Young Boy Says A Local Girl
In “How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, or a Halfie” by Junot Diaz, the narrator tells a story through a form of a dating guide for young adults who are perhaps seeking advice. In this short story, the narrator plays the role of a young teenager that believes he has all the insight he needs to be able to fit into his local neighborhood. Yet, he develops a misunderstanding of his own identity, he bases his knowledge on racial, white supremacy, and social class- demonstrating that while we can control others perceptions of us, our perception of others also control us. In other words, Diaz highlights the extent to which a person’s own expectations of another human being are determined by his or her subjective generalizations about a person's race or class. In order to do this Diaz focuses on the narrator's internalized racism which is shown both externally and internally.
Externally, the young boy assesses girls based on race, class, and categorizes them based on their sexual willingness. As the story commences, the protagonist, Yunior, focuses on race when he describes how one might need to react if any problem arises, he states “Don't panic. Say, Hey, no problem. Run a hand through your hair like the white boys do even though only thing that runs easily through your hair is Africa ( Diaz 145).”It is apparent that the protagonist is struggling with internal racism as he compares his Dominican heritage not to just any particular race, but to a “white boys.” Here, Diaz develops another level of depth which can be interpreted as a literary element that points towards the main character, Yunior, being of immigrant descent. As a first or second generation immigrant Dominican he feels as though he needs to contend to “white” people norms in order to fit in with his community. The fact that Yunior compares himself to white people suggests that he is placing them on a pedestal. In this case readers can see a subjective generalization about a person’s status based on society's expectations. In this instance, a personal experience of class is assessed when the speaker informs him that he should “Clear the government cheese from the refrigerator” and to “Take down any embarrassing photos of your family in the campo, especially the ones with the half naked kids dragging a goat on a rope leash” (Diaz 143). Here, the government cheese was received on welfare, a representation of his social status- which he is recommended to hide. The campo on the other hand is a place that represents his roots and how he may identify himself. More importantly, the examples that Diaz provides address the topic of social status and how each individual is affected by it.
According to Stanford University psychologist Hazel Markus, social status affects each decision we make- which is not only on impacted by our expectations of what materialistic objects we own or how much money we make, but rather how social status involves race, gender and ethnicity influence our thoughts, feelings and self-perceptions. “In a 2013 article in Emotion, Jiyoung Park, PhD, Markus and colleagues found that class influences the way people in different countries view and express emotions.”Here, Marcus compares American and Japanese respondents to find that higher status Americans express anger while in Japan, those of higher social standing are more likely to express anger than lower-status respondents. In this case, the significance of Marcus’s findings demonstrate that class is not set in tone and that perhaps this research can be better aimed towards helping others have a better understanding of their culture in order to perform better in whatever it is they are pursuing. We can see a common example in Diaz’s short story when he assesses his social standing based on personal experiences.
Lastly, the the main character externally demonstrates how he assesses girl based on their sexual willingness. He judges how girls of different ethnicities will act depending on their ethnic background. For instance, when the young boy says,“A local girl may have hips and a thick ass but she won't be quick about letting you touch... A whitegirl might just give it up right then. Don't stop her.” On the surface, readers can clearly see that the object is to get as close to having sex as possible on the date, and might interpret this as the narrator categorizing the girls sexually. However, if we take a deeper look we can see that the closer the girl is to the young boy racially, the more the narrator distances himself.
Internally, the narrator demonstrates the destructive effects of racism within himself and those like him.The young teenage boy demonstrates his inability to truly accept his identity. For example, when the narrator explains to the readers to "Tell her that you love her hair, that you love her skin, her lips, because, in truth, you love them more than you love your own (Diaz 147).” In this passage the author is challenging his readers to think about how the protagonist is aware of self hate, but yet continues to struggle with the issue instead of addressing it. By showing a connection between racial preference and self hate- the protagonist is critiquing his own community in the way that they view racism on an larger scale. In another instance we can see this happening with the darker skinned girls he sees, the halfie. When the halfie is speaking to him she explains, “You're the only kind of guy that asks me out, she will say. Your neighbors will start their hyena calls, now that the alcohol is in them. You and the blackboys. Say nothing”(Diaz 148).