Racist History

 

I never really understood why we have the group-specific History Months.  Like it’s all history right?  Why the need to occasionally single out this group or that group?

A couple of weeks ago in one of my anthropology classes some guy from the department asked us to do a survey so they could figure out if we were learning the right things, and gave each of us a question.  I don’t recall the exact wording of mine, but I was supposed to define the concepts of sex vs. gender and write about a recent change in gender roles.  I picked a quick & easy topic: women entering the workforce during World War 2 & the long-standing changes that stemmed from that.  Easy.  I could write about that in my sleep.

In that moment, I realized that I have no idea what that experience looked like in any other racial community.  Like I’ve never seen a non-white Rosie the Riveter (not one of the original ones anyway).  Not once in my life have I come across a photo of a bunch of women building bombs and not every single one of them was white.  I’m sure they’re out there but I’ve never seen them.  It never even occurred to me to look for them, which says a lot about how I’ve been educated.  Chalk it up to media racism in the 1940s, ethnocentrism, whatever, it doesn’t matter, I’ve taken a zillion history classes and nobody’s ever brought it up.  We don’t talk about black people between slavery & civil rights.  Not much is ever said about Hispanics outside of colonialism and whatever happened in Texas.  Asians get passing mentions with the railroads & internment camps, maybe somebody mentions a Chinese laundry, but that’s about it.

I still don’t care much for the special History Months, but I think that’s because it’s not really an inclusive concept, plus they recycle the same history over and over.  Make all of history class inclusive.  Bring in more perspectives on a wider slice of of life.  Please!

Recently in Awkwardness

This semester I’m taking Forensic Anthropology, which has been pretty dull so far since it’s been all law & stuff, but now we’re past that and it’s starting to pick up. It is definitely not true that dead men tell no tales. Bones tell SO MUCH about how a person lived. Not just age & that sort of thing, but what they did for a living, how strong they were, what kind of diseases or nutritional problems they had. I’ve heard archaeologists talk about figuring out that someone was a pipe-smoker because of wear marks in their teeth.  Illnesses like syphilis & tuberculosis leave all kinds of deformities on skulls and vertebrae, and if you want to be scared into taking a trip to the dentist have a look at historic mandibles that have big holes in them from tooth infections that have eaten away the bone.

I discovered that Southern India is home to a crazy whip sword that looks like the stuff of nightmares, as if regular swords weren’t dangerous enough.

Hurricane Matthew is blowing things around in the Caribbean right now, it probably won’t hit Tampa but I’m watching it.

I got my first check ever from Shutterstock!  They have a $500 threshold for paper checks, so THAT was a good day.  Took me almost exactly three years.

If you’re like me & completely obsessed with Stranger Things but have no outlet for it, FoundFlix on Youtube has a playlist of videos detailing his theories of the show, which are pretty interesting.  I built a Pinterest board of ST fan art, which is numerous and amazing for a show that’s only been around for a couple of months.  I’ve seen most of it three times over now, but I seriously wish I could go back & watch it blind again, it’s that amazing.

Your Language Shapes Your Concept of Space

I wanted to share something interesting I found out today in an essay called You Are What You Speak by linguist Guy Deutscher that I read for my anthropology class.  He has some very interesting things to say about language and how it shapes the way we think about gender, time, and our feelings about inanimate objects, but the thing that caught my attention was in the concept of spatial relationships.  It never really occurred to me that there could be a different orientation system than the one we use, but it turns out that there is.  When we think of small-scale directions, we orient ourselves in terms of right, left, forward, & backward.  This is called egocentric – our directional axis is based around our bodies and rotates with us; we are literally the center of everything.  Some cultures use a geographic orientation system – their languages refer to EVERYTHING in terms of cardinal directions, and actually contain no concept of left or right.  ‘Walk three blocks east, turn north, then it will be the first house to the west,’ isn’t really that crazy.  It gets crazy when someone says ‘I left my keys on the north end of the dresser on the west side of the room,’ or ‘Scooch a little to the south,’ or ‘There’s a bee to the east of your head.’  THAT’S WHAT THEY DO.  Not only do they talk this way, they REMEMBER things this way.  Deutscher writes about a native speaker of such a language telling a story about his boat being capsized in the midst of some sharks and swimming back to shore:

“Apart from the dramatic content, the remarkable thing about the story was that it was remembered throughout in cardinal directions: the speaker jumped into the water on the western side of the boat, his companion to the east of the boat, they saw a giant shark swimming north and so on.”

People whose native languages are geographic-based have INSANE senses of direction.  Put them inside, outside, in a cave, spin them around, they can still tell which way is which.  They just KNOW, because their languages force them to know, at all times.  Just the way that we know left from right (most of us, I still struggle with this one….).