Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Aria" by Richard Rodriguez

"I moved very far from the disadvantaged child I had been," says Richard Rodriguez in his essay, "Aria," after learning and understanding how to speak English. Richard Rodriguez, a child of two Mexican immigrant parents, had difficulty becoming part of the community due to not knowing the "public language" (English). Since his parents did not speak or understand English in the home, he was not able to communicate effectively. In Rodriguez's point of view, speaking Spanish was not socially appropriate or acceptable. This prevented him from making friends and participating in class, therefore he felt obligated to learn. Learning English negatively effected him due to a drift between him and his family. Rodriguez says, "I no longer knew what words to use in addressing my parents" (37). Rodriguez felt safe speaking Spanish in his home because he considered it a private language since he did not use it in public, which I could relate to. Between his private and public life, Rodriguez was uncertain with who he was. Rodriguez argues, "while one suffers a diminished sense of private individuality by becoming assimilated into public society, such assimilation makes possible the achievement of public individuality (39). What Rodriguez is arguing is that bilingual educators do not seem to notice how much of a disadvantage it is for a child to "lose a degree of 'individuality' by adjusting into public society (38). In other words, it seems though Rodriguez is arguing that you must change yourself to fit into society. Although he found it difficult, he eventually did. Comparatively Lisa Delpit states, "there are codes or rules for participating in power" (24). Rodriguez accepted that in the classroom English was valued, therefore the only way he would have been able to establish a public identity was to change. In addition to Rodriguez's essay, he mentions in an interview, "In some countries, of course, Spanish is the language spoken in public. But for many American children whose families speak Spanish at home, it becomes a private language."

Point to share:
Like Rodriguez, English was my second language and I was embarrassed to speak Spanish out of my house. I grew up in Lincoln, RI, and majority of the people in my town were white. Growing up, I was sort of ashamed coming from a different culture.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"White Privlege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh

White people do not realize the advantages they have. Peggy McIntosh mentions in her article, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," "I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage" (1). White people receive these unearned advantages and more opportunities due to their skin color. I always noticed the unfairness between blacks and whites, however I did not once think about how nude undergarments and bandages are "flesh" tones that match pale skin (4). While reading the daily effects of white privilege in McIntosh's examples, the first thing that came to mind was Allen G. Johnson's book, Privilege, Power, and Difference. In these two writings, McIntosh and Johnson include examples of benefits white people have. For instance, one of McIntosh's examples is, "I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed" (2). Johnson agrees with this by saying in his article, "Whites can assume that when they go shopping, they'll be treated as serious customers, not as potential shoplifters or people without the money to make a purchase" (29). White privilege is acknowledged yet not recognized. People do not suspect that white people would shoplift therefore employers do not feel the need to have to follow them to make sure they won't steal. McIntosh provided many examples to prove being white gives much more of an advantage in the world. Not only is there a disadvantage for when black people shop, there is also a disadvantage for them for job employment. Because of the white privilege, white people get more opportunities, especially for employment. Salim Muwakkil relates to this in his article, "Data show racial bias persist in America," "when white and black job seekers had the appropriate qualifications and experiences for the position, whites were far more likely to be called back than blacks" (1). Unfortunately, black people are judged and stereotyped even before the job interview! Any white person can agree with McIntosh when she says, "I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of race" (3). McIntosh describes white privilege as an "invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, code books, visas, clothes, tools and black checks" (1). Within this knapsack is everything a person needs to succeed and white people do not realize they are wearing it. This article was very eye opening and interesting to think of these simple skin-color privileges that are not recognizable.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Amazing Grace" by Jonathon Kozol (reflection)

"Amazing Grace" written by Jonathan Kozol portrays the dangers in the streets of Mott Haven, in South Bronx. Many people that live in the South Bronx are living in broken, crowded and rat-infested apartment buildings. Not only are the apartment buildings disgusting, but in Mott Haven about 4,000 heroin injectors live there and that does not include the amount of people who are positive for HIV/AIDS. Children are raised and surrounded by families who participate in drug-related violence, the spread of AIDS, and suffer from depression and anxiety. Kozol questions, "What is it like for children to grow up here?" (5). It is so unfortunate for the children who grow up in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty. These children living on St. Ann's Avenue experience living in such bad conditions such as danger and death. My father was born and raised in the Bronx, and it is scary to think how the streets and buildings are filled with diseases and murderers. Luckily my father did not live in the South side, however he was exposed to the violence and rat and cockroach infested homes in the East side. On the other hand, I was born in Queens, New York and only lived there for two years. I have many family members who still live there and love the city life. As a child, I watched many movies made in New York and my father shared many stories with me of his childhood, my dream was to live there. Until this day, I ask my father why we did not continue to live there and he says, "it was best to leave New York, when you are older you will understand why." Kozol mentions a woman who helps addicted woman and their children who says, "Why do you want to put so many people with small children in a place with so much sickness? This is the last place in New York that they should put poor children. Clumping so many people, all with the same symptoms and same problems, in one crowded place with nothin' they can grow on?" (11). Children do not chose to live in this type of environment and parents sometimes do not have a choice to leave the area. These innocent children who have to be surrounded by these issues still do not lose hope no matter what they go through. This is what Kozol talks about throughout his book. "There are children in the poorest, most abandoned places who, despite the miseries and poisons that the world has pumped into their lives, seem, when you first meet them, to be cheerful anyway" (6). I learned from my parents that no matter how low you feel, no matter what you're going through, keep a smile on your face. After reading this story, I feel so blessed for growing up in such a quiet small town with little to no violence. My parents sacrificed a lot for my little brother and I and I am thankful we were never forced to live in such conditions as the children in South Bronx.

Above is a picture from a rooftop on 139th St. between Cypress Ave. and St. Ann's Ave.