Tag Archive: race


By: Leena Beddawi

America has been expanding its laws surrounding refugees and immigrants crossing its borders for decades, the most drastic set of expansions being created after the attack on September 11, 2001. Throughout these border security and law expansions, one thing that never changed is the law granting asylum for any refugee seeking protection from a country which defines a refugee as a “person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future ‘on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.’”.

Frankenstein’s creature insists on proving the “truth of my tale” in order to show that there are wildly different perspectives in this world and the means are just as valuable as the ends, how they became who they are, what they overcame to get here, is just as important as their very existence. I could only assume that in giving these letters to Victor, the creature hoped to change his mind about those who he considered being “other”.  One thing we see in many refugee or immigrant story is that they usually perfect models of W. E. B. Du Bois’ double-consciousness.

Double-consciousness is a concept in social philosophy which explains the presence of two apparently unconnected streams of consciousness in one individual, usually having to do with race, ethnicity, or originating country. This is something many refugees go through in order to search for a better life, they learn a whole new language, accustom to another culture, and try to peacefully integrate themselves in a space that is completely foreign to them because this is their only hope.

Safie is a Muslim Arab migrant from Turkey, but very much became a citizen of the world in accordance with Felix’s locations. Wherever he went, she wished to follow, and she made that place her home because they were together. I believe the creature’s pride in “learn[ing] from the views of a developed social life, to admire their virtues, and to deprecate the vices of mankind” helped him to empathize with the conquered native Americans and to see himself in the immigrant or refugee status because they each had felt that same sense of double-consciousness (114).

caravan

The president of the United States of America has chosen to demonize, criminalize, and verbally dehumanize the thousands of asylum seekers currently coming towards the border from Central America, most escaping Honduras, which many news organizations call “The World’s Deadliest Country”. Many of these people are young men, women, children, and elderly. Before they enter, they hope to apply as asylum seekers, which should technically aid them in a legal route of asylum. In the U.S., however, the immigration systems are severely out-of-date and meant to delay asylum to refugees for many small reasons, the main of which is just the subjectivity of opinion which goes with who gets asylum and who doesn’t.

I think if we were somehow able to share each individual story from the thousands of asylum seekers and hardworking individuals looking for a better life, searching for any life, we can actually start changing minds of politicians who see them as nothing but invaders. But if the president was presented with individual stories of the humanitarian crisis the refugees have been running from, one would hope that he would welcome those people with open arms, and allow asylum to those who need it.

In Frankenstein, I believe it was best summed up by Safie when describing why she never want to go back to Asia, where she was “allowed only to occupy herself with infantile amusements, ill-suited to temper her soul, now accustomed to grand ideas and a noble emulation for virtue” (112). This showed not only her desperation to go to another country where she could be herself without constraints, but showed how this alone should be enough to pass through and see if you can make a better life in another country. The very idea of borders exudes a racist, xenophobic ideology which has yet to be updated after many decades of fear mongering anything “other” to us, much like how the creature is treated by everyone they come in contact with, as well. It is no surprise they see themselves in the refugee story since their own double-consciousness must be deafening within themselves.

Authenticity

When Critical Race studies are applied as a lens towards Mary Shelly’s novel, “Frankenstein,” perspectives of obscure subjects or aspects come to light. Critical race studies scholars like W.E.B. Du Bois, Gloria E. Anzaldua, Edouard Glissant, and Ngugi Wa Thiong’s; express contemporary studies on race, cultural identity, but most of all essentialist assumptions of gender, race, cultural identity etc. Similarly, we can draw ideas from critical race scholars to obtain a perspective of important aspects that the novel may be trying to covey. In the novel, the origins of the Delacey’s family social circumstance, Safie’s own story (and her father’s) and the creature all have commonality. This scenario of Safie’s story comes from racial discrimination and injustice. Safie’s father was a foreigner in France living his daily life when he was accused of a crime and had been condemned by The French Government. He was incarcerated a d sentenced to death. Felix hearing such injustice decided to help Safie’s father and in the process of trying to authenticate a form of “belonging,” in this case the passports, he fell in love with Safie. Safie is a Muslim Arab immigrant woman who also falls in love with Felix. She had been taught be her Christian Arab mother and was taught independence and intellect at a young age. As the story goes, Safie’s father disapproves the marriage and makes plans of his own to leave France and take Safie with him. At the same time, Felix unaware of this betrayal has the French Government suspicion and as a result, pay’s the price for helping a “terrorist.” His family were targets of the French Family and therefore are forced to leave (exiled) from their home country. Throughout, the narration the Creature tells his creator Victor that he will, “prove the truth of my tale,” in order to provide evidence of his tale, the tale of Safie’s as well. By providing authenticity to his tale and that of Walton’s. Authenticity is key in this part of the novel. In a way, if we applied this to the lens of race studies, most immigrants and refugees; people who are “othered” do not have authenticity. Therefore, do not belong to the Western social standards in race, culture, and most of all identity.

 

From the Creatures (indirectly Walton’s) narrative, the DeLacey family had been unhappy for a long time enduring a life of hardship in Germany. However, upon Safie’s arrival, their sad echoed life seemed to have a been lifted up. Another aspect to note is that Safie and both the Creature were learning the language in order to communicate. Which brings me to the point of the novel. The DeLacey family, Safie (and her father), and the Creature all have a common feeling. They are in some way refugees. The DeLacey family stripped from their wealth, status, and exiled from their homeland had to assimilate with Germany in order to live. Safie and her father faced discrimination and racial injustice due to their culture/identity had to leave France. In addition, the Creature is someone whose appearance does not conform to the socially constructed standards of his time. Therefore, in a way, he is discriminated against for his appearance.  They are aware of the double-consciousness. Which according to W.E.D De Bois idea is, “a sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of the world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” The Creature most of all, is aware of this double-consciousness that mankind sees him in. For example, he is aware that he is a species that does not identify with another kind, his constant rejection of Victor even the DeLacey Family, and his feelings of injustices toward him.

  • Karla Garcia Barrera

The Activist

 

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Christopher Martinez

Throughout the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley there is signs of migration. Safie, the daughter of a merchant, seems to want the feeling of family and unity. Safie comes from a Turkish background and she migrated to leave the political problems. With this in mind, there is a connection between the monster itself and Safie. They both seek shelter and just want to be accepted for who they are. In addition, there seems to be evidence of discrimination against migrants in the book. Safie’s father was sentenced to death in Paris for a crime that he didn’t commit. Clearly, this shows the bigotry and separation of class and race in the book. Likewise, Frankenstein experiences the same thing as Safie. He sees discrimination all around him and even the way that Victor describes the monster shows the ideologies people have against people that are ‘different.’

When the monster gave Victor the letters by Safie and wanted Victor to know his tale through another person’s words, there was a sense of connections. In the story, Victor is very closed minded with the looks of others. He finds certain looks superior. We can see this when Victor says, “His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same color as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips” (60).

Furthermore, the monster seems to try to tell Victor to look through his eyes. The monster tells Victor that he has figured out the truth on his own and has taught himself about the world he lives in. He tells Victor, “These wonderful narrations inspired me with strange feelings. Was man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous, and magnificent, yet so vicious and base?” (108) The monster is questioning the ideas humans have about each other. Frankenstein doesn’t seem to understand why are humans so smart, yet can’t see everyone as equal. This is what stood out! It is as if Frankenstein is an equal rights activist!