Likewise, Micheal Costello relates a similar story, speaking of unsupportive parents, how him being gay and working in the fashion industry has alienated his parents but in spite of that, he’s very proud of what he has achieved and how far he has come. Both their stories have a common thread of fear and lack of acceptance which stem from a variety of reasons- being gay, working in the fashion industry, HIV- but ultimately celebrate the very basic and universal idea of overcoming obstacles and loving oneself. The insecurities and fears both men revealed were abated and even celebrated when they were able to challenge normalcy and embody greatness.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Recently on desperate housewives, Mexican american family Gabby and Carlos Solis discovered that their child Juanita was actually mistakenly switched at birth and their true biological child had been placed with another Mexican family. This story line has been one of the most interesting to me, not simply because of the sheer emotion and drama the situation has induced but also how it brings to light some interesting sides to the Solis family. The contrast between Gabby and Carlos Solis and Hector and his wife are striking; the new couple highlights the Mexican culture for the Solis family and the extent of its importance. In once scene, Gabby brings home groceries for a ‘Mexican’ oriented Thanksgiving dinner for Hector’s family and hers. The exchange between Gabby and her husband is worth noting.
Gabby: (rummaging through her grocieries) : tamales, frijoles, chorizo stuffing, jalepeno cornbread,...
Carlos asks : where are the cranberries sauce and yams?
Gabby: I wanted to make some of their favorite foods and since they’re used to their mexican dishes..
Carlos: That was very nice of you!
Gabby: I know...Now get to cooking!
Gabby: You’re the one who knows about mexican stuff! You roll your r’s, you call soccer “futbol”
Carlos: your mocking me because im proud of culture
Gabby: no im celebrating it..theres two bags of your culture right there! get cooking!
and later in the episode:
gabby: i made margaritas!
Carlos: she is very proud of her culture
This episode, among others, highlights Gabby’s disconnect with her Mexican heritage. This is contrasted with another Mexican couple, who appear to be very in tune with their Mexican background. I wonder, does culture become distilled with wealth? As people move into the higher, upper echelons of 'white' encrusted society, do the roots of culture become less visible and important? I don’t think so- the wealth and luxury of living clearly hasn’t effected Carlos’s attachment to his heritage. I believe that Gabby’s distance from her Mexican heritage has a lot to do with her heritage itself; in past seasons, we’ve learned that she came from a poorer family and that shes always dreamed of ‘making it big’ and escaping her situation; she wanted to very much be a part of that society where jewels, fame,wealth and grandeur were commonplace and jimmy choos were the token of exchange, not tamales. The distance with her culture that is visible on screen, i think, is rooted in personal and emotional conflict and it is that very turmoil she sees manifested in her biological child- a beautiful young girl, stuck in a poorer family, who longs for finer things. Gabby’s detachment from her culture is not necessarily a distaste for her Mexican upbringing but rather, a separation from her past and all things associated with it. It is for this reason that I don’t find her aloof superficiality or nonchalant generalizations about Mexican Culture offensive or demoralizing; rather, I find it a product of her own personal journey. When she very poignantly gives Grace an expensive necklace, it’s not materialism or a disregard for hollow and meaningless she is promoting; rather, it is a tangible part of her that she is giving without words. I just hope that through the course of the season, she can come more to terms with her heritage and past in ways that extend beyond Chanel and Prada.
Check out the story http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130833741
Also, check out the article http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130833741&sc=emaf
RuPaul's Drag Race, which airs on LOGO and logoonline.com is a combination of America's Next Top Model and Project Runway with contestants who are drag queens and female illusionists. I love this show. (As problematic as any beauty contest may be) So far there have been 2 seasons of this show and I could not help but notice something extremely disturbing about it. The ways in which the Puerto Rican Latinas have been treated because of their so-called "language skills."
For the finale of season 1, Nina Flowers and Bebe Zahara Benet were the two finalists. Both Bebe and Nina had accents but on was a French accent and the other was a Puerto Rican accent. Not once on the show was Bebe looked down upon because of her accent, yet that seemed to be the central focus when it came to Nina Flowers' air time and it is almost the main reason as to why she did not win the contest. According to Rupaul, "She would not be able to communicate well enough with her fan base." Her prediction was so weak and so wrong.
When the public was given the opportunity to use for their favorite Drag Queen, Nina Flowers won. Obviously, Nina's "language problem" was not really seen as an issue for the audience of the show. Nina Flowers lost the title becauuse she was not fluent in English. Spanish was her primary language. To keep this short, Jessica Wild in season 2 was also eliminated during episode 7 due to her "language skills." When Jessica Wild proposed her new book to be titled, "Dreams of a Golden Child" the cast members and judges laughed and asked if she was saying "golden shower" because they could not understand what she was saying. WTF. That is so not cool. That moment really upset me. Could they not see that they were humiliating one of the sweetest contestants on the show when she was not laughing at their comment. Poor Jessica Wild didn't even know what a Golden Shower was.
My point is this, as progressive and transgressive as Rupaul may claim to be, she is still perpetuating the notion of America being and "English Only" nation. She is the one in charge of picking the cast and season 3 (which will air this January 2011) has a contestant by the name of Yara Sofia. Yara Sofia is from Puerto Rico and has been part of the same dance club (club krash) where Jessica Wild and Nina Flowers came from. Given what has happened with both Jessica Wild and Nina Flowers it is very disappointing to already know that Yara Sofia will not win because she, just as Nina and Jessica, is not fluent in English. Why must Rupaul knowingly allow these girls to compete if she will not give them a chance to win? Many argue that at least Rupaul helps them in gaining exposure and thus leading to more successful drag careers. I beg to differ. To be content with exposure, while being denied an opportunity to win is almost like saying "Well, at least they're being represented, that should be more than enough." That is not right, its not fair, and its really disappointing to hear Rupaul, one of my great idols, to say these things.
I'm a big Rent fan, I watched the movies and have gone to see the broadway play. It's such a great musical, but never realized how stereotypical it could be. Take the character Mimi Marquez, she's a stripper, goes to clubs and dances for money, she is also a druggie, she needs her coke. She is a hyper-sexualized character who falls in love with Roger, the rockstar. And did I mention she's latino.
For some reason, I thought that Sofia Vergara was part of a show called "Lente Loco" I remembered watching her on T.V and I could have sworn that she was in that show. However, after I tried to look her up, I wasn't getting anything under that show, it was then that I discovered that the show that she was actually in was called "Fuera de Serie". I managed to find of video of Sofia Vergara as a reporter. In that show she was the side kick of the main reporter who now does "Republica Deportiva", Fernando Fiori. Although this clip mostly deals with El Salvador, you can kind of see Vergara's role in the show. Although she does do the interviews indeed and it is her voice that you hear when she's describing the country of El Salvador, she manages to prank her co star by feeding him extremely spicy food. While he actually does much of the interview.
It is also interesting to note her appearance. Although she is still wearing somewhat tight clothes, he hair is actually blonde. Even though she has an accent because she is indeed from Colombia, her voice is soft and smooth unlike the picture we see now in Modern Family. The fact that he hair was blonde actually reminded me of an early class discussion that we had during the semester when we talked about how Latinas have to dye their hair dark brown in order to live up to the "sexy Latina" image. Clearly there is a huge difference between the image that Sofia Vergara had then to the image that we see now in Modern Family.
Has anyone watched Toy Story 3? When Woody comes back to the day care to save the day, the toy's run into one big problem. Buzz has been programed under the control of the evil toys, so Woody and his pals try to reset Buzz back to normal. Little did they know, Rex put his finger in the reset button for too long and put Buzz in Spanish mode.
After our discussion in class about Latinos in Baseball, I decided to write my second essay on the role of Latinos in modern day baseball. One of my examples was that of Fernando Valenzuela and the Dodgers organization. Although in this clip, they are mainly talking about near the end of his career after his amazing season in '81, the clip sheds some light on the controversial decision by the Dodgers organization in '89 to let him go after they had used him a lot. More than anything this clip shows the sense of betrayal from Latino commentators, after all...if you actually watch the entire show (there are 4 clips), you get a sense that Valenzuela's success was felt throughout a nation. Fernando, pitched his first major league game in '80 when he was only 19 years old. Born and raised in Mexico, people really looked up to him, and during the '82-'83 seasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers had the highest attendance because everyone wanted to see the rookie pitch. Yet, as the clip shows, throughout the years there has been a lot of controversy surrounding whether Fernando Valenzuela was over worked. It was because of constant use that his arm finally gives out in '89 and which leads to the Dodgers releasing him that year. Now, my argument here lies in the fact that because Fernando Valenzuela was Latino, he didn't get the same treatment as other pitchers, and although he created what became to be known in Dodgers history as "Fernandomania", Fernando Valenzuela did not get enough votes to earn a spot in the hall of fame.
After their decision in '89, it wasn't until 2003 that the Dodgers offered Valenzuela a permanent job as a Spanish broadcaster. In my opinion the job came very late, as I have a feeling that he deserved a lot more recognition for his extraordinary performance. Valenzuela in a way led the way for other Mexican pitchers who would later enter the game, and he had an nice and clean image in front of his people. Valenzuela is still characterized by his level of humility and down to earth character. Last season, I went to a Dodger game with my dad and as we were walking out, Fernando Valenzuela was also leaving the stadium. My dad was wearing his jersey and Fernando stopped to autograph his jersey. It is nice that after all these years, he still takes time to stay and sign autographs because people still remember his legacy, especially the Latino community
Paquita’s most recent release includes a song called “Las Mujeres Mandan” which is also the title of her CD. I came across the following video for the song:
Paquita stands as a voice for women, encouraging them to take charge against the abuses of men. In several scenes you see women doing this by picketing, kneeing men to the groin and pushing them down after they call ‘cat call’ them. Paquita is seen as a leadership figure in the video rallying the women. She is on the cover of a magazine, holding a press conference, and sitting behind a desk delegating. Within rancheras, she is a leader in her genre of music breaking grounds for women to speak out. I found the video interesting as in a sense it reflects that.
The other day in lecture, someone brought up the idea of hierarchies within race due to their skin color. Latinos that are lighter-skinned are more readily accepted into the white culture because in a sense they blend in more. This also made me think of the first day of class where we attempted to define ‘Latin@’ and the discussion of census categories arose. Latinos can be classified as “white,” however this is not how the group is treated. Latinos are marginalized in treated in a discriminatory manner, not one of white status. However, then another issue is of how “light” is still not white thus yielding a question of authenticity and all of the discriminatory notions that permeates within society.
In a research paper I did for another class I came across Ilan Stavans’ article “Living in Another Language” who discusses from his personal experience people’s reactions to being a white- skinned Hispanic. He states how “society in the Americas has been structured by class. And class is often defined by degrees of foreignness. Thus, as a white-skinned Hispanic, I was automatically awarded a higher status, and among the Latino community in New York, that status again - attached to my Jewishness - opened doors to me” (Stavans 166). In my personal experience, I am a light-skinned Latina with a white name. People argue with me and state that I am not in fact Latina and of another ethnicity. But really, what does it matter and whose business is it anyway? Unfortunately, as Stavans indicates it does matter because of society’s perception and the importance placed on appearance.
Reference to: Stavans, Ilan. “Living in Another Language.” New England Review Vol. 22, No. 3 (Summer, 2001), pp. 168-172
Untitled (Perfect Lovers)
Felix Gonzalez-Torres was a Cuban-American artist who's many ephemeral pieces were a tribute to his dead partner (Ross Laycock) and a commemoration of the many who succumbed to AIDS. In this piece, two clocks are side by side and both begin with the same time. However, as time goes by, they fall out of sync, representing the ways in which relationships change and transform over time (i.e., two individuals can start out in the "same" place but because of life, circumstance and chance, positionality and the dynamic of the relationship can shift and transform).
I think that this sends a really profound and important message. Because life is liminal and everyone will eventually die, an exhibit like this forces a person to consider their own mortality. Also, the perception that a relationship is supposed to last forever with two people growing closer together seems to be some sort of social ideal deeply inscribed into our consciousness. This, however, is not very realistic. Through time people change and are transformed by experience. There is nothing tragic or sad about this, it is just a fact of life for many of us. Though it may be a difficult issue to approach for some, this exhibit, in a sense, legitimizes relationships that are not permanent and that do end. Just because something does not last forever does not mean that it was not valid, legitimate or sincere during it's lifespan.
Works like this yield a certain legitimacy to love, even when it is ephemeral, but also death. They allow us to consider love and relationships in different ways, as well as life and living. Often as "natural" human processes, this exhibit also reminds us that the way we understand love and death and life and living are because of socially constructed mores and values, not because of some innate or intrinsic hard wiring.
I’m sure most of you have heard of Gabriel Iglesias. He’s a comedian well known on YouTube, he’s also from the bay area. He can also get pretty racy. Well, I posted one of his performance on chocolate cake, but wanted to focus of the ending of his performance. To be honest I laughed the whole way through.
My freshman year I used to watch YouTube comedies with my roommate. I’m Asian and she’s Mexican, doesn’t seem to matter but we would mainly watch stereotypical clips making fun of Asians and Mexicans, and thing’s wouldn’t be awkward between us.
I just thought it was funny how he imitated a hard accented voice, to a white voice trying to speak Spanish. While he spoke in a high pitched voice really fast, and the women’s voice was slow, and he didn’t pr enunciate the words correctly, making it sound white. I thought it was funny, how about everyone else?
If you haven’t heard of Chi Chi, I won’t be too offended. His real name is Juan Flores, nicknamed after the famous baseball player, Chi Chi Flores. But in the golf world, he continues to be known as Chi Chi Rodriguez. He is most famous for his “sword dance”. Chi Chi was born in Puerto Rico, he has had 8 victories on the PGA tour and 22 victories on the Champions Tour. He has had many accomplishments, such as member on the World Golf Hall of Fame, as well as a member of the World Humanitarian Sports Hall of Fame.
He not only was a great golfer but a great entertainer. It’s hard to say whether people watch him for his skill, or for his jokes and dances. I thought that this instance was funny, "Chi Chi, you didn't do your sword dance." I said, "Ma'am, that putt was for a double bogey." People must know, to make the monkey dance, you must first give him a banana.” I wonder if he get’s angry that people solely watch or regard him as the golfer who does the sword dance, or if that was his intention to start with? Golf's already boring to watch to start with, so maybe he was trying to "spice" things up.
It is really hard for me to believe that people have such strong feelings against illegal immigrants. I thought that this was America? “Land of the free?” I wonder if this person understands how hard it is to become a legal immigrant. The chances of becoming legal, are not even that great, there are so many regulations to begin with. I come from an immigrant family, but honestly, who in America has not? When did they make legal become illegal? This guy must have really celebrated when Arizona passed their law. I was appalled by this message, because of his hatred for our nation to grow.
My parent’s immigrated from Korea. They came after they married because they wanted their children to have a better future. My mom was a nurse and my dad was an engineer, so they were well off to start. But aren’t most of our motives to move from country to country for the better of the future? It’s not like people are immigrating because they want to destroy other people’s countries. Everything comes at a cost, such as over population. We aren’t even that bad, shouldn’t we be caring more about how much in debt we are for handing out money we don’t have to other countries in need?
There are non-white characters in several Disney shows; however, they do not portray their culture, instead thsoe characters do not behave or represent their culture. Take London Tipton (Brenda Song) in The Suite Life on Deck for example. She is of an Asian background but her character reveals anything but Asian. What I mean by that is that we do not see any portrayal of an Asian culture. London Tipton is the daughter of a wealthy man who owns a hotel. Her mother, who is of Thai origin is never mentioned while her father, who is British is mentioned once or twice in the show. This illustrates the dominance of the Anglo culture because London's father, who is white is mentioned, whereas her mother, of Asian background is never mentioned.
Alex Russo (Selena Gomez) and her mother in Wizards of Waverly Place are Latinos as mentioned in one episode. In that episode, Alex's mother urges Alex to learn Spanish because she would like Alex to get in touch with her roots. It is evident that Alex struggles to learn Spanish, suggesting that she is drifting from her Latino roots and acculturating to the American culture.
It is clear that most Disney characters are white in shows such as Hannah Montana, Sonny with a Chance, etc. Even though there are a few that are non-white, their characters do not display any cultural traditions. So I wonder, as the United States become more and more diverse, why aren't the shows depicting that?
It’s a well-known fact that sex appeal is widely used in commercials to entice viewers. As a result of our discussions on the sexual nature of Latina women and the masculine/sex appeal of Latino men one would stereotype that hyper-sexuality would be a common trend in Latin@ commercials. However, as the majority of society is blatantly aware, stereotypes are often not true, which is what I assumed would be true of most Latin@ commercials until I saw the one below.
It is an advertisement for voting and seems to be encouraging women to vote in the upcoming elections in Spain. It’s basically saying that you (women) can orgasm, just like the woman in the commercial, if you vote. I completely understand the reasoning behind the sexuality aspect and how usually it can be enticing to buyers/customers. However, in the context of voting this just seemed completely unnecessary and playing into the stereotypes of sexual Latin@ women. The weird thing about this commercial was that although the stereotypes of excessively sexual Latina women was maintained, if the commercial was in English you wouldn’t have been able to tell that they were Latin. Essentially the mixing of stereotypes in this commercial was interesting to me. Thinking about this commercial I was reminded of another stereotype ridden commercial, in terms of sexuality, that I’ve seen. I’ll post it too because it’s the comparison of the male version of selling Latin@ sexuality (primarily in the last scene), catering to both male and female audiences, in a way that is actually successful (although it also appeals to hyper-masculine ideals).
A few weeks ago, I noticed my friend posted a link to an article that talked about a recent online scandal between the infamous YouTube "Ask a Chola" comedian and a concerned viewer...as battle between the two unfolded, the concerned viewer told online audiences everywhere that the "chola" in the videos was not in fact a "chola," not even an ethnic-Mexican person...she outed the "chola" as actually being a young white woman named Chloe, living in a gentrified section of Santa Ana, a city in Orange County largely made up Mexican peoples. Aura, the woman who accused "Ask a Chola" of being an impostor and for ridiculing Chicana culture, sent a heated message on Facebook to all of the people who followed "Ask a Chola," asking of them to contact "Chloe" and tell her the damage she is doing to our communities...
After watching a few of the "Ask a Chola" videos, along with writings on the battle between Aura and Chloe, I began to wonder how people impersonate the Chola archetype within the media...Debra Wilson and Nicole Sullivan of Mad TV have done hilarious renditions of the chola image as Lida and Melina...Even though Debra is African American and Nicole is white, their representation of the chola did not seem to garner as much negative attention as other people in the past who have attempted to do the same, such as Gwen Stefani's "Luxurious" music video in which she dresses as a chola, with thick red lipstick, large hoops, and over-defined eyebrows...
My question would be, who is a chola? How does a chola act, dress, talk, etc.? But most importantly, who has the right to be a chola?
Monday, November 22, 2010
I found the article to be interesting because I feel that children are commonly overlooked when discussing the issue of illegal immigration.
The television series Weeds, featured on Showtime, is a "dark comedy" depicting the life of Nancy Botwin and the choices she has made to support her family since her husband's untimely death. To make do, she decides to start selling drugs. Through various mishaps, she winds up moving to a fictional community near the San Ysidro border crossing to México where she ultimately becomes involved with a cartel kingpin who is also a prominent Mexican politician. She becomes increasingly exposed to violence and her own family is often at risk because of her decisions and associations. The Mexican characters on the show are depicted as corrupt and immoral, willing to do anything to further the drug trade. The insinuation of inherent corruptness and dysfunction proliferates much of the show, particularly when the privileged white characters constantly make racist comments about the Mexicans or "speak" in broken and offensive Spanish (e.g., adding o's to the end of English words to suggest that that somehow makes the word resemble Spanish).
This is quite problematic. The intention of the show may not be to reinforce negative or racist stereotypes but that is definitely one of the consequences. Though Mexicans as a group are not singled out (i.e., prejudicial comments are extended to nearly all marginalized social groups), it is still a bit excessive at times. Not everyone who is going to be consuming the show is aware of the ways in which certain statements or depictions may be incredibly problematic. Also, this type of humor has the tendency to codify and disseminate certain negative ideas that are not necessarily true. For instance, many people may not know much about México, but upon screening this series the idea that corruption proliferates all aspects of the governmental structure in ways which cannot even be compared to the United States is clearly articulated.
The point is that even when something seems funny, it can have very profound, negative effects and impacts. Humor can be used as a tool to tackle controversial or otherwise difficult to approach topics, but it can also (inadvertently) reinforce negative ideas and assumptions and diminish the possibility for individuals to exert their agency in productive ways (i.e., it becomes difficult to have to work against the negative stereotypes ingrained in the social imaginary when you belong to such a group).
I believe that is where one of the problem begins, the lack of education and understanding. Although it is clear "illegal aliens" came to the United States in illegal ways, it is important to remember why that occurred. Education and lack of opportunities in our home countries are the reason migrate here is for the same freedom that the Europeans conquered this land over 200 years ago.
I found this news to be not only horrifying but disgusting. The idea that this growing fear of illegal immigrants is quickly snowballing into a blatant violation of privacy is terrifying. I can only imagine the fear of being noticeably Latino/a and living in a state where the issue of immigration is quickly being seen as a severe threat and putting individuals seemingly at risk of being assaulted.
At the beginning of the semester we were all engaged in a game of describing what it means to be Latin@. We came up with several qualifications, one of which being Spanish-speaking. Since Arlenis is fluent in Spanish and Sessilee is not one might question whether or not Sessilee is Laina, whereas Arlenis's latinidad is obvious the moment she begins to speak. Latin America, just like the U.S. has become typified and so have the people who reside in these places. When people think of the U.S. an all-American image comes to mind that does not include and represent the wide range of cultures and ethnicities that exist here. The same goes for Latin America; earlier in the course we discussed the preferred images of Latin Americans in the media, which are typically light-skinned with European features. All this does is render everyone who isn't white unimportant and invisible, and leaves the rest of the world to believe that Black Americas don't exist, Black Latin@s don't exist, Black Europeans don't exist, so on and so forth.
In the recent political ads, the issue of illegal immigration is a hot-button issue that creates tense divisions among and within parties. Yet, we often get so caught up in the debate, that most of us, especially conservatives, forget the history of this nation was founded on people trying enter a land through illicit means. Instead, we see this event as a celebration – Thanksgiving. Why do we not scapegoat and criminalize this group of illegal immigrants (Pilgrims) but continue to terrorize others? It all comes down to who writes our history books.
In fourth grade, I remember how we spent Thanksgiving week making construction paper costumes of pilgrims and Indians. At the end of the week, we all donned our feathers and helmets and recreated the thanksgiving feast of goodwill and solidarity. My teacher always stressed how it was through working together that our “founding” fathers to this nation were able to survive. I never knew why we picked Nov. 25th as the official Thanksgiving holiday, but after some reading I found out that Nov. 25th goes much further back in time than when the Pilgrims landed by Plymouth Rock. It was during the late 15th century when Spain, on Nov. 25 1491, defeated the last Muslim country. On this day, the Pope declared this day to be forever a day of Thanksgiving for all European Christians.
Rap artist Rass Kass in “Nature of the Threat” speaks of this alternative history of Thanksgiving in his song “Nature of Threat:”
“On November 25th, 1491
Santiago defeats the last Muslim stronghold, Grenada
King Ferdinand gave thanks to God for victory
And the Pope of Rome and declared this date to forever be
A day of "Thanksgiving" for all European Christians
.. Now listen, when you celebrate "Thanksgiving"
What you are actually celebratin
is the proclamation of the Pope of Rome
Who later, in league with Queen Isabella
sent Cardinal Ximenos to Spain
to murder any blacks that resisted Christianity
These Moors, these black men and women
were from Baghdad, Turkey
And today, you eat the turkey, for your "Thanksgiving" day
as the European Powers destroyed the Turkeys
Who were the forefathers of your mothers and fathers
Now fight the power…”
Through this spoken word, Ras Kass reclaims part of our nation’s history that is portrayed in an often fairytale, and biased way in our history books. It frustrates me to have to re-learn so many parts of my social studies lessons when I come to Cal. Why can’t my teachers and history books present history through a more critical and honest approach instead of glorifying the “battles” won by our founding fathers? It leads to tense situations now, where most citizens do not realize their role in history and allow events such as colonialism, illegal immigration to repeat.
The roots of America’s Thanksgiving focus on 1637 when 700 men, women, and children of the Pequot Tribe, gathered for their “Annual Green Corn Dance” in what is now known as Connecticut. In the early morning, they were surrounded and attacked by English and Dutch mercenaries, resulting in the deaths of 700 Pequot men, women and children. The next day, the Governor of Massachusetts declared a day of Thanksgiving for the “battle” being won. Today, we hardly hear/see any press coverage that recognizes the solemnity of the day from a human rights perspective. Instead, it’s mostly about Black Friday Shopping sales and massive amounts of Turkey, at least for those with power and those who can afford it. So this Thanksgiving, how will you “celebrate?” I suggest attending or tuning into the sunrise ceremony, organized by the International Indian Treaty Council on Alcatraz Island. Isn't it time to give that turkey a break?
References: Unamuno, Ralph. "Thanksgiving or Thanks-taking: Understanding the roots behind Turkey Day." 26 November 2003. http://laprensa-sandiego.org.
A: So where are you from?
Me: Los Altos. It’s a small town in California.
A (showing total disinterest): No, I mean, where do you come from?
Me: Los Altos?
A (impatiently): No, I mean, where are you originally from?
Oh, how frustrating! Does it really matter that my great-grandfather was a chain-store owner whose warehouses were bombed by the Japanese in World War II? But this, rather than my stories about the sleepy Californian town of Los Altos, is what seems to interest most people that ask me the Question. It's never enough to be from the Bay Area, or California - I always have to dig deeply into my roots and expose them in order to pacify the curious individuals that ask me the Question. This is probably a common experience for many people on this blog, especially those that physically appear “ethnic” and therefore somehow less “American”.
A couple days ago, I came across Michele Serros’s “How to be a chicana role model”, where she describes an incident in which she, tired of being asked the question “Where are you really from?” over and over again, actually turns the tables and persistently questions a Caucasian stranger about his origins in the following exchange:
“Me: And where are you from?
El Other: From here.
Me: Oh…the Midwest?
El Other: No, I’m from here. You know.
Me: What do you mean, here?
El Other: I mean, I’m from here, here.
Me: Oh, I just meant originally. You look like…I don’t know – different?
El Other: What?
Me: Oh, never mind.
El Other: Different? Different as in how? That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard! No one has ever said I looked like I was from somewhere else! I’m American – American, from here, here!”
It’s interesting that El Other in Serros’s text becomes perplexed and deeply upset when Serros snubs him in such a manner; his reaction reflects the obvious racism embedded in the common greeting: So where are you really from? I’m assuming that many people don’t realize the racism in such a question – after all, I don’t think they’d ask that question so readily and frequently if they realized its inherent racism. But the offense that El Other, an unaccented Caucasian, takes to Serros’s question reveals the double racial standards that are associated with that question.
This is my opinion: It might seem perfectly normal, even expected, for someone who is unaccented and lacking any particular ethnic physical features, that is someone who appears physically and generically “American” to ask and individual from a minority group this question after all, this is the expected social order, no? However, when a person of color asks this questions in return, it’s as if their actions have usurped the acceptable social order – that individuals is seen an outsider/visitor/intruder is daring to question the origins of a “true American”. What do you all think?
In class, we’ve discussed how generally outsiders create “imagined communities” of Latin@s sharing identical experiences around the world. In my work, I have the opportunity to assist and watch Chican@ and Latin@ students subvert the idea of creating an “imagined” community with “identical” experiences. Instead, these mostly first and second year students, who are led by a team of advisors, go on to create a collective community that fosters a safe and respectful environment through a sense of connectedness. As a program assistant for the Casa Magadalena Mora Theme Program, a familia of students exploring Mexica@/Chican@ and Latin@ culture, it is one of my responsibilities to not only promote community building within this network, but also find ways to connect the broader Unit 3 student population to this group of residents.
The Casistas all enroll in an academic seminar that has an interdisciplinary focus that integrates language, history, politics, economics, art, music, and literature. During these weekly seminars, students take a more critical look at the multi-dimensions of their identities and how they are represented on campus. They are also able to understand their place in history, society, and the world. Based on my observations and interactions, I’ve found that these students who come from different backgrounds and ethnicities, still form the closest bond as a community than any other formal living group that I work with. Why is that? Is it because of this “imagined” community that ties them to a set of shared collective ideas, attitudes, and dreams? I believe it is much more. I believe that since Casistas are willing to engage in an open, critical dialogue, they gain a shared intellectual foundation that facilitates a greater understanding of Chican@/Latin@ experience, which creates stronger ties to their own community.
Yet, while we have this strong sense of familia going on for people who live on this floor community, it creates different reactions and sentiments to people who are outside of this community – the students who live on different floors. These past few weeks, we experienced a string of hate incidents where racist remarks were written in our common areas. In the past, Casa Mora has been the target of racists language. Most of the vandalism views the Casa community as a singular group (i.e. Mexicans) – which creates nothing more than an “imagined” identity. So I am constantly working on ways to integrate the Casa community with the broader Unit 3 community, without putting Casa on an ethnic pedestal or dismissing the unique diversity that every floor brings to the residence hall community. It’s a teetering balance, but one that I believe we can strengthen and solidify if we all participated in more open, critical dialogue on understanding our place in history, society, and the world.