Colorism Lies Everywhere

It’s really interesting for me to be reading God of Small Things and also this book called The Blacker the Berry for my African American History Class. One book highlights the disparities between those in an Indian culture, and the other highlights the disparities between those in an African American culture.

I’m pretty sure God of Small Things never fully said that the Paravans were all dark in complexion, but based off of the descriptions of the paravans in comparison with the Mol family it seemed that their color also had a play in the caste system.

In Blacker the Berry, the basis of the book so far is colorism and how a dark skinned girl is continuously discriminated against and seen as less than just because she is dark.

It’s so interesting to me that even when people of color have to deal with racism and general discrimination and oppression of their people, they even create ranks inside of their own culture. And much of it is based on how light your skin is.

I know that being more fair was seen as more attractive in white people as well in the past, and there is a degree of colorism in almost every single ethnic group. It really makes me wonder how the idea that being lighter is better even came about it in the first place. Colorism is still very much alive and well today.

Orientalism and its Prevalence Today

I had always thought that Orientalism and the word Oriental itself was simply just racist towards Asian individuals. I do still think that, but it was interesting to hear Said’s point of view on it. He worked to see “past” its racism and instead studied it objectively and historically to try to figure out why Americans have such an “us” and “them” mindset. But God of Small Things showed that some people who live in Asia may have that same mindset, but view being American or being from the west as a positive, while it’s the opposite for Western folks.

Although the video of Said and his book on Orientalism are from quite a while ago, the Eurocentric view of Asian people has remained and nothing has made that more clear than the Corona Virus.

On countless occasions I have overheard people confidently say such uncomfortable and harmful things about Chinese people because the virus originated from there. It seems like everyone is forgetting that the most harmful and murderous diseases came from Europe. But of course as soon as something comes from Asia it is suddenly all of their faults and their way of life is now being constantly criticized. It’s also been crazy to see how the media has used Asian people in pictures when reporting on the virus when it made no sense to.

The only way to truly understand why people are so quick to say such ignorant remarks is to trace it back historically. I think we all take part in reinforcing ingroups and outgroups, and I don’t think they’re always bad. But when it comes to blaming a gigantic group of people who are just as guilty (but more like innocent) as you and I, is when it becomes a large and harmful issue.

God of Small Things and its Showcase of Broken Rules

I would like to start off with my opinion of novel, and I must say, it was not necessarily a favorite. I think the imagery throughout the novel was nice, and I enjoyed how certain characters developed throughout the story. But many times I was left absolutely confused. I think that may have been intentional as questions I had were answered throughout the story, but I think it being written that was didn’t allow readers to truly make connections with the characters and their stories and personal struggles. My favorite character was Velutha, simply because he seemed to have the most depth in character in my opinion.

Although I was not the hugest fan of the novel, I liked how it highlighted the breaking of a number of societal norms, whether they were specific to Ayemenem or just in general.

The first one I noticed was the number of failed marriages. I think divorce is still something people feel ashamed about today (although they should not) and it was interesting to see that almost everyone that was once married in the novel was either divorced or had a terrible marriage (like in Ammu’s mother’s case). And despite it being common in her family, it was still not common in her community. The text states,

Within the first few months of her return to her parents’ home, Ammu quickly learned to recognize and despise the ugly face of sympathy. Old female relations with incipient beards and several wobbling chins made overnight trips to Ayemenem to commiserate with her about her divorce. They squeezed her knee and gloated. She fought off the urge to slap them. Or twiddle their nipples. With a spanner. (43)

Ammu was still treated as if her situation was terrible and incredibly unfortunate just because she was divorced.

Another societal norm that was broken in the novel was the idea of a loving and supportive mother. Ammu seemed anything but that most of the time. She obviously loved her kids, but her love for them was often volatile and detached. Ammu literally said that she “loved her children but their wide-eyed vulnerability and their willingness to love people who didn’t really love them exasperated her and sometimes made her want to hurt them — just as an education, a protection(pg 42).” I don’t really think that’s much of a nurturing mother way of thinking. And when she did things like shrug her kids off when they were embracing her, or telling Rahel she loved her less the epitome of a detached love that lacks insight on how her actions affect her children.

There is also the biggest societal role broken when Rahel and Estha slept together, which I really did not enjoy (but I’m sure that was the point). I was kind of expecting it as the book went on and highlighted their closeness and their “oneness.” But it was just so weird.

Limit To Your Love

The song “Limit to Your Love” by James Blake is from his premier album James Blake. The speaker of the song seems to be a heartbroken person who is trying to understand and analyze why his audience does not fully love him. The audience is the person the speaker is most likely in love with. The song is very self explanatory. It is extremely concise with only three verses that detail how limited his audience’s love truly is.

The song highlights just how truly hopeless the speaker seems to be. Although, the song is three verses they are made up of the same 5 lines, which are:

There’s a limit to your love

Like a waterfall in slow motion

Like a map with no ocean

So carelessly there, is it truth or dare

There’s a limit to your care

The combination and repetition of the verses reinforces the feeling of hopelessness the speaker feels. You can tell through the lyrics that they are frustrated their audience does not care so deeply for them.

Of the 5 repeated lines, two of them utilize similes. “like a waterfall in slow motion” and “like a map with no ocean.” The careful choice of metaphor clearly depicts how their audience’s love is not complete. Waterfalls are loud and fast and a waterfall in slow motion would hardly be a waterfall at all. A map without an ocean would hardly be complete and lead one to be confused if they were trying to use a map to direct themselves or find an area. The metaphors show how lacking the love is the speaker is describing.

The speaker also utilizes what I would call “rolling diction” (which is a term I just made up). The L sounds that are used repetitively in “limit, love, carelessly, slow, waterfall and like” quite literally roll off the tongue. The contrast in the softness of the L sound and the cutting tone of hopelessness portrayed in the actual meaning of the words displays just how complex the speaker feels. Their audience has no love for them, but they compare it so such beautiful things but they are still trying to figure out the true depth of this limited love.

Time after Time after Time and Again

The novel Beloved is a story of an escaped slave and her new twisted reality that is weaved into her even more twisted past. The story of Sethe and her family connects very well to the song Time after Time by Cyndi Lauper.

Time after Time begins with the lyrics:

“Lying in my bed, I hear the clock tick and think of you
Caught up in circles
Confusion is nothing new
Flashback, warm nights
Almost left behind
Suitcase of memories”

Beloved is written in a very interesting and intricate way where different perspectives from the past and present are used to complete a story. The novel goes, quite literally, back and forth between the past and the present which smoothly bridges to Lauper’s song. The part in the first verse which says “suitcase of memories” especially connects to Paul D’s tin box which held his memories.

The second verse stated,

“Sometimes you picture me
I’m walking too far ahead
You’re calling to me, I can’t hear
What you’ve said
Then you say, “go slow”
And I fall behind
The second hand unwinds”

That part strongly reminded me of when Beloved recalled when Sethe left her alone on what we think is the slave ship. The verse obviously differs from the actual event Beloved remembered but it ties into the loneliness and the feeling of being abandoned.

Although the connection is very simple, the theme of the song surrounds the topics of past, present, and love. All of those things are largely important in Beloved as well.

What Is Migration?

Exit West showed us a world where people are migrating by the masses. They are moving across the world by literally stepping through a door. Exit West has showed us the struggle of immigration without the journey of immigration. Many who are not so keen on immigration, or specifically illegal immigration, gain more empathy when they put the journey of the immigrants into consideration, but this story has showed a different side. Exit West has showed the commonality between multitudes of people. That even without the long journey of migration, it is still incredibly hard to move through change and leave life as you know, or to witness others move while one seemingly stays stagnant. Exist West has showed its audience that there is truly not such thing as stagnation or true stability.

Exit West has stories of those that physically moved continuously like Nadia and Saeed and stories of those that did not move at all like the elderly man in Amsterdam, or the older woman in Palo Alto. At first glance, it seems like one is moving while the other is not, but the truth is quite the opposite. The elderly man in Amsterdam was a witness to many components in life migrating or changing: his lover leaving, his father dying, the gain of a new love, while he still remained constant in other ways. He stayed in the same place, never stopped smoking cigarettes, he never stopped hanging out on his balcony. In Saeed’s case, it seemed that everything changed. He lost both of his parents, moved into the western world, and watched his relationship with Nadia deteriorate. But he also had things he clung onto that added stability into his life. He prayed, went to sleep next to Nadia every night, and he worked.

I believe the true thesis of Exit West is best said in the quote from the elderly woman in Palo Alto. She said, “… everyone migrates, even if we stay in the same houses our whole lives, because we can’t help it. We are all migrants through time.” Mohsin Hamid beautifully detailed that we are far more similar than we think, although our differences are still prime parts our identities as well. But if we see ourselves in the migrants we hear of everyday and keep in mind our own migrations, although they may not be as intense or life altering, then we would be so much closer to universal understanding.

Is Existentialist a Synonym for Pessimist?

Every time we’ve entered class this week I was thinking about whether or not an existentialist could ever have true joy. Could a person who ultimately believes nothing is real and has no meaning find any kind of purpose in life? Could an existentialist play the game of life while still maintaining their beliefs? To me, that just seems absolutely dreadful. Like it is explained in Camus’s “Myth of Sisyphus,” the true tragedy comes from consciousness and ignorance seems to truly be bliss.

I personally, am very okay with living in that ignorance. I don’t think I would like to look into the eyes of my father and think “this is not real,” or marry someone someday out of practicality. To me that seems like sticking yourself in one hopeless, never-ending box.

But in what parts of existentialism could one find happiness? Sometimes I think about what I would do if I truly did not care what people thought or about the consequences of my actions. If I didn’t believe in the system of education, I know I most certainly would not do my homework, I would not be, what seems like, relentlessly stressed over college. I definitely would not equate my value to the 4 digits of my SAT score. In that sense, I believe I would be happy.

But I feel like existentialism is inherently selfish. Those things I mentioned before, only benefit me. Existentialism seems very much solely focused on self and not on how the choices I’d make would affect others as well. If I suddenly stopped caring about school then I would be negating the hard work my parents put in to move to Oak Park so I could get a good education.

So, if I did not care about others and I didn’t care about probably ending up impoverished and bitter, I would be an existentialist. But I don’t prefer those things, so I’m good.