Category Archives: Embodied Identity

Internet and Divides

At the beginning, Internet was thought of as a Utopian where all other social issues could be abolished. Everyone could be anyone online. The New Yorker’s Peter Steiner’s famous On The Internet, Nobody Knows You’re A Dog cartoon is an evident to this point.

The idea that one person could become anonymous, and detach him/herself from offline reality has been proven wrong by many researches. It’s harder to remain anonymous when everyone is online nowadays. People start to move their offline network online, and also expanding it. Not only that, author Eszter Hargittai wrote in¬†Open Doors, Closed Spaces? Differentiated Adoption of Social Network Sites by User Background¬†that “offline identities very much carry over to online behaviors” (224). That means one could hardly hide one’s identity such as race or gender online. Thus, the segregation one has suffered by one’s identity offline also moves online. So, instead of a promised land, the Internet is a very mean place. It is a place where all of the bad -isms (e.g. racism, sexism…) are existing and well.

In the article How Black People Use Twitter, columnist Farhad Manjoo tried to find out why a certain Tweet hashtags that initiated by black users gone viral. He explained that because black users have a more close knit network of followers than other races. They followed back everyone that followed them. The interaction was mutual, and reciprocal. Yet, the heat that this article had attracted wasn’t so much because of the content, but rather the picture of a Black Twitter bird.

Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer. Click image to expand.

Why did this particular picture of the bird ignite such a big discourse online? Is it because it depicted very visually a trait of a particular race? Or is it because it play along with racial stereotypes (that black people are usually seen wearing oversized baseball cap). There are different parody to this Twitter bird, and the majority of them come from black community.

If the Internet has set out to fix the problem with social segregation, then why is it people still stay in their particular community? Why is it content that has racial implications quick to go viral? I think the answer is that people online are still individuals offline. As an individual, one is subjected to different social and cultural forces. To go through life, an individual rely a lot on different social stereotypes to save them time and cognitive energy. In this way, racial stereotypes get reinforced generations to generations. For what we see becomes what we think, it would become habits, and eventually become us. This explains why Hargittai said that offline identities got carried over to online behaviors.

Technology is getting more advanced everyday. People are increasingly connected online. But can we abolish all of the hate online? Can the Internet be that Utopian like it was once thought of? I would like to see that happen despite how impossible it seems right now. Maybe it won’t happen in my life time, but the old teachings that created these divides in the first place will be forgotten one day. People in the 1800s wouldn’t even think about interracial dating. In the 21st century, it is nothing strange to see family that made up of two or more races. The Internet, with its speed and transparency, will, one day, help to bring the battle about race down to the grave. Until we can Avada Kadavra these divides, let just make them visible by talking about them!


More Complications of Life?

After reading Is Gay Marriage Anti-Black by Kenyon Farrow, I just can’t help but think that all social complications would never be stopped. Despite what a sad realization it is, I am certain I am not the only one to think so.

To summarize what Kenyon Farrow writes in his article: he doesn’t support gay marriage because he think there is a racial aspect to the whole thing that makes gay marriage pretty much anti-black. He goes through different historical and social examples to back up his argument. Even though I agree to a lot of his points, I just couldn’t help thinking “Why can’t you just get over it?” I am not saying this because I want to simplify the whole matter regarding sexuality and race, but I really believe holding on to past incidences is exactly what getting people nowhere in the racial and gender debate.

Kenyon Farrow is not the only person I have read of thinking the white gay community is using the black civil rights history for their own gains without cutting the black in. Racial struggle in America has gone through such a long and harsh journey throughout history, and yet, couldn’t seem to reach the finish line. To a lot of African American, being black today doesn’t seem much different than before–still being treated as second-class citizens. However, it is very funny that black is not the only group that is claiming this! Many different groups are claiming the same thing. The same claim could be heard in the gay community, the different racial communities. Everyone demands first-class citizen treatment. So what is the problem?

The problem is, if everyone thinks as social order as a pyramid, then demanding to be on the top would mean to kick down the one that is on top. The group that has been on top, of course, wouldn’t be so happy! What should be the solution then? To take down the whole pyramid, then everyone will be at the same level. It’s so easy to say, but so hard to do. Why can people do this? Because people are trapped in their own system. They can’t escape.

Media plays such an important role in imprisoning people within the system. It doesn’t matter whether it is a political or religious system, a system is a system. A system is in the hands of a few to keep the masses in control. To keep the social order the way it is, consistent messages need to get to the masses to ensure everyone is told the same thing. These messages could be found in religious teaching, school, TV programs… It was much easier to keep people listening to the system when there wasn’t Internet. The Internet helps people to find information, share information, and get support to fight an injustice system (e.g. the Arab Spring). However, the system also knows how to use the Internet for its own gains, too. Regulations and policies are something the system use to keep control of the Internet.

The system, instead of a system “of the people, by the people,” it is a system just for a selective few. Apparently, these selective few is usually rich, white, and heterosexual. And these traits are what called “normative” in mainstream society, thus, these selective few has to keep it that way. The privileges of being “normative” are not passed out to people who don’t fit all categories. You can be rich and heterosexual, but if you not white you still can’t enjoy the privileges. Referring to my last post, America is not a color-blind society. It is and always will be a color-conscious society. Racial theme is everywhere. For example, when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is appealed, race and sexuality once again play together.

When these two videos were viral on the Net, many become suspicious of the legitimacy of the videos.
Are they a set up by the system? Because these two gay couples just so lucky that they become the poster image of the appeal. Yet, they are pretty sure not representing the gay community. Because a lot of gay couples don’t look like them. Speculation is everywhere, but no official answer, yet.

So what should be my conclusion after all? That the system is what keeps people going around and around. People are blindsided by different issues that they can’t realize that in order to stop all these injustice about race or sexuality, they need to stop, too. They need to stop being extreme in their POV. They need to stop shut down other POVs. They need to stop thinking of themselves as second-class citizens. There is a lot of things they need to stop doing. But most importantly, they need to stop looking at the past and clinging on it. Past incidences can’t represent the future. These past incidences are used as political tool to keep the people going around in a vicious cycle. For example, a white person thinks a black person is hostile so want to keep a distance. A black person being hostile because he thinks the white treated black poorly in the past, and now being distance so must be racist. Why both think like this? Because of the media, of the stereotypes, of what the society is teaching. Learning history should be about being informed, not to be prejudice! Just an example, but all I want to say is it’s all in your head. Life doesn’t need more complications. Lets move on!

America and Race- the never ending relationship

Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s “Racial Formation in the United States From the 1960s to the 1990s” is a dense reading on their research for race and ethnicity in America. Omi and Winant explains the racial formation process in America through different theories (e.g. ethnicity theory, class and nation-based theories, etc.). In their research, they mentions about the “color-blind” society from 1960s to 1980s:

“It was a period of racial upsurge, failed consolidation, and reaction which, we believe, demonstrated the centrality of race in shaping American politics and culture” (Omi and Winant, 1994: 5)

Throughout different illustrative examples in the book, both authors point out that as much desirable as it sounds, a “color-blind” society is not possible. Indeed, they suggest that America should not ignore race but notice it. By noticing race, it is then given the amount of recognition it deserves (159). Because of some races are seen to be more privilege than others, the old-fashioned racism still exists. But, the authors point out that by recognizing race, people can start to challenge racism. In my opinion, this sounds possible, but not always plausible.

It is important to distinguish between Race and Ethnicity. A main difference is that race cannot be altered but ethnicity can. Ethnicity is culturally influenced, and could be geographically based. For instance, a Vietnamese child that was born and raised in a Western country may or may not speak or believe the same things his friend, who was born and raised in Vietnam, does. Race is a about the biological features like skin tone, eyes colors, etc.. So the kid that was born and raised in a country different from his motherland might be regarded as more Westernized, but in those Western country, the kid is still regarded as Asian.

Because racial features cannot be changed, the difference in biological features set apart the different races. America is a melting pot with different racial groups and ethnicities living together. However, it is not hard to see the separation between the races. This map shows how people prefer to live with people who look like them. It is not hard to find an exclusive African-American, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, or Caucasian neighborhoods. The video below also shows that racial separation brings forth different issues:

And this video shows how racist behaviors are wired into the daily life:

Racist behaviors might or might not be intended. Nowadays, with so much information to process, people rely on stereotypes to get them through different life scenarios. This is the reason why recognizing race to confront racism is possible but plausible. Because racial stereotypes are very difficult to overcome. As much as people would like to think as themselves as rational individuals, they act irrationally anyways. Moreover, more and more American have mix-racial children. Could this be the end for racism? Far from it. The legal system as illustrated in the book does not always make the process easy. This article also points out how authority census on race is very restricted.

In conclusion, unless there is a breakthrough in the legal structure to accommodate the racial diversity of America, racial segregation, racist behaviors, or different racial issues will pertain every aspect of life for America. Once again, Omi and Winant are right to highlight that, “race will always be at the center of the American experience” (5).