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IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006

Re: Barriers: racial and cultural

[ Edited ]

JSS, another thought while I read your post. 

 

Another indicator in "Sag Harbor" where the cultural and racial barriers come crashing down is in the foods that the boys eat...  popular foods that have absolutely no racial cast to them... Weight Watchers frozen meals, Campbells Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup.

 

Reggie works at Burger King. Ben gorges on chocolate ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They eat the same fast-food, processed, non-nutritional meals that everyone does.

 

A common denominator among communities, no matter what racial mix or cultural background, is that we all need to eat. And racial and cultural prejudices seem disappear when it comes to our favorite ethnic restaurants.

 

Consider the ubiquitous barbeque... culturally African American cuisine with Southern roots. And today who doesn't own a grill?

 


JSS wrote:

I agree with you IBIS....while there is still significant evidence of "segregation" throughout our country and, beyond that, across the world, it seems to me that you hit the nail on the head. We've evolved over the past 2 to 3 decades into a world which is clearly biased in many ways but we are more subtle with our descriptions of those biases. And while we are becoming less racially biased in some ways, our language has not progressed in a unified way and that results in folks using one word to describe something that means different things to different people..

 

For instance, in the US, "segregation" appears to me to be more financial these days. We describe people as homeless, poor, middle income, upper income, professionals, etc.. Or we may speak about people according to what they do when we use words like teachers, blue coller workers, farmers, construction workers, entrepreneurs, businesspeople, migrant worker, laborer, etc.. Each of these words conjures up its own meaning to the individual depending on how you were raised.

 

Is there still racial bias, certainly. Do some people still think exclusively in those terms, why of course. Is there comfort in the homogenity of our surroundings, no denying it. But overall, I think society has progressed well beyond where race is the primary way in which we define ourselves or each other. 

 

While the young characters of "Sag Harbor" may find comfort in familiar surroundings and friends, so far in the book I don't see them centered on race as the dominant element in their lives. The rest of the book may prove me wrong but so far, I can see parts of myself in every one of these young folks and am able to relate to most of their feelings.


 

 

Message Edited by IBIS on 02-21-2009 02:41 PM
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
JSS
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JSS
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Re: Barriers: racial and cultural

Yes IBIS, again I agree. Thomas Friedman had it mostly right when he penned "The World Is Flat" and "Hot, Flat & Crowded". While not true in ALL parts of the world, it is obvious that in most of the industrialized countries of the world we have become significantly more culturally homogenous. The names of these teenagers, where these boys work (Burger King, Jonni Waffle), the clothes they wear, the food they eat (as you mentioned), etc., none of it can be directly traced to a specific group or associated with a particularly definable bloc of people.
"I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the universe or if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know not and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me on earth." Ayn Rand
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bermudaonion
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Re: The Heyday of Dag

I can tell I'm older than most of the people in this group.  We used to say "groovy."  We also called women "chicks."  That went out for a while but seems to be back in style. 
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valorietucker
Posts: 16
Registered: ‎02-03-2009

Re: The Heyday of Dag

I've seen racial barriers become easier to cross as time goes on.  When I was in school we mostly kept to ourselves and what we (innocent though we were at the time) saw as 'our kind.'  I live in the South, so I have to wonder how the culture of other places differs.  As children, we didn't even realize we were pepetuating separation, we just did.  We sat apart from each other at lunch, had a different sets of friends.  

 

Younger people usually have a harder time handling criticism.  They are at a stage in their life when they are trying to find the person they will become.  The way they balance who they want to be and who they are expected to be is tenuous. 

 

But insults are an art form.  They are also a means of humor when you become comfortable with yourself.  When people you know care for you tease you with insults, you can laugh at yourself while not taking it too seriously and letting it devistate you.  My friends and I are grown adults and we sit around and have insult fights.

 

What determines who gets to ride with Randy?  His approval of you and the things you do!  It's his car, so he weilds a power with having it. 
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Readingrat
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Re: The Heyday of Dag


rkubie wrote:

Benji comments that "the rock" on the beach near his house serves as a racial barrier. White people won't walk much past it. What similar examples can you think of that exist today, even in your own community? How have racial barriers changed in the last 20 years? How have they stayed the same?



Talk of racial barriers in the 80's reminded me of where I grew up.  In the 80's the city I grew up in had many racial barriers.  The one I always found the most amazing was a pair of night clubs across town.  These two night clubs were situated no more than a couple hundred of yards apart, separated by a parking lot, and even had the same owner.  Yet all the white kids went to one club and all the black kids went to the other with very little crossover.  Very weird.

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Readingrat
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Re: The Heyday of Dag


rkubie wrote:

 

Can you appreciate the "poetry" of the grammatically "acrobatic" insults that Benji and his friends hurl at each other? Benji says that they are most devastating because they "detonated between you and the mirror, between you and what you thought everybody was seeing." Why is this so powerful? How does this change (or not) as we get older?



I absolutely loved the convoluted insults Benji's group concocts and especially how the author describes how the perfect insult is constructed. :smileyhappy:

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tink29
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Re: The Heyday of Dag

Growing up in a small midwestern town there was only one family of African Americans in town, an instructor at the local technical school.  Nearby and now closer to the community I live in is the city of Green Bay where there was a time not so long ago that

if you were African American, people assumed you were a football player or that you were just released from the local state pen.  Sad but true. 

 

I as a child and as a parent have set boundaries like the rock as a limit for the kids to know

it was safe to roam on the beach but only within eyesight.  In the water as well, only go in to your waist if you were not an experienced swimmer.  The rock was a physical boundary that became a racial boundary by virtue of those who frequented the beach near the rock.  

 

It wasn't that long ago in our midwestern state that if you travelled to Milwaukee and drove down the street and only saw African Americans you felt a little nervous that you had gotten into a bad neighborhood.  Visual clues in white neighborhoods and rural farming country are not as obvious .......if you see ragged upholstered furniture and old appliances on the front porch, broken windows, shades never drawn and the lawn not trimmed and mown you stayed away.

 

Kids are masters at the insult.  Take any name and they can find a way to twist it into an insult. 

 

I had the car and wish I had thought to put the can in for gas money.  I lived 10 miles out of town so naturally it was expected that I drive since no one else's parents allowed them to drive out of town after dark.  Who ever was picked up first rode shotgun.  I chose who to pick up first.  :smileyhappy:

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bookworm_gp
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Re: The Heyday of Dag

I remember my own kids using "dag" and they grew up in the eighties. Maybe it's an East coast thing. Back in my day we just smoked and cursed a lot. But that was way way back - the fifties.
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fordmg
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Re: The Heyday of Dag


libralady wrote:
I think racial barriers still exist at some level, although I think they may be more perceived than real, but I feel they still exist.  I still hear people say things like, "black people can't live in that neighborhood", or "blacks don't go to that college", and "black people don't play that sport."  I think that the current generation is less concerned about race than past generations.

 

I have a number of black friends, and many black co-workers.  Once there is familiarity, it is hard to see the differences in race.  But a stranger will still be suject to the barriers that we all try to ignore exist.  I was glad when my daughter as a teen ager was surprised to learn that a friend of mine was black.  She didin't notice - a good job of raising the next generation.  He daughter has brought home friends of different ethnic back grounds.  It is good to see this evolution.

MG

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fordmg
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Re: The Heyday of Dag


detailmuse wrote:

I imagine this is being discussed in what looks like a busy “Empty House” thread (I can’t go there until I finish the book) but wanted to post here how surprised I am that the mid-teenage brothers are living alone on Long Island ... and not just during the week but for weeks at a time! How responsible they are! Still, it’s amazing that they don’t get into trouble with the house or in the community…

 

Reggie’s job probably pays for his Filas, but Ben wants a job because they need money for food! That saddens and intrigues me: why aren’t the parents providing sufficient money? why do the parents not come out on weekends? why do they cancel each weekend with so little notice to the boys? No wonder Ben doesn’t feel in step with friends, he has a very strange and responsible role in his family.


 

I wondered about the parents also.  I thought I read that there was an account at the grocery for the boys to charge, but they sometimes forget to pay up.  There is an awful lot of freedom for middle teen age boys.  Maybe the parents felt that it was "safe" to leave their children alone in this environment.  That it was somehow protected for them.  But still, so many things can happen if week after week there is no adult supervision.

I think maybe Benji wanted to have the parents around a little more.

MG

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Guerneymember12
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Registered: ‎09-21-2008
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Re: The Heyday of Dag

We actually have "the tracks" in the small town that I lived for 23 years.  You read about "he's from the wrong side of the tracks", but in this small town in Arkansas - yes, the South - there are railroad tracks that separate the communities at all times except for school of course. 

 

we used so much stupid language and i can't think of one word of it!

 

It seems that poor marcus gets the shaft on the car because he takes up the most room!

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A_reader68
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎02-23-2009

Re: The Heyday of Dag

Social barriers are definitely still present today, though perhaps not as openly admitted to. There are still certain towns on Long Island where white people are not comfortable going to. Sometimes it's because those neighborhoods are genuinely not safe, but other times the perception is only based on the color of the residents' skin. I had a woman admit to me that she was disappointed with the school district she'd moved to because there were too many black kids. (she whispered the last part like it was a dirty word.)

 

Fortunately, I see it changing with the next generation. My kids have friends of all races, and they actually ridicule people who are racist and/or homophobic. I know the beach in Azurest very well, and I'm happy to say that even that rock is no longer a racial barrier. It's still predominantly a black neighborhood, but a few white people live in the neighborhood, and children of both races play together on the beach. (though some of the women do still chase away the dog-walkers.)

 

I found the insults traded by the friends to be hysterical, especially the way the author charted out the possible combinations of nouns and in' verbs for us. I wonder if the humorous way he treats it is evidence that it wasn't really all that hurtful when it was between friends. It's a rite of passage for these boys to try to come up with the funniest insults. I think that type of insulting is fairly common. I remember hearing lots of "yo' momma" jokes when I was younger.

 

My favorite part of the whole beach scene is when Ben was standing in the water and saw, from afar, that the other boys totally messed up their handshakes. It was like this great epiphany: they're all faking it, just like me. It felt like a sigh of relief on the page. 

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cocospals
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Re: The Heyday of Dag

Boy one little computer crash and I am so far behind.  In this chapter I chuckled at the use of the term "fag". Yeah it was popular in that time span but it is so funny to hear it now. I found it interesting when Mr Whitehead described the the variences in African American skin, chocolate and caramel, butterscotch and mocha. These shades are easy for people to understand and envision.
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EbonyAngel
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Re: The Heyday of Dag


libralady wrote:
I think the handshake(s) identify which members of the group are considered "cool" or "street smart".  Whoever has mastered the latest handshake is the envy of the rest of the group.  Benji does not seem to ever master the handshakes.  But at the end of the this chapter, he comes to realize that most of the group is faking when it comes to knowing the handshakes. 

It seems like it's the same way today.

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musicgirlSH
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎02-10-2009

Re: The Heyday of Dag

detailmuse...I'm glad you posted what the quote on pg 64 meant to you.....I also marked a couple of them on the same page.  As a matter of fact, this section of the chapter pgs 61-66 grabbed at me several times.  After reading the posts by our editor, the lightbulb went off in my head concerning what I was feeling after reading Ben's thoughts.....

Colson maintains a perfect tension between humor and deeper insights in this story.  It is an excellent window into the complexities of adolescence and all its angst. You read:

"Over the years I have learned how to generate forward movement in a liquid medium through a combination of herky-jerky flip-flapping arm-and-leg movements, but nothing approaches the standard definition of a stroke." (funny!)

Then: "Best to float and pretend to be dead..." leading into, "...but if I could get a few minutes alone out of the world I was happy." 

And then, Ben reveals his heart: "I needed to know where the bottom was."

If anything sums up the emotional roller coaster of an adolescent, the "tension of them," these quotes do.  The teens I have been around - many and varied - all share the same feelings and thoughts.  The words are different and the language rather colorful at times, but the feelings are all the same...somebody please tell me where the safety net is ("the bottom"), but let me have my fun without consequence...most of all, let me have peace.

Sharoni

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Cesspria
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Re: The Heyday of Dag

Well, regarding race and barriers...I grew up in a white community in Florida (Boca Raton) and went to school where there were a certain percentange of black kids. The black kids all came from Delray (neighboring town). We all just knew that if someone was black, they rode the bus home because they lived in Delray. Delray was someplace that we just didn't need to go to, and never went. I know that communities were, and still are commonly split up like this across the country....New York City's different regions with their definite ethnic demarcations comes to mind as an example.

 

I don't know if any of us thought about it, it was just the way it was.

 

Nowadays, blacks and whites live in both Boca Raton and Delray in increasing numbers. Throw in the ever increasing hispanic population, and its hard to determine if the barrier is there at all. Back in the 70's though, it was a definite barrier. And even though the rock along the beach was not anything as definite, as say, the city limits.....I think its the same principle.

 

I do think these invisible barriers are becoming less and less finite as society has progressed and will continue to do so, though I know they are still there.

 

 

 

 

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detailmuse
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Re: The Heyday of Dag


musicgirlSH wrote:

detailmuse...I'm glad you posted what the quote on pg 64 meant to you.....I also marked a couple of them on the same page.  As a matter of fact, this section of the chapter pgs 61-66 grabbed at me several times.  After reading the posts by our editor, the lightbulb went off in my head concerning what I was feeling after reading Ben's thoughts.....

Colson maintains a perfect tension between humor and deeper insights in this story.  It is an excellent window into the complexities of adolescence and all its angst. You read:

"Over the years I have learned how to generate forward movement in a liquid medium through a combination of herky-jerky flip-flapping arm-and-leg movements, but nothing approaches the standard definition of a stroke." (funny!)

Then: "Best to float and pretend to be dead..." leading into, "...but if I could get a few minutes alone out of the world I was happy." 

And then, Ben reveals his heart: "I needed to know where the bottom was."

If anything sums up the emotional roller coaster of an adolescent, the "tension of them," these quotes do.  The teens I have been around - many and varied - all share the same feelings and thoughts.  The words are different and the language rather colorful at times, but the feelings are all the same...somebody please tell me where the safety net is ("the bottom"), but let me have my fun without consequence...most of all, let me have peace.

Sharoni


You know, Ben floating in the water, trying to be alone, thinking of being dead, thinking of the bottom -- his name and all that imagery really brought to mind the scene of Ben Braddock in the pool in The Graduate.

 

I haven't finished the book, are there spoilers in the editor's thread or is it safe to go there?

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biljounc63
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Re: The Heyday of Dag

You know, Ben floating in the water, trying to be alone, thinking of being dead, thinking of the bottom -- his name and all that imagery really brought to mind the scene of Ben Braddock in the pool in The Graduate.

 

I haven't finished the book, are there spoilers in the editor's thread or is it safe to go there?


For me I thought of the Pink song that line the says "I'm not dead just floating"

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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Thayer
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Re: The Heyday of Dag


kiakar wrote:
I feel that there are racial barriers or I might call them preferences more so than barriers. Such as religion, the way we worship, our music. And the food we enjoy are different because of the earlier barriers. And maybe that is why we are somewhat distance because of likes and dislikes that were in place back then and still are.  We do not need to be inferior to anyone, that is the reason I am so glad we have turned alot of pages in knowledge to release alot of this ignorance we had against certain races. And its still present, I never would deny that, but things are so very much better. I am thankful for our President who to me is remarkable when it comes to being decisive.  We should never see race as a hindrance but as a asset to be contributed with everyone else's expertise.

 

Kiakar, I agree. Could the term "barriers" not be applied as "differences?" Where I live, racial differences are not so much an issue as religious and socio-economic diversity. And let us not forget the ever present discrimination based on gender and sexual preference. It seems that our culture just wants to divide and sort individuals into some sort of package no matter the category. Can't we all just get along?
~~Dawn
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StellaBee
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Re: The Heyday of Dag

I think the role of the handshake in Benji's crowd was a way to measure one's degree or depth of "blackness."  The story is about these "bourgie" young African American men who come from backgrounds unlike many of their hip hop or gangster heroes.  It seems important for them when they're at Sag Harbor, to be in touch with their cultural history and being able to do the latest soulful handshakes or at least having the potential to learn these handshakes seems crucial to their hipness. I thought it was hilarious because it brought back memories.  Been there, done that.