Getting inside the metro wagon of the subway in New York is like meeting the world’s face for the first time. The world is inside those wagons and you’re able to mingle with it in the long traveling minutes that you spend there. Every day that I get to experience this, I observe quietly the dynamic and conduct codes that are happening in front of me. New York’s attitude and identity is portrayed here. Let me explain you,
People immersed in either their cellphones, minds, books, newspapers, mostly quiet. Sometimes, artists or talented ones will perform to get a few dollars. People still remains quiet. This is something that calls my attention. New York has that interesting indifference where, one can do anything outrageous, and no one will say anything. One can do someting crazy and no one will say anything, one can do something ridiculous and no one will care much.
New York is land of no one and land of all.
Is where the Melting Pot theory makes sense. It’s a socio- ethnographic research jungle (for me).
Do they all matter, or no one does?
Cities like New York with collective identities are more likely to fall into stereotypes as a result of an hiperindividualistic conduct (Geertz, 1986). Let me put an example of this, from my own personal experience, in the month and a half that I’ve been in this country, I have found some few people that have treated me in a condescending way just because I’m latin. To put it more clearly, they think I’m naive and even ignorant just because I come from Bolivia. My comments or opinions were irrelevant for them. A serious pitty, knowing that they didn’t even know where Bolivia was located in the map. But this is the story of many immigrants in this city. What about afroamerican people? Isn’t because of stereotyping them that the Charleston incident ocurred? – Charleston, and many others. What about Native Americans? Perhaps the ones that have a stronger right when it comes to claim identity recognition. Yes, because recognition doesn’t really mean to be located in the reserves paying less (or none) taxes. Recognition doesn’t mean that black people can now sit in the buses. Recognition means inclussion and equality of rights. It means representation and presence at a govermental level. But we’re not talking about a few parlamentaries or deputees, we’re talking about leaders that will enhace this feeling from political power spheres. As an example:
I went with some other fellows to a comedy show, where more of the black comedians jokes went around black identity. The last and more claimed comedian, a lesbian afro american women said “don’t you feel good when you see Obama up there? When you see someone of your kind in power? I feel empowered to see my brother up there”.
Nevertheless, let’s recall Geertz once again. Colective Identities are convenient as they carry a Melting Pot Ideology, that suits perfectly for a production system called Capitalism (Benedict Anderson). Why? Because it doesn’t bare a political weight. As it is attached to production, it has the capacity to deterritorialize social relations and interactions to make inevitable for them to mantain in a capitalist system. This not only happens in New York, but in any other city that has this much world-diversity.
When having a class about American Culture at the GLL in Washington DC, our lecturer, a very distinguished PhD Professor from American University, told us that in the US, people will not ask you who you are, or where you come from, that doesn’t really matter as much. They will mostly ask “what do you do?”, as it is a culture that is based in production (To do, not to be). Going back to the begginig of this post, I mentioned stereotyping as a result of hiperindividualism, which is also linked to a To Do culture.
My suggestion? As I wouldn’t want to be treated in a condescending way in the future, as I would like to hear that one day, just as the LGBT community has been included and recognised very recently in all the states of this country, so have afroamerican and native americans, as I would like to break stereotypes… my suggestion, once again: INTERACT and CONNECT. Break the chain and meet the Other one. Meet the person, not the ideology. Break the theory.