September 18, 2009

Weekly Wrap Up

We're trying something new here! Each Friday, we are going to highlight some of the writing entries from the work study students in the Intercultural Resource Center.

Each week, they are asked to write a short entry on current events or on a particular assigned topic. Here are short samples of what we received from our students:

Blayne says:
It wasn’t so long ago that they were running and jumping in the jungle to survive." -Race: The Power of An Illusion

The above is a quote - an explanation - that was used to describe the athletic superiority of Black Olympic athletes in the time of Jesse Owens. We were watching "Race: The Power of an Illusion" in my Race and Ethnicity Class. My friend Joniece and I chuckled instantly as we heard this comment and
believed it to be absolutely absurd. There were other students of color in my class, but Joniece and I were the only Black students, and the only ones to laugh with the professor. I found this statement to be absolutely ridiculous.

After the film I wondered how such absurd ideals were widely accepted. This statement was made during the 1940’s and at that time it was an ideal believed by white society. Honestly, I found myself stunned that anyone with common sense chose or could accept such a notion. I wondered if racism and prejudice can override an individual’s common sense? In my experience, race has come to account for some of my successes. People were often attributing my successes or achievements to affirmative action. I also noticed people paid a lot more attention to what I was doing, how I was acting, or what I was saying. There were times that I felt everyone knew more of my
business than I did. As I reflected on my own experience I could not stop thinking about our President Barack Obama.

Celebrity or Racism?

In the short nine months Obama has been President he has faced much scrutiny. The other day in my Race and Ethnic Diversity class we had begin a discussion on Barack and the recent events involving Barack, Serena Williams and Kanye West. The professor made a statement that President
Obama has face more public scrutiny than any president. She continued question the class, “Why do you think he has faced so questioning about his personal integrity?” Some credited to the fact that Obama is the first president to be turned into a celebrity. However, Ronald Reagan was an actor before he was
president and presidents before Obama were ‘celebritized’ due to media. I am only 21 years old but when I was younger I saw President Clinton as a celebrity and sometimes I still do. I could not help but to think his race was a factor in propelling Obama into celebrity status and the amount of public scrutiny he faces.

Michelle says:

As I watched the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA’s) on Sunday and Best Female Video was announced I sat there with my mouth opened that Taylor Swift had won. Of course I felt that there were many more talented artists in the category such as
Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga and Beyonce. However, the biggest shock came when Kanye West interrupted her to merely say “Sorry Taylor, Beyonce had one of the best videos.” I sat there awestruck as I saw tears swim into Taylor’s eyes.
I sat there half laughing/half not believing what I had heard. Had Kanye West really gone up there to say that? Could he not have waited until the end of the show where he could openly discuss the situation with anyone that would listen?

Everyone was commenting on Kanye West’s actions. The next day, it was still a fascinating topic, but new news flooded that President Barack Obama had called Kanye West a “jackass”. Now, trust me, the words I used to describe Kanye West
were worse than “jackass” , but that is one of the many ways that people could describe the incident. Of course, because he is the President, everything he says has to be taken to another level of seriousness. Instead of all the people commenting on the Health Care policies and the other changes he is trying to
make in the country, they are spending time judging him for his comment that "Kanye West acted as a jackass."

I feel that lately President Obama has been under a microscope and every little movement or every word he says has to be clearly planned out in case someone takes offense or takes it out of context. I knew the minute President Obama was elected President, he was going to get bashed whether he did things correctly or incorrectly. He is just a person like you and me, and he has every right to express that Kanye West's move was that of a “jackass” – is it not what every other person in the world was thinking?

The worse part of it was that it was prior to an interview and someone in the vicinity decided to put it on Twitter by saying "Pres. Obama just called Kanye West a 'jackass' for his outburst at VMAs when Taylor Swift won. Now THAT'S presidential."Just because he is the President does not mean he does not react to events that happen in the popular culture. In fact I would have found it weird if he did not have an opinion on the topic! How far are we going to push the President until we realize he, too, can have these thoughts just like the rest of us? Just because he is the President does not mean he has to keep his opinions and ideas to himself.

We should be worried about the health care debate that can affect us personally instead of his comment that Kanye West acted as a “jackass”.

Antonio takes a break from pop culture and opens up about langauge and culture:

In today’s society I find myself wondering where culture's place really is. Is there even a place for it? No doubt America has a culture of its own, and it is because of this culture that other cultures fall to the wayside. I myself have experienced this.

I’m half Dominican and half Puerto-Rican. My first language was Spanish, and I didn’t speak a word of English until kindergarten. I was 5 years old, and forced to speak English in a bilingual class. I didn’t know it then, but that marked the point of where I would begin to lose my Spanish. As a child, I spent
a lot of time with my grandmother, who only spoke Spanish. So naturally, I spoke Spanish as well. However as I got older, I slowly spent less time with my grandmother. I spent more time with friends who only spoke English. I began to lose Spanish.

It’s a really strange process. You begin to notice it at first when you’re at a loss for words, not knowing how to say something in Spanish, so you say it in English. But why now? Why do I bring this up now, years after this has already happened? It is because here at Stonehill is where I am reminded of what is happening to me. I am actually right in the middle of my generation, but I am the last of it to be able to speak Spanish. One could go their whole life without speaking a second language and be ok. I only wonder how much harder it must be for those people to whom total assimilation is the only means of survival.