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The short story “How to date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie” was written by Junot Diaz, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is centered around a young teenage boy giving instructions about readiness for a date with a“Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie.” The narrator in the story addresses the reader with a casual “how to” language and teaches the reader how to date girls of different race. Junot Diaz intends for the story to be witty by mentioning the stereotypes of the three race and to make a confident, yet subtle statement about racism in America in “How to date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie.”
The main character of the story is assumed to be a young teenage male living in an urban area and trying to win over the heart of a whitegirl or halfie. However, because of his upbringing and culture, he knows he has to hide his identity in order to please a whitegirl or a halfie. It is seen in the story that the main character is from a lower class. He first hides the “government cheese”, which indicates that his family is on welfare. The girl’s social class will determine how well the cheese will have to be hidden. In the third paragraph, the author mentions the “Terrace” where the character lives. The “terrace” is represented as the part of city where the minority group live, especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure. We can also tell through the speech of the story that the main character is of a lower upbringing and social class by his jargon that he uses with his friends. “Are you still waiting on that bitch? Say, Hell yeah”; this type of speech takes credibility of what he is saying, because we know that he is not the brightest nor classiest of boys. The narrator then says “Call her house and when her father picks up ask if she’s there. He’ll ask, Who is this? Hang up. He sounds like a principal or a police chief” in the lower income neighborhoods, people come to disrespect authority or fear them. As the story advances, the narrator’s words and mannerisms change according to the different race of the girl.
These observations determine his verbal communication and physical approach to them. “Dinner will be tense. You are not good at talking to people you don’t know” shows the awkwardness between different peoples; in this case, it is between not only a boy and a girl, but a “Dominican” and a “halfie.” The narrator begins to mention the importance of “the Movement” to the girl, as well as her parents, by saying “It will sound like something her parents made her memorize”. “The Movement” is referring to the Civil Rights Movement, whose goal was to end racial segregation in the United States. The narrator then states “Your brother’s” response to that story: “Man, sounds like a whole lot of Uncle Tomming to me”, and the reference to Uncle Tom is implied to have been taken offensively by the girl when the narrator says “Don’t repeat this” in response to the “halfie’s” story. The implication that the “halfie” was upset by the comment is hinting at the sensitive subject of race and racial equality. As a matter of fact, “your brother” would say something like that also indicates an amount of racial insensitivity amongst Americans, which shows that people are starting to look at these topics as something for the history books. Instead, the narrator suggests to “say, It must have been hard”, because “she will appreciate your interest. She will tell you more”. The idea of racial inequality being something from a time long-passed is supported when the girl starts her story with “Back then”, showing that even she looks at it as old-news. The idea that racial stereotypes aren’t a modern problem anymore is blatantly shown to be untrue throughout the entire story with comments such as “the white ones are the ones you want” (403). Even the title implies the significant differences in ethnicities and the way that people look at each other. When the girl states that “Black people…treat me real bad”, the narrator again, is addressing the topic of racism as a very real problem for many Americans – something that stems from all peoples, and breeds only negative emotions. “That’s why I don’t like them” is an example of those feelings. These general statements such as “Black people” and “I don’t like them” group everyone of a single ethnicity into a single body, and shows one person’s feelings towards an entire people based on the actions of a few. Lastly, the narrator says “You’ll wonder how she feels about Dominican”. This is another example of the negative feelings that is seen when the subject of racism is raised. Diaz does not enclose his analysis solely to the ways in which the girl’s race and class should determine the behavior of her date. It also determines the girl’s behavior, or at least what the reader should expect of the girl. Diaz adds flavor to his instructions with advice as to what to expect. For example, Diaz’s short story mentions several comparisons between white girls, black girls, and hispanic girls. He sexually and physically compares the girls. He begins his statement with the sentence, “Get serious”. This is a satirical aspect to the piece because he is referring to the boy making “a move” on the girl. He mentions what a “local girl” may do in this situation compared to a “whitegirl”. This compares informs the reader how the speaker interprets these different cultures and what he believes each race would prefer or do in instances of sex. Diaz concludes that “A local girl may have hips and a thick ass but she won’t be quick about letting you touch….or she might, if she’s reckless, give it up, but that’s rare”. In contrast, “A white girl might just give it up right then”. The reader is given an insight into the speaker’s opinion concerning racial depictions of girls.
Diaz points out not only stereotypes, but also the extent to which a person’s upbringing and race can determine his or her behavior. In doing so, Diaz emphasizes the way in which the social forces of race and class undercut both individuality and objectivity. If our actions are determined by our race and class, where is there room for individuality? If our response to others is determined by race and social class, are we courting an individual or a racial/social archetype? To deal with another human being as a racial or social archetype rather than as an individual is to trade in stereotypes. The narrator’s advice is depended on his subjective experience of race and class, rather than the consideration of each human being as an individual, possessed of unique responses and desires. He plays at presenting the reader with unbiased truths, but if a reader looks beyond the authoritative tone, he or she can see that this advice is no doubt depended on the narrator’s personal experience of these racial and social groups. This observation is further evidenced by Diaz’s inclusion of a moment where the narrator’s advice falters and breaks down in the face of a girl whose actions move beyond the realm of stereotype and into that of individuality: “She will cross her arms, say, I hate my tits. Stroke her hair but she will pull away. I don’t like anybody touching my hair, she will say. She will act like somebody you don’t know”. At this point, the girl is acting like someone the narrator does not know, someone who does not fit neatly into a racial stereotype. She is an individual, possessed of her own unique insecurities. She is a human being more than an archetype, and this confounds the advice of the narrator. This moment is Diaz’s reminder that we are all more than the categories into which we fit, and that no fit is perfect.
“How to date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie” is an interesting story about a person explaining to the reader how to successfully go on a date with girls of various ethnicities, and when accepted as nothing more than that, is quite entertaining. However, this seemingly innocent story is revealed to be a powerful statement about racial prejudices in America when the text is broken down and the internal messages are brought into light. The narrator shows that, while some people may consider racism something from the past, others still have strong feelings about the different people of America.
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