« Difference and Inequality in Everyday Life | Main | 'Black is Beautiful'-So Act Like It! »

To be found among many...

What happens on a daily basis is only of personal concern when we, as a general public, decide to take special note of events in our mind. The minor, almost unimportant, details that people tend to look over or graze by can be the most important detail to be picked out. Where is Waldo? Why does that book cover so much interest for kids and even adults now? Simply, find Waldo in a massive crowd of events. The personal stories found in the readings are much like Waldo. How can we pick out issues on race, gender, and class if individuals are not looking for the problem? The readings bring forth this theme in my mind of those "isms" that cover the real problems about sex, gender, and class. Those that benefit from the structure that is placed in society are not interested in finding the issues. Rather, we notice that there is social injustice and do not pursue an answer.
The stories from the reading invoke a feeling of understanding and displeasure. I find that i can relate to some of the stories in minor and major ways. As a heterosexual-Asian-male, i have suffered and benefited from the system that America lives in. The stories allow me to understand some hardships that i have encountered to almost seem common among my own life experiences. For the few who have lived in a Hmong community, or even experienced the bond within my culture, my "americanized" life style to the Hmong family traditions are at contradicting pulls. To feel out of place and in place from one day to the next, I can understand such sympathy and discourse. But similar to the many stories that we read, i feel that i have placed this issue of race on a back burner of my mind to be dealt with in a later time of life. I have come to accept the fact that we are all different and that these differences are major parts in building our character and how we live our lives. This double-edge effect of race, gender, and class is just a common part of my life for now. I win and i lose from the system.
I find that i reflect best with the story of the lady from India who was finding her roots and trying to figure out what it meant to be a feminist-indian-woman in America. Her closing note about being everything all at the same time despite the many views of others around her is how my life is justified in the balancing game of our social structure. I am an American. I am a Hmong Male. I am a College Student. I am a Heterosexual. I am what has been and what will be. We shape our lives by the experience and outlook at life. I am the one next to Waldo, smiling and waiting to be found.
So i have these concerns and questions: Do you realize this social injustice? Do you think a change within the system is possible within our life time? Can another person understand another without experiencing similar events in life?

Comments

In response to your question, "Can another person understand another without experiencing similar events in life?" the answer would be no, in my opinion. But what a person doesn't understand from another's experience they can sympathize with. Our level of understanding race, class, and gender are shaped by how we experience them. As an Asian American woman, I too have benefited and suffered from the system that America lives in. I believe no matter what race we are, we all encounter some type of form of discrimination, no matter how small or large. We are shaped by it.

I, like the post above, have never experienced racial profiling. I am a white female, and at this point in my life I don't even feel that I have felt all that much oppression from the fact that I am a woman. I haven't tried to get a job where I've had to compete with men for a particular position, and haven't experienced any other aspects of oppression that women currently face. I feel like in my youth, growing up in a predominately white middle class community I haven't been exposed to a lot of the issues that are being discussed in this class. That in itself, my lack of knowledge, makes me feel a little bit guilty. Obviously I knew growing up that there were various aspects of discrimination within our society, but I am just recently discovering the complexity of it all. So I guess to put my two cents in with regards to your question about understanding someone else's experience without having a similar experience, I would have to say that it is really difficult. I definitely think that someone can sympathize with the situation, or be angry by a situation without experiencing it first hand, but I'm not sure they could ever truly understand.

Yang,
Your question as to "How can we pick out issues on race, gender, and class if individuals are not looking for the problem?" made me analyze many of my perspectives and come to an understanding as to why I was so unaware of current social issues. I go about my daily routine, dealing with personal issues as they unfold all the while trying to get through the daily grind of an active college student. I believe that I am so consumed by my life and what I am doing that I am unaware of others, let alone their struggles. I have never made time to look for issues concerning race, class or gender- so for me they did not exist. However, now being enrolled in a class where I am forced to take notice, I am becoming more aware of my cultural surrounds and starting to piece together the struggle to obtain "equality." Before I was blissfully unaware because I did not take time to look around and observe.

In response to your question of whether someone can understand a person's particular event without experiencing it, I personally believe the answer is "no". I cannot possibly "understand" what it is like to be racially profiled as I walk down the street because I have not experienced it. However, I would like to argue that perhaps one does not need to fully understand what that experience is like to understand that is an outrageous injustice. I consider myself privileged that I am not racially profiled, but I can still see the need for immediate action to end it. But the question remains...within our life time? I have no idea...how fast can the entire population be educated and exposed to these issues?

I think it was very interesting how you found yourself relating to the story of the Indian woman. That was one of my favorite stories from the assigned reading as well, and brought to light some those issues for me. That and your post made me think of how complex "identity" really is, and how difficult it is to define.