Saturday, January 14, 2006

Internal Baggage Project

Project Overview

The attempt of this project is to force many Americans to examine their images of and beliefs about African Americans. To encourage mental change and viewpoints of disturbing, negative stereotypes that has festered in the minds of American society through visual documentation and interpretation. The Internal Baggage Project was not created to shock, shame, or anger, but to lead to a deeper understanding of the historical racial divide. To recognize the obvious discriminating practices that occurs in American society and abroad in three areas of concentration.

Forced Alter Ego:

The second part deals with the assimilation process that occurs in America. To often in the business world if you’re not white or act like a white employee you will not last long in your position and either become demoted or lose your job all together. Last hired, first fired! Historically it has been extremely difficult for African Americans to advance from an entry-level position and only a select few make it into management or even to a vice presidents position with minimal responsibility and little decision-making. In today’s corporate environment this statistic has progressively changed laterally, but the percentages are still drastically disproportionate. There are 0.5% black executives and over 75% white executives in current President or CEO positions in the U.S. Their still exists a stigma that an African American is only good for a service job and could never be responsible enough to run a company. This is a common stereotype within America. This is only one example of how the American landscape exists.

In America we created our own holocaust. Remember the saying, "The only good Indian is a DEAD Indian! From 1492 until 1804 the way to control somebody unlike yourself was to kill him or her. The theories were enslaved and/or kill people who are different. We were founded on our own personal form of violence. It is safe to kill people who are different or to enslave them.

In 1864 the theory on those who are different from you was "kick them out" Send the slaves back to Liberia and put the Indians on a reservation. Even President Lincoln agreed with this policy. The general populace did not want to deal with the problems of anyone who were different than they were.

In 1905 there was a new way of thinking. Make everyone just like us.

We make everyone just like "me" and force them to play by "my rules." Americans are products of assimilation. Grandmother and Grandfather came from another country where perhaps the children could not go to school or they had to pay for education. People were poor and America offered a better life. It was a privilege to have an education and speak the language. Therefore they were willing to be assimilated.

Many African-Americans in America had ancestors who were brought to America unwillingly as slaves ever since the early 1600's or earlier. At first, they were treated the same way as indentured servants from Europe, but soon, clear differences in their treatments arose. A 1662 Virginia law assumed Africans would remain servants for life, and a 1667 act declared, "Baptism does not alter the condition of the person as to his bondage or freedom." By 1740, the slavery system in colonial America was fully developed. A Virginia law in that year declared slaves to be "chattel personal in the hands of their owners and possessors... for all intents, construction, and purpose whatsoever." So really, African-Americans had no choice but to assimilate into American culture as slaves. They did not have the choice to go back, and generations later, when they did have the chance, most of them were so firmly rooted in the American society that they would have not the desire to.

Assimilation is an intense process of consistent integration whereby members of an ethno-cultural group, typically immigrants, or other minority groups, are "absorbed" into an established, generally larger community. An Internal Baggage is created because you feel less than. This presumes a loss of all or many characteristics, which make the newcomers different. A region where assimilation is occurring is sometimes referred to as a "melting pot".

Assimilation can have negative implications for national minorities or aboriginal cultures, in that after assimilation the distinctive features of the original culture will be minimized and may disappear altogether. This is especially true in situations where the institutions of the dominant culture initiate programs to assimilate or integrate minority cultures. The assumption of integration, the making into one society, lies behind efforts for affirmative action.

We are often told that we are living in a world of multiple identities. The old illusory unified identities of class, gender, race, sexuality are breaking up; someone may be black and gay and middle class and female; we may be bi-, poly- or nonsexual, of mixed race, indeterminate gender, and who knows what class. Yet we have not yet reached a situation in which people and white cultural agendas are no longer in the rising. Immigrants and non-white cultures are still forced to assimilate. The media, politics, education are still in the hands of the white majority continuously speaking for whites while claiming and sometimes sincerely aiming to speak for humanity.

Unable to express ones culture our ethnic lifestyle a decision has to be made, then a transformation, an assimilated forced alter ego to become less ethnic, less black. The consistent practice of assimilating into a white persona causes an embedded since of self-hatred. This hatred is reflexed on the culture and you become unwillingly displaced, judgmental and critical of your own culture. This common problem exists within the black community and causes discrimination, dissention and segregation between similarities. Guess what? Most of us don’t even realize this!

What exactly do you do about this? What is being white? What is being black? Do we really know? Do you recognize within yourself and your own community the assimilation process at work? How have you assimilated in today’s American landscape? How has this affected your community relationships with family and friends? By our appearance do we represent our ethnicity? Can a portrait capture our character and express our blackness or whiteness? Does this process expose the elusiveness of our identity? Are we not all expressing our whiteness in our everyday travels just by being participants in achieving the America dream?