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Moderator
Rachel-K
Posts: 1,495
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Martine

I'd like to hear various reader's interpretations of just what happened in the "Martine incident."

 

Is your take on this closer to NP or to Nick?  Were you offended immediately?

 

How does the question of Martine's race fit into the story we've read so far? Is his race essential to understanding this incident in particular? (And on a larger note, is it an essential part of understanding him as a person?)

 

What do you make of Martine's character, and his racial attitudes?  What do you make of his attitude toward his employees, black or white?

 

Does this character give rise to other questions or comments?

 

 

Inspired Bibliophile
thewanderingjew
Posts: 2,247
Registered: ‎12-18-2007

Re: Martine


rkubie wrote:

Is your take on this closer to NP or to Nick?  Were you offended immediately?

My take was closer to Nick's. I wasn't offended by it, but I am white. I thought he was complimenting his work and was showing him affection and appreciation, until I read the other reactions.

I am trying to understand the reaction in relation to my own experiences. Because I am Jewish, I would be offended by innuendos about Jews, in fact, I know I would think about any incident which called anti-semitism into question, but I don't think I would react by destroying property. I never did when I was involved in those kinds of incidents. The first thing one has to figure out, though, is the real intent of the remark or behavior. If the intent of the behavior or the remark is malicious then I can understand a negative reaction, but maybe not one so negative.

 

How does the question of Martine's race fit into the story we've read so far? Is his race essential to understanding this incident in particular? (And on a larger note, is it an essential part of understanding him as a person?)

I think his race is integral to the incident. If they thought he was black, then they wouldn't have perceived him as "petting" him or feeling his afro as they thought whites did. They were unsure of his race and so his behavior was suspect.I think that is sad because some behavior is innocent no matter who exhibits it.

twj

Distinguished Wordsmith
Carmenere_lady
Posts: 529
Registered: ‎11-05-2006
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Re: Martine

Super questions.  I think Martine's racial ambiguity fits into this story because it seems to mirror Ben's personal ambiguity.  What I mean by that is because Martine hails from Dominica people are not sure if Martine's is authentically black given the color of his hair and his eyes.  As NP says of immigrants on p 91 "Some of us came on slave ships."  Then there is Ben, living in a white world for nine months out of the year and three at Sag Harbor with his black friends.  He has to learn how to fit in every summer.  Learn the handshakes, Learn the language and the music too.  In fact, that seems to be the case with his buddies too but perhaps to a lesser degree.

I really believe that Martine did not mean anything by his actions it's all in the observers interpretation.  NP jumped on it in a negative manner.


rkubie wrote:

 

How does the question of Martine's race fit into the story we've read so far? Is his race essential to understanding this incident in particular? (And on a larger note, is it an essential part of understanding him as a person?)

 

What do you make of Martine's character, and his racial attitudes?  What do you make of his attitude toward his employees, black or white?

 

Does this character give rise to other questions or comments?

 

 


 

Lynda

"I think of literature.....as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach."
The Uncommon Reader


"You've been running around naked in the stacks again, haven't you?"
"Um, maybe."
The Time Traveler's Wife

It is with books as with men; a very small number play a great part.
Voltaire
Inspired Correspondent
nfam
Posts: 231
Registered: ‎01-08-2007

Re: Martine

The fact that Martine is black, but perceived to be white by some of the teenage employees is integral to the story. Marine is ambiguous. Therefore, the things he does, like patting Benji on the head, are ambiguous and open to racial interpretation. I was a bit startled that Benji reacted so strongly and secretly. However, he isn't a character to come right out and fight. He takes it and takes it and then has an explosion like the ice cream freezer. I assume finding out later that Martine was black made him uncomfortable and sorry for what he'd done.

 

Frequent Contributor
booksJT
Posts: 108
Registered: ‎11-24-2008
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Re: Martine

I think the patting of the head was Martine's way of showing some type of affection. However his employees had a different interpretation about what he did. I think they must have thought it  showed racial profiling because what other reason would he do it. I think Benji reacted the  way  he did because he lives in two different worlds during the year. One in Sag Harbor where he has to fit in with his friends. The other world would be his private school where he is the minority there. In Sag Harbor he has to learn secret handshakes, music, and the slang words for that summer. I think Martine was black, but because of his description one was sure and they didn't want to raise the question. If the kids had asked  Martine would have been offended no matter what the outcome.
Distinguished Correspondent
lmpmn
Posts: 177
Registered: ‎11-08-2006
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Re: Martine

I think Benji's reaction to the "head pat" was interesting.  The behavior was so sneaky and devious.  I had more of an expectation that if he did retaliate, it would've been something up front.  Kind of like the fight he had with the little kid on the road.  I was really surprised that he did that.
Happiness is a warm blanket!
Frequent Contributor
Jennd1
Posts: 75
Registered: ‎01-28-2008

Re: Martine

I wholeheartedlly agree with the comment about ambiguity.  I wasn't bothered by the incident with Martine, but then being a quiet blend in kind of white girl I could have missed it.
Frequent Contributor
GSB65
Posts: 40
Registered: ‎12-06-2008

Re: Martine

The "Head Patting" incident took me totally by surprise.  I didn't know there was something to be offended about until the boys conversation.  That is one thing I can say about reading this book, living in a not very racially diverse area, I am seeing attitudes from a different perspective than my own.

 

Not knowing Martine's race seems to have the boys confused on how to take his actions.

Frequent Contributor
reader76
Posts: 29
Registered: ‎02-05-2009
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Re: Martine

I agree with Nick's point of view.  I thought Martine only did the "petting" gesture because he was appreciative of Benji's work.  I didn't think it as a negative.  On the other hand, however, there is that negative connotation with certain ethnicity because of its cultural history so I can see why NP made a big deal out of it and why Benji was was feeling offended and confused. 
Inspired Contributor
fifenhorn
Posts: 36
Registered: ‎01-26-2009

Re: Martine

Like GSB65, I didn't know there was something to be offended about, with the pat on the head. Of course, I don't know half of what offends anyone these days :-P

 

An incident at work many years ago brought my ignorance to the forefront. I worked as an assistant supervisor on a customer service floor. We had people of all races, creeds, religions, etc. One day, it got extremely loud on the floor - everyone was just punchy, as the weekend was coming. I had a customer on the phone who was complaining about the background noise, so I stood up and hollered "Will you people please hold it down!?".

 

Before the day was through, I was in my supervisor's office being called racist because of the "you people" comment. I didn't know or realize that it would be offensive to black people.  But since I was new to the south, and wasn't comfortable with y'all, and didn't want to say "you guys", I thought "you people" would be appropriate.

 

My supervisor fully understood where I was going with the statement, and realized it wasn't intended to be racist. Believe me, y'all is part of my language now!

 

 

I also think the ambiguity of Martine's race is important...because it really points out that the boys have no way of knowing how to "treat" him. They don't know if he's white or black, so they have to tread carefully - wouldn't want to be calling white folks (in general) cracker or whitey if Martine's white - they'd lose their jobs.  But the flip side is that they couldn't mess with him if he WAS black...they just didn't know.  This showed how narrow their little world was.

Inspired Contributor
deaver
Posts: 35
Registered: ‎02-04-2009
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Re: Martine

There is so much that could be said regarding the Martine incident.  I side with NP on this one and I think Benji does as well.  He even says so on page 96.  Also, Martine is not an African American though he may be "black."  Nick even concedes that if you were to call Martine black, he would punch you in the face.  Therefore, I must conclude that his identity is not with the African Americans and though he may show some sympathy, he is still condescending toward them -- the "incident" case in point. 

Correspondent
jabrkeKB
Posts: 164
Registered: ‎11-15-2008
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Re: Martine

I was surprised by the head patting incident. Like the characters in the book, I'm not sure how to interpret the gesture.  I think-putting race aside-the fact that Benji is a teenager makes head patting inappropriate.

 

My son has very thick blond hair. When he was little, people would always pat his head. Doing that to someone who is not a child, is demeaning, regardless of race.

Frequent Contributor
kboston
Posts: 28
Registered: ‎04-12-2008
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Re: Martine

I can understand why Benji is upset about the head petting.  You pat a child or animal on the head, not a teenager who thinks of himself as a young adult.  Especially when he has an image that he trying to keep up for 3 months.  If Martine had an adult employee who he wanted to show such appreciation for, regarless of color, he definitley would not pat that person on the head.  I don't think it's so much about being a racial issue, but if someone does something to you...pat you on the head, give you a "cute" nickname at work when you don't want their affection that way and you are not really sure how to express yourself as a teenager, Benji isn't, there's bound to be some sort of reaction.

 

Correspondent
SandyS
Posts: 148
Registered: ‎12-28-2006
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Re: Martine


GSB65 wrote:

The "Head Patting" incident took me totally by surprise.  I didn't know there was something to be offended about until the boys conversation.  That is one thing I can say about reading this book, living in a not very racially diverse area, I am seeing attitudes from a different perspective than my own.

 

 


I agree with GSB65.  It would not have dawned on me this could be a racial "offense".  I am now volunteering with 8 and 9 year old children from many ethnic backgrounds.  I wonder what I might accidently do that would offend.

 

Coming from an entirely WASP neighborhood I am having trouble finding similar "offenses"  other ethnic groups might use to offend me.  Any thoughts on the reverse of this "Head Patting"? 

 

SandyS

Inspired Correspondent
bookloverjb85
Posts: 168
Registered: ‎10-12-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Martine

I agree with what most people said in that I didn't realize that racial connotation of the "head patting".  I do think however that Martine shouldn't have patted Benji's head because he is a teenager.  Most people pat an animal on the head, not even really a child.  I work in an elementary school and I have not seen evidence of head patting with the students that I work with.  I can understand how Martine patting Benji on the head is offensive in this instance, but I definitely did not catch it racially.
--Jen--

"A house without books is like a room without windows."--Horace Mann
Inspired Correspondent
EbonyAngel
Posts: 276
Registered: ‎12-22-2006

Re: Martine


rkubie wrote:

I'd like to hear various reader's interpretations of just what happened in the "Martine incident."

 

Is your take on this closer to NP or to Nick?  Were you offended immediately?

 

How does the question of Martine's race fit into the story we've read so far? Is his race essential to understanding this incident in particular? (And on a larger note, is it an essential part of understanding him as a person?)

 

What do you make of Martine's character, and his racial attitudes?  What do you make of his attitude toward his employees, black or white?

 

Does this character give rise to other questions or comments?

 

 


 

I think race is an essential part of it.  I saw the "Martine incident" as patronizing on different levels, teen-age wise and race wise.  Looking at it as a teen-ager, you think, "hey, that's what grown-ups do to little kids.  No teen-ager wants to be seen as a little kid.  Race wise, and it is a black/white thing, if someone white does it, it can be seen as, you're beneath me, you're so child like, if a black does it, it's like saying there there to a little child.  Either way, it's saying, you're a child.  Also, having grown up when afros were the thing and even now, I don't want anybody touching my hair, especially when followed by comments like, "It's so soft".
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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Re: Martine

One question that surfaced when I read about Martine's "Head-Patting" incident, "Is Martine naive about the racist implications of patting an Afro?"

  

The author describes him as a bright, savvy entrepreneur. His canny business acumen afforded him three ice cream parlors. He's an efficient manager... he keeps tabs on inventory, controls unnecessary waste. He has a good sense on how much pilfering is going on; and he controls his payroll by paying the teenagers minimum wage.

 

I suspect that Martine knew about the "Is he black" debate. I think he KNEW about NP's campaign to sow discontent. 

 

One telling detail is that after the incident, there is a photograph of Martine and his brother on the freezer's door. Martine's brother is definitely black-looking with an afro.

 

The photo is a graphic confirmation that even though he doesn't look black, his brother certainly does. The photograph is his answer to the NP-Nick controversy.

 

And I suspect that Martine was naive about the racist implications of patting Benji on the head. It's unfortunate that NP's discontent pushed Benji to react so negatively to the "So what are you gonna do about it?" taunt.

 

This incident reveals Benji's darker responses, not only to NP's, but also to his father's aggressive taunts.

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Moderator
dhaupt
Posts: 11,865
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Martine

In thinking about this question over and over, I know Martine came to the US in his teens, I don't know how old he is now, does he know the connotation of his actions in regards to the head patting. I in my naivety didn't know it was a bad thing, I would never head pat any one especially a teenager who don't usually like adults in their personal spaces, no matter the race teenagers are a species unto themselves. Just asking.
Distinguished Correspondent
emmagrace
Posts: 162
Registered: ‎12-04-2008
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Re: Martine

Is your take on this closer to NP or to Nick?  Were you offended immediately? My take was closer to Nick’s. In my opinion, I think that Martine gave Benji a pat because he was proud of the job he had done. How does the question of Martine's race fit into the story we've read so far? Is his race essential to understanding this incident in particular? The question of his race is essential for us to understand the boy’s reactions to the incident. If the boys thought that he was black, then they would have let it go. Since they were not sure of his race, they were suspicious of his actions.
Contributor
valorietucker
Posts: 16
Registered: ‎02-03-2009
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Re: Martine

I think the Martine Incident says a lot about the racial views of more than just Martine himself.  Martine's race is ambiguous and accepted as whatever seems appropriate at that moment.  Nick and NP just represent the various views people  in the wild world take.  I don't think that Martine meant to be racist with the pat on the head, but that fact that it was percieved that way shows how sensitive people can be towards race issues, even when a person can be percieved as the same race.  When Martine made that small faux pas, his race was blurred even more.