PDA

View Full Version : Cultural Introduction...



Rachel Udin
01-19-2013, 10:35 PM
Brought up by Aruna...



In retelling and reading these ancient tales it's so important to understand the mentality from which they emerge.

I've hit this wall a few times too when writing about PoCs more than say Europe, or the dominant class. Is there a way to get a pass from editors when we hit this wall?

When the cultures are different, is there a way to get past this wall without insulting the readers that are part of the culture and already know those cultural values?

For example:

We must remember that in Hinduism, the so-called female attributes of selflessness, forbearance and gentleness are seen as positive, whereas the so-called male characteristics of assertiveness, domination and control are considered negative, being traits of the ego that must, eventually, be surrendered to God.

Siva and Shakti, male and female energy, are seen as two halves of a whole, each valuable in its own right, each needing the other as a complement. God can be mother as well as father, and the Mother is, finally, divine. Ideally, women are seen as the invisible backbone of society; it is that backbone that holds society upright, and when it falls, so too, according to traditional Hindu thought, does society. Of course this ideal, humans being as flawed as they are, is seldom realised, and women all too often trodden underfoot in India as everywhere in the world. But it is there, a goal to be aspired to.

In Sons of Gods I’ve tried to get under the skin of the few women, so that the reader understands their inherent, though perhaps quieter, strength.

Or as small as where repetition in the language is seen as emphasis...

I also have some doubts about translating the modern Korean version of communication to the dominant Western audience. ^^;; (If I take out the Korean words completely, I still have cultural hurdles, like the seemingly random yelling at a long time friend...)

Is it suck it and deal with it? Is it play grand translator? What is your thought and approach when the dominant culture thinks their way is often the only way?

Edit: The title might be sucky. Sorry. Change at will.

crunchyblanket
01-20-2013, 04:11 PM
There's a reason why I've never tried to write a book about or from the perspective of a Romani character. So many Roma traditions and cultural quirks just don't transition well into "gadji" society - particularly here in the UK where travellers/gypsies are already heavily frowned-upon.

it's a hard one to get the right balance for.

aruna
01-20-2013, 04:40 PM
I try to strike a balance; to make the POV of the culture I am writing about understandable to the culture I am writing for, to help readers identify with the characters even though the mentality is very different.
In this respect it's important to be able to identify with both cultures. In that way, we become bridges between the cultures.

kuwisdelu
01-21-2013, 02:32 AM
I would say write it first for the culture that you're writing about. Don't worry about making it accessible.

Later, if you want it to be more accessible to people from other cultures, go back and have a beta from another culture read it, and try to weave in enough context for the confusing parts it make more sense.

Being a halfie, I haven't really had this problem yet, though.

It occurs to me that many of us still enjoy books written by people from other cultures, for people from their own culture. I doubt they always wrote with a foreign audience mind. I doubt it even occurred to them.

Kim Fierce
01-21-2013, 11:15 AM
I like both aruna and kuwisdelu's different perspectives. In the end, I guess it is yet another case of something that just depends on the story at the time.

In my story The Divide, where most of the characters are multi-racial, I don't announce that fact right up front. At first I honestly wrote it that way because my character doesn't really think of color labels, since no one is judged that way, but then it transformed after I was told that covers with black people on them don't "sell as well" to me thinking another reason I don't blatantly tell my character's skin color at first is so white readers (and I'm white) don't think "this is a black book or biracial book". So I decided that as the story goes on and she spends time in the sun, that her skin will get darker as the reader becomes more comfortable with her! I don't use the labels "black" or "white" at all because of the negative stereotypes that can be associated by each, and my future world is truly post-racial. I don't think this means people don't "see" color, they just don't judge by it. But I also know enough of what white people, even those who don't consider themselves prejudiced or racist, might think about a book with an MC who is non-white. I didn't want this fact to make them not read the book, because color is not the main issue at all. I use mostly Hispanic and Asian surnames as well to display the diversity, but again there are none of those labels in the book.

To me, some of the cultural differences in the US are not that different. There are people at work who look at the food I eat all the time and say "What are you eating?" One day someone will say I eat soul food, the next, with a very similar meal, someone will say "That's what a Chinese person eats!" The other day I joked around to a white and black co-worker right after that happened (they sit in front of me and hear it all the time) and said "I don't know WHAT I'm supposed to eat!" lol You hear the jokes and things about foods people eat, but they really aren't that different. The comments are generally made by older white men . . . you'd think I was eating cat meat or something!

So maybe finding the ways to connect different cultural beliefs with the ways that we as humans are actually very similar might be a good way to write a multi-cultural story, too. But for the first draft, I agree that you should just write whatever you feel . . . and then after you read through it, maybe you can add some flavor or emphasis here and there to make the connections you need to make with other readers.

aruna
01-21-2013, 11:20 AM
I would say write it first for the culture that you're writing about. Don't worry about making it accessible.

m.

Yes, this is actually how I do it. I don't make a conscious effort to make it accessible; there seems to be an automatic button in me that prevents me for writing stuff that I know would be misunderstood by Western readers; sort of like one of those simultaneous translators! I hope so, at least.

Rachel Udin
01-21-2013, 12:29 PM
Yes, this is actually how I do it. I don't make a conscious effort to make it accessible; there seems to be an automatic button in me that prevents me for writing stuff that I know would be misunderstood by Western readers; sort of like one of those simultaneous translators! I hope so, at least.
I either missed that socialization or that genetic marker. I trip over it frequently. And have been since I was little.

Keyan
01-21-2013, 04:54 PM
I have a real struggle with this... I think without the shared experience, the point of the story can easily get lost. Since I expect most of my audience to be Western, that's who I write to.

If I were writing in India for an Indian audience, they would be different stories.

Lavern08
01-22-2013, 08:02 PM
... There are people at work who look at the food I eat all the time and say "What are you eating?"

A bit off topic, but...

Dang!

I thought it was just me, but I get a little ticked off when my co-workers always make asinine remarks about what I have for lunch (and yes, I'm the only minority in our office).

One day, I went out and bought Fried Chicken and Watermelon for lunch and waited for the comments to roll in.

Just my luck, the "critics" were invited to an offsite business luncheon that day. :D

AWriterBlocked
01-28-2013, 10:11 AM
Have you ever heard of the concept of being "interculturally competent?" The concept states that understanding a different culture is about more than being able to speak their language (say Spanish) or know their native dances. It's understanding the nuance of the culture, what's appropriate and what's not appropriate, how they perceive and sift through information, etc.,.

Without that knowledge, writing about a different cultural identity can be very difficult. It's one of the reasons that people of color (and I use that expression broadly) are often offended by their hollywood characterizations. They come off as stereotypes - as dreaded "cliches" - instead of real people.

Not to say that it can't be done. It can be done extremely well. Just make sure that you reach for the authenticity of the race, the culture, and the character.

Keyan
01-28-2013, 01:20 PM
Someone I know who has moved across multiple cultures in professional and personal situations said, "Each country has a different User Manual." This includes practical stuff like how to get things done, and also includes such things as cultural context for, say, a smile. His theory is that it takes time to get to know the User Manual and it's difficult to do remotely.

The thing is, when you're writing to an audience deeply grounded in, say, US culture, you can show the situations of a different culture but you can't easily share the values.

Kim Fierce
01-29-2013, 02:46 AM
A bit off topic, but...

Dang!

I thought it was just me, but I get a little ticked off when my co-workers always make asinine remarks about what I have for lunch (and yes, I'm the only minority in our office).

One day, I went out and bought Fried Chicken and Watermelon for lunch and waited for the comments to roll in.

Just my luck, the "critics" were invited to an offsite business luncheon that day. :D

LOL! Just today I have had at least 3 people ask about what I'm eating . . . apparently I eat weird food. (Today I have drumsticks, mashed potatoes, a biscuit and peas & carrots. One girl thought my peas and carrots were M&Ms and had to cross the room to check it out.) When I find out what white people are supposed to eat I will let you know.

Another off-topic observation. I recently moved to the west side of my town. People (white co-workers) are Freaking Out about it. I'm not exactly sure why. I actually live in a fairly diverse town, and in years past I dated a white girl who lived on the west side and a multi-racial girl who lived on the east side, and have hung out in various places around even though I didn't grow up here. So I thought there was actually not such a big black/white divide around here. But these same people were not as freaked out when I lived on the north side. I guess it must be a black/white thing, but I had black neighbors at my old house, and probably do at my new house (I've only been there a couple weeks, I haven't seen everybody out b/c it's cold!) One person asked if I ever heard gunshots, but he's very young, from a small town, and probably has just heard rumors from other clueless young people in his tiny town. I have lived in this town off and on for the past 6 or 7 years. There is some crime but it doesn't matter what side of town you are on . . .shrugs.

And now back to the cultural topic . . . the only country I have been to outside US is Canada. I think it would be very interesting to experience different cultures, and agree that it is probably very difficult to write about them if you haven't been involved in them. But if for some reason you can't, you can study them, and if you don't know anyone in person from that culture I'm sure that you could find people on line in some capacity to talk to who are.

Rachel Udin
01-29-2013, 07:16 AM
Mostly I ran into getting umm... too much into the other culture's values and not being able to bridge them back to the US or having a hard time finding the "translation" of the culture back into US terms.

Goes a little with sub-culture too...

Examples:
- Masculine/feminine definitions in White Middle Class US families is different than what's considered "normal" in other divisions of society and across cultures. If you have a male that acts say, "typical Japanese" the traditional values of tatamae, honne and wa, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honne_and_tatemae would make the male seem "girly" in formal situations. Because in formal situations unlike US speech, there are more questions and the default speech is defined as "feminine" rather than in the US where the default is "masculine". This is why a lot of subtitlers take out the reflexive "desu yo ne" in translation and also take out a lot of the questions for males and make them statements when translating.

A minor, yet major thing. Plus I don't think there is as much pressure in Japanese society to prove one is "masculine" at least when presented in the media. The overly male characters tend to be presented as "gangsters" (Yankees)

I know the values of tatemae, honne and wa inside and out, and I see it so often in Japanese stories to the point they'll soap box it once per episode in some cases. And it's in traditional literature too... but it never goes over well with the US audience who is for the individualism, so getting immediately angry seems more "natural".

The movie Shabake demonstrates this brilliantly. http://www.dramacrazy.net/japanese-movie/shabake/

Also "Monster Parents" where the main female character got pissed off at all the parents every time and there was a lecture every episode that the best way to fight it was to "understand the other person's emotions."

I *want* to translate that because it's more authentic to Japanese interactions (though fading a little in the later generations), but I've failed a lot... that level of consideration for others makes most people in the US ask why people are taking punishment, etc. (unless they've watched a ton of Japanese media) I also think that value has contributed to Asian Stereotypes in general... (You know because *sarcastic* all East Asians look the same. And a misunderstanding of the value as being "submissive" *rolls eyes* hardly.)

On the other extreme, I've avoided writing Koreans in Korea because to American eyes they look "angry" (as one Korean American told me people have said about her conversations.) Other descriptors are "crazy" (usually about the girls because they are Asiophile men thinking they'll act like super stereotyped Japanese women) "Passionate" and I'd think Koreans would agree with "stubborn." Koreans in turn think Americans are "cold" "Unpassionate" and "lack emotion." Haha. Oh and also "violent".

I understand the cultural gaps, how they work internally, but I struggle with the getting someone from the outside understand why it works internally without the info dump... I also struggle because I don't want to betray the country, 'cause that kinda defeats the point. Ideas on how to bridge the gaps? Or examples in which you faced those type of things?

I also probably should quit picking up story conventions from other countries... but sometimes I really do fall in love with them.

aruna
01-29-2013, 09:17 PM
I understand the cultural gaps, how they work internally, but I struggle with the getting someone from the outside understand why it works internally without the info dump... I also struggle because I don't want to betray the country, 'cause that kinda defeats the point. Ideas on how to bridge the gaps? Or examples in which you faced those type of things?



Well, I have something to report.
First, the background. I live in Germany, which, crudely put, is a lily-white country, except maybe in the big metropoles like Frankfurt and Berlin. As far as I know I am the only POC in my area, which is a cluster of villages near Heidelberg. In the last year, I can honsetly say I can count on one hand the number of POC I've been aware of:

- A little black boy, about 4 years old, who lives around here somewhere as he goes for walks with his Papa on the path behind my house. His Dad is white, and always says hello. I don't know if the mother is black and he is mixed race, or if she is white and he is adopted. It doesn't matter.
- a black nurse at the hospital I used to work as. From her accent, I'd guess she is originally from Africa.
- a black cleaner at the same hospital
- a female doctor at the same hospital who wears a headscarf and who us probably Turkish or Middle Eastern originally or culturally
- a Chinese doctor at the same hospital
- the Ghanian guy who sold me a hair clasp at the recent Christmas market in the nearest town

(OK, six people: two hands!)

And that's it. I mention this only to show how culturally homogenous this area is. I am fully adapted. I get on with everyone, people are friendly, I don't even think about ms skin colour or being of a different culture, nor have I any desire to make people understand that I am different, if I am. I am very happy.

I'm very good friends with my landlady, whom I've known for over 20 years. She's very typically German, and very lovely. She is also totally ignorant of cultures outside Germany; she has never travelled abroad. Sometimes she laments this lack of cultural experience, and tells me how much she admires my own world-traveller background. She is open to my tales when I get back from Guyana, listens and tries to learn. She also reads a lot, mostly novels.

A few weeks ago, she recommended a book to me, and since it had an Indian background I knew it was one I would love to read, so I bought it, and have nearly finished reading it. She told me that she couldn't stop reading it; it was so gripping, and so interesting, and how much she was learning about Indian culture and the way of life there and how it was so very fascinating.

Aha, I thought.

The book is Secret Daughter, by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, an Indian; apparently it was a No 1 International Bestseller.

I find I am loving it as much as my friend did, and I find I am reading it almost with two simultaneous minds: for myself and my own enjoyment, and through her eyes, imagining how she would have reacted and learned from it.

The book is about an international adoption, and one of the POV characters is a white American. She of course to me is the least interesting of the characters, but I'm discovering how important it must have been for my friend to have just such a character with whom she could identify, who could carry her through the discovery of a very foreign culture and help her to understand "the other". This white character is actually the least appealing; she is selfish and fearful and has all kinds of hang-ups;I always want to move away from her, but I am finding that she is essential to the story.

And I am finding a change in myself as a result. In the past I have always resented the fact that publishers seem to need a white character to carry the white POV, but now I see that this may be the only way that people like my friend can ever get into a story about a very different culture, to explore and understand it. And I see my own role as a writer once again as a bridge between two cultures; I can't just say "this is my culture and you have to get it or be damned". I need compassion for the culturally ignorant like my friend, who is genuinely eager to learn and to understand; to see the story from her POV as well. The ubiquitous white character is the stand-in for that reader. This book I feel does a marvellous job of bridging those two worlds. Highly recommended as an example of "how to do it."

Kitty27
01-31-2013, 09:55 AM
Writing about a culture for a different audience and trying to get them to understand can be an exhausting task. It can make you enraged that some people can be so clueless, privileged and downright close minded.

I've heard some strange stuff in my day from folks without sense or a censor. It's also quite amusing how Southern Whites and Blacks like to act like they are soooo different. Culturally,we are likethis,with a few differences.

I've had betas who read my YA paranormal romance and didn't understand why a Black teen girl uses moisturizer on her hair and loves her Air Forces. They didn't understand caring for Black hair is different or the emphasis many Black teens place on having spotless tennis shoes. I must stress they had NO issue with my MC's race. It was cultural differences that they didn't get.

But these can also be teaching moments and when I explained, they got it. I welcome these kinds of moments because they truly want to know and mean no harm. When I read a book about another culture, I just go with the flow and do my best to learn from what the author is saying.It is NOT my place to question or doubt him or her. It's my place as a reader both to enjoy and learn.

But there are people who MUST have a White character because they cannot relate to POC in either real or literary life or feel out of sorts when a book has a minority cast. Honestly,I don't want them as readers and don't feel the need to cater to them. If you can't open your mind,keep it moving. My daughter loves Cindy Pon's books and she doesn't need a Black character in the story to help her experience the MC's journey. She just opens her mind and that's it. I am straight but I totally got Mitchell In James Hardy's B Boy Blues. I didn't require a straight female character to explain things to me. I just got all into the love story.

I understand what Aruna is saying,though. I still think it's rather unfortunate as no such thing is given to POC readers and when we do get a minority character,he or she is nearly always a horrid stereotype. We are expected to just understand the story and read,which is how it should be.

kuwisdelu
01-31-2013, 10:34 AM
or the emphasis many Black teens place on having spotless tennis shoes.

Is it okay if I don't get it when white people do it either?

Kitty27
01-31-2013, 10:41 AM
Is it okay if I don't get it when white people do it either?


LOL.

Yes,it's okay. Black kids LOVE their shoes!

I have no issue with people who ask out of genuine curiosity. I just have a problem with people who take the tone of "OMG! They are so weird and why do that kind ofpeople do that!" and the like.

kuwisdelu
01-31-2013, 12:23 PM
LOL.

Yes,it's okay. Black kids LOVE their shoes!

I have no issue with people who ask out of genuine curiosity. I just have a problem with people who take the tone of "OMG! They are so weird and why do that kind ofpeople do that!" and the like.

Well, I understand if someone's really into nice dress shoes.

It's the sneaker fetish I don't get.

Though I do like Sambas. They're like a dress sneaker.

/off-topic

aruna
01-31-2013, 05:20 PM
I don't get ANY kind of shoe or clothes fetish. Oh well.

The thing to remember is that someone who feels comfortable in two or more cultures is in an advantage. Those people like my friend who has never travelled and never peeped outside the edge of her little cultural cup are at a disadvantage. We are richer, they are poorer. Just like people who can speak two languages fluently are culturally richer than those who only speak one, and those who have two or more mother tongues are culturally richer than those who only have one.

Why get annoyed at them when they say stupid things, ask stupid questions? As long as they are willing to expand themselves and learn, let's just write stories for them that will help them understand; let's give and lend them books that will let them experience that other culture vicariously. That's how they learn the basic wisdom: humanity may be divided into various fascinating cultures, but the things that are real and worthwhile and inspiring stay the same. Seeing that unifying thread that runs through all cultures can be a real eye-opener, and I think that's what's so appealing about books like the one I mentioned upthread. India might be a completely foreign, weird, dangerous, inhuman country to someone who only ever gets the cliches, but to get step into the skin of, say, an Indian mother and find out she's not much different that oneself can be a wonderful experience, and it was for my friend.

If I only wanted to write books for Guyanese I would go to the Peepal-Tree Press, a tiny publisher based in the UK that is subsidies by the Arts Council. But I don't; I think that the stories born of a little out of the way culture can be just as worthwhile. But they must be written differently. I cannot use certain vocabulary or figures of speech and expect mainstream white culture to "get it". But that's OK with me.

Rachel Udin
01-31-2013, 09:59 PM
@Aruna
Then for example, do you think your friend would be open to reading something like "Palace of Illusions" or "Blood of Roses" or the "Twentieth Wife" (Later two having very minor white characters, and often portrayed in an exogenous way...) Wherein she'd have to let go of her understanding of human nature v. having what Brandon Sanderson termed a "Watson" character.

Probably the learning curve is shorter on Twentieth Wife and Blood of Roses than it is on Palace of Illusions. However, they don't feature any main white characters nor attempt to make that much of a bridge. (Blood of Roses was really easy for me, though I'm a bit short on Muslim Culture Knowledge.)

Also, I have to wonder why Palace of Illusions works for so many people who may not be Indian when there are zero white characters. (I took Hinduism class... soo... yeah, I kinda had a bit of a help there.)

Side note on Shoes, my Cultural Anthro Professor said if you take Freud into the cultural view, then it would be shoes stand for Well... It's Freud. =P Like SUVs who like to boss people around stand for.... Humor. Or Humour.

I also think an interesting point was kinda brought up... considering the cultural enclaves of at the the US, (and many other countries) does it mean the cultural minority is by default bi-cultural? Meaning they have to operate in the dominant sub-culture as well as their own sub-culture... thus that would make it easier to accept other cultural understandings outside of those two? I've seen arguments loosely for it in cultural anthropology, but not explicitly stated... Maybe I'm pulling out too much Cultural Anthro.

If the previous is true, maybe what we're really missing is exposure in the dominant sub-culture... which would create that bridge, though I do understand the economic reasons not to.

aruna
01-31-2013, 10:30 PM
Mostly I ran into getting umm... too much into the other culture's values and not being able to bridge them back to the US or having a hard time finding the "translation" of the culture back into US terms.

.

Actually, I think Palace of Illusions is very Westernised, even if there are no white characters -- in that the main character "thinks white" -- if you get what I mean! I think she could manage it -- but she couldn't manage an original Mahabharata.

I haven't read the other books you mention, sorry!

But I'm not sure how she would deal with a book like The God of Small Things, written by an Indian primarily for Indians, no Western POVs at all in it.
Yet even in that book, the universal values of human nature show through.

I think I'm going to feed her Amy Tan next.

Kitty27
02-01-2013, 12:40 AM
I don't get ANY kind of shoe or clothes fetish. Oh well.

The thing to remember is that someone who feels comfortable in two or more cultures is in an advantage. Those people like my friend who has never travelled and never peeped outside the edge of her little cultural cup are at a disadvantage. We are richer, they are poorer. Just like people who can speak two languages fluently are culturally richer than those who only speak one, and those who have two or more mother tongues are culturally richer than those who only have one.

Why get annoyed at them when they say stupid things, ask stupid questions? As long as they are willing to expand themselves and learn, let's just write stories for them that will help them understand; let's give and lend them books that will let them experience that other culture vicariously. That's how they learn the basic wisdom: humanity may be divided into various fascinating cultures, but the things that are real and worthwhile and inspiring stay the same. Seeing that unifying thread that runs through all cultures can be a real eye-opener, and I think that's what's so appealing about books like the one I mentioned upthread. India might be a completely foreign, weird, dangerous, inhuman countryto someone who only ever gets the cliches, but to get step into the skin of, say, an Indian mother and find out she's not much different that oneself can be a wonderful experience, and it was for my friend.

If I only wanted to write books for Guyanese I would go to the Peepal-Tree Press, a tiny publisher based in the UK that is subsidies by the Arts Council. But I don't; I think that the stories born of a little out of the way culture can be just as worthwhile. But they must be written differently. I cannot use certain vocabulary or figures of speech and expect mainstream white culture to "get it". But that's OK with me.


I guess it comes down to a difference in temperament, Aruna. From your words,you have a very peaceful attitude about this issue. With me,I explain it once and don't care to do so again. It becomes annoying to me,especially when the question comes with the attitude of "OMG,I had no idea these people thought like this!" or "Wow,these people aren't anything like I thought they were!"



I don't mind answering questions that come from a place of genuinely wanting to understand. But when it becomes a sort of odd curiosity,like they are on anthropological expedition into the wild,weird world of Blackness aka they can't quite believe that we also are the bolded and have the same hopes,dreams and lives as anyone else,then I started getting annoyed as hell. This right here illustrates my point:

"India might be a completely foreign, weird, dangerous, inhuman country."

If you believe this about an entire country of people,people you've never met met in a place you've never visited in your life, then you have issues that no amount of talking to will help.

Kitty27
02-01-2013, 12:51 AM
@Aruna
Then for example, do you think your friend would be open to reading something like "Palace of Illusions" or "Blood of Roses" or the "Twentieth Wife" (Later two having very minor white characters, and often portrayed in an exogenous way...) Wherein she'd have to let go of her understanding of human nature v. having what Brandon Sanderson termed a "Watson" character.

Probably the learning curve is shorter on Twentieth Wife and Blood of Roses than it is on Palace of Illusions. However, they don't feature any main white characters nor attempt to make that much of a bridge. (Blood of Roses was really easy for me, though I'm a bit short on Muslim Culture Knowledge.)

Also, I have to wonder why Palace of Illusions works for so many people who may not be Indian when there are zero white characters. (I took Hinduism class... soo... yeah, I kinda had a bit of a help there.)

Side note on Shoes, my Cultural Anthro Professor said if you take Freud into the cultural view, then it would be shoes stand for Well... It's Freud. =P Like SUVs who like to boss people around stand for.... Humor. Or Humour.

I also think an interesting point was kinda brought up... considering the cultural enclaves of at the the US, (and many other countries) does it mean the cultural minority is by default bi-cultural? Meaning they have to operate in the dominant sub-culture as well as their own sub-culture... thus that would make it easier to accept other cultural understandings outside of those two? I've seen arguments loosely for it in cultural anthropology, but not explicitly stated... Maybe I'm pulling out too much Cultural Anthro.

If the previous is true, maybe what we're really missing is exposure in the dominant sub-culture... which would create that bridge, though I do understand the economic reasons not to.'

LOL. Freud has some things going. Black kids just love their shoes with a passion. My son has over a hundred pairs!

Black people call it code switching. We speak and sometimes act differently amongst our own culture,than we do in the dominant one. I can carry on a conversation where I am being exceedingly nasty about someone w/another Black person and if a listener isn't part of the culture,they won't understand a word. But not all Black people code switch. Some were raised in a more multicultural environment and never see the need to or learn how to do it. White people raised with,married into Black families or living amongst Blacks pick it up as well.

Economic reasons have little to do with it. If you ever watch a Black politician-who are most of the time,very educated and professional people- speak to a predominantly Black crowd,most of the time they code switch. I've had my doctor do it with me,as well as coworkers. With the racism towards Black people,most Blacks wear one face at work and an entirely different one when they are amongst their own.

I guess going between both on a daily basis gives me an understanding and respect of other cultures more easily. I can read an LGBT novel,read about a Chinese girl warrior,or read about India and not feel the need whatsoever to have a character who looks like me serve as a guide to explain things. I just trust the author and experience the story.

Kim Fierce
02-01-2013, 02:25 AM
[QUOTE=Kitty27;7923882]'


Black people call it code switching. We speak and sometimes act differently amongst our own culture,than we do in the dominant one. I can carry on a conversation where I am being exceedingly nasty about someone w/another Black person and if a listener isn't part of the culture,they won't understand a word. But not all Black people code switch. Some were raised in a more multicultural environment and never see the need to or learn how to do it. White people raised with,married into Black families or living amongst Blacks pick it up as well.

[QUOTE]

I grew up in a very small, mostly white town, but never bought into the prejudices held there. Ironically, even though I'm a lesbian I'm still the first person in my family who dated a black guy (right before I came out--but also had a couple more experiences after because I had some attempts to turn myself straight). Now my younger sister is engaged to a black man and has two biracial kids. When she first started to date a black guy (about ten years ago now, and she was only 19) she drastically changed her accent and I got mad at her because depending on who she talked to, she would either talk "white" or "black". But soon this turned into a more natural situation, and for both her and I, throughout our own personal life situations, getting new diverse friends, and also from spending so much time together, we don't really speak in a different accent, but we have picked up on a lot of slang, terms, and other things we didn't learn as kids. And it really wasn't something for me that happened on purpose. It just sort of . . . happened.

Sometimes at work I will talk about something and realize that many of the white people in the room have no idea what I'm talking about.

But back to other cultures in books: I recently read a book I won from Goodreads by Eddie Huang called Fresh Off the Boat . . . his parents were immigrants from Taiwan to the US and Eddie grew up to graduate college and now owns several restaurants. There are references in the story to how he was judged as a child and the differences between his parents culture and the one he grew up in, but since the writer is only one year younger than I am (he was born in 82), and I have never read a memoir by someone so young, I actually found myself relating to him more throughout the story than thinking "oh this is such a strange exotic tale". I mean the pop culture references he makes brought up fond memories from my own childhood: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Tupac just to name two easily remembered ones. But I also did learn about this individual's unique life story, his success, and I know this brilliant man is headed to big things.

Here is a NY Times review: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/25/books/fresh-off-the-boat-a-memoir-by-eddie-huang.html?_r=0

They come down hard on him for his language, because he speaks in slang for almost the entire book, but younger readers will really get it.

thebloodfiend
02-01-2013, 03:27 AM
I've had betas who read my YA paranormal romance and didn't understand why a Black teen girl uses moisturizer on her hair and loves her Air Forces. They didn't understand caring for Black hair is different or the emphasis many Black teens place on having spotless tennis shoes. I must stress they had NO issue with my MC's race. It was cultural differences that they didn't get.I don't really get it either. But I'll concede, I've never been black enough or white enough to truly integrate into either culture. I'll say there are different kinds of black culture, and I have never been a part of that which you're referring to.

I have seen "code switching" though. My mother has what we call a "phone voice" which is very proper and professional. I've never seen the need for it.

aruna
02-01-2013, 02:55 PM
"India might be a completely foreign, weird, dangerous, inhuman country."

If you believe this about an entire country of people,people you've never met met in a place you've never visited in your life, then you have issues that no amount of talking to will help.

No, I don't think you necessarily have issues. It's just that if you have never travelled to that country you rely on --- what?

- Personal acquaintances
- media reports
- novels

for your cultural information.

Many people never get to interact with people from foreign countries; not because they don't want to or because they are prejudiced, but because there are none of them around.

So they are entirely dependent on media reports and novels.

Media reports tend to focus on the sensational, as in the case of the recent rape in India. Reading some of the articles and comments to the articles in that story, I was pulling out my hair. Commentors saying things like "India hates all women!" and "Indian men are all monsters!"

This is the kind of information normal people get. Also, all the usual cliches about India. How can you blame someone who does not have the advantage of exposure, if they believe even half of those reports, and develop a warped view of whatever culture they are reading about? Remember that the media makes its living by presenting the unusual, the weird, the dangerous, the quirky. So how is a normal, unexposed person to differentiate?

Take even an innocuous and little known country like Guyana. You wouldn't believe the ignorance I hear about my homeland, the conclusions people draw just because it is a Third World country. YOu would think we were all living in mud huts and wearing grass skirts!

So really, the only really valid information they can get is through fiction, and we are the ones to tell those authentic stories. And I think people who were once ignorant but still open-minded can be trusted to follow those stories and correct whatever warped understanding they may have. And I think it's best done not in an index-finger-wagging, you-stupid-white-moron, way, but with understanding and compassion; compassion because, though they might be in a position of mainstream-majority-privilege, they still know jack-shit about the world we live in.


'

LOL. Freud has some things going. Black kids just love their shoes with a passion. My son has over a hundred pairs!

.

I have to admit that I have very little patience with people - be they black, white, yellow or Imelda Marcos - who collect hundreds of pairs of shoes. Whenever I see these people on TV boasting about their stupid humongous shoe-collection I hop up and down with rage -- so you see, I'm not quite as peaceful as you might think! ;)

Kitty27
02-01-2013, 11:14 PM
No, I don't think you necessarily have issues. It's just that if you have never travelled to that country you rely on --- what?

- Personal acquaintances
- media reports
- novels

for your cultural information.

Many people never get to interact with people from foreign countries; not because they don't want to or because they are prejudiced, but because there are none of them around.

So they are entirely dependent on media reports and novels.

Media reports tend to focus on the sensational, as in the case of the recent rape in India. Reading some of the articles and comments to the articles in that story, I was pulling out my hair. Commentors saying things like "India hates all women!" and "Indian men are all monsters!"

This is the kind of information normal people get. Also, all the usual cliches about India. How can you blame someone who does not have the advantage of exposure, if they believe even half of those reports, and develop a warped view of whatever culture they are reading about? Remember that the media makes its living by presenting the unusual, the weird, the dangerous, the quirky. So how is a normal, unexposed person to differentiate?

Take even an innocuous and little known country like Guyana. You wouldn't believe the ignorance I hear about my homeland, the conclusions people draw just because it is a Third World country. YOu would think we were all living in mud huts and wearing grass skirts!

So really, the only really valid information they can get is through fiction, and we are the ones to tell those authentic stories. And I think people who were once ignorant but still open-minded can be trusted to follow those stories and correct whatever warped understanding they may have. And I think it's best done not in an index-finger-wagging, you-stupid-white-moron, way, but with understanding and compassion; compassion because, though they might be in a position of mainstream-majority-privilege, they still know jack-shit about the world we live in.



I have to admit that I have very little patience with people - be they black, white, yellow or Imelda Marcos - who collect hundreds of pairs of shoes. Whenever I see these people on TV boasting about their stupid humongous shoe-collection I hop up and down with rage -- so you see, I'm not quite as peaceful as you might think! ;)

*hangs head*

I have a problem,Aruna!

I get what you are saying and somewhat agree. But there are times when you are confronted with such utter ignorance that you just can't deal. I had a moment like that a couple of weeks ago and this thread reminded me of it. I want to show my culture and hopefully connect with someone willing to learn about it,but there are also times I want to say:

"Damn. Are you really this out of touch with the world?"

I guess my mind stays open. I never make misconceptions about other POC's and their respective cultures. Probably because I am a POC and know how it feels to be stereotyped to death, so I never want to visit that foolishness on someone else.

I would say a normal person uses common sense when confronted with other cultures. I am not a patient soul. If you let media influence your feelings and thoughts about an entire country or race of people,well-I won't say anything else. I know how the media will take the absolute worst about a culture/race of people and hype it to death. Even when I hear repeated horror stories,I still will NOT group all with a few.

I'd love to visit Guyana one day. From what I've seen online,it's a beautiful country.

LJ Hall
02-02-2013, 03:08 AM
No, I don't think you necessarily have issues. It's just that if you have never travelled to that country you rely on --- what?

- Personal acquaintances
- media reports
- novels

for your cultural information.

Henry Rollins says a lot about this concept. He abbreviates it like this: knowledge without mileage equals bullshit.

Meaning that you can 'know' a place backwards and forwards thanks to the books you've read and YouTube videos and the opinions of others, but unless you actually man up and pay a visit, you don't actually know a single thing.

He tells some great stories about visiting places in the Middle East and Africa that people warned him against going to. Everything he reads and sees and hears tells him it's insane to even think about going. And he goes anyway, checks into a hotel, and then goes for a long walk, no matter where he is. He's witnessed riots and disasters and he has never had a single problem. People have always been entirely kind to him.

All the second-hand knowledge in the world is just bullshit until you see for yourself. That's stayed in my head for years after hearing him talk about it.

(If only he'd drop his ridiculous stance about wanting to 'save' Muslim women from their hijabs and burqas. It's one of the only things I've ever disagreed with him on, and it's a hardcore disagreement. Sigh.)

aruna
02-02-2013, 11:35 AM
Don't mind me, Kitty! I tend to rant about shoes. I even started a thread about shoes once: Women and Shoes (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=6905025#post6905025).
Take it as my own little pet peeve.

I have this theory that deep cultural ignorance is all down to non-exposure. People haven't been to those countries, met those people, mingled with them, and that leads to a deep dark wall of rejection and stupidity. I tend to have mercy with such people. In both my marriages, my in-laws were like that. I cured them.

With my first marriage, it was my husband's aunt who was deeply distrustful when she heard he was marrying a "Neger". His father had been killed in the war, his only brother was dead, and this aunt and his mother were his only family, and she was the breadwinner and matriarch of the family. She told him I was only after money and so she would give him money to give me to send me back home. This before she even met me. She didn't want to meet me. But I insisted.
I swear to you, I just walked in the door, smiled at her, and that was it. After that she was the kindest, warmest person towards me.

In my second marriage it was more difficult. My in-laws refused to meet me and disinherited my husband. The whole family walled up against me. His father died without ever meeting me, and rejecting heir own grandchildren. But 20 years later, he became seriously ill and I became his caretaker. His mother was forced to liaise with me if she wanted to see him. So eventually we met for the first time. After that I went out of my way to ensure that they saw each other, even driving him over from the UK sometimes. Even is she was rude to me (and she was, sometimes) I would either not react, or just smile it off. Only once she went too far: and then I wrote her a ling letter telling her if she didn't change her attitude I would take him to Guyana and live there, because my mother is there and we own property there and we don't bloody well need her at all!!!!
After that she was soft as butter towards me. And now that her only grandson, the one who benefitted from my husband's disinheritance, is behaving like the total jerk he is (even with violence towards her) she is becoming more and more inclined towards me. What goes around comes around. She needs me now, and I even think she loves me. In a way. And so one tiny minuscule bit of prejudice has been broken down.

I realise that different people will deal with prejudice and ignorance in different ways. And some people really need to be hit over the head with their stupidity. That letter I wrote her was instrumental in getting her to change her attitude, but it would not have been possible to get through to her f it had not been preceded by years of patience and standing above it all.

aruna
02-02-2013, 11:37 AM
All the second-hand knowledge in the world is just bullshit until you see for yourself.



Agreed, 100%. But there are some people who will never ever make that trip into Newland with their blinkers down, and they are so much the poorer for it.

Rachel Udin
02-02-2013, 08:39 PM
I've also seen people who have lived in a country for years and never really experienced it. Also, my mom is a fan of museums and is people phobic, which also means she never really experienced the country. She had a melt down when we went a non-white country.... *cough* which is part of the reason I don't speak to her.... (me, adopted, in case you forgot.)

That aside, it seems like the more likely you are in a dominant sub-culture, the more likely you (can) develop blinders to the other subcultures (because you don't often have to develop code switching to them)?? Is that fair? But that also means those in the minority subcultures are more likely to be open to not only the dominant subculture, but other cultures in general, since they by default have to operate in two (code switch).

So I think in order to really experience a culture you need to 1. Be there 2. Be willing to learn and also be corrected.

So maybe the answer is that it's a two way street? You just need to understand how to split the street?

kuwisdelu
02-03-2013, 03:08 AM
Maybe if we all wore the same shoes...