I missed the presidential election!
On the night of the election, I had to go to bed early to wake up for an internship the next day. When I woke up, I looked at my phone and went through the ten notifications from Snapchat-
they were all about the student protests. In a span of two days, students expressed their freedom of speech and emotions of the election at the University Town Center and later at the Langson Library. What was the reaction across America after viewing these protests through the social media? Were they racist hate comments because others do not share the same beliefs as they do? Or is it because there is a high standard set where people are compared to see who is civilized?
Especially here in America, there is a sense of what a civilized community is like. If a person is dressed nicely, hair is styled, and looks intellectual they are automatically seen as civilized as opposed to someone who is wearing workout pants and a old t-shirt with socks and sandals. It relates to the sunglasses that Joll was wearing in Waiting for the Barbarians, by J.M Coetzee, catches the Magistrate’s attention. Joll and Magistrate are from very different ideals of “civilization”, “We pause, savouring from our different positions the ironies of the word”(Coetzee 12). The Magistrate believes his outpost is civilized and those living around the outpost are barbarians but as Joll arrived to the outpost, he noticed an uncivilized society in which it quickly created the opposition towards the Magistrate’s society. As the sunglasses serve to show the difference between the Magistrate and Joll it is also symbolically representing how people shield their eyes to see other perspectives.
The Walkout of 1968 in East Los Angeles is an example of the uprisings against racism where the Spanish-speaking students were called “barbarians”.
The walk-outs were to address the inequality, punishments and the dropout rate of those students. Speaking Spanish was punished as if a student was to ditch class or cheat on an exam. As these protests continued the authorities came to assert the situation.
Their way of asserting the situation was for the police to beat the 16, 17 and even 18 year-olds with their batons. The students protested to have change in order for them to be apart of the “civilized”society. Their concerns for change were presented to the Board of Education in East L.A and the most the Board did was give them false hope. They were discriminated by being called the “uncivilized” or “barbarians of the society” but the same people saying these things are the one’s using the brute forces.
So, who is considered a barbarian? Why are the minorities referred to as barbarians?
It is human nature to categorize therefore, categorization creates a binary opposition which is stated in Said’s discourse on Orientalism. He states his opinion about the imposed ideological construct in the U.S and other Western societies.
“The Orient is an integral of European material civilization and culture. Orientalism expresses and represents that part culturally and even ideologically as a mode of discourse with supporting institutions, vocabulary, scholarship, imagery, doctrines, even colonial bureaucracies and colonial styles. In contrast, the American understanding of the Orient will seem considerably less dense” -from Said’s Orientalism
Everyone has a similar idea on civilization but we have a different perspective due to our own influences and cultures. As we have seen in news reports after news reports issues about the discrimination in this country and we still have yet to establish a means within each other to stop the issue once and for all. We need to be self-conscience of these issues- take off the sunglasses- and create annuity to understand each others beliefs and background then there wouldn’t be such a big divide between groups.
Said, Edward W., Orientalism: 1979 https://sites.evergreen.edu/politicalshakespeares/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2014/12/Said_full.pdf