The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, December 21, 2007

Waiting for Sweeny

Frank made a comment about being Sicilian, and the odd rumors that float through his community about being “connected.” All right, Frank, here’s my guess, based totally on observation. The following, for the sake of clarity, is simplified, and reflects my point of view, not some particular anthropological view.

IF you divided humanity into three basic racial groups (the “primary colors” argument) consisting of White, Asian, and Black, then I would estimate that the amount of cultural bigotry existing WITHIN these groups is about half that experienced BETWEEN groups.

In other words, Sicilians and Englishmen and Germans may snipe at each other, but will snipe HARDER at an Asian or Black. Japanese, Koreans and Chinese will say bad things about each other, but in general would rather their children marry an Asian than a white or Black. Nigerians, Zulus and Jamaicans have nothing in common…except in comparison to a Swede or Japanese. And while Africans often feel they have little in common with Black Americans, they seem to me to have a little more than they do with White Americans.

Broad strokes here, but it’s important. I notice Jews having greater empathy for Black experience, on average than white Christians. But the difference between Jews and other whites isn’t much important except to other white people. So…in other words, if there are two Californians in the room, they’ll snipe at each other about the part of the state they came from…until an Oregonian enters the room, at which point the Californians will Gang up…until an East Coaster enters the room, at which point the West Coasters will gang up…until a Canadian enters the room…

You get it? So, if you’ve experienced within-group prejudice, you have a good clue. Just multiply it to get an average experience of Out-group prejudice.
And the greater the visual distinction, the greater the effect.
On the radio yesterday, a woman was speaking of a book (“Prude” perhaps?) encouraging girls not to have sex until they are above the age of 16. It was interesting to listen to the callers. Men almost always thought she was an alarmist. Kids are ready for sex, etc. The female callers agreed with her, wanted to buy a copy of the book, etc.

Her point was that society, especially advertising, is sexualizing little girls. That girls that age don’t fully enjoy sex, and often do it to try to get closer to their boyfriends, hallucinating that it “means” the same thing to males that it does to females. Much in the way that when a guy comes, he often hallucinates that the woman felt the same thing. I mean, wow! Wasn’t that great (he said). Are you done (she replied).

Anyway, it was so interesting how oblivious the guys seemed to what was going on. Men, of course, want access to as much sex as possible, regardless of the cost. The women were thinking of their daughters, and their own past relationships. Folks weren’t listening to each other. So sad.

Fasting today. Usually this is a “cheat day” but Nicki is out of town, in Las Vegas with friends. Be back Saturday. I feel a little bloated: jeeze, is everything food over Xmas? So I’m fasting today, so I can avoid bursting my jeans. So hard with all the foodage around.
Can’t wait to see “Sweeny Todd.” Love that play, and have seen two different versions of it, each unique and challenging. The word is that Burton knocked it out of the park, that even Depp’s (relatively) weak singing is compensated for by the quality of his acting. This is gonna be wicked.


Unknown said...

I just read something that was accidentally profound, and relates to a long running theme in Steve's though and works: "It turns out you have to have something bad happen to you before you can hold my minority opinion. "
Code's Worst Enemy

Replace "my" with "a" and we have a statement which I believe to be generally true. Most humans end up mostly believing what most of the other humans in their reference group believes, unless they're shaken out of the default beliefs.

Here's another paragraph to lure you into the whole, rather long essay. Please note that I'm a computer guy myself, so if you're not, you could stop after the "minority view" section without missing much. Anyway, here it is:

"Most programmers never have anything truly bad happen to them. In the rare cases when something bad happens, they usually don't notice it as a problem, any more than a construction worker notices dirt as a problem. There's just a certain amount of dirt at every site, and you have to deal with it: it's not "bad"; it's just a tactical challenge."

-- Shaun

Mike R said...

> Japanese, Koreans and Chinese will say bad things about each other, but in general would rather their children marry an Asian than a white or Black.<

For what it's worth, my experience living and dating in Japan says that this is not true. That is, a Japanese would rather their daughter date a white American than an Asian Korean, by quite a bit. White Americans have an element of "cool exotic" to them
whereas Koreans are often viewed more like how an openly racist American views Mexicans (open Racism is far more acceptable in Japan than it is in America, btw).

Mind you, Japan and Korea have a long history that colors this issue.

Steve Perry said...

One of the guys in the Thursday class -- Edwin, you met him at Orycon -- has been trying IF, and has noticed some problems with his balance on fast days. Doing djurus, he says, he feels a little wobbly, as if disconnected from his legs.

I've never noticed this in my practice, but I'm a once-a-week-36-hour faster and I've been doing it for twenty-five years and don't recall how it felt the first few times.

Anybody got any experience with this symptom while doing IF?

Steven Barnes said...

No, Steve, but that's definitely of interest. You might want to suggest he check with a physician for opinions. The only thing I could think would be along the lines of
1) is he drinking enough water?
2) Was his diet toxic before beginning IF?
3) Is there any hypoglycemia?

Unknown said...

I'm currently reading "Working Towards Whiteness", a book about 19th century immigration and integration. In the 19th and early 20th century, Southern Italians were black. Hungarians and Eastern Europeans were black - especially Jews. The Irish were black. I'm not saying they were treated like African Americans - they were described as being "black".

Finns (from Finland) were seen as Asiatic, or Mongoloid.

In fact, Roediger points out a number of places in which African-Americans were more likely to be hired than Italians or Hungarians.

So, Black/White/Asian divisions - accurate. However, where the lines are between the divisions has moved.

Now, as a class we discussed Roediger's earlier work, "Wages of Whiteness", and we had trouble with the argument that the Irish could become white, but there was no mechanism for African-Americans to become white. However, is there a division between middle-class suburban African-Americans and lower-class inner city African-Americans? Are the middle class presented as "whiter" than the lower class - lighter in skin tone, less stereotypical in action?

Steven Barnes said...

There are definitely class-distinctions in black culture based on skin color, education, income, residence, etc. Te skin color thing was worst in my mind...not as strong these days.

Anonymous said...

I knew a young black woman
medical student from HAiti
who got major grief for dating an
"inferior" American black man
what made him inferior was not
the degree of blackness
but his being American . . .

*if I think about these things too much
I get reeeeeally


Unknown said...

Weird experience of my youth (which the guy in question would probably be embarrassed to have me remember):

Guy (extremely fair blond from some probably extremely white bread part of the MidWest): So, where does the name Gazis come from?

Me: It's Greek.

Guy (staring): But - are they white? (recovering himself and now apologetic) I mean, you're so fair. (I'm darker than Jennifer Aniston, and fairer than Irene Pappas.)

Leaving me to wonder whether it was a weird slip of the tongue, or whether there really was some part of the MidWest where Greeks still didn't quite count as white. But more randomly weird than anything else, since I've never known anyone else to suggest I was anything other than white.

It was a little disconcerting, though, given that it was a guy I was trying to attract.

Edwin Voskamp said...

Steven Barnes said...

You might want to suggest he check with a physician for opinions. The only thing I could think would be along the lines of
1) is he drinking enough water?
2) Was his diet toxic before beginning IF?
3) Is there any hypoglycemia?

Hiya Steve. No, it's not a health issue (or, in short: #1 yes, #2 no, #3 no).

Actually, what I said is that, as a result of IF, I am experiencing a time perception change. When exercising, or doing silat, a fair bit into a fast - during silat class, it's usually about 22 to 24 hours into a fast - I perceive time differently and it throws off my balance. it feels as if balance is 'off' because the speed at which I move does not match how I perceive it. Very odd. If you're interested, I have some theories, and be happy to tell you more, though this may not the thread or place for it. I can drop you an email if you let me know where (if you prefer, you can let me know an email account to use by emailing me at edwin (dot) voskamp (at) gmail (dot) com).

Unknown said...

lynn gazis-sax said "Leaving me to wonder whether it was a weird slip of the tongue, or whether there really was some part of the MidWest where Greeks still didn't quite count as white."

That would be what Roedigger is talking about - there were large swaths of the MidWest and elsewhere where Greeks didn't count as white. The prejudices linger.

Anonymous said...

Re: "primary colors"

I am used to hearing this "primary colors" approach as "White", "Colored", or "Black". The appearances (and peoples) associated with each category change depending on region and history. There's an academic argument that the melding of "Black" and "Colored" by American English is in and of itself evidence of the unusual severity of our institutionalized racism.

The best analysis of the "primary colors" framework I've read is in Melanie Kaye / Kantrowitz's newly published _The Colors of Jews_ . The first two chapters of this book offers an intense, cutting-edge, footnote and interview rich analysis of the way "Race" works.

Steven Barnes said...

The American thing is completely predictable. That relates to lack of "culture" in the sense of culture being something developed in isolation, over generations--something that never happened here for black folks, and barely happened in the islands. And of course the fact that everybody wants to believe they're better.