The Cleveland State University
2307 Chester Avenue Cleveland,
p: 216.687.2103 or 216.687.9394
Media Contact: Robert Thurmer, Gallery Curator 216.687.2103 email@example.com
Julius Lyles Presents: INTERNAL BAGGAGE PROJECT: Part Two, 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 be voluntary, which is usually the case with immigrants, or forced upon a group, as is usually the case with the receiving "host" group. Immigration, as held by some, is often thought to be in the interest of the politically and economically powerful elites more than in the interest of the weak (usually motivated by individual 'no choice', not collective goals). Where national groups are strongly urged to assimilate, there is often much resistance in spite of the use of governmental force.
If a government puts extreme emphasis on national unity and identity, it may resort, especially in the case of minorities originating from historical foes, to harsh, even extreme measures to 'exterminate' the minority culture, sometimes to the point of considering the only alternative its physical elimination (expulsion or even genocide).
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?
Forced Alter-Ego captures the negative implications through the use of thirty black men, a simple point and click approach with a digital SLR camera, and natural spatial environments, the visual aesthetics is accomplished. Presenting the study of the beauty of individualism from assimilation and the properties of the assimilation system that appeal to the viewers’ senses, as opposed to the individuals struggle from himself. They stare into the lens, faces like masks, just for that moment, documenting a trace, a footprint in time, which seems entirely objective, powerfully representing the domineer and nobility of the black male. Each finished image is 13”x 19” matted on archival silver print and framed with a written testimony expressing their thoughts and experience of assimilation. The subjects are posed so spontaneously in such a way that the look includes a history of the subject. Each individual visual interpretation and response of the thirty black men from all walks of life provides compelling questions about the construction of, and social investments in the classification of assimilated identity.
The CSU Art Gallery is located at 2307 Chester Avenue Cleveland, Ohio 44114, between East 25th and east 23rd. Street in the CSU Art Building on the first floor.
The Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am – 6 pm, and from 9am – 5pm on Saturdays. Gallery Openings are until seven or later.
Free to all children, adults, students and seniors.
Phone: 216.687.2103 or 216.371.1861
Web site: www.internalbaggageproject.org
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