Monday, May 9, 2011

You That Classy Gringa?

By Leslie Tapia

Based on Urciuoli’s second piece, we discussed the influences of race and ethnicities in class and how they challenge the “marked” and “unmarked” individuals in society. We can go on saying that by being “marked” a certain people, it leads us on to stereotypes and racism. We find in the article Urciuoli stating, “races and ethnicities are not primordial groups. They are powerful facts of day-to-day social life. The generic white American is, in semiotic terms, unmarked while the non-normative, the racialized or ethnicized person, is marked” (page 17). If we were to go into a debate of who the marked and unmarked are in the United States by this definition, the white population would certainly be those who are marked and the indigenous unmarked. Basing it on language, many people try to hide the manner in which they speak a foreign language because they do not want to be recognized as part of the “marked” minority. Perfect examples are found in illegal immigrants who come to the United States and develop accents or forms of saying a certain word. We can easily say (at least the Spanish folk) who is Dominican or who is Ecuadorian or Colombian simply by the way in which they speak Spanish. When they speak English, it is the same influence they have on their Spanish that they put on their English. In doing so, many Americans automatically mark them as immigrants.

Here is a clip I found that was in response to the Arizona state law SB 1070 that talks about this misconception.

Granted, her approach on the matter could have been taken in a different direction but the same frustration that she shows in this video about how people mistake her for an illegal immigrant is the same for others who are in her position; most of these people are born from immigrants and makes them first generation children in the United States. Because of the way she talks and the way she looks, she is automatically marked as an immigrant.

There is immediately this marking image of how people speak in different places in the United States. If we go to another state, the way we speak could be foreign to those around you. People have created stereotypes of these different manners of speaking and instantly create parodies, which many a times concurs with the way the people from the region do speak. People will mark you as the “New Yorker” or the “Boston kid”. Take Carlos Mencia’s example.

In teaching this class of immigrants, he promotes those same stereotypes. How can we then create a monoglot nation if by the looks of this video, everyone in the United States has a different voice or tone when speaking English? There can never be a universal form of English, at least not an American English, with such a growing diversity that is found even within the American English language.

Another perspective we can look at is the marking of people as nerds, blondes, ghetto, or “normal”. We continually spoke in class about the marks we give people even once we are young. When we are in school we see the way people act according to the stereotypes we learn. In school you will have your nerds, the ghetto people who never go to class, and then the popular girls or the “valley girl” that stands out amongst the rest. I don’t think it is in our nature to automatically mark these people but when others tell you the way they behave, you are influenced to think the same way, especially at such an early age. The language of these stereotypical types of people evolves along with you as well. Those who are “unmarked” are found to be your average joe in class. A popular character on youtube known as NigaHiga provides these stereotypes with one of his shows…

Notice the way he differentiates himself in language. He is able to pull of the dumb blonde through “Regina”, the ghetto kid “R-Dizzle”, and then the nerdy Asian kid “Hanate”. The cultural background they come from influences even the names of the teens. I noticed by the way they spoke that the ghetto kid R-Dizzle would continually add –izzle after every word. I have seen many ghetto people around my area of New York and they certainly don’t speak that way. Perhaps since he is from California then that stereotype is found within that state alone. The race and ethnicity factor that Urciuoli talked about in her article is found here with the character Hanate. During his introduction, he was even trying to Americanize his name by telling them to refer to him as Bob. Many others who are like “Hanate” may not approve of the video but never the less if you check on youtube the stereotype is there and imitated by many.

Finally, the stereotype that I have related to the most in terms of being marked is that of the loud Latina stereotype. Many times before I have been marked myself by how loud I am when I speak. Although this stereotype is sometimes challenged, (like me by trying to change my “loudness”) this idea is already so prominent within the United States and it its not only in one region but in all regions. Different Latinas will speak in different accents and be marked according to such but once you are the loud-mouthed woman standing out in the crowd, the immediate mark is Latina. There are moments that I have witnessed people mark others as the white-washed Latina, therefore being the Hispanic woman who tries to speak like a white girl. There is also la gringa, which I am called back home, stereotyping the American Latina that speaks in an almost normal accent in comparison to their cultural accents. In any shape or form, these marks will continue to influence our next generations. I will always be the Latina here in New York and I will be a gringa back home. The stereotypes are influenced by language that is obvious to the human ear if you have noticed the difference long enough. To leave that lasting impression, here is a clip from SNL explaining exactly that. These stereotypes in language will never die.

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