Overcoming Obstacles

Topics: Homelessness, Stereotype, Homelessness in the United States Pages: 5 (1695 words) Published: December 14, 2012
Overcoming Obstacles

In our daily lives, too often do we judge others based solely on their appearance; whether it's by the clothes that a person is wearing or even the color of their skin. The essence of Amy Tan's Mother Tongue and Peter Marin's Helping and Hating the Homeless is that in society, we are quick to judge others, categorizing them based upon pre-assumptions which are hardly true. Chinese American novelist Amy Tan shares her most intimate experiences of growing up with a mother who did not speak fluent English, and how she witnessed first hand how this shaped the treatment her mother received from others. Marin discusses the contradictory views that society has on the homeless, immediately dismissing the negative stereotypes about the homeless. These negative stereotypes are portrayed by the American society, as well as the media, who consistently portray people as they wish.

Throughout Amy Tan's essay, she describes living at home with a "private" or "limited" English, while using a "different" or "standard" English in public, even though she never noticed a difference most of her life. While most people would say they understand little to none of her mother's English, Tan claims, "to me my mother's English is perfectly clear, perfectly natural. It's my mother's tongue," (Tan 62). Although most people- including herself- would call her mother's English "broken" or "limited", she strongly dislikes these terms and feels as if these terms directly reflect the way people perceive her mother. She recalls a time when her mother took a CT scan which revealed a brain tumor. During another visit to the hospital , her mother received the results, in which the hospital claimed they lost it and had sympathy for her. Her mother stated "she said she would not leave until the doctor called her daughter.......lo and behold- we had assurances that the CAT scan would be found, promises that a conference call on Monday would be held, and apologies for any suffering my mother had gone through for a most regrettable mistake" (Tan 63). This is a perfect example of how people mistreat others, especially if they do not speak "standard" english. As a result, the doctors don't believe Tan's mother to be as smart as they are, when in reality she "reads the _Forbes_ report, listens to _Wall Street Week,_ and converses daily with her stockbroker" (Tan 62).

Peter Marin discusses the negative stereotypes that society places on the homeless, and how contradictory their perceptions are. He recalls a time when he was in Santa Barbara for a council meeting, and remembers how astounded he was at the fear he could sense in the council's voices. "One by one they filed to the microphone to curse the council and castigate the homeless. Drinking, doping, loitering, panhandling, defecating, urinating, molesting, stealing- the litany went on and on, was repeated over and over, accompanied by the fantasies of disaster: the barbarian hordes at the gates, civilization ended" (Marin 168). Again, Marin emphasizes the fear, confusion, indifference and anger that the people had towards the homeless, but then realized the problem begins with the term homeless itself. He explains how the term is so abstract, and applies to various different people with different stories, yet society simply generalizes the homeless and forces them all into one category. With all of the negative stereotypes that it instills fear into the people.

However, according to Marin what most people do not realize is that before many of the homeless were actually homeless, they lived normal lives just like ourselves, many coming from the working or middle class. We do not understand this because they are so marginalized that we just dismiss them as being lazy, and assume that it is their own fault that they are homeless. Instead of judging them, we should try to reflect, since they were either forced into homeless by society, or simply by choice. Either way it is society's...
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