is, we’ve never grown out of this tradition. It seems that today, our conversations about race as a nation, never penetrate deeper than what you would expect at a kindergarten culture day. Seeing White, by John Biewen and Chenjerai Kumanyika, and So You Want To Talk About Race By Ijeoma Oluo comment on our nations inability to talk about the real issues regarding race in the United States. Together the podcast and the book bring to light the reasons why people are afraid to have these conversations, and together they create a discourse about how we dress race, and how we should be addressing race.

I’ve included this image just to bring us all back to that time in our lives when we all ate delicious foods made lovingly by our friends mothers, only to touch upon the superficial beauty of multiculturalism.

Isn’t it beautiful how we all coexist together under this glorious flag that represents us all and unites us in freedom. But isn’t it also beautifully naive that we value this faux sense of togetherness in order to coexist but allow racial formations and projects to continue to create a gaping divide in society.

Both Oluo and Biewen ease the readers and listeners into their discourses, as both stress the significance of race as a difficult subject to talk openly about. Both create a relaxed and comfortable dialogue between the readers, and listeners, and the content. By creating this casual yet serious tone, listeners and readers feel invited and welcomed to discuss these taboo subjects. I think that these conversations are essential in todays social climate, but people are too afraid to have them. This is why our nation is stuck in the mind set that we can educate ourselves through superficial activities like culture day. Oluo and Biewen package the information they are sharing to make it more “user friendly” but without diluting the potency of the discourse.

When listening to the first episode of the podcast, Turning the Lens, I took note of the fact that Biewen mentioned his own whiteness several times, and eased himself into the topic of discussion with the help of his co-host Chenjerai Kumanyika. Through easing himself – as a white man – into this conversation highlights the err of caution around conversations about race for white people. Biewen’s enlistment of Kumanyika as a co-host to help “check” him, highlights a fear white people have of talking about race. The fear of talking openly about race, I think, (as a white woman) stems from the fear of getting it wrong, or being labeled as a racist.

Which is honestly a valid fear. Why? Because as a white woman living in America in 2019 I know that I am in a position of privilege, and many people like to pretend that everyone living in America is equal, but this isn’t the case. This is why Oluo teaches her readers in steps on how to have these conversations. People don’t know how to talk about race because there has never been an open dialogue about the divide between the people of this Nation because we live within a system that perceives events like culture day as sufficient. Biewen’s awareness of his own whiteness and the impact of his perspective highlights the err of caution taken around the subject, but also the simple acknowledgement of the truth that it is time we remove our blindfolds and look at our nation in a light that we have never been exposed to before.

The conversations that Oluo urges her readers to partake in are necessary in order to understand how the United States functions, and also to open up the eyes of those who have been too afraid to delve into the reality of  the role of race within society and the government. Similarly, Biewen’s podcast unpacks the meaning of whiteness in this nation but also the meaning of whiteness for people that identify as white. Biewen’s podcast highlights why white people, and all people need to engage in conversations about race in this nation – to inform themselves on the truth of what the U.S. was founded upon and what it continues to run on. Like the old familiar kindergarten culture day, we need to take our conversations deeper, and we need to learn how to do so. Oluo and Biewen create an environment that teaches and allows people to have these vital conversations, in order to bring to light the truth about race in this nation and in all aspects.

Written By Caroline Berezin

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Works Cited

Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk about Race. New York, NY : Seal Press, 2018., 2018. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat00326a&AN=dico.1767489&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Biewen, John, host. “Turning the Lens.” Seeing White, Scene on Radio, 15 Feb 2017. http://www.sceneonradio.org/episode-31-turning-the-lens-seeing-white-part-