Posts tagged as:

ability to be oblivious

Sometimes I wonder whether the teachers talk about the parents amongst themselves. I would probably be known as “Trouble Maker”. My favorite moment was when I confronted approached the principal at the Thanksgiving Feast:

“Could I safely assume that the headpieces the children are wearing are ‘turkeys’ and not ‘head dresses’?” I used the quotation marks and I gave him an “I am just kidding, but only half” look.

“Huh? Ohh. I am sure they are turkeys…” Well, he did not sound so sure. He sounded surprised. I was surprised that HE was surprised. You mean, nobody else but me wondered about THAT? Anyway, he’s been put on notice and he seems scared to see me ever since. I can hear him inside his head, “Oh. For crying out loud. What now?!” Fortunately for all of us, I work full-time and I hardly ever go to school.

Today I wrote an email* to my 6-grade-son’s teacher:

Dear Mrs. G,

D told me yesterday about Heather’s big birthday party bash. She has apparently invited the whole class to her house from 2 to 8 pm. It sounds like it is going to be an awesome party. The IT party of their childhood before they go off onto Middle School.

Being a pain in everybody else’s neck, I asked D whether all seven girls in the class actually do hang out with each other.

“Does anybody get left out? You know, it’s going to hurt a lot if one of them gets left out seeing how few girls you have in your class.”

I don’t know why. Nobody gave me the job of being purveyor of social justice. Like I said, I am just a pain. Probably born that way. I am sorry… Really. I am. Because I make troubles whenever I send you an email.

At my question, D paused and said, “Well, she sort of invited the whole class. Except one.”

“What? Who?” But I already knew the answer, based on things D has told me in the past.

“Charles Wu was not invited.”

“And she gave out the invitations to everybody else in class? Does Charles know about this?”

D’s eyes turned red.  “Yeah. I think he knows.”

“We play with Charles during recess and we are nice to him.” He continued, his eyes getting redder. “I guess all that is just skin deep…”

I am not writing to ask you to talk to Heather about any of this. On the contrary. It will probably worsen Charles’ status on the food chain. Besides, if she is indeed forced to include Charles, I shudder at the thought of what’s going to happen to him at the party. Probably nothing. Exactly nothing. Nobody would talk to him or play with him. Indifference is the most hurtful thing one human being can do to the other.

I am writing, in addition to me being a pain, to let you know the situation in case Charles seems down lately. I am sure you have seen THIS many many times in your years of teaching. So please tell me I am making too big a deal out of this. (Yeah, I know. I wish I did not read Lord of the Flies either…) Please tell me that they all survive, that they all walk out of this unscathed. But I know, I never forget what happened to me in elementary school. And it still hurts because nobody talked to me about it when it was happening.

Sincerely,
[Me]

* Names have been changed to protect the innocent. Just in case.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

I probably don’t need to publish this post on my blog. It is not appealing. It is not good writing. It will not make you laugh out loud. It is not even a proper rant. Besides, it is friggin’ long – I am amazed at how much I tapped out on my iPhod, and tedious. I am not even making any coherent argument, not to mention grammatical errors! Run-on sentences! totally exposing myself as a feeble-minded person. Even the title spells “MEH”.

That being said, I feel this pathological need to be on the record, I guess. Since I have been treating this blog as my diary, I want everything that comes out of my head to be on here. So, sorry about this… mental puke…

I brought the book, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett with me on my flight back home last December. I have had the whole flight between IAD and Narita to ponder on this book. I won’t even attempt at writing a review since I am really not qualified to do so. And at any rate, there are already more than 1,400 reviews on Amazon.com. Furthermore, all the book reviewers in the major news outlets have done so and waxed poetic on this book, with one of them comparing The Help to To Kill A Mocking Bird.* I will just make a list of things that I have been chewing on. By Tap Tap Tap on my iPhone (without a SIM) and therefore heavy editing involved thereafter.

Spoiler alert: If you are thinking of reading this book, you should skip this. I will also be 100% honest with myself, which means I will be contradictory, at times nonsensical, and possibly offending, especially if you love the book.

Confession first: I enjoyed reading this book tremendously. Cliché, yes. Truth is: it IS a page turner. For me. From the moment when I opened it in August when I first received it, I could not completely put Aibileen out of my head until the Christmas week, when I finally had time to sit down and read the book in long stretches.

The stories are riveting. The voices are, as much as I hate using this word because it is often confused with “stereotypical”, or at the very least “archetypal”, the voices sound to me “authentic”. That is, when I was reading it, when I was caught up in the drama of the story that was being expertly told, when I was kept in suspense as to the safety of the women, when I was hoping with clenched fists and a racing hear that they would triumph over evil and that justice would be done. Well, justice be done to a certain extent, in the strict confines of the story-telling.

Now I ask myself: How many Southerners do I know? None.

Do I know any African American domestic help? Nope.

What do I know about Southern dialects and accents? Not a thing.

So what do I know about whether the book is “authentic” or not? Hasn’t this always been the gripe I have against books like Memoirs of a Geisha? That a fiction novel, on account of its main characters being of a non-white race, is evaluated and praised for delivering an “authentic” portrayal. Do we even care whether Dan Brown’s characters are authentic or not?

Damn the identity politics theories I read, classes I took.

I cannot help, in the back of my mind, though I immensely enjoyed the stories of these women, that a white woman took possession of the black women’s stories twice, especially after I read Kathryn Stockett’s personal note at the end of the book: like Skeeter in the story, Stockett wrote the black women’s stories and gained wild success.

I understand the above statement reeks of identity politics, but I cannot help the gnawing feelings in the back of my head.

What bothers me even more is Skeeter’s cajoling, forcing almost, these women into telling her their stories because she was told that she needed to write something that nobody had ever written before in order to get into the publishing world. Throughout I was extremely uncomfortable with her motive: next to the all too real risk to the black women’s lives, her motif seems so trivial. Selfish even. What is the potential downside for her engagement in this feat? None too serious really. And indeed, there was a happy ending for Skeeter. But for Minnie and Aibileen the future remained uncertain.

Although I do wish something horrible would happen to the wrong-doers and was a bit let down when it didn’t, I do applaud the author for not cheapening the story by taking the easy way out. They are still in the mid 1960s in Mississippi and it is not like they are going to all of a sudden find true equality by the end of the book. I need to give the author props for not providing her White readers with an easy cathartic way to assuage the white guilt. “The villain that caused such misery is dead/appropriately punished, all is well in the universe. Now get on with your merry life.”

As I mentioned, the book received gleaming reviews. From White book reviewers. This could be racist on my part, and certainly identity politics at its worst as some might say, nevertheless, I feel I NEED TO know how an African American reader may feel about this book. NOT because a white woman from a privileged family in the South wrote this book, but because, again, despite my immense enjoyment of this book, and yes indeed I feel guilty for liking this book when I started wondering how my friends back in my graduate study classes would have said about this book, I cannot ignore the conflation of the tropes: 1. the White heroine being rescued, or finding self-realization, through Black folks around her that she does not socialize with, 2. Black people, unable to help or save themselves, being rescued by a White person.

I imagine this book already optioned by a movie studio. Or soon will be. Anyway you look at it, it IS going to be a great vehicle for some of the outstanding African American actresses, and god only knows how hard it is for a good script with a strong minority character lead to make it all the way to some head honcho’s desk. I do hope that the script and the actor that portrays Leroy would breathe some more life into him rather than the one-dimensional wife-beater. When in doubt, we reach for the things we share as women: abusive husbands, cheating boyfriends, sexist Chauvinistic patriarchs. In that process, our men are further demonized. Joy Luck Club immediately comes to mind. I can’t watch that movie without cringing. Not a single man in that movie is worthy of loving. Is it why it was accepted by the white mainstream audience? “Poor Asian women. They are so much better off over here. Away from their men.”

When The Blind Side came out, and the Internet was all abuzz about what a feel good movie it was, it immediately raised the mental red flag for me. “Feel good” means, to me, “Not for you. You are probably not the target audience/reader. Stay home. Otherwise you won’t feel good.”

I asked an African American columnist whether she planned to see the movie,

“No. We don’t consider that movie an attractive idea.” She said coyly.

* The surest way to incite heated debate against the worth of any book is to compare it to the beloved To Kill a Mocking Bird… So if you hate someone, yeah, go ahead and compare them to Harper Lee.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Non Sequitur on Social Networking

A dear friend of mine passed this comment on Social Networking along to me from none other than the always brilliant Non Sequitur cartoon. She received it from her doting partner whose eyes could not have rolled any further when my friend and I were comparing our notes on using Twitter…

I found myself more in love with humanity on the Internet when the very human, physical part of it is stripped. Without the physical indicator to dictate who we are from the outside, thus evading the tyranny of visual cues and first impressions and the temptations of ass-u-me-ptions, the Internet just seems to be a better equalizer.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Got Pigtail? Ugh. Halloween Costume Conundrum

October 31, 2009 imho is just a polite way to say I know you don't give a hoot what I think but I'm going to say it anyway

Tweet Every Halloween, we saw news reports and editorial comments on offensive costumes du jour.  What I call Halloween Costume Conundrum. HCC. This year, the HCC award went to Illegal Alien: It was such a brouhaha partly because, in my opinion, it was sold through Target’s website.  Target, the one mega store that does not […]

11 comments

“Mid American” by Ed Paschke in 1969. Strangely resonating…

October 25, 2009 a picture is worth a thousand words

Tweet This painting was by Ed Paschke in 1969. 40 years ago. It is on exhibit at the new modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. For some unknown reason, I found it sad and strangely resonating when I saw it for the first time. And till this day, I am haunted by it. […]

5 comments

“What are you?” OMG, a form I could fill out wihout having to choose!

October 11, 2009 imho is just a polite way to say I know you don't give a hoot what I think but I'm going to say it anyway

Tweet My children are, in the common lingo, “mixed”.  Or, if they want to be hip when they grow up and get into identity politics, they can call themselves Hapa, or, indeed, whatever the hack they want.  If they want to call themselves a mutt, the way Prez. Obama did, fine with me too. But […]

2 comments

“A Class Divided”: Powerful experiment on how Racism can be learned, and in 15 minutes

September 23, 2009 this i believe

Tweet Some of you may know about this already, since this Frontline documentary was first aired in 1985. I have only heard about the “Blue-eyed vs. Brown-eyed” experiment done by a daring 3rd-grade teacher, but I have never actually seen the documentary until today.  Through Twitter, of course.  There is something to be said about […]

5 comments

Marlene Dietrich & Anna May Wong in “Shanghai Express”

August 30, 2009 a picture is worth a thousand words

Tweet So now I am completely obsessed with Anna May Wong. I wanted to find and read everything about her… then I found this: Shanghai Express This is fucking Marlene Dietrich we are talking about here…  Marlene Dietrich looks like this: (Ignore the cigarettes. They didn’t know better back then…) Yeah.  I get the irony […]

“You know, if only I could just make a decent cup of coffee, I could relax!”

August 25, 2009 marketing at work

Tweet If you really want to contextualize the social and cultural circumstances in which this Folgers commercial was made, then we can all go back to school and read upon all the feminist histories and theories. But this commercial simply makes me laugh out loud. It makes us feel better about ourselves, about how far […]

1 comment

The Ability to be Oblivious OR Is there a manual for the multicutural world we envision?

June 16, 2009 no manual for parenting

Tweet Warning: The following text contains ruminations on the color of our skins. If you feel uncomfortable discussing skin colors, wish that people would just stop obsessing over skin colors and go on with their lives, or believe that the insistence on talking about the colors of our skin makes the originator of the conversation […]