Top-Rated Free Essay

Race and Ethnicity

Good Essays
Topics: Race, Ethnic group
Running head: Race and Ethnicity

Race and Ethnicity: Diversity in Literature

What Its Like to Be a Black Girl and Child of the Americas

By

Pam Parker

Course:

Date:

Instructor:

Race and Ethnicity: Diversity in Literature

Literature gives writers of all creeds the vehicle to express themselves in numerous ways – love, hate, fear, sadness, and hope. Writers give their interpretations of life through verse and bring readers of their works into their world for just a moment. Although some may consider race and ethnicity the same, they are totally different. An example of this is in the poems, What Its Like to Be a Black Girl by Patricia Smith and Child of the Americas by Aurora Levins Morales. Both authors give their view of how race and ethnicity plays a part in one’s life when it comes to even the simplest decision.

Growing up in a diverse community has its advantages. It is amazing to see people trying to guess each other’s race and ethnicity. Innocent as it may seem at a young age to do this, it may have been the precursor to feelings towards the opposite race. The United States is a melting pot of different races coming together for one purpose – to have a good life. This means raising a family, having a good job, buying a car and home without fear of being discriminated against. In the stories by two diverse women shows how race and ethnicity played a large part in developing their lives.
Race is defined in layman terms as “the concept of dividing people into populations or groups on the basis of various sets of physical characteristics which result from genetic ancestry” (Diffen, 2013). Race encompasses the color of one’s skin (Causcasion – white, Asian – yellow), facial features (African American – physical features, Latinos – height) and so on.
Ethnicity is defined in layman terms as “an ethnic group or ethnicity is a population of human beings whose members identify with each other, on the basis of a real or a presumed common genealogy or ancestry” (Diffen, 2013). Ethnicity encompasses ancestry of one’s family tree. Some believe they may be the descendants of Roman culture and others feel they are descendants of a culture before the time of Christ. Thanks to modern day technology, most have found they are part of a past culture or cultures – a mixture of cultures.
According to the website, Difference Between explains the difference between race and ethnicity as:
1. Ethnicity gives us room to change because we can reject our own and embrace another. You can move from one region to another and assimilate your beliefs, actions and customs to identify with that ethnic orientation. You cannot do the same with race.
2. Race is your biologically engineered features. It can include skin color, skin tone, eye and hair color, as well as a tendency toward developing certain diseases. It is not something that can be changed or disguised (Difference Between, 2013). In the story, What Its Like Being a Black Girl by Patricia Smith, the author gives the audience an insider’s view into a young black girl’s transition into black woman-hood when being African American (Black) was not as welcomed as being white. “It’s being 9 years old and feeling like you’re not finished - like your edges are wild, like there’s something, everything, wrong.” (Smith, 2013). Smith writes that growing up in this era for a young “black girl” is having the feeling of being awkward - her body is changing and people will see her differently. For Smith, this hope is for the opportunity to live a life where she can become a doctor, lawyer or celebrated writer. In addition, a hope that people will see her through eyes of respect for her work and not her skin color or ethnic background. Author Aurora Levins Morales writes for those struggling to find their identities and their voices - and speaks on issues pertaining to history and the multicultural experience. In the poem, Child of the Americas, Morales gives her views on life as an American of mixed race. It is a poem about an American who came from a mixture of various cultures that comprise her heritage and her identity as an American. “I am a child of the Americas, a light-skinned mestiza of the Caribbean, a child of many diaspora, born into this continent at a crossroads. I am a U.S. Puerto Rican Jew, a product of the ghettos of New York I have never known” (Morales, 2013). Morales continues “I am not African. Africa is in me, but I cannot return. I am not taína. Taíno is in me, but there is no way back. I am not European. Europe lives in me, but I have no home there” (Morales, 2013). Morales believes she is a melting pot filled with different ethnic backgrounds but will not be accepted in these native countries because people of that country will only see the outside – her skin color, her hair, her eyes. We have all done this – guessing the ethnicity of a person – is she mixed with African or is she mixed with German, is he Italian or is he French? We do not get to know the person – we automatically judged them by the way they look. Both Morales and Smith write about what most people in this country are experiencing on a daily basis – racial and ethnic prejudice. However, in the 1970’s, African Americans embraced their African background by donning dashikis and wearing their hair in Afros and braids. This led to most people in this country to investigate their ethnic backgrounds. Now in the 2013, people are going to sites such as Ancestry to find out about their ethnic and racial history. People want to know more about their past in hopes it will show them where they are going. Even in the writing arena, both authors faced challenges getting their works published because of their race. Luckily, according to author Lee, brave publishers have pushed to have more and more authors of color works published. “Much of the work by mixed-race artists, though certainly not all of it, reveals the fault lines and pressure points that still exist in a rapidly changing America. It is on these rough edges that many multiracial people live, and where many artists find the themes that animate their work: the limits of tolerance, hidden or unacknowledged assumptions about identity, and issues of racial privilege and marginalization” (Lee, 2011). Still, a small percentage of publishers will not published women of color’s literary works. This is why many ethnic writers have established their own publishing houses and stores, such as Wal-mart, stock ethnic materials from not only well-known authors but those new to the literary arena. In an article by Martin Arnold detailing his interview with author and publisher Melody Guy, she states, “most of our first novels have an initial printing of between 17,000 and 20,000 copies, and a majority of them went back for second and thirds, and most are paying royalties.''
This is true for other women of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Smith and Morales gives the reader insight into their complicated lives as writers with diverse backgrounds. Although they differ in race and ethnicity, both encounter the same problems living in a country whose racial make-up is rich with diverse personalities. Smith wrote about growing up with a stigma already attached to her as an African American female wanting to be like her white counterparts. “it’s dropping food coloring in your eyes to make them blue and suffering their burn in silence. It’s popping a bleached white mophead over the kinks of your hair and primping in front of mirrors that deny your reflection” (Spoken Word Academy, 2013). In Morales’s world, it about being a born in this country, speaking a different language in addition to having a different skin color and being told she is still a foreigner. “I am a U.S. Puerto Rican Jew, a product of the ghettos of New York I have never known. An immigrant and the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants. I speak English with passion: it’s the tongue of my consciousness” (Diaz, 2013).
Literature gives writers of all creeds the vehicle to express themselves in numerous ways – love, hate, fear, sadness, and hope. Growing up in the United States, race and ethnicity is a big issue especially when it comes to finding a job, a home and getting an education. People should not judge each other by their race or ethnicity. Getting to know the person – their thoughts, dreams, ambitions – should be first and foremost. Smith and Morales found a common outlet for their frustrations with life where they live and how they live – literature. With their literary writings about growing up in America struck a familiar cord with many in this land of many races. It is because of their writings, people can gain a better understanding of how life is on the other side – the diverse side – of life in America.

What It’s Like To Be A Black Girl (For Those Of You Who Aren’t)
By Patricia Smith first of all, it’s being 9 years old and feeling like you’re not finished, like your edges are wild, like there’s something, everything, wrong, it’s dropping food coloring in your eyes to make them blue and suffering their burn in silence. It’s popping a bleached white mophead over the kinks of your hair and primping in front of mirrors that deny your reflection. It’s finding a space between your legs, a disturbance at your chest, and not knowing what to do with the whistles, it’s jumping double dutch until your legs pop, it’s sweat and Vaseline and bullets, it’s growing tall and wearing a lot of white, it’s smelling blood in your breakfast, it’s learning to say **** with grace but learning to **** without it, it’s flame and fists and life according to Motown, it’s finally having a man reach out for you then caving in around his fingers.
(Spoken Word Academy, 2013)

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Powerful Essays

    Race And Ethnicity

    • 819 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Introduction What exactly is race? Is there a true definition to the word? Does it even exist? There is so much uncertainty behind the development of the term over time. It is often thought that race is a social construct brought forth by humans to justify things like the discrimination of others and has also been named the cause behind many other issues. It is easy to blame tragedies such as the Holocaust, a mass extermination of people who follow the Jewish religion, on the basis of racism…

    • 819 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    race and ethnicity

    • 1226 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Does race and ethnicity play a role in how art is made? What is considered to be Asian American art? These are the questions one would ask in order to better understand the relationship between race and ethnicity and how it ties in with Asian American art. Every piece of artwork has a story, a message expressed to the audiences. These messages may portray more than one influence, but the main influence that inspires the creation of the art is through the artist’s race and ethnicity. Through race and…

    • 1226 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Race and Ethnicity

    • 1183 Words
    • 5 Pages

    Race and Ethnicity In this section, we will discuss race, ethnicity, and multiculturalism and how they are depicted in the show. These concepts are somehow illustrated in this television series. Race, in the American society, has been typified by black skin color. The unique cultural traits and the sense of community African-Americans share reflect their ethnicity. On the other hand, Kady, the youngest child in the Kyle family, represents multiculturalism through her knowledge…

    • 1183 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Race and Ethnicity

    • 1436 Words
    • 6 Pages

    Race and Ethnicity According to Allen and Chang, “Race and ethnicity are socially constructed identities that vary across time, space, situation, and perception” Hence, whilst race refers to a person’s physical appearance such as skin colour, eye colour, hair colour, bone/jaw structure and other defining characteristics, ethnicity relates to cultural factors such as nationality, culture, ancestry, language and beliefs. It is important to note that ethnic differences are wholly learned although…

    • 1436 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Race and ethnicity

    • 935 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Race and Ethnicity ENG125 September 23, 2013 Race and Ethnicity The two literary works that I have chosen were “Country Lovers” and “What It’s like to be a Black Girl”, to me they share the same theme of Race and Ethnicity. Country Lovers was a really good short story that described lovers of the country. What it’s like to be a Black Girl was a short poem that talked about the background of race and the dilemma of ethnicity. To me the poem and the short story both talked about race and…

    • 935 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Race and Ethnicity

    • 981 Words
    • 4 Pages

    people of different race, age, sex, religion because perhaps they do not handle change well. People all across their world at one point in their life time can have directly or indirectly experienced stereotypes, racism, and or discrimination. Most likely their race or ethnicity was the basis of why the experienced happened. The concept of race and ethnicity has to be established first among people to get a better understanding of the people they interact with on a daily basis. Race is a concept that…

    • 981 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Race and Ethnicity

    • 1267 Words
    • 6 Pages

    Alyssa Krajewski 10/02/2012 Society and Global Diversity Race and Ethnicity The people of American are still fighting each day to get rid of the word prejudice. Prejudice is an unsupported generalization about a category of people. Being prejudice leads to stereotyping, this leads to racism. Why do people judge other people by the color of their skin? Why do they think their race is more superior? Black people are judged because they were once slaves; the fact that they were owned by white…

    • 1267 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Ethnicity and Race

    • 446 Words
    • 2 Pages

    is still increasing, that The America’s isn’t just about white anymore, but all the different kinds of people. “Minority” has a different meaning in the 21st century of America today. In this paper, it will simply describe the changing racial and ethnicity composition of America’s voting population, compare and contrasts the ideas of functionalists and conflicts on this, and describe how symbolic integrationists would describe this change. The racial and ethnic makeups of the people in America are…

    • 446 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Race and Ethnicity

    • 2713 Words
    • 11 Pages

    According to the text, what is a possible self? Why does it matter that we have one? According to the text, possible selves are “multiple self-understandings of who one might be in the future; [they are] images representing a range of self-options for the future.”(232) This means a person has many ideas of who they want to be, and these ideas help construct a core identity and choice of who they eventually want to be. This theory also incorporates the notion, in any given time, people come to…

    • 2713 Words
    • 11 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Race & Ethnicity

    • 969 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Sunny Patel Autobiography HSS 405-121 Dr. Brooks 7/12/2014 Looking back at the history of Race & Ethnicity I am proud to see how much progress is made in the world. I must say that I am blessed to live in such a diverse society, amongst individuals with more rights than those of other countries. My name is Sunny Patel and my family comes from a small village back in India. My young family members such as my cousins, sister & myself, are considered 1st generation Indian Americans. In my…

    • 969 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays