Professor: Dr. Joanna Mansbridge
November 29th, 2013
Strangers and how we perceive them.
I was appalled by the sight of a young girl, malnourished, dirty, in torn cloths crying and begging for money on Ahmedabad Street in India. Just as I reached for my purse to give her some money, my host, Dr. Dalal pushed me aside, gestured me inside our parked car, locked the doors and exclaimed “I should have warned you! Haven’t you seen the movie “Slumdog Millionaire?” I was left shaking, words cannot describe the horror I felt for not helping out a poor desolate child. How could this helpless child be a victim of an organized crime of self-made beggars? To answer this ...view middle of the document...
Both Morrison and Staples are of the African American descent. The historical background of slavery, racial discrimination, and politics in America, and their personal and intellectual achievements throughout these struggles, have shaped the way they think about themselves and the society around them. Morrison was born in in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. She studied in Howard and Cornell University. She is an American novelist of distinction, an editor, a professor and has written numerous award winning books. Staples was born in 1951 in Chester, Pennsylvania, he was one of nine children in a family that had no money for his tuition. He lived in a violent and poor neighborhood and his brother a cocaine dealer was murdered by one of his clients; Staples, struggled through-out these crises and vowed to be different. He is an author and an editorial writer for the New York Times since 1985. (“Toni Morrison”; “Brent Staples”). Staples essay (1986) and Morrison’s essay (1998) were written more than a decade apart however they both offer thought provoking experiences on what it feels like to be, or be seen as someone who is different in color, creed, cast, religion or gender.
Morrison choses three resources to propose an explanation for accessing others. Language, image and experience used sporadically. She explains “language (saying, listening, reading) can encourage, even mandate, surrender, the breach of distances among us” (78). Staples takes a defense mechanism approach, and says “over the years, I learned to smother the rage I felt at so often being taken for a criminal. Not to do so would surely have led to madness. I now take precautions to make myself less threatening” (190)
Both these perspectives can be applied simultaneously in my own personal experience of being a complete stranger when I first came to Canada in 1973. I am of an Asian African descent and the historical events of war and massacre in Rwanda, Central Africa lead me to seek a refugee status in Canada. As much as I was indebted and deeply grateful to Canada for saving my life, I was also ignorant about its people, their attitudes towards colored people, its history and culture. Unlike Staples, I was not angry but sincerely scared for my unborn child when I suffered snow ball punches from School children in a nearby School on Balliol Street in Toronto, where I first resided. I was certain that the unintentional mockery by the School children towards me was due to lack of knowledge about others like me who looked different than them. I was desperate to educate these children and tell them that not all brown people are “paki’s from Pakistan and that my brown skin originated from Africa, however I also chose to use Staple’s defense mechanism analogy and completely avoided taking the route that cut through the school yard, when picking up groceries or milk from a nearby Loblaw’s grocery store. Perhaps the children in the playground who chose to retaliate against the...