Tag Archives: social stratification

Looking Forward

More than a Moment! The struggle is real and it will not be fought or won over-night. We have to plan and implement the future we want. But first we have to know what the causes and conditions are that led to the circumstances we are contending with now, if we are to change the system and not run into the same problems all over again. This is a humble beginning, but I am in this for the long haul and I hope you will stand with me. We will only do this together.

“Get to the Truth” by Renaissance the Poet (New Music)


Verse # 1
Why’s it such a mystery? The mister be a fiend.
The man was out for blood but now you’re bleedin at the seams.
Sometimes it’s hard to see but the truth is there to read.
If you dare to look inside a book you can’t avoid the scheme.
Don’t know what they taught you but you know they bound to lock you.
In a cell until they pop you and you’ve given up what I do
Speakin on survival, rival all they propaganda
These Simple Politicians always lackin speech with candor
Never see their motives, Trojans claim a heart of gold
Shouting to the masses but their actions have been sold
To the highest bidder, can we hold them to their word?
Hell no…. cuz that would be absurd!!!
At least from their perspective, only answer to a vote
Democracy, hypocrisy hard it’s to keep afloat
While wading through the lies, so thick you have to choke
Slavery not history, the rope’s around our throat.


Get to the Truth
What they teachin ain’t right
Get to the Truth
Out the Prison of Your mind
Get to the Truth
& Open your third eye
Gettin to the Truth
Only way to beat the lie

Verse # 2
The gravest lie conceived still pervades undefeated
&keeps the people thinking that a drive within is needed
Seeded in for centuries its presence now benign
Cliché in a sense, got us livin by this line
Feelin, peelin back the worth inside the heart of men
Like a fundamental error has been locked within our skin
it’ss been the purview to exploit this ignorance
While we’re strugglin for dollars but we can’t afford our rents
Why can’t you be like Lincoln and make yourself from nothin?-
Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and hit the ground runnin
When it’s the American Dream and the America Way
To start from nothing and end gettin paid!!!
But what they don’t tell you, is it ain’t that way
The aristocracy got us a rat in a maze
Based on where you’re born they tell you where you’re goin
Whether be to college or on the block hoein

Get to the Truth
What they teachin ain’t right
Get to the Truth
Out the Prison of Your mind
Get to the Truth
& Open your third eye
Gettin to the Truth
Only way to beat the lie

Verse # 3
They want us to believe, that our voice really matters
But in truth, ya’ll, they want us all scattered
They want us in a frenzy and to fight one another
They want us ignorant to what they’re doin to our brothers
They don’t want us to bind and to build our strength together
What they want, is for us scrounge the gutter
Pessimistic maybe, till you been in the books
And you see stratification and how it really looks
Till you see the way that money begets money
And how tyrants are made by political funding
It’s a conundrum, no wonder, people have given up
Trying to see through the lies when we got to earn a buck
Ain’t left us no time to dig through policy
And understand political posturing
But lies without grounds tend to fall through the cracks
And through the cracks we’ll see the truth at last


Get to the Truth
What they teachin ain’t right
Get to the Truth
Out the Prison of Your mind
Get to the Truth
& Open your third eye
Gettin to the Truth
Only way to beat the lie



the mightiest force in the world

the only truth that I see

the only reality I can afford

head strong

a daunting scene

the death sentence that I plead

your lies wont pay my rent

nor mouths will they feed

bomb shells to sky rises

deficit to price rises

the cleaner the city

the darker the ghetto

the quicker to pull the stiletto

meek are the sizes our checks render

our bosses despise us


expendable workers

slaved till they dirt us

“Live Free or Die Free” by Renaissance the Poet



the land of the free

the home of the brave

The land of milk and honey

The home that God made

where anything is possible

Americans  Dream

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps

You find that it means

Honor in the Governing

The system is pristine

Equal Opportunity

To Life and Liberty

The Pursuit of Happiness

Just as good as it could be

Guaranteed by the Constitution,

You and me are FREE!


Wanna go to College

Wanna have a Family

Wanna start a Business

Wanna tan upon a beach

Wanna teach a math class

Wanna a car that drives fast

Wanna date a pretty girl

Wanna smoke a little grass

Wanna go to outer-space

Wanna surgery your face

Wanna dance through the night

Wanna dress yourself in lace

Wanna practice your religion


this… is… the United States: Man!!!



Verse #1


It’s not the way it seems

The system, hyper-stratified

Be a different class of people

and the rules are not applied

In the same distribution

Those Politicians lied

& it’s claimed to be inherent

But Equality’s Denied


Have to work twice as hard

to get  half as far

Passed over, looked over

for color less than dark

wanna person with a white face

to fill up all their jobs

the deck is stacked against us

As we try to beat the odds


Schools Different/ Rules Different

Damned if we can read

Cues Different/ Whose getting

the teachin that we need

Pipelined into Prison

With a Surgical Precision

Minority; Commodity

Synonymous to Business


Slavery never ended

Check the laws and how they bend them

Twisted the amendments

and defend it stupendous

Horrendous, how the Constitution’s

Used to justify

the reduction of a human

to components of supply


The prisons privatized

means they’re run by corporations

whose interests are in profits, not

in Rehabilitations

job or social skills,

or how to pay our bills,

But in keeping prisons full

to maximize their Deals


With the Congress drafting laws

targeted in clause

at the colored population

to keep us bound in bars


And that’s not freedom

Not the Dream that I believed in

Nor Equal Opportunity, even

Though they guaranteed it


It’s like Life and Liberty

have conditional properties

of being White and Wealthy

Thus, Defining who is Free

Racist, classist, take your pick

Sexist, homophobic it

Subordinates our citizens

Our Liberty is stripped

How much more so

for immigrants and Refugees within

a system built on fear

that propagates  the hate of men

an image based on lies

to distinguish us from them

So, we don’t stand together

‘cause that, they can’t defend



Live Free or Die free, but None Will Confine Me

Live Free or Die Free, to Be Free is My Dream



Verse #2


Stripped of our Choice

Somehow we learned to get through

Denied our voice

So then we learned to make do

Robbed of what we valued

& we had to learn to stay true

to our families and our friends

‘cause they needed us to


And yet even amidst this hell

we tried to make a home

to work and to build a life

within the boundaries shown

but resources were limited

so, we had to make our own

Although they were not all legit

We had the kids to feed at home


see, not only was I black

and hated just for that

But I was subjugated, stratified

and pushed unto the back

I was ripped from my family

like they did to Malcom X

but I had to get them dollars

and I wasn’t earnin checks



‘cause, you have to be a citizen

to get any respect

but for a Refugee

there’s continuous neglect

my family fled from Africa

when I was only two

I was forced into foster care

and I barely made it through


…was never granted status

‘for they put me to the streets

and I had to find a way

So could make those ends meet


So, I turned to dealing drugs

Just like many of us was

Who was livin in disgust

‘cause options not robust

But alas we had need

and we thought we had been freed

We were Victims of the system

Being chased by I.C.E.

Deportation from this nation

What they threatened in our faces

And attempted to displace us

From our families’ loving graces

Immigrant or Citizen

it makes no difference

Liberty’s been stripped

of all its eloquence

the Constitution’s shredded

Every time it comes to race

ain’t no equal opportunity

in this God forsaken place


But we’ve got to bind together

take a stand, it’s now or never

I know we can do better,

than to bow to this oppressor

Alone we may be weak and silenced

Inside our hearts are scorned to violence

But as our voices rise in non-compliance

We will find our heart’s desires



Live Free or Die free, but None Will Confine Me

Live Free or Die Free, to Be Free is My Dream

Identity Development: An Inside Job

A story is not just a story when it is literature because it is filled with themes that connect it to a much broader world and utilizes elements that each fulfill a specific purpose, which ultimately conveys messages that reach beyond its pages. This neither means that stories cannot be enjoyable to read, nor that they should always be read to discover the larger social context from which it derives and or it suggests; it implies that there are often deeper meanings than simply what is contained in the sum of the words on the pages. For example, the title of Sherman Alexie’s novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is ironic because truth is relative and three pages into the story the protagonist Junior admits that, “I am not even writing down this story the way I actually talk, because I’d have to fill it with stutters and lisps, and then you’d be wondering why you’re reading a story written by such a retard” (3-4). It seems that Alexie desired to leave room for ambiguity and interpretation and for the audience to reach through the words to discover the crux of the messages contained within the novel. One such message is the dichotomous yet blending identity of poverty for Spokane Indians and the affluence of White-American-Culture through the eyes of Junior, who challenges the stratification of race and class, and confronts racism and resignation by going to a rich-white school to get a white education. Junior’s struggle to find belonging amidst the competing demands of tradition and education that are stressed further by racial discrimination and feelings of betrayal, ultimately suggests that belonging is not necessarily determined extrinsically, but rather must be determined intrinsically by confronting the either/or thinking that has predominated the perception of Indians, if he is to discover his identity and find his both/and belonging.

Junior’s identity is initially derived from his family, who are in a larger context members of the Spokane Tribe, and on an even larger context are Indians who share the identity of being colonized and forced into poverty. In the beginning of the story when Junior is describing his family and the life of Indians on the Spokane Reservation, he reveals the ugly cycle of poverty and identity determination:

It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you’re poor because you’re stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you’re stupid and ugly because you’re Indian. And because you’re Indian you start believing you’re destined to be poor. It’s an ugly cycle and there’s nothing you can do about it. (Alexie 11)

For Junior it is not pleasant to be impoverished because the poverty itself is the initiator of the self-loathing, which perpetuates a cycle of powerlessness wherein he associates his—and by association all Indians’—position in society as his fault because he is an Indian. Junior claims that his mother would have been a psychology professor and his father would have been a great jazz musician, if it were not for the phenomenon that, “we reservation Indians don’t get to realize our dreams” (Alexie 12), saturating the deterministic cycle. Junior’s identity was shaped by these convoluted, paralyzing and interdependent beliefs based on the extrinsic reality of Postcolonial Indians, which have culled into a tradition largely based on the fundamental feeling of despair; wherein to be an Indian is to be poor, without hope and guilty for the situation.

Junior later discovers that his identity and the identity of Indians are not just determined by familial and tribal connections and tradition, but by what the editor of Spider Woman’s Granddaughters, Paula Gunn Allen termed “educational warfare” (15). Junior’s discovery begins with an observation about his school and the instructors: “you can’t work at our school if you don’t live in the compound. It was like some kind of prison-work farm for our liberal, white vegetarian do-gooders and conservative, white missionary saviors” (Alexie 28). A compound is an enclosure for prisoners and in this sense it is also a metaphor for how Junior sees the school on the reservation, and the Indians are the prisoners who need to be saved from being Indian by the white missionaries—the teachers. Allen argues that for this warfare to be effective, “you have to have your enemy in captivity” and that the “Indian School System” boiled down to not much “more than concentration camps for young people” where they “are taught to view the world only through Protestant-derived, purist, Anglo-American eyes” (Allen 15). Alexie shows this after Junior threw his book at Mr. P, his geometry teacher, when Mr. P reveals to Junior the truth about the reservation school system and the missionaries’ objective: “We were supposed to make you give up being Indian. Your songs and stories and language and dancing. Everything. We weren’t trying to kill Indian people. We were trying to kill Indian culture” (Alexie 33). Thus, it is revealed to Junior that his and ultimately Indian identity was being determined through postcolonial-cultural-genocide, which was occurring on the reservations, in their neighborhoods, at their schools and by people whom they perceived as saviors.

Junior, because of where he was born automatically belonged to this group of people whose identity was being determined by nationality, tribal associations, family ties and cultural genocide, but when he questioned that system with the decision to attend Reardan, a high school in a “rich, white farm town” (Alexie 43), he violated what Beverly Daniel Tatum termed “oppositional social identity” (Tatum 60). The missionary, Mr. P, during the conversation when he reveals the truth about the reservation also shifts his position when he tells Junior, “you’re a bright and shining star…[y]ou’re the smartest kid in the school. And I don’t want you to fail. I don’t want you to fade away. You deserve better” (Alexie 39). Continuing, Mr. P says, “[i]f you stay on this rez, they’re going to kill you. I’m going to kill you. We’re all going to kill you. You can’t fight us forever” (Alexie 41). In that conversation with Mr. P, Junior discovered that he was not destined to be poor, that he deserved more, and that it wasn’t because he was Indian, but rather because of oppression that he felt stupid. But, Junior was an Indian from the rez, who was expected even by his own people to continue this “ugly cycle”—to be Indian was to be poor, stupid and ugly together—anything else was betrayal and a choice not to belong. Tatum asserts that this oppositional identity stems from “anger and resentment that adolescents feel in response to their growing awareness of the systemic exclusion of [subordinate] people from full participation in U.S. society” and that the “stance both protects one’s identity from the psychological assault of racism and keeps the dominant group at a distance” (Tatum 60). Alexie’s novel reveals this when Junior informs his best friend Rowdy that he will be leaving the reservation school to attend Reardan and Rowdy lambasts him: “I HATE you! You SUCK! You WHITE LOVER!” (Alexie 51). For Junior, like many other subordinate and subjugated people(s) who are not of the dominant class, taking part in the “elite” culture’s practices, such as education, and not resigning oneself to stupidity and poverty is to not belong—as Junior noted: “my best friend had become my worst enemy” (Alexie 51)—to the tribe any longer.

However, Junior discovers that he also does not belong to the Reardan tribe because his identity does not match their expectations either because Indians were either thought in the classical sense as savages or in the modern sense as stupid, ugly and poor Indians from the reservation. One of the first things that Junior notices as he enters Reardan is how he is perceived: “Those white kids could not believe their eyes. They stared at me like I was Bigfoot or a UFO. What was I doing at Reardan, whose mascot was an Indian, thereby making me the only other Indian in town?” (Alexie 53). Alexie reveals the propensity of society to be comfortable as long as everything stays in its place, as long as there is not a mixing of the cultures, of the ideas, of identities, but once that has occurred confusion emerges and social pressure is applied to the outsider to reinforce conformity. This of course is identity being determined by factors external of Junior, but that does not change the way he feels inside: “Reardan was the opposite of the rez. It was the opposite of my family. It was the opposite of me. I didn’t deserve to be there. I knew it; all those kids knew it. Indians don’t deserve shit” (Alexie 55). Junior could not belong at the rich white school until he was renamed, which is one of the primary conditions that Allen asserted in the discussion of compulsory Indian education, Junior became Arnold to assimilate into the white culture at Reardan. Thus, Junior/Arnold discovered a dichotomous identity as he sought to discover himself: “I woke up on the reservation as an Indian and somewhere on the road to Reardan, I became something less than Indian. And once I arrived at Reardan, I became something less than less than Indian” (Alexie 80). Because his identity was being determined by external factors he either had to be Junior on the reservation, or Arnold at Reardan, but not both.
Yet, because of Junior’s resilience not to give in to the social pressure to conform to the conventional perceptions and confronting the either/or thinking that has predominated the perception of Indians, he is able to make friends and discover belonging at Reardan. Chimamanda Adichie, the author of Half of a Yellow Sun, in an speech given on Ted Talks argued that the “Danger of a Single Story” is not that stereotypes are inaccurate, it is that they are only part of the truth. The stereotypes that Junior/Arnold faced and subsequently all Indians in America is the idea that Indians are stupid, ugly and poor and belong on the reservation. However, when Junior confronts his science teacher Mr. Dodge, and asserts that he knows more about “petrified wood” (Alexie 81), he challenges the perception that Indians are stupid. When Junior/Arnold starts dating Penelope, one of the most attractive girls at Reardan, he challenges the perception that Indians are ugly. And when Junior/Arnold makes the varsity squad on the Reardan basketball team and leads them against the reservation team, he establishes that he is not worthless. All three of these things combined assert that Junior/Arnold does not only belong on the reservation. In effect, what Alexie reveals through Junior/Arnold’s resistance and by inserting a subordinate people’s personality into white culture, is a direct challenge to the omission of postcolonial-conquered people in literature that Edward W. Said argued in the essay “Narrative and Social Space”. By challenging the stereotypes and the “single story,” Junior/Arnold effectively replaces the omission with stories of his own. The perception of Indians both for the dominant culture—White America—and the Indians of America was changed because now as the result of Junior/Arnold’s perseverance, a multi-layered story exists to contradict the stereotypes.

The “Part-Time Indian,” Junior on the rez and Arnold at Reardan was a dichotomy forged in essentialism, but the protagonist in Alexie’s novel, belonged in both places, with both peoples and at the same time neither individually. He was both Indian and intelligent. He also was both poor and deserved more, and this did not fit into any rubric they had in either place. Ultimately, Junior’s identity was determined from within himself and not from exterior factors. This of course is antagonistic of what Paula Gunn Allen wrote in the introduction to the anthology Spider Woman’s Granddaughter, concerning mixing: “This rigid need for impermeable classificatory boundaries is reflected in turn in the existence of numerous institutional, psychological, and social barriers designed to prevent mixture from occurring” (3). Alexie challenged this perception with Junior’s both/and position of the reservation and Reardan. Perhaps the best example of this is when Junior and his family are at the graveyard to clean the graves of his grandmother, Eugene, and Mary when he comes to the realization that he did not only belong to one tribe:

I realized that, sure, I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball player. And to the tribe of bookworms…And the tribe of boys who really missed their best friends. It was a huge realization. (Alexie 210-211)

Through the struggles of loss; feeling like, being called and treated like a traitor; and self-discovery, Junior at last saw himself in a much broader context of belonging that was more than what the exterior could convey, it was an inside job. His identity—his sense of belonging was shaped by what he valued and what he enjoyed doing, by the struggles he shared with others, by loss, and by choice. It was not until Junior got to know himself that he truly felt he deserved to belong, and this is one of the many messages that Sherman Alexie conveyed in the novel, though albeit said, beyond just the words on the pages of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
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Alexie, Sherman and Ellen Forney. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New
York: Little Brown and Company: Hachette Book Group, 2007. Kindle File.

Allen, Paula Gunn. Introduction to Spider Woman’s Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and
Comtemporary Writing by Native American Women. New York: Random House Publishing Group , 1989. Print.

Said, Edward W. Narrative and Social Spaces. From Critical Theory:A Reader for Literary and
Cultural Studies. Edited by Robert Dale Parker New York: Oxford University Press. Print.

Tatum, Beverly Daniel. Identity Development in Adolescence. From Why are all the Black Kids
Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? New York: Basic Books, 1997. 52-74.