Social Segregation on the Shelf & in Society.

Whilst wandering down the aisles of the grocery store in search for ingredients to spice up your dishes, or possibly your life for that matter, you find yourself wandering multiple aisles to find what you need to bump you up to that sous chef status. You, most likely a minute representation of the lazy side of society, wonder why you must make your way through multiple aisles to find what you need. In a bleak and desolate aisle of the grocery store, there shelves the “ethnic” ingredients. Why so bleak and desolate? Because when people want, for example, Chinese food, they order take-out, another possible indication of laziness, but I digress. So why must these ‘ethnic’ ingredients be placed separately in a different aisle, rather than with all the other sauces? The anthology of Asian American Comics, titled Shattered by Jeff Yang, Parry Shen, Keith Chow, and Jerry Ma, illustrate the discourse of Asian American stereotypes and assumptions that are often paired with the group. This collection of comics addresses Asian American hegemonic issues in a comedic or satirical manner that may leave the reader unsure of how to feel.  One specific comic, Occupy Ethnic Foods by Tak Toyoshima, page 193, portrays these ethnic ingredients and sauces as ‘live objects’ and are angered by their placement in the categorized aisles; overall just the fact that there is an “ethnic food” aisle. Occupy Ethnic Foods spans across two pages, addressing this superficially minuscule issue, but which actually indicate social issues revolving around the Asian American community.

Within Occupy Ethnic Foods, there is a main character Ah-So, a Chinese style sauce, who leads the dispute over the separation of the ingredients. He claims that they should not be placed by the “language on [their] labels” but rather by their contents. Him and the other products end bicker with one another; however, the author provides a sense of humor within the arguments made by embedding puns in their dialogue. For example, while rallying up the other ingredients on the shelf, Ah-So motivates Manischewitz (a leading brand of kosher products) to “show [them] matzoh has balls.” Like mentioned before, all comics contain a sense of humor, hence, they are ‘comics.’ They are meant to be comedic. But the author has embedded this humor within an issue in society: segregation. Yes, nothing is legally segregated, but it does not mean certain things are not socially segregated.

As it goes, diversity is typically well accepted and encouraged. However, why is it that within any university or school, certain friends groups are made up of the same race or ethnicity? Which then sparks the idea of the ‘token’ within the friend group. If it were not true that people tend to hang out within their own racial classifications, the label of a ‘token’ would not exist. Yet there are plenty of counter arguments, or defenses, if you will. Most people do not go ‘looking’ for friends within a certain racial group, you will most likely interact and become friends with the people around you. For example, growing up in a predominantly White community, minorities are bound to become the token in a group. Another argument may be that you just have more in common with others in your racial group, so you tend to migrate towards those people because of the fluidity of the relationship. For example, Asians. This could mean more in common culturally and bonding over the “humor” that comes from Asian American discourses.

Within these racially separated friends groups, there often lies the ‘labels’ that are put on them.  Examples can be easily pulled from the 2004 teen film comedy Mean Girls directed by Mark Waters. Aside from the plot line of teenage social acceptance struggles, the film introduces very stereotypical social statuses and classes within high school. These include the jocks, the drama kids, the nerdy Asians, the cool Asians, the plastics (but of course), and many more. Interestingly enough, they must differentiate the types of Asians, though there are only two groups. One is the model minority, while the other is the deviant. This film can be a rough sample of a typical high school, and can even illustrate the social side of universities.

While segregation is clearly illegal. Social segregation could be risen as an issue. Perhaps people don’t mean to be purposefully “exclusive” of diversity within their group of friends. Or maybe people find they have more in common with people of the same ethnicity. Occupy Ethnic Foods illustrates segregation in that these spices and sauces are divided and classified by their labels rather than their ingredients. Which could be a cliche way of saying the inside of a person matters more than the outside. In this case, how one looks and is classified physically, does not define them as a person.



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