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Well “F” You Tzu!

Sun Tzu

wait wait wait… I mean:

Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu, often referred to as the father of Taoism. (Citation)

There was a time where I didn’t know how to express myself very well. It was back in middle school, and I was awkward. Poetry gave me wings.

Lao Tzu (Laozi) was a philosopher during the Zhou Dynasty. This was approximately 6th century BCE. While some give him this form, a common thought is that Lao Tzu was not truly a man, but an idea that sowed the seed of T(d)aoism. He is often given many names as well, creating a sense of power and mysticism behind his teachings.

Who cares? Apparently Paul Beatty did. In his novel, the White Boy Shuffle (1996), Beatty uses a lost black soul to encapsulate the ideas that he wished could be more well known.

Although often confused with Sun Tzu, Lao Tzu has forever been considered a legend in ancient Chinese culture. There are stories upon stories about the Daoist master, and he was often revered as a god in the Han dynasty. Much like the traditional Christian bible was thought to be the word of God, Lao Tzu was said to have written the Daodejing; however, just as with the Bible, there are those who debate the true origin of the teachings in the Daodejing.

Beatty wanted to give the reader an understanding of what the protagonist, Gunnar Kaufman, knew about the world. Beatty wanted people to understand that black people can be both educated and athletically gifted. He wanted to reflect the poetry of the writings of Daoism in the intricacies of Gunnar. All of the cursing was simply a reflection of the poetry of today’s society. Beatty showed the difference between acting like you know everything and knowing the things that you need to know.

“I don’t know, the cool tantric type. Shaolin monk style. Lao Tsu, but with rhythm.” (Beatty, 79)

Beatty gave us a Black Jesus.

It’s true. Looking into the White Boy Shuffle more and more, I continuously see the signs. The sacrifices, people willing to die for him, die for the cause. Beatty pulled a fast one on all of us and through all of the vulgarity and hypocrisy outlined all of the culture in one man.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

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Well “F” You Tzu! by Lee Hopcraft is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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Struggling for Himself

The Color of Water, written by James McBride, a memoir about a black man growing up with a white mother

The Color of Water, written by James McBride, a memoir about a black man growing up with a white mother

Growing up and finding an identity is confusing enough for a teenager that has two parents of the same race, or who is completely comfortable in his ethnicity.  Imagine what life is like for someone who has parents of two different ethnicities: one black and one white.  James McBride can tell you all about is in his book, The Color of Water.

When McBride was growing up in New York City, he had a very unique childhood.  His mother was a white, Jewish woman who married a black man, so all of their children were biracial.  While on the outside their darker skin was dominant, they were a mix of two different races.  Try finding an identity that you feel comfortable living in when you look one way, and might feel another.  It’s not easy.  When trying to find yourself, especially at a young age, you have a lot of things to sift through.  For example, romantic relationships get a lot of people confused at that age; they certainly did for me.  Or trying to figure out what you want to do with your life can be one of the hardest things for anyone to figure out.  Try muddling through all of that, as well as trying to figure out what race you identify with.

Finding something to identify with is the eternal human struggle.  We all are constantly living with the idea that to be invisible is the worst thing in the world, and to establish yourself an identity which you can call your own is the only thing that you can do to avoid feeling like your life has been nothing but a waste of time.  Finding a racial identity is supposed to be one of the easiest things that you can do, but not when you are biracial.  Looking for a place to fit in is the fundamental cornerstone of seeking an identity.  For a young man like James McBride, growing up with biracial parents, finding a place to fit in is a great struggle.

This novel contains references to the Black Power movement, something relatively unknown to McBride in the 1960s as a child.  The reference that is most prominent is to the name of a street car named Black Power, that McBride saw around him in his youth.  Black Power was something that surrounded James when he was a child, and he worried that the movement would surround and overwhelm his mother.  The movement emphasized the pride one should have in being a black person, and the strength that embracing that identity brings.  McBride’s mother was a white, Jewish woman who married a black man, and that is something that was frowned upon by the movement.

The Color of Water is the story of a young man, the product of parents of two different races, and how he has grown to appreciate his mother and his life’s struggles through the hardship that he faced finding an identity.  McBride detailed his struggles in finding a place to fit in with the fact that he had to contend with having a white, Jewish mother, even though on the outside, he looked black.

Source: http://people.brandeis.edu/~teuber/colorofwater.html

Who you ridin’ with?

Edited picture of members of the gang Gangster Disciples.

Edited picture of members of the gang Gangster Disciples.

While gangs used to be seen as a separate support group and community, violence caused by gang-banging has now put gang affiliation in a negative light, especially in urban areas.

The image above shows a group of about 35 men walking down a street. The street is vacant with two houses parallel to one another. The grass in front of the houses is slightly green, but mostly brown. There is a railroad track sign that is lined up with light poles. Each light pole has a box attached to it with wires, connecting each pole.

The men are African-American, and dressed in all black. The outfits worn in the image consist of a black shirt, black pants, black bandana and/or black hat. A few of the men have on regular blue jeans with their black shirts. Two men have on jacket/jean combos with their black shirts. The man wearing the beige denim outfit is walking a few steps in the front of the group of men. None of the men have on the same pair of shoes. The shoe colors include white, red, brown, and black all with different lacing and detailing. Some men have on dog tags, however, it hard to determine whether or not those are directly related to the group. This image was edited to include the words ‘GD,’ at the top, and ‘7-4 TIL THE WORLD BLOW!,’ at the bottom. The selected font is gothic script-based and is all black.

The concept of a “gang” can be internationally documented back to the early 1600s, including gangs of robbers in areas like England. However, gang affiliation did not become prominent in the United States until the mid 1700s. Like most would assume, the emergence of gangs first began in New York City. What began then is still valid today: although gangs themselves were not integrated, there was, and still is, gang involvement from all races and ethnicities.

In Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle the main character Gunnar Kaufman is immediately questioned about his gang affiliation. In response he represented a made up gang. Had he said the wrong thing there would have been a problem. “Beef” (problems) did not exist during the early development of gangs in the United States. In fact, during that time there was no negative connotation associated with them. The majority of the people who were gang affiliated were employed and educated. The men to started gangs were looking for a structured “support group” from other men.

When gangs began to form in poverty-stricken areas, “beef” developed between, splitting up the neighborhoods of a city by streets/corners that were claimed by different gangs. Problems that would arise between gangs typically resulted in violence, which is why the dangerous reputation of gangs emerged. If you are part of a gang you must to “rep” your gang and rep it hard, similar to how the men in the image above do. They all have on black and the words ‘GD’ (Gangster Disciples) ‘7-4 TIL THE WORLD BLOW!.’ shows them representing.

The overall structure of gangs was once highlighted as a way for men to better themselves and support one another. However, now gangs are looked down upon and seen as groups of people who go to extreme measures for who they’re “ridin’ with.”

Image Source: Gangster Disciples . N.d..,World of Darkness Wiki. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Who Said Passing Is Cool?

ImagePhoto By Earnest Harries from a Article entitled “Bi-Racial People Passing When It Fits Their Needs”.  This photo is compiled by combining multiple pictures of different men and women to visually enact what Passing means.

In “Caucasia” Danzy Senna’s character Birdie struggles in the world passing as a white Jewish girl.  It is through Birdie that readers see what it truly meant to be passing in the 1970’s as well as the implications it had on one’s identity. Her struggles look very similar to the combination of pictures above.

Earnest Harris the creator of this image used a large number of different photos from different ethnic groups to comprise them into one face. The one image contains about thirteen different features from men and women.  Essentially, the picture reflects what many people who were passing wish they could have done. It would have been optimum if someone passing could pick their eyes or pick their nose to make themselves more acceptable. However, this was not the case, and people would go to extreme measures to change themselves.

In the above image, one can see the contrast between the right side of the face and the left side. The left eye would be much more appealing to society while the right eye is somewhat less attractive.  The left side of the face has darker hair while the right side has lighter hair.  Although these images are compelling, they are also a perfect reflection of what passing means.  Passing is leaving behind your own identity and taking the characteristics of others. In the end, your identity becomes deformed similar to the picture and Senna’s character “Birdie”.

In “Caucasia” Birdie struggled with her identity partly because her mother forced her to be someone else.  She found comfort in people who looked like her but took on the characteristics of others.  In the end, Birdie’s identity looked similar to this picture.  She was collage of other characteristics instead of true herself.

Image Source: Earnest Harries. Bi-Racial People Passing When It Fits Their Needs. Web. 2, May 2013

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Should we all really be who we really are?

Image

Individual identity is something that is often emphasized within the United States, however more and more individuals are changing themselves in order to match a certain expectation or stereotype. Even within Paul Beatty’sWhite Boy Shuffle there is a struggle between individuals assimilating and their later struggle with identity.

The first thing that I notice when I see this image is that there are four different individuals that seem to be hiding themselves behind the United States flag. They all look very similar, and the top portion of their faces is covered as if the flag is a mask; a method of concealment. I also noticed that they all are holding flags, presumably from their different countries of origin. These flags are extremely small in comparison with the United States’ flag, and represent 3 different countries. These four individuals all appear to be white or European males. Also, the United States flag is also in the middle of the picture and it seems to be the focus of the picture. The flag is also very bold in comparison to the other flags that are seen within the image. The U.S. flag is visible, the others mistakable.

This image is very relevant to assimilation because of the images of the men all hiding their faces. Also, the four different men also seem to be the same, under the American flag. This makes me believe that this translates to the United States as a place of assimilation, not a melting pot. This melting pot belief is that all cultures come together to make the United States what it is. Though this is partially true, this depiction makes me feel as though there are some individuals that have to give up who they are, whether it’s their cultural beliefs or their national identity. This image is very interesting to me because many individuals come to the United States because we are the “land of the free” and have the many different freedoms of speech, religion, petition, assembly, and press. However, conformation is emphasized.

Assimilation and the idea of identity and conforming can be very related to Paul Beatty’s main character, Gunnar. Gunnar’s start in Santa Monica, California was in a predominately white neighborhood. He and his sisters all felt as though they did not fit in or identify with being with the white people they were surrounded by. Their mother decided to move their family to predominately black neighborhood in West Los Angeles, which made them identify with the black community. Gunnar faced some hesitation regarding who he was as an African-American and his community of identification. A specific example, Gunnar’s coach separated the team by lip color, but Gunnar’s top lip was brown and lower was pink so he was allowed to play both sides. Because of his identification with two communities, he was not able to identify with neither team because he played both sides.

The use of assimilation within the United States is very interesting seeing as how we are the “land of the free,” however identity is a very important part of an individual’s overall being and assimilation complicates the life of an individual.

Sources

Beatty, Paul. The White Boy Shuffle. 2nd. Picador, 2001. Print

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_GaQ4pxaggc0/TPVrxI28d5I/AAAAAAAAAC8/qcTwc3l34nU/s1600/Assimilation_i.jpg.” Blogger. N.p., 30 Nov 2010. Web. 29 Apr 2013.

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