Monday, June 29, 2009

Anthropological Observations

I like that title.

So this is another post on racial issues, but it goes in a very different direction from my past posts.

A lot of this post is theory taken from a dissimilar situation and applied to the racial divide. I work dish room at a tourist restaurant in Lancaster County. The managers are extremely nice and friendly people and will often help us with our work. Most of the dishroom staff, myself included try to be sensitive to others who may have disabilities or handicaps and most of the workers have some kind of learning disability or handicap. Well, there is this one man that I work with frequently who we'll call Carl. Carl is a bit slow, and someone who you would say is "not all there." We get along and work together, laugh and joke when we are in a good mood but mostly just work.

Well, on several occasions we would have a very busy day at the dishwasher and at 10:00PM we would still be backed up in which case "John" one of the managers would jump on the dishwasher and start helping us. The odd thing is that as soon as John started working, Carl doubled his pace and they both started singing and laughing and joking. Several of John's jokes however were extremely insensitive and he poked fun at Carl's lack of intelligence. However instead of being resentful or angry or hurt, Carl loved it, and feels more accepted by having his differences poked fun at. Instead of denying that such a problem existed, John closed the gap and treated him like an equal that didn't have to be treated sensitively.

I wonder if the same thing is applicable in racial contexts. I have known many people of Asian-American descent, but the relationships have been a lot less strained and polite than those I have had with people of African American descent. Part of this I think is due to the respect that I think society often demands for people of one minority group over another. While we may be friends with Asian people groups, we must acknowlege and be cautious the African people groups. To this etent, racism most certainly is present in our culture today. Most of the Asian kids find their identity in their origins, but poke fun at themselves at the same time.

At college my one growth group leader was asian and we would always say "where is the asian kid" and things like that or poke fun at Asian stareotypes because it was a way to share something with them. It is somewhat akin to the hilarity we get from listening and debunking homeschool sterotypes.

Yet society blocks us from having this casual kind of relationship with african americans because we are to respect an not look down on them, when in fact all that is sought is a casual an light-hearted interaction.

That's all for now I guess....


Q said...

The Asian thing is totally true. I was talking to one of my best friends the other day about how he couldn't do a standing backflip and I said, "You're Asian! What is this?!" because I can tease him like that. He plays off the stereotype, too.

Edge said...

There are a few Asian kids in the honors college where I go to school, and that's definitely the case. We joke about it all the time, and they totally make fun of themselves...

Lady Brainsample said...

I like the title too. ;)

Interesting thoughts as always, and I'm definitely inclined to agree with you.

jeanz said...

I just got back from teen camp and was most of the time referred to by strangers as the "asian kid." I even got called "fifty fifty" because I look half chinese half korean. lol

I've thought about this too, and i think you've hit this one right on the noggin somnite. I even have some african friends who joke around about their race the same as we do with most asians. The Higher the sensetivity to the subject, the more issues seem to arise.

One more thing- "Q, EDGE, and Lady Brainsample"- you have awesome pictures! (Edge especially ;)

jeanz said...

Perfect Example of your Anthropological Observations( that is pretty awesome btw) - Think about how many times the name for "Indians" has been changed.

Lady Brainsample said...

Jeanz: So true about Indians!! I hadn't even thought about that.

Anonymous said...

This is a good point. I agree with you.

I live in Philly, and I will say, though, that I think the reason that it's harder to joke about race with African Americans is because, frankly, up until about 10 or 15 years ago, the jokesters usually weren't kidding. I think there's now a built-in defense mechanism of standoffishness when such jokes are made. My friends make racial jokes about me all the time, and I laugh, but inside it hurts... mostly because sometimes, I'm not so sure they're kidding.

But anyway, good post.

Mimi said...

oii adorei seu texto me segue lá tbm..Beijo

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