Introduction11 Background to the studyThe sell out by Paul Beatty Essay


1.1 Background to the study

The sell out by Paul Beatty is one of the staggering examples of intoxicating satire of the post racial America. From the outset to the closure the novel deals with stereotypes which have been associated with black people for time immemorial. It is caustic and coercive satire with galvanic jokes. He promptly discusses the African American identity crisis. The issue of racial discrimination has been fairly justified by the writer.

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Stereotype defines as a “fixed idea, image, etc that many people have of a particular type of person or thing which is often not true in reality.

”(Oxford learner’s dictionary, 1995, 1169).The word stereotypewas originally coined in 1798 todescribe a printing process involving the use of fixed casts of the pages of type (Ashmore& Del Boca, 1981). In political and social concepts the term was introduced by an American journalist Walter Lipmann in 1922 refers to the “pictures in our heads” about different social and political groups (Allport, 1954; English & English, 1958; Katz and Braly, 1933; Klineberg, 1951).

The definition given in English &English (1958) is the most authentic and cited one. “A relatively rigid and oversimplified or biased perception or conception of an aspect of reality, especially of persons or social groups …” (p. 253). Stereotypes are frequently used asa set of beliefs about the personal attributes of a group of people even in commonplace activities. They are present on the basis of different levels on the basis of racial groups such as “Asians are good at math”demographic groups “Florida residents are elderly”(Bordaloet al. 2015 Stereotypes) Social science has produced three broad approaches to stereotypes. The economic approachOf Phelps (1972) and Arrow (1973) sees stereotypes as a manifestation of numerical discrimination, in terms of the aggregate beliefs about that group. The sociological approach to stereotyping pertains only to social groups. It views stereotypes as fundamentally incorrect and derogatory generalizations of group traits, reflective of the stereotyper’s underlying prejudices (Adorno et al. 1950). The third approach to stereotypes is the “social cognition approach”, rooted in social psychology. Mental representations of real differences between groups allowing easier and more efficient processing of information.

1.1.3 Racism

Goldberg (1993) defines racism may be taken as “any practice which, intentionally or not, excludes a ‘racial’ or ‘ethnic’ minority from enjoying the full rights, opportunities and responsibilities available to the majority population. The term ‘racism’ is used to refer; to attitudes and practices which are explicitly hostile and libelous towards people defined as belonging to another ‘race’(“Racism and Identity’’2012).Racism can be defined simply as any policy, belief, attitude, action or inaction, which subordinates individuals or groups based on their race (Defining Racism and Sexism). Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical forces beyond his control. This is the account of racism which is based on biological features of a human being without paying any attention to the individual special capacities, talent, ideas and ideals. There were a lot of forms of racism, such as slavery and colonization.Racism is mainly the belief that people should be classified and separated according to their inherited traits by their racial groups.Spivak(1987) describes racismas matter of cultural imperialism, and exploitation of knowledge.

Racial isolation in the U.S refers mainly to the legally and socially enforced separation of races, mainly between whites and other races. This isolation is rooted to the eighteenth century slave institution where colored were slaves to the whites, and they were seen as inferior to them. The conflict between the South and the North about the removal of the slave system lead to a civil war between the two poles of the nation. After the Civil War and the winning of the North, slavery was banished; however, whites in the South did not accept the new situation where their ex-servants became as equal as them. So, they invented and worked in order to legislate what they claimed to be “separate but equal”. As result of time African- American were treated as second class citizens. African Americans faced a lot of cases, such as Plessey v. Fergusson, Rosa Parks and the Boycott of the Bus System, Brown v. Board of Education, which gave them a kind of small sure-footed steps toward their goal of full freedom and equality (Racism and Identity 2012)

1.1.4. Identity and identity crisis

Identity is defines as “the characteristics, feelings or beliefs that distinguish people from others”(Oxford learner’s dictionary,, 588.1995). Identity is important because it gives us a place in the world. It gives us an idea of who we are, and functions as a link between us and the world. Identity marks our way in the world, and provides a way of understanding the interplay between our subjective experience of the world and the cultural and historical construction of our subjectivity (Min Zhou (2015)

Identity has “to do with the imagined sameness of a person or of a social group at all times and in all circumstances; about a person or a group being, and being able to continue to be itself and not someone or something else” (Bennett et al, 2005, p.172). Our identity marks the ways in which we are the same as those who share that designation, and the ways in which we are different from those who do not because it is usually defined by what it is not, and frequently constructed in terms of oppositions such as woman/man, black/white, culture/nature, self/other etc. (Woodward 1997). Identity is also constituted in our discourses through our conscious and unconscious thoughts and emotions where our sense of the self are constantly reconstituted in discourse each time that we speak or think (Weedon 1987). Identity therefore should be regarded as a cover word for a range of personae, including statuses, roles, positions, relations, institutional and other relevant community identity that one may attempt to claim or assign in the course of social life (Ochs1993).

The Oxford dictionaries define identity crisis as a period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person?s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to change in their expected aims and role in society.Identification is so embedded in our daily interactions that people rarely give it much thought, but it is an essential social and economic process. Identification is a part of nearly every meaningful encounter among people. It is a part of every sophisticated commercial and legal transaction. It is part of most every contact between a government and citizens. It is even an essential part of encounters among animals. Imagine for a moment a world without identification, a world in which you could not recognize people and they could not recognize you. It would take extraordinary effort to meet our human needs, both physical and emotional. Home life and social life would be alien and bizarre. People would have to introduce themselves to new friends and family members each time they saw one another. Identification gives authentication to personality of nation (Jim Harper 2006, identity crisis).

1.1.5 Otherness

‘Othering’ and Stereotyping are extremely vital concepts in postcolonial discourse. Otherness is coined by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Stereotyping by Homi K. Bhabha. All these concepts, according to postcolonial theory, result out of a direct interaction between the people of a superior and a subordinate culture. Gayatri Spivak introduces the term ‘otherness’ for the process by which imperial discourse produces its subject others. In Spivaks, explanation, otherness is a, “dialectical process because the colonizing other is established at the same time as its colonized others is produced as subjects (InAshcroft, p.156).In simple words the other refers to the colonized subjects who form part of the Self/Other binary. The colonizers consider themselves to be the centre, and deal with the colonized as the marginalized one. Das (Twentieth) traces the origin of the term ‘Other’ in the writings ofSartre, Derrida and Lacan.Self becomes the universal parameter of modernity and benevolence, always in possession of power and authority. On the other hand, everything else that is not Self Said (1978) becomes the inferior and primitive other, ignorant, barbarous and violent always in need of rigorous disciplining. Creation of the term other is necessary for imperial and colonizing powers to assert their power, will and value.

The process of otherness culturally justifies the domination and subordination of the native people. By placing them as the other at the social periphery of the geopolitical enterprise that is colonial imperialism. Conquest and control of other people’s lands and goods has been a recurrent and widespread feature of the past. An in-depth study of the colonial settlements generated by the expansion of European society after the Renaissance however reveals its special significance. It is not an enterprise carried out purely for economic gains, but an ideology, a hegemonic (the dominance of one social group) cultural enterprise characterized by extreme parochialism (a limitation of views and interest to limited area) that affected the psyche of the colonized.

European colonialism is structured within imperialism, a Western specific. As Said (1978) explains, imperialism is the ideology and colonialism a means to carry out that ideology. European whites are projected as being civilized, rational and hard working. In contrast, the non whites are presented as being barbaric, irrational, lazy and sensuous. The colonized are an inferior race not just outside history and civilization but genetically predetermined to inferiority. Hence colonialism becomes a virtuous necessity for civilizing a savage race.

As Said points out in Orientalism (1978)”since the orient was a sub race he had to be subjected it was that simple” (207). In his work Orientalism (1978) Said deals with the concept of the Orient as the other of the West: inferior, alien and conquerable.Occident and Orient becomes the relationship of power, of domination, of varying degree of a complex hegemony. Although the geographical line between the West and East is an imaginary and artificial one, the acceptance of this binary opposition with the former as privileged and the latter as unprivileged is taken for granted by the Western scholars. Orientalism as a Western narrative about the Orient is guilty of legitimizing civilizing mission, essentialism (absolutely necessary, extremely important) expansionism (the doctrine of expanding the territory or economic influence) and imperialism (a policy of extending your rule over foreign countries ) and on the other hand, convincing natives of their own inferiority.

Said asserts that European knowledge of the East goes arm in arm with expansionism, exploration and settlement. He argues that the ‘Orient’ is constructed and represented in the binary opposition against the Occident, as the ‘Other’. In many respects, the Orient is seen by European values, assumptions, cultural codes and as the Occident’s other. He criticizes the way that the Occident views the Orient by her own culturally-determined and biased and limited historical perspectives Said (1978).

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