The thing that I appreciate the most about my neighborhood was that it was built in the 50’s. It’s not so much that I wish myself out of this time period and into that one– my feelings actually have pretty little to do with nostalgia. I just like that the houses don’t have the same, strategic, cookie-cutter look that all the newer housing units do. The houses have backyards big enough for the dog I wish I had to run around. The front yards exist(!) and have space for basketball hoops and soccer games. There’s nothing that helped me more than a walk around my little slice of the suburbs. New families making their first memories in the park where I had long ago made mine, yellow lights that hold sounds of dinner and love trickling through the cracks of doors, a dog whose bark once scared me making his way to the fence. My home and the homes around me were the backdrop to my thoughts and reflections, old musings and new ideas. It’s a place that’s my own, a neighborhood curled into a maze of which I know every turn.
For my essay I will be analyzing a set of photos taken by Kimberly Genevieve, a Los Angeles based photographer who posts picture-perfect snapshots of the local life. In one of my ELP posts I explore the idea of what makes us beautiful, and one of my questions was if we could still be beautiful if we lived in ignorance of the ugly around us. There’s no place or mindset that I understand better than SoCal, and though I worked so hard to get away I’m somehow always drawn back to it as a writing topic. The pictures that Genevieve takes are all so beautiful and idealistic, and so easy to be enticed by, that you forget the harsh reality of history and how we got here: a place of “bliss.” I will be analyzing what pictures like these do to viewers, interpreting how the seemingly innocent privilege gets translated to the masses.
I have definitely become much more aware of things taking this class– a broad statement, I know. It was really cool to be in an environment where you get to focus on the issues of “the gaze” and privilege, so that you have a chance to see how it effects everything around you. My ideas about what female empowerment and racial inequality look like have largely been updated with new ideas and information. Having this time to think about voice also, in my opinion, upgraded the way I write as well. 🙂
In these photos I see people who others can’t help but think are not looking to be powerful, or overvaluing themselves, but are just enjoying being alive. However, this very idea that they do not have to worry about who they are, or where they turn up in the power struggle makes me interested. Their so-called easy, breezy, non-luxurious lifestyle is one filled with luxury.
- I am wearing a casual-yet-carefully selected outfit for my day at Disney! A bright yellow shirt with (mostly cut off in the picture) and Mickey Mouse ears. My expression is one of pure happiness, because what other emotions could you feel at Disney? I have my arm very extended as to show my friends.
- The lighting is natural, but angles and which way we faced were played around with. The angle is mostly level, though slightly angled downward for a more flattering picture. I am the holder of the camera while my friends smile in the background. I am at Disneyland California Adventure in front of the pier. Most of the people who see this on my story would recognize it right away.
- My two friends, Marissa and Megan are with me.
- I am genuinely happy and want to mark this moment with my friends.
- I want people to know that I 1. have friends (ha) 2. am having a fun time 3. am at Disney so therefore having a better time than you. This was also on the week I found out I was going to New York. On this day I was trying to figure out if I could be happy living in California attending a community college..
- I think happiness is definitely a strong one, though I believe friendship or the want to portray friendship is the trait that stands out the most.
- This photo in my eyes is definitely more feminine. I am surrounded by two of my female friends in a place usually associated with childhood. Though I got in for free through my friend (s/o to Megan) Disneyland is definitely not cheap, so it also shows a great deal of privilege. I know I wanted to let people know that I was out having fun, but even a picture of my surroundings would have done that. I definitely took this picture to show me with my friends having a good time.
- This went onto my snapchat story, so my audience were my peers. This was taken during the summer after senior year, so everyone was out and about doing things before college. My mom also loves getting pictures from me so she can make collages and upload them onto Facebook with embarrassingly long captions. The two main audiences I think would feel different things. My friends, possibly jealousy, and my mother and her friends– I guess happiness at the sight of a seemingly well-adjusted child?
- The viewer is being smiled at, being told “hey look at me at this fun place!”
- In my neighborhood everyone loves going to Disneyland on whims. Everyone knows someone, or has an annual pass. So this picture is pretty recognizable to me. This is me taking part of the hype, joining the crowd, I guess. (I have no complaints though, this is my favorite crowd to join.)
- It is apparent that I am with my friends and I am extremely happy. It is shown that we are at Disneyland, and though it cannot be seen here, this was one snap on my story out of many with events of that day. The photo shows anyone who’s been following what I’m doing, that I’ve been doing it with Megan and Marissa, and that we’re still having a wonderful time.
- I am in a jacket, very casual with a half hidden face. My friend is obviously the more comical of us two, with an interesting take on the duck face. I am appearing to lean on her head while she leans on my body.
- The lighting is much more focused on my friend, and we are sitting against the wall of a conference room at the Warner Center Marriott Hotel. We fill the entire frame and offer a huge contrast to each other.
- I am with my bestest friend in the entire world, Kasidy! I have a caption that reads “my fav.” This picture obviously shows that we love each other very much, and that she is comfortable with me and herself enough to not make me delete this photo.
- Kasidy Kuster is very much my favorite, and I do love her very much.
- This photo obviously has no context whatsoever in the picture, but this was from a series of photos of me at a overnight political convention after dinner. The makeup has been taken off, the heels are tucked away, and the blazers are hanging in our rooms.
- I think that this photo, like the last, portrays friendship– but a different kind. It is a playful kind-of hanging out vibe, and less preppy girls having fun on a trip. Kasidy’s face says it all, really.
- This photo has what I like to call an “lmao” trait. It may just be this way because I have very fond memories, and I know her personally, but I love this photo so much I can’t help it. Although this does show female friendship, I do think that this photo also has a masculine undertone. We are resting after a day of debating and discussing politics: super-max prisons, immigration policy, international trade deals– all regarded very masculine things. We definitely show some level of affluence, attending a convention at a nice hotel, and to any onlookers we may look like future swampers in a resting state.
- My close circle would think this photo is a hoot, for obvious reasons. Others may roll their eyes. I am much more aware of the camera in this picture in a classical sense, in terms of how I am smiling. This photo was also on my snapchat story and so my audience was again my peers.
- The viewer is again told to look at me having a fun time with my friend. The caption “my fav” makes it known that I have connections with people. It seems like a common theme that I want people to know I have friends. I am perturbed.
- My selfie is a typical I have a goofy friend picture. I again am taking part of the hype. The dynamic duo, the two girl best friends.
- The context is two friends that have been hanging out and decide to take a fun pic. To others it may seem obnoxious or endearing.
- I am wearing a pink jacket with a black tank top, obviously trying to get a good angle for the picture. My face is filtered with the ever so basic dog filter, and my head is tilted so that certain parts of my face will be hit with light. The pout is practiced, but hoping not to appear as try-hard.
- I am in the background with lights that wash everything out, including some of the shadows on my face. The photo was taken to frame my face in the most flattering way possible, other than the filter there is nothing else. I am the focus of this selfie.
- I am totally feeling myself.
- I took time to put on my makeup, and I probably tried multiple times until I got this particular picture of me. A lot more effort went into this picture than I wanted the person who saw this to know.
- This picture is asking people to look at me. I want to be acknowledged for some level of attractiveness, hence the dog filter.
- This picture is full on feminine, super binary, very (at the time) acceptable for instagramming or whatnot. I want to appear pretty but effortless at the same time? Welp.
- Female friends and male friends will see these images, in my opinion, very differently. My girlfriends may cause a scene giving me compliments, or roll their eyes and tell me that they get it and that I think I’m cute. Guy friends may just be confused as to why they are seeing a picture of me like this. This selfie was like the other three, taken on snapchat, but it was actually just a private message to a guy friend. He is like my brother in how easily he rags on me for being unfeminine so I wanted to slap him with a “HEY I CAN TRY TOO.”
- The viewer is asked to look at me. They are asked to reply in a way that acknowledges that they have seen me and either approve or disapprove of my appearance.
- This image is one that could have circulated on many girl’s instagram pages at the time. The dog filter chisels out your nose and your chin, and gives you more conventionally admired traits. I am also attempting to look admirable. They go to further the cycle of girls wanting to look a certain way.
- I am in the bathroom, having put on makeup, having put on a filter, taking a picture of myself for the sole purpose of my face to be looked at. This picture could either be complimented or looked at with pity.
B) Write up a brief 200 word paragraph that sums up your findings and analyzes your selfies with some sort of conclusive thesis about your performance of your Self. What do your selfies say about the self or selves you show the world? Feel free to investigate any of the readings below as you think about your own selfies.
Looking at my selfies, the first uniting thing is the platform: snapchat. I realized while I was searching for selfies to do this assignment, that boy do I take a lot of them through snapchat. I don’t really know why this is. Maybe it’s so that if I take a particularly cute one that I could send it to my friends. Maybe I just like looking at myself and snapchat is always open so I can see my other friends. I don’t know.
One thing that is important to me are the memories that I make with my friends. The first two photos are of me on some of the most happiest moments of my high school days. The thing about the two smiles in the pictures, is that the smiles are genuine. I am not a huge photo taker. I usually make it through the day with more than enough battery from a single charge simply because I don’t really use my phone other than to contact people. The only real times that I take out my phone to take a picture is when I think that I really want to remember what’s happening, or I guess if I’m bored and other people are taking pictures. Regardless, I realized the power of the picture when I was writing these analyses because the photos made me smile and reminisce. I realized that I took these photos more for me than for anyone else.
The last picture on the other hand is different. I wanted to be looked at by my male friend and gain approval. It’s a weird feeling to recognize. I think he told me it doesn’t count if I use the dog filter.
I guess in the end, I want my photos to portray what I want for myself: a smiling face and people that I like smiling with me.
You are in art class. It is a beginners course required by the school for graduation. Your teacher is a man who spends his weekends painting deserts and taking long walks on the beaches by his home. He describes himself as easy going and encouraging. He is nice.
Your class consists of rising sophomores and juniors. You are a junior. The class will be easier than you thought. Today the sophomores are being loud during the teacher’s instructions. You are learning about shading and pencil technique. The sophomores grow louder. Especially one boy. Making a gradient takes time and patience. Your pencil should create layers. Do not press harder. Overlap. Your teacher spent 6 months living in Mexico and is fluent in Spanish. He likes soccer. The boy is gesturing wildly while the others laugh. The boy is brown.
José. José. JOSÉ.
“There’s no José in this class”
1. Based on your reading of “Citizen” pp. 1-79:
a) Why do you think Rankine uses the second person (“You are twelve…”)?
By using second person, the reader is unconsciously being made to imagine the experience happening to them. The events are not detached, like watching a tv show. When you are being told what is happening to you, you pay attention. In the first scene, when “we” are being cheated off of, we feel wronged. It is not like watching two kids and wanting to show disapproval When we are being undermined because of “our” skin color, we feel the discomfort– even if it is only a fraction.
b) Point out a specific passage/paragraph (cite and quote it) that you find to be particularly beautiful or powerful or surprising or challenging and explain why it stood out to you. Where does it fit into the argument of text as a whole?
“A woman you do not know wants to join you for lunch. You are visiting her campus. In the café you both order the Caesar salad. This overlap is not the beginning of anything because she immediately points out that she, her father, her grandfather, and you, all attended the same college. She wanted her son to go there as well, but because of affirmative action or minority something—she is not sure what they are calling it these days and weren’t they supposed to get rid of it?— her son wasn’t accepted. You are not sure if you are meant to apologize for this failure of your alma mater’s legacy program; instead you ask where he ended up. The prestigious school she mentions doesn’t seem to assuage her irritation. This exchange, in effect, ends your lunch. The salads arrive.” Pg 25
“I” am being blamed for the failure of someone else. My very existence is the reason that someone did not “succeed.”
- My merit is not considered, the only reason I won was because of the color of my skin.
- The son is still attending a prestigious school, he just didn’t get what mom was hoping for.
- “Weren’t they supposed to get rid of it?”
- Caesar salad. The universal salad.
The author speaks of how as a person of color you are not you, but a representative of people who look like you. For some reason it does not apply the other way around. It is impossible to teach someone the privilege of being privileged, and the reality stings over and over again as you realize you must get used to this fact. She feels as if she maybe has to apologize. My question is for what. Her question is for what. We both understand and do not understand the reason why.
c) Consider the adage, “The truth cannot be told head on.” What modes does Rankine use to access her truth? How does Rankine make her arguments without stating things outright? Is there a place(s) in the text where you feel she does in fact state her argument outright?
Someone who has never been thought as lesser, or “able to be handled” for the color of their skin will never fully be able to understand the gravity of what is taking place. Even people who have often times cannot. By using second person and taking us through the experience, we have the opportunity to understand a little bit how it feels. Rankine tells you what her features are doing, but not fully how she is feeling– which makes you fill in the blanks and feel them yourself.
“Come on, no need to get all KKK on them, you say.”
This is her most direct calling out to the person who wronged her, with a much more stronger accusation of racial discrimination than the “what did you say?” on the previous page.
How we see the man react afterwards with the “now there you go,” is a very telling moment to how she sees the dynamic between the two classes. Standing up to defend herself will always on some level make her the angry black woman.
2. After you’ve read “Reflections of a White Maybe” respond with some thoughts about “whiteness” as the author defines it. What does “whiteness” mean to him and his partner, an Anglo Jew and a Puerto Rican? When and how do their “privileges” differ? How does your own experience compare or contrast to Jaffe’s and/or his partner’s experience?
I grew up in the California that he talks about, though maybe in a slightly more liberal bubble and age. But Santa Barbara is a college town, his husband is a college professor. It’s not too far off from what I know. Even as someone who was looked down upon for something he could not control, being Jewish, the narrator considers himself white. He could pass. His “whiteness” will always be something that separates him from his husband. It’s not something he could choose, it’s just how our society decided to give certain privileges. In my area we made jokes about being white because everyone was close enough that there was no real hint of offense or hurt feelings. “I’m such a white-girl with my pumpkin spice latte and leggings.” At a party,”omg, white girl got butt. Yas girl dance!” My best friend since kindergarten who is more my family than any Korean friend I’ve ever made once told me that sometimes she feels sad that she’ll never be able to take part in my culture the way my Korean friends could. I don’t know how to describe the twinge I felt in my heart, because I know exactly what she means.
I fell in love in a 7/11 parking lot
Sat on the curb drinking Slurpees we mixed with alcohol
We talked about all our dreams and how we would show ’em all
The first time I heard Bonnie McKee’s “American Girl” was probably sometime in my sophomore year of high school. Fresh out of the pool from a water polo game, blood pumping, and cheeks red from the best kind of exhaustion there is. I never once thought of myself as un-American. I was born and raised in sunny southern California– west coast-best coast. I could name for you all the UC schools (Merced, Davis, Santa Cruz, Riverside, Santa Barbara, Irvine, San Diego, Los Angeles, Berkeley, in that order), give you directions using “the” before highways– the five, the four-oh-five, the ninety five, or just show you my birth certificate. It’ll say it right at the top “State of C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A.” So why is it when I heard Hasan Minhaj’s bit on his stand-up comedy special, Homecoming King, that I felt like I could relate so much?
I want to work in government. For all it’s flaws and strengths, I love American politics. There is nothing more messy, more corrupt, more infuriating, and nothing more beautiful to my eyes. It’s my way of serving my country and the people that I love, quite literally. So it makes me feel interesting when I realize that at first glance, some people wouldn’t think to offer me the job.
As you can probably tell, I’m Asian. South-Korean to be specific. I can speak the language, write it, read it, curse in it, and tell someone I love them using it. And I’m proud of it. On the Thanksgiving table there was always turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and kimchi.
And I guess if you asked me to choose one or the other, my loyalties lie in America– they’re who I cheer for in the olympics. But I don’t understand why I have to choose in the first place, why sometimes I feel that I have to defend myself. I didn’t know being a part of two cultures meant being neither.
I may not have really fallen in love in a 7/11 parking lot, or taken a sip from a spiked Slurpee, but I kind of have.. in spirit. The Fourth of July beach parties with the whole town waving sparklers, barbecues in backyards, the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in homeroom. These things are every bit a part of my identity, as are hanboks and japchae.
“When 9/11 happened, everyone in America felt like their country was under attack. But on that night, September 12th, it was the first night– of so many nights, that I felt like my family’s love and loyalty to this country was under attack. And it always sucks. As immigrants we always have to put on these press releases to prove our patriotism. We’re always auditioning. We’ll be like ‘Yeah! I love this country! Please believe me.’ Nobody loves this country more than immigrants, I love this country man. I fell in love in this country.”
I’ve been yelled at in parking lots. Been called “my yellow princess.” Have been the interest of my (white) teachers for the food in my packed lunches since montessori.
My grandparents who moved here with their kids from the “foreign” country own a shop down in Newport Beach.
I use inches and feet.
I went to prom.
Tell me what more I can do to let you know that this is my country too.
I remember deciding I was beautiful after a particularly rough day when I believed the world did not.
I remember seeing beauty in line for in-n-out when two girls with olive skin and light eyes walked over to the counter and asked for fries.
I remember realizing beauty when my best friend sat and talked with me for hours in-between the aisles of the local target.
I remember feeling beautiful when my date to the homecoming dance dropped his jaw and said it while looking into my eyes instead of at body.
I remember being beautiful when my mom took me in her arms and called me her child.
I remember when I tried to determine that I would not let myself be swayed into categories of what beauty should be and should not be, but growing older doesn’t seem to make it easier to grow wiser.
He told me he liked me even more when I made a reference to a metallica song and it made me blush.
Why? It’s not like I had learned it to impress him, or that the fact had been cool before he noticed it.
I feel it is easier to accept that you’re beautiful when you’re being told by someone else. But I know that I am beautiful because I decided I would make an effort to be, inside and maybe out– and sometimes that’s just the best you can do.
But sometimes I wonder: if I believe I am beautiful and the world does not, am I beautiful against the world or deluded?
Is the dog I pass on the street beautiful because it is innocent and does not know by our standards how to critique its owner’s casual-dog-walking-attire?
Are white supremacists beautiful for being alive, human, and passionate?
Were we beautiful when we declared war on the homes of children foreign to us in the name of honor and patriotism.
Are we still beautiful when we are privileged and educated enough to see the terrible realities of the world and still choose to sit and drink coffee? Is it wrong to enjoy coffee and privilege?
I wish that my biggest concern with beauty was about what I look like.
So I was going to Denny’s with my family for a late night snack, as all middle class SoCal-asian families seem to do– getting really excited to have enough fat and sugar enter my body to last me a short happy, albeit uncomfortable, lifetime. Oh the joys of being American.
I was getting out of my mom’s Lexus.. or my dad’s Benz, one of the two (not too shabby, don’t you think?), when we were approached by a man stationed outside our local diner* asking for change.
**Yes somehow the Denny’s chain has made itself a homey staple of late night talks and memories instead of being considered a chain that ruins dreams or something millennial like that.
He spoke to us with an endearing and reasonable, “Hello, could I please have a dollar?” For some reason, we did not want a confrontation with the scraggly, smelly, homeless man sitting at a Denny’s parking lot at 11pm, so we walked by with a calm nothing. Sure it tugged at my heartstrings a little, but what’s the point in feeling empathy, right?
Suddenly I hear words that feel like a smack to the back of my neatly-pony-ed head.
“Go back to Japan!”
If I weren’t so busy being shocked I would have been impressed that he didn’t opt for the usual China.
I don’t know if this counts as me being judged, and I wonder what he would’ve said if we looked more like him: white and male.
But this question didn’t plague me long, as seasoned fries and nachos and lava cake and coffee and milkshakes and chicken quesadillas made way to my table.
I wonder what that man is doing now, and if he ever found kindness in some asian family like mine.
I could hear it now:
God Bless You, Thank you So Much.