Ingrained racism

Katherine Dahlman talking to Preston. “You want your sons to mate with this person. You want them to get black, human children from her. Here in the United States, even most humans will look down on them. When I came to this country, such people were kept as property, as slaves.” (Butler 278)

I chose this quote because it sums up many peoples perspectives and why things happened the way they did. Racism is the ultimate theme presented here but Butler demonstrates it through a different species, which ties in to the intersectionalities of Shori as half vampire, half human. Katherine was racist, as were the Silks, which were the reason why both Shori’s mother’s and father’s families were destroyed, it was to get rid of her kind and end the experiment that had been done. Due to Shori’s abilities and dark skin she was seen as a threat and something to be eliminated. I find this very interesting for many reasons and I can’t help but think and feel that this goes to show that racism can transcend things like species. The norm is what people strive for and those that begin to derive from it are many times seen as a threat or something that should be eliminated due to its rarity. Butler does an excellent job in transcending racism to a different specie because it becomes the underlying theme of the novel and is contracted in such a way that parallels the racism that butler might have experienced. Katherine is older and has lived through the times of slavery, viewing people of color as less, and this internalized and ingrained racism is reproduced and transmitted. The Silk family wanted to destroy Shori because she was black and had special abilities, believing that a black person could not be Ina and is referred to by Katherine as “person.” They cannot accept a black person because they are racist and have reproduced the negative perspectives of the humans towards people of color. 

With that being said, something that I found extraordinarily interesting that made this dynamic more complex was that Shori was the only one born in the United States, yet she was considered an outsider and “other.” “Did you know that you were the only one of your sisters to be born here in the United States?” (Butler 218) Shori was the only black Ina and the only one of her sisters born in the United States, which I find to be very interesting. The fact that she is looked at as lower when she is more of a citizen than those who migrated is very contradicting. It is due to her skin color that she is looked at as less and this is shown in the resistance to her. She was a successful experiment that changed the norm and this caused uncertainty among some Ina, they felt threatened and decided to end it, but failed. The fact that racism is presented in a different species is something that was very eye opening because it highlights how ridiculous it is and what extremes people will go to to destroy what they believe is wrong. I really enjoyed the novel and find the species and race dynamic to be a refreshing spin on the classic racism among humans. I also believe that Butler was trying to demonstrate how ingrained certain things can be and all those that can/are impacted. 

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David Beckham and SARS

“The slippers and pajamas were auctioned at 2,800 yuan (about $350) apiece, reportedly purchased by a Chinese man for his daughter (Sina.com 2003). the money, ironically, went to a charity fund for children orphaned by the SARS epidemic…Here, the fear of germs was apparently forgotten: Beckham’s body was not seen as a pollutant but something, when consumed, that could contribute to fight against virulent germs.” (Zhan 39)

This short paragraph summarizes what I felt as the article progressed, I felt so much irony in many different ways. First, there is more to this story than meets the eye, there is an intersection of identities that contribute to the article and the SARS epidemic as a whole. It is interesting to think about Beckham in this setting because it almost ostracizes him as a person and his “attributes” are greatly noticed. As a white, english, male celebrity life is not difficult, he enjoys many privileges most of his fans will never experience. I think about germs  in the context of celebrities, such as Beckham, and think how much our society has elevated these human beings. Its as if they are no longer human, that the human qualities we all posses, the less pleasant ones, aren’t something they have. Its as if these celebrities don’t shit, spit, sweat, smell, and practically aren’t human. We tend to idolize these celebrities so much that they themselves become something more than human, something better. Going back to the article I feel that this is both relevant and important in deciphering how we treat some humans compared to others, like the Chinese treated Beckham as opposed to any ordinary person. The fact that while the SARS epidemic was still occurring, someone would bid for Beckham’s pajamas, is to some extent, insane. But why is it that this happens, it is because we tend to believe that the white, wealthy, english, man will not have the disease that is of the “others.” We, as people of color, subconsciously believe things such as these and the biggest at testament to that is the fact that his pajamas were bought in such a weird time. 

With that being said, I would like to move on to this idea of identities and how the orientalist, the “other” is said to have this disease. This draws the line between human and non human and white and colored. This parallel is proven through facts, why were David Beckham’s germs okay to have, to purchase, and to feel? It is because he is a foreigner to the Chinese society, because he is white, he is not thought of as non human while some people are. I thought it was very interesting for Zhan to keep poking at this idea of why was it okay when it was Beckham. Why was he not seen as a pollutant? I agree with her reading of it and find her piece to be interesting in the context of SARS with Beckham, demonstrating that there are some humans who are seen as super humans while others are left in the shadows, to seem almost non human. 

It’s natural

“Beyond sanitary reasons for avoiding certain parts and products of animals, these things disgust us, Rozin suggests, because they confront us with the reality of our own animal nature. so much of the human project is concerned with distinguishing ourselves from beasts that we seem strenuously to avoid things that remind us that we are beasts, too– animals that urinate, defecate, compulate, bleed, die, stink, and decompose.” (Pollan 457)

When I read this passage it made me very aware of something that I always knew but never really thought about. I can see what Pollan is talking about when he says that we, as humans, want that differentiating line between animals and us because they gross us out. We tend to disassociate ourselves with them because we know we are so similar. It is true that when these animals stink or defecate we, as humans, are disgusted but never really think that we too stink and defecate. It’s different within our species because we try to hide it, while animals don’t. This binary between humans and animals is one that is quite absurd because we do very similar things, but choose not to highlight them because it is seen as a reduction of our species. 

We as humans have in inherit animal’s qualities or traits and that can be seen in its most basic form through this quote because it makes us realize who similar we truly are. There are many people who are disgusted by animals and their natural way of being, never really realizing that we are the same way. When I think of this I think of speciesism and how we view ourselves above any and all animals regardless of the fact that we are very similar. This goes even deeper than that because we are disgusted with them and not ourselves, which leads to the question of why? Why is it that they are disgusting and we are not? Why is it that we are grossed out by things animals do, that we do as well? Why is it different? I think a lot of this goes back to how these things unfold. As a society we have evolved and kept many of these things hidden, locked away, covered, and masked with fragrances. I find it very interesting that we see animals in a different way, even when it comes to things we do the same. 

The Pest View

“The pest view of kangaroos facilitated the growth of the kangaroo industry, but did so based on the erroneous underpinnings of the pest assumption and failed to acknowledge other equally valid views of kangaroos- as contributors to ecosystem functioning, as sentient animals with rights, and as animals highly significant to Indigenous people.” (Boom 38-39)

This quote is a good representation and summary of, what I thought, one of the highlights was about the article. It says why kangaroos should not be seen as pests and describes the reasons why that perspective is skewed. I enjoyed the article but felt that at times it lacked clarity on what its view was. This sentence allowed me to understand how they viewed the kangaroos and the overall argument they tried to make.

The viewing of kangaroos as pests was never really a question for me because I see them as beautiful animals that should not be hunted or killed and this article brought much light to this hidden industry. I had no idea how bad this species suffered when it came to hunting and killings. The fact that these people view kangaroos as pests made me reconsider what I think a pest is and how that differs from one perspective to the next. Many times I think of pests as small insects or bugs that are pests but then I think about how I am okay with their death and not the death of a kangaroo. This makes me question my own point of views and how I categorize pests. I thought the authors did a great job of listing the valid views of kangaroos but I felt like there were many animals that could fill in the blank. Many animals have the same attributes and could be argued for, but why is it that we prioritize some over others? Those that we do prioritize, what do they have that others don’t? I find myself so compelled to think about my personal views and how what I view a pest to be may be completely different than someone in Australia.

Empathy

“Empathy, evidently, existed only within the human community, whereas intelligence to some degree could be found throughout every phylum and order including the arachnida” (Dick 30)

There is a distinction between empathy and intelligence that I noted throughout the book, two characteristics that show both similarities with humans and androids and differences. I found it very useful when deciphering part of what I believe to be Dick’s purpose when writing this book. This distinction brings about the difference between, what he calls, “hunter and victim.” (Dick 31) Empathy is used to differentiate the androids from the humans, humans having empathy while androids don’t, which we later find out to be flawed. I find myself pondering what intelligence and empathy have that correlates them together. I believe it is the fact that you can have both and but to be both intelligent and empathetic takes you to a different, many times conflicting level. I say conflicting because I think about the many instances where I’ve had to make a decision that is considered intelligent while having empathy, which can make a difference. This relates back to the book because it is believed that only humans have the capacity and ability to be both intelligent and empathetic, while androids don’t. It reminds me of the separation of the brain and the heart as two separate entities that can many times collide. Androids don’t have empathy, they don’t have a heart, which is why they eliminate the possibility of becoming the victim and are simply viewed as the hunter.

What I’m trying to get at is, I believe, Dick wanted people to realize that androids do care about other androids and which would mean they too would have empathy. The only distinction that once existed is no longer there, which makes them the same. They are different because they are androids but when characteristics are considered, they are the same. When I unraveled this I related it back to the course and one of the readings which said that there is no universal set of characteristics that make up a human because then non-human animals would be included being that some of them share the same set of traits. When looking at this beyond the androids I can see how it can be paralleled to humans and non-humans. We are all bound to be the same due to a similar trait such as intelligence, like Dick states, which evens the plain field.

Pets Vs. Children

“In very practical ways, pets are easier to love and more suitable to transient lives than are children. They travel far easier, are not required by the state to make up for lost months of school; they can be given away if no longer wanted or if no longer keeping with particular lifestyle; they can be euthanized id they fall ill; and they are highly social, seeking one another out in cities and rural areas across the world, helping owners to become grounded and socialized in any one place.” (Nast 900)

When I read the text above it really made me think of all the people I know who chose to have pets over children. I now comprehend why, I feel that this subject is becoming more and more relevant as time passes because children are much more expensive and attention-needy individuals. It’s become a lifestyle to choose not to have kids and although there are varying degrees of pros and cons, this new phenomenon is quite interesting. While writing this I decided to ask my friends why they chose to have pets over children and their answers closely resembled what Nast discusses. It seems that to them, the benefits lay in freedom and the ability to do as you please. They did not want to be tied down because they travel quite often and felt that a pet would fill an empty spot without emptying both their wallet and freedom. I believe Nast does a great job in representing the alternate lifestyle, making pets seem like the better option. Of course, like I mentioned prior there are pros and cons to take into consideration, and one of the things my friends did mention was that pets are amazing but they do not replace a child that is born of you. Now that they are older and cannot have kids anymore, they reflect back on their choice and are contempt with their decision, stating  “pets are loyal and remain with you until the end, kids grow up and spread their wings.”

Going back to the quote, I felt as if though Nast made a very compelling case to look at animals almost as malleable creatures. You can do as you wish with them with no one to respond to, unlike children. It seems as if though the benefits of having a pet compared to a child are greater because of their versatility and the things you can do with them compared to a child. Tying this back to the piece as a whole and part of what my friends said. Pets have become a new market, they are now seen as family and with that comes many other implications. The one that Nast focuses on is capitalism. Like my friends said, children are expensive and they require so much more. Nast makes the claim that the pet business is quickly becoming mainstream and with it comes a whole new market, however, children are still more expensive. I feel that capitalism ties into this all because it is really expensive to rear a child in today’s day and age while it isn’t for a pet. When you think about it, some pros outweigh the cons and you may chose a pet instead of a child.

Common Denominator

“If equality is to be related to any actual characteristics of humans, these characteristics must be some lowest common denominator, pitched so low that no human lacks them-but then the philosopher comes up against the catch that any such set of characteristics which covers all humans will not be possessed only by humans.” (Singer 325)

This is such a powerful statement attributed to speciesism, because it critiques the ways in which humans have illogically placed us above all other species with no set foundation. We are said to be above non-human animals because we can communicate, we have progressed as a species, and basically conquered the world and all in it. I just feel like this statement reinforces how similar we are to animals and really makes that binary ambiguous. This notion of the common denominator, I believe, is genius because it causes us to evaluate our society and ourselves and, at least for me, my characteristics. It is true that if equality is real and we consider all humans to be equal, there must be a common characteristic that some non-human animals can possess.

Singer puts this as a “catch” and I believe that part of the reason why a “common denominator” has not been formed or is widely known is because not only is equality fake among animals, it is non existent among humans as well. I think this discourse brings a lot of different opinions and ways of viewing equality. It opens up the conversation to not just non-human animals, but humans and how we aren’t an egalitarian society. With that being said, I found Singer’s point to be brilliant and something I’d never really thought about. I don’t know if this has been a point of conversation or a rebuttal to equality and the rights of non-human animals but I’d like to know more. I feel that this ties in to a larger discussion about our equality and who is considered to be equal to someone else. Animals are brought into the discussion as further evidence that we, ourselves, aren’t equal but if we were to find something to base that equality on a characteristic, non-human animal would also be included. I wonder if the reason why this hasn’t happened is because animals would have rights and equality and the human species just cannot accept that. Is it our ignorance or our ego that causes inequality in both human and non-human spheres?