Literary Response to Race, Class, and Gender

Literary Response to Race, Class, and Gender

So, I’ve got this Gen-Ed class this semester – Eng 230, Readings in Race, Class, and Gender. We’ve been reading all sorts of things about the afore mentioned subject matter including two novels. First we read Sula by Toni Morrison, and then The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Both were fairly good books, not sure I ever would have bothered reading them on my own – but then isn’t that sort of the point of college? That and basket weaving anyways. We also watched the movie Crash which is a favorite of mine. I was involved with the DEPTH program put on by Chicago Theological Seminary a few years ago, and when the movie first came out to theaters I went and saw it with a youth group. It really was very amazing being able to discuss this movie with a grounp of 20 or 26 young people ages 14-18 years old. Who would have ever thought these little punks could be so aware?

But I digress. This is supposed to be a post about this class’ final project. Since this class is all about reading about race, class, and gender (and a little discussion) our final is to address some (albeit small) injustice in our world. And guess what, I’m an art major, so I made an art piece to address this. So first check out my image, and then keep reading for a little background on the issue. (click the image to get a larger view in a new window)

My purpose here is to foster change by awareness, not education. I think you have to be aware that there’s some sort of a problem or issue before you’ll bother paying any attention to education or “knowledge”. It’s my hope that a least a few people will see this image and be inspired to work in their own world to do something about it, regardless if that’s writing a letter to our president, providing education about the issues to others, or something more drastic.

So yeah, there’s an issue here. There’s been ongoing debates and worse about our border policies with our neighbors for years and years. Now we’ve got this Crazy president in office who wants to put up a huge frekin’ fence all along our southern border to keep them “dirty Mexicans” out. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember history class having any examples of big walls being a good thing. Didn’t this guy, our president, graduate from High School?

The thing with walls is that it’s two sided. It keeps them out, but it keeps us out too. Perhaps in this day of high speed internet ,and the access to information it provides, we think we don’t need physical connections to keep things alive. But that’s all wrong, we’re a community of Human Beings and we need open borders to keep the flow of life happening. Please, think about it and comment away.


If you’re interested, here is the essay that I wrote to go along with this paper for my class. I’m about to head out the door to go to class and turn it on. I’m not sure it’s worth much – but here it is all the same.

For my project I decided to work on a large injustice in our world. It deals mainly with race, but also with class and I think it’s closer to home than most people realize. I chose the injustice of our relationship with this country’s southern neighbor – Mexico. For many years there have been discussions and worse about our border policies. We try and lock down our borders, make it harder for “Illegal Immigrants” to enter our country while at the same time our economy depends on the work they do in our country. We would rather people get Green Cards to enter our country legally, yet the application process costs more than many Mexicans make in a year who work in our factories just south of the border. Now our president wants to put up a huge fence going along the entire border. That won’t just block people from going between our countries, it will stifle both countries livelihood. But how does this effect all of us, even though we’re hundreds of miles away from the border here in Chicago? I suggest you try a history book, something about president seems to have forgotten about, and see if you can find any examples of walls being a good thing. Walls effect us in many ways: they stifle communication, they certainly don’t make happy neighbors, and they don’t solve the problems they were erected to resolve. Our border policies certainly need rewriting, but we’re going in the wrong direction.

Offering research into this subject is difficult because this issue is very present day. Our president has set in motion a plan to erect a long fence spanning the entire border between the U.S. and Mexico. Things are happening daily towards blocking this and accomplishing this. Some days there seems that there may be some hope of finally cornering our president, but so far he is above the law. How can we begin to save our world when the younger generations in America are so apathetic? Our rights are being taken away, we’re being cut off from the rest of the world. When will America rise up and fight back, when will we start to make change in our world, when will be just rise – get up and make a stand?

America was horribly shaken after September 11th and confused. My peers had never imagined that something like this could happen at home. I have never lived in New York, yet I personally knew someone who died in the crash. That event was, I think, a turning point for America. While we were all at home or work mourning, our president began making plans on what came to be called “The war on terrorism”. I believe, though I can not provide any direct evidence, that this wall is a direct response to hit. America was attacked from the outside and for all our military and home land defense we didn’t know about it ahead of time. Now, as is human response, we want to curl up in a safe place and lick our wounds. But what may be a appropriate response of a child curling up in a ball to protect from pain is not a appropriate response for this country.

Believe it or not America is the supper power in this world and as a nation we feel it our responsibility to act as police of the world. When we’re working in Iran to bring an end to hostilities and open up their border with Palestine, how can we turn around and talk about building a wall in our own country. It’s not okay for them to do, but it is for us? Where has this double standard been fostered? I fear I’m simply presenting more questions that providing answers here, but that’s the ultimate goal. If the citizens of America will not begin questioning the world around them no one will stand up to make a difference. And what will happen to America the land of the beautiful if we don’t do something soon?

This is my plea to anyone who sees this piece of art: take notice of the world around you and don’t be afraid to use your voice. One of the greatest liberties we have in this country is free speech, but it seems like people are exercising that right less and less. What happens to us if this nation continues this downward spiral of apathy and we forget how to speak? What will happen then?

I’m not sure what impact my voice will have, but I am at least trying to speak. I have posted this one small piece of art for public consumption and I hope it makes some small difference. What else can I do, after all I’m only one young man.

I decided to confront this issue through awareness because I believe that people must first realize that there is an issue before they will absorb education on subject. I also believe that one of the best ways to put an issue in front of people is through art. Perhaps I’m predisposed to that concept being an art major, but that’s life. Why would someone take the time to attend a lecture, read a pamphlet, or research an issue on their own if they didn’t think there were any merits for such a task. We discussed and agreed in class that to address or change insecurity, status quo, fear, a false sense of superiority, selfishness or greed, ignorance, stubbornness, laziness, apathy, pride or community loyalty, and beliefs or traditions we must combat them with knowledge. But before you can impart knowledge, your audience has to be interested.

More specifically than confronting this issue with awareness, I am addressing this issue through a piece of art I created. The art is simple and to the point, which isn’t always my style but works very well here. I created and posted my digital art work on my website at My audience there isn’t as large as I would have liked, but there is an audience none-the-less. I had hoped to show this piece in the Frick Center, but that opportunity fell through and there wasn’t space left over for me to put up my piece.

My art piece, as you can see on my website, is a based off of a satellite image of the U.S. and Mexico. This simple satellite image gives us the first frame of reference. Most Americans can easily recognize our own country and Mexico from a map. The map has been given a brown tint, hinting that perhaps things are not all healthy and green. Over laid onto Mexico is a chain link fence with barbed wire. This part of the image shows the concept of blocking off Mexico from our country. Our president wants to make this a reality and keep the Mexican population out of this country at any cost. I chose to over lay the fence across all of Mexico because this fence is not just a small little line keeping illegal immigrants out of America, but a much larger issue blocking out ideas, information, and many other things vital to our way of living. Next to bring home the idea that this is truly a bad idea I placed drops of blood along the top of the fence. This fence can physically hurt people yes, but also it’s cutting out this country’s life blood. We’re not just hurting Mexico, not just the U.S., but our entire way of being. The image makes a cohesive whole that illustrates the horrible nature of a fence dividing our land.

Perhaps one draw back to making a piece of art to address a social injustice is that the artist often does not get feedback from viewers. Sometimes there isn’t a forum for communication, but more often viewers don’t fee comfortable talking about the art. Americans have many inhibitions about how to respond to art, they feel they need to have some sort of illusive “language of art” to properly talk about it. But to me good art is anything that evokes an response from the viewer, be that emotion or other action. If a piece of art doesn’t make you feel something, anything, it has totally failed. It doesn’t matter if you agree with my stand point or not, as long as there is some reaction. I personally strive for strong reactions to the art I make. I’m not one to speak up unless I have something important to say, and if it’s important enough for me to speak up I want my viewer to gain that same sense of importance I feel.

By posting this image on my blog I have received a few responses to the piece, but I believe that more people have seen the piece than have commented on it. I would love to have your comments on the piece on my blog as well. However, the response I receive has little to do with what I hope to accomplish. It doesn’t matter so much what you have to say to me, as what sort of affect it has in your life. Perhaps someone will glance at the work and move on, but it stays with them. Later when there is a chance for education in their own lives I hope that my art work will have readied or opened them to that knowledge. Like minded people who have commented on the piece are probably less likely to be affected by my work. Someone who is in support of a fence might not consider this art piece, but if they did the impact would be much greater. For someone who already agrees with me it’s like water under the bridge – it’s already there and adding a few drops more doesn’t make much of a difference. Perhaps some day my drops will lead to the damn breaking – but that’s a long way off.

22. April 2007, 19:22 details & comments (4) Posted in: General Ramblings The permalink address (URI) of this photo is: