Not A Single Story

Sarah Zhang, Explorations in Humanities: Connections and Conflicts

Unit 1 artifact

Selected past post from Unit 1

Past Posts

In fact, tokenization goes with ghettoization. These days, I am constantly invited to things so that I will present the Third World point of view; when you are perceived as a token, you are also silenced in a certain way because, as you say, if you have been brought there it has been covered, they needn’t worry about it anymore, you slave their conscience. In the United States, being an Indian also brings a certain very curious problem. Over the centuries we have had histories of, let’s say, Indian indentured labor being taken to the Afro-Caribbean. After the change of regimes in certain African nations, Indians moved from Africa, then to Britain.; then Indians in waves in the early ‘60s, professional Indians, went to the Unites States as part of the brain drain. These Indians who are spread out over the world, for different kinds of historical reasons, they are diasporic...

The Indian community in the United States is the only colored community which came in with the brain drain. This is quite different from Indians and Pakistanis in Britain, and certainly very different from Indians of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. And therefore we are used as an alibi, since we don’t share the same history of oppression with the local Blacks, the east Asians, and the Hispanics; on the other hand, our skins are not white, and since most of us are post-colonials we were trained in the British way, so there is a certain sort of Anglomania in the United States, we can be used as affirmative-action alibis.

Questions of Multiculturalism by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

….When I first read the passage I was confused not only due to my lack of proficiency in language, but also because I found difficulties understanding the idea that “tokenization goes with ghettoization” and how it connects to the example of Indians in the United States as “affirmative-action alibis”. Both tokenization and ghettoization describe a situation where some people gain the prominent right to speak for all in a certain group. But a question that never came to me is that, these tokens, who should serve the function of speaking for the group, actually speak in such a generalized term that their words ignores the difference within the same group. For example, Indians in the U.S. speak in term of all Indian immigrants, but in fact the situations for Indians in Britain and Afro-Caribbean may be so different that Indians in the U.S. are not qualified to represent. And why these tokens actually speak not for the group they represent, but for the dominant group?

After my discussion with two Hum students, I realized how this can actually connect to the topic of language Prof. Quillen talked about and the idea of “authenticity”. What the tokens speak are taken as the “authentic” situation for the group; and any people who don’t fit this “authentic” definition of the group are thus rejected from public attention. Moreover, language only speaks the subjective truths. What I also found ironic is the fact that, when a wave of benevolence of the dominant group seeks to amplify the voice of marginalized group, what they did is actually “putting it under the carpet with the demand of authentic voices”. The reason why these certain people can be pursued as tokens is that the dominant group understands their problem because it is identical with the problem at home. And the subjective experiences of these people become the objective experience of all. And thus, the dominant groups, who think they are listening to the voices of the marginalized groups, actually filters out the voices they cannot understand. In other words, the communication between dominant group and marginalized group is ineffective. And according to the author, the distinction between diasporic cultures needs to be made.  

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