Thursday, October 27, 2011

losing taste

So last night, I was feeling too lazy to cook, so on my way back home, I picked up a delicious cajun burrito from Boloco (Boston Local Company), a burrito shop local to the Boston area. As the person making my burrito works on my food, he started saying, "Look, a s*ik just walked in" (I am referring to a racial epithet for Mexicans and Mexican-Americans). I hope he didn't use that in front of me, referring to me as a Mexican American, but more troubling was the ease with which he used the term. Though I don't know his racial or ethnic background, he mentioned his "blackness." He continued to use the term s*ik a few more times before I took my burrito home.

Immediately, two things came to mind. First, memories of being called a "Jap" during my elementary and high school years flooded me. Which brings me to what I felt afterwards--disappointment. It's becoming clear to me how difficult it is for people to reveal their greatest self. This notion of a greater self, it rolls off the tongue easier than it takes to move forward with it pragmatically. And yet, as a Nichiren Buddhist, I cannot help but feel that I too possess this potential to be just like him. I hope I never reveal that ignorance in my life. I work strenuously to reveal the devil within, so that I can crush any motivation to turn to that ignorance.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Heritage and heredity

Hi everyone. Sorry I've been way out of the loop on this blog. For the longest time, I had no muse for my musings, a writer's block shackled by a lack of creativity and ingenuity.

I wanted to share something that's been on my mind since starting graduate school at UMass Boston.

I am continuing research in American Indian (Native American) history, and more recent historiography (how historians perceive/write history) focuses much time and energy on the concept of identity. And so, this is today's muse.

The words "heritage" and "heredity" share the same Latin root, hereditat, meaning heir or inheritance. Ostensibly, heritage and heredity are one in the same. In the modern English lexicon, both have a connotation of being backward looking--a perspective of looking into the past--though more so with "heritage." The concept of personal identity is often looked through this lens. Person(s) commonly identify with a lineage based the branches of the family tree. However, there is a danger in this single perspective. The hereditary and genealogical perspective is also forward looking, a perspective of that is to come.

This is both in the literal (genealogical) and contextual sense. Even from the perspective pointed in the past, heredity is not static. The passing of traits is a creative process. Identity is creative in both the past and into the future. For instance, the "Creek" Indian identity of the 1700s is not the same as the "Creek" identity today. The 1700s Creek did not experience the expulsion in the 1830s, nor the intermarriage of white colonists, black slaves (which some Creeks used for plantation labor) and other native Indians. Claudio Saunt, in Black, White, and Indian declares that "Too often, we stand at the crown of a branching family tree and trace our ancestors back to a single trunk of sturdy and supposedly pure stock... A more revealing exercise would place us at the base of the tree and follow the branges of our ancesters back in time as they divide and subdivide, finally encompassing all other forebears... The revelation of a national family tree would dissolve the racial divisions... The revelation might persuade Americans to abandon the idea of race altogether" (Saunt, p. 29). There is a commonplace tendency to demarcate identity through hereditary legacy.

Further complicating this picture is the forward looking perspective of heredity. The current generation passes on traits to future generations, one that cannot be exactly identical both in genealogy, as well as the social construction of reality. The social construction of reality is an ongoing process, just as is the passing of genetic traits. Under this scope, heritage can no longer be treated as a static being, because there is a continuous addition and subtraction, constriction and expansion of heritage as it progresses through time. Identity, then, cannot be treated as static.

This comes to my final point--global citizenship. Under the assumption that identity would need to be fluid as it changes and recreates itself, the process/progress of global citizenship would need to be equally fluid. Treating it statically would equally undermine the heritage of its past, and its hereditary future.