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Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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Re: Martine

Debbie, I also wondered about the racial and cultural aspect of Martine patting Benji's head.

 

The boys -- NP, Nick and Benji -- make it clear by their negative reaction that there is a racist implication of patting someone's afro. It iS a racist gesture. 

 

A more interesting question is why did Martine NOT know this? He is a very bright man, and he's been in the US his entire adult life. I would suggest that, perhaps, because of his Dominican heritage, he does not identify with African Americans. His cultural background is not the same as that of NP, Nick and Benji.

 

This makes me think that this incident is both a racial as well as a CULTURAL one.

Martine did not view patting Benji's afro as a racist gesture. I don't think he would have done it if he knew that's how the boys' cultural take on it would be.

 

Benji was provoked by NP's constant taunting... he chose the underhanded, guerrilla tactic to "get Martine Back" by destroying his inventory of ice cream.

 

It was a heart-breaking episode because it's clear that the guilt Benji felt haunted him for many years afterwards.

 


dhaupt wrote:
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.

 

 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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Thayer
Posts: 195
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Martine


EbonyAngel wrote:

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".

 

EbonyAngel, your post is very enlightening to me. I am a pre-school teacher with a class of 3 year olds of all ethnic, political and economic situations. I see on a daily basis how they take note of their differences, not in a negative way, but just as young children would explore any encounter, as that of an education. They notice how we are all different not only with their eyes, but often as toddlers do, with their hands. So I see the "Martine incident" as a physical exploration, that as adults is not really appropriate, but not necessarily meant as demeaning. What a shame that there is not more communication in our world and that this type of thing to some, seems not a big deal, but to others is seen in a totally unintended context.
~~Dawn
Live the life you love ~ Love the life you live.
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StellaBee
Posts: 15
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Martine

My reaction was closer to NP's reaction.  My first thought as I read about the "two bounces" Martine gave to Benji's head was that in the 1980's, no adult African American male pats an African American male teenager on the head to show a gesture of encouragement for a job well done. For many African Americans, there's too much negative history and conflicted emotion associated with this gesture.  The question of Martine's race had been an issue for Nick, NP and Benji and after I read this passage of the book I thought more about it, too. 
Frequent Contributor
Sarita_Li
Posts: 25
Registered: ‎01-30-2009
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Re: Martine

I, along with many others in this discussion, was not aware that this would be seen as a racially offensive gesture until the boys reacted to it. I do, however, believe that it was a patronizing action either way, due to Ben's age at the time.

 

Regarding Martine's racial ambiguity: I believe that this character symbolizes the purposelessness of identifying and labeling everyone according to race, culture, or other aspect of their background, and then treating them accordingly.

 

"If he's white, then this... If he's black, then this..."

 

How about a frank, open conversation about what makes one comfortable or ucomfortable, no matter what the "offending party" may or may not have meant my it? But, being immature, they just form an opinion and then react. We have probably all done similar things as teenagers, but what are we like today? Have we all moved along by now?

Sarita Li
Inspired Contributor
Jo6353
Posts: 683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Martine

I personally didn't realize that head patting was an offensive gesture.  Martine, being Dominican, is also probably not aware of that since he's part of a different culture.  Jo
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EbonyAngel
Posts: 276
Registered: ‎12-22-2006
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Re: Martine

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".

 

EbonyAngel, your post is very enlightening to me. I am a pre-school teacher with a class of 3 year olds of all ethnic, political and economic situations. I see on a daily basis how they take note of their differences, not in a negative way, but just as young children would explore any encounter, as that of an education. They notice how we are all different not only with their eyes, but often as toddlers do, with their hands. So I see the "Martine incident" as a physical exploration, that as adults is not really appropriate, but not necessarily meant as demeaning. What a shame that there is not more communication in our world and that this type of thing to some, seems not a big deal, but to others is seen in a totally unintended context.

I based my answer partly on personal experience and my son who is now 35.  When he was 4, he was the only Black at his day-care.  One day when I went to pick him up, he had a plug cut out of his hair.  When I asked him why, he said he got tired of the other kids touching his hair.  Of course, times are a bit different now.

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x-tempo
Posts: 102
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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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?

 

 


 
When Martine is first introduced on p. 90 he's a "stocky Dominican dude." By p. 91 he's from "Dominica." Nobody noticied that? Dominica is a different country from the Dominican Republic, so once again, the kids are unreliable sources.
 
There's a Flannery O'Connor short story that takes place in the recently desegregated South, where (according to one online summary) "'enlightened' whites are condescending, and blacks resent the efforts of well-meaning whites." The story involves a well meaning white woman who tries to give a shiny new coin to a black child on the bus but creates a incident by continuing to press it well after it's become obvious that the child's mother resents it.
 
The taboo about head-touching originates in the supposed practice of some white people wanting to "rub" an African American child's head "for good luck." That's obviously not what Martine does, but when any kind of hair touching becomes taboo, it's a "symbolic" racial issue. 
 
Professional basketball players have fairly recently started doing the same thing. When they hug one another on the court, they put their hand on the guy's head and they rub it! 

 

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Sarita_Li
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Registered: ‎01-30-2009
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Re: Martine


x-tempo wrote:


 
When Martine is first introduced on p. 90 he's a "stocky Dominican dude." By p. 91 he's from "Dominica." Nobody noticied that? Dominica is a different country from the Dominican Republic, so once again, the kids are unreliable sources.
 
People from both Dominica and the Dominican Rupublic are referred to as "Dominicans," however the pronunciation is slightly different for each, which would not be reflected in the writing.
Sarita Li
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x-tempo
Posts: 102
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Martine


Sarita_Li wrote:

x-tempo wrote:


 
When Martine is first introduced on p. 90 he's a "stocky Dominican dude." By p. 91 he's from "Dominica." Nobody noticied that? Dominica is a different country from the Dominican Republic, so once again, the kids are unreliable sources.
 
People from both Dominica and the Dominican Rupublic are referred to as "Dominicans," however the pronunciation is slightly different for each, which would not be reflected in the writing.

 
Hi, Yes, that's true, however, it's the narrator who calls Martine "a stocky Dominican dude" and the narrator is the character Benji as an adult who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan near the Washington Heights neighborhood also known as "Quisqueya Heights" (Quisqueya is a name for the island of Hispanola). So by "Domincan" the narrator can only mean that Martine is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, not from "Dominica" (i.e. the Commonwealth of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles) as Nick -- the guy with the racial theory about "those Caribbean N____s" -- seems to think or doesn't know.
 
Finally, on p. 118 after Martine posts the Blackout Rules, the narrator (again, the adult Benji) doesn't name the country that Martine is from, he merely says that the "picture of Martine and his brother  [was] taken at a family reunion 'back home'" (with "back home" in quotation marks). So the narrator (/author) is intentionally creating ambiguity.
 
Having two countries whose residents are both called "Dominicans" is consistent with the theme of dualism: the two brothers who are almost twins; the New Coke and Classic Coke; the family and The Other Family; the Original Creak in the door and all subsequent creaks that will forever be judged in comparison to it; and this recurring idea of "double-consciousness" which has very little resemblance to the Du Boisian trope of double-consciousness.   

 

 

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Sarita_Li
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Registered: ‎01-30-2009
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Re: Martine

[ Edited ]

x-tempo wrote:

Hi, Yes, that's true, however, it's the narrator who calls Martine "a stocky Dominican dude" and the narrator is the character Benji as an adult who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan near the Washington Heights neighborhood also known as "Quisqueya Heights" (Quisqueya is a name for the island of Hispanola). So by "Domincan" the narrator can only mean that Martine is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, not from "Dominica" (i.e. the Commonwealth of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles) as Nick -- the guy with the racial theory about "those Caribbean N____s" -- seems to think or doesn't know.
"Truly, you have a very dizzying intellect."
 Enjoyed your insights on duality, though.
Message Edited by Sarita_Li on 32-03-2009 06:32 AM
Sarita Li
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fordmg
Posts: 546
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Martine

The "head petting" incident was a surprise to me.  I think more in line with Nick.  Maybe the problem is that patting the head was more of a juvenile action, and the boys wanted to be more grown up.  Like they don't really want to be called "boys".   If Martine is white that is a grave mistake.  If he is black then he just doesn't realize that the kids are not "babies" any more.

 

MG 

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PinkPanther
Posts: 52
Registered: ‎10-26-2008
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Re: Martine

When Martine patted Benji on the head, I did not think that it was offensive, nor respectful. I think that Martine is just used to being on top of most people (in his own mind), that he does not realize how he is treating others. Perhaps he sees his employees like his children or his students. Whether Benji was black or white, I think that Martine was going to pat his head out of an instinctive reaction.
"I ought, therefore I can"
-Immanuel Kant
Distinguished Correspondent
biljounc63
Posts: 189
Registered: ‎11-02-2008

Re: Martine

I also missed the offense taken by Benji about the head pat and did not associate it with leaving the freezer door open. It was through this board that I picked up on it. I  am enjoying the book but I find the chapters long for me. At times I find myself skimming the pages. This method of reading allows for me to miss something.
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
~ Joseph Addison ~

"Reading lets you visit the world of another"
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Shadowwolf36
Posts: 76
Registered: ‎09-16-2008

Re: Martine

When I first read this part, I thought of it as condescending but not racist, you know...older person thinking he is giving a complementary pat on the head. However, I was not surprised that it got taken as a racist issue.  Even today, the littlest things get taken way out of proportion by everyone.  I certainly understand that many minorities have had to deal with alot (being part of such a group myself)  but sometimes you have to pick your battles rather than perceive every little thing as racism or prejudice. Look at the bigger picture. But I imagine that in these kids eyes, this was the bigger picture and it gave them something to ponder....and argue about....whether Martine was black or white, whether he had the right or not to pat him on the head.....
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Jennmarie68
Posts: 127
Registered: ‎02-09-2009
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Re: Martine

IBIS wrote:

A more interesting question is why did Martine NOT know this? He is a very bright man, and he's been in the US his entire adult life. I would suggest that, perhaps, because of his Dominican heritage, he does not identify with African Americans. His cultural background is not the same as that of NP, Nick and Benji.

 

 I think Martine didn't understand the connotation he was making by patting Benji on the head. I've been very close with many different hispanic families, and all of them that I have known have been very affectionate and very "touchy feelly". Hugs when you walk in the door, cheek kisses from someone you've never even met. Things like that are common for every hispanic family I've known, and they're from different hispanic countries. So it's not just a "Mexican" thing or a "Portugese" thing, it's just the way that culture is as a whole (at least in my experiences). 

 

So to I think to Martine he was just showing his appreciation like he would in any circumstance. I don't think he meant to "pet" Benji, but I do understand why the boys took offense to that gesture. 

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt
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Jennmarie68
Posts: 127
Registered: ‎02-09-2009
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Re: Martine

jabrkekB,

 

I have to agree with you on this one, as a child being patted on the head doesn't mean much but as you get older it becomes almost demoralizing. However,given the characters in this book and the fact that Martine is black only in skin color, not African American, I can see this gesture as a racial gesture. While I don't know if Martine was aware of the connotations that his actions held I do get the boys reactions. But even if there was no racial motivation behind Martine's actions petting a teenager on the head is not a way to boost morale. 

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt