Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Welcoming and Betrayal of a Post Racial Society - Opposite or Same Gender Attraction & Racism...

I’ll start by making a somewhat satirical statement about race in our current society: I hereby classify this suggested post-racial society as “Color-blind”; that not one of us sees color, or at least we shouldn’t. WE are all human beings. I do not see a person for their race; therefore, I see them as a PERSON. Right…

This is accurate in that one may see another as a person. Of course. But something else is completely inaccurate in this statement and it is that one does not notice the race of another specific individual, or shouldn’t. In reality, a person is not seen, rather a person of COLOR is always acknowledged; whether you like to or not, this always happens.

The truth is that race is a vivid and explicit theme, you will see race because you cannot avoid it, again whether you like to or not. After race is registered into the mental faculties it is then processed and channeled through to realize and express specific emotions or feelings about ones race through a filtering of the discourses or messages that society has carefully installed into you to address other messages about a racial character. In other words, society will tell you what to think about ones race when you see someone who is of a non-white race—how to react to them, how to treat them, what to say to them…etc…

To be honest with you, it’s because white is normal. It’s okay. In fact, it’s so AWESOME that people all around the globe strive to be white—please note the sarcasm because that’s important. Parents all over the globe are overjoyed when their son or daughter has “advanced the race” by breeding with a white person, because their grand-babies receive those ‘AWESOMELY’ normal but highly prized attributes: blue or green eyes, blonde STRAIGHT—hair if you’re lucky—and that awesome white, but not pale skin. If not, well then you’re the Black sheep…literally.

You may think otherwise. It’s okay. For you, especially if you’re white, you’re thinking I—me the author—am dwelling on the past. I’m picking a fight or advancing a reverse racist cause with no real purpose, just to receive reaction and looking for an argument that has no merit because us ‘colored folk’ receive all the benefits of today anyway. Sometimes I wish you were right, but none of this is even close to true.

Firstly, the fact that you’re upset and want, no…NEED, to challenge this only indicates what I state, white is normalized and you can’t help but claim that such is not true because I’m being RACIST, and because there is no such thing as race…dang it, we are all humans and why don’t I just look at the world that way!

I can admit to carrying racist prejudices, that’s because we all do. I’m not being racist to you—if you’re white—because this one individual act does not account for a system-wide approach that pins an entire people down that are not white. This is called racism. There’s a bigger picture involved. You also probably think that race does not, should not exist, or be a factor in this conversation…but the fact that you’re upset implies the contrary.

You can’t help but challenge what I’m telling you, that whiteness is normalized, because all of a sudden you’re not normal anymore! You’re different…? (drag that out…and then pause)…


I’ll ask several of my white straight guy friends or white Lesbian friends, about a woman we see passing by or hanging out at certain spot. Why have I pointed her out? She’s attractive, and I’m inquiring about whether or not the person I’m with agrees--mind you, most of these people believe that we have superseded race in America or feel that they are not racist at all.

What does this have to do with anything I’m writing about? Everything…

So I inquire, and oftentimes to my personal shock—but mostly not really—they’ll totally disagree or act disgusted and say: “I’m not about Asian girls…Black girls…Hispanic girls...Poly girls…”


Hold up. Do you see what just happened? Rewind.

There is no such thing as race right? And if there’s no such thing as race, we don’t necessarily judge because of race or we shouldn’t because that’s wrong? We don’t turn away or permit entry into our circle of love based on race? Particularly in relationships to each other?...Right?

So why would a non-white girl not be your “thing”? Why can't I just look at a woman for her beauty and simply be attracted to her regardless for her race? Better yet, because I believe in and acknowledge race, I notice that there is a contextually designed beauty to every female body of every race and I consider that in my account of what makes someone attractive. Therefore I find many different women from many different races to be beautiful, because they do not have to LOOK white or carry caucasian features to be considered attractive. They’re gorgeous in their own right. 


Just to be clear, the same thing happens when you flip gender roles. The same occurs with the various interpretations of sexuality and who someone would be attracted to. It becomes complicated with gender and sexuality and really needs more discussion by itself, but I won't stress because I'm speaking to a particular experience; nevertheless, those issues do need attention as well...  

My friends who say these things are not outright racists. In fact, it’s hard to kind of find hardcore racists nowadays. There just average people leading average lives. Good folks actually. This doesn’t change their racism.

I have literally dated a girl from every race and ethnicity, and each one I have found beautiful according to my appreciation of beauty within a racialized context. I didn’t like a Black girl because she looked white, light-skinned or portrayed white facial bone structures. I liked her because she was Black; because there’s a lot more to Black besides the amount of melanin contained in your dermis (layers of skin), because there is something incredibly rich and fresh in Black skin, kinky hair or full lips. I won’t go into detail for each racial group because it’s unnecessary. I’ll leave your hopeful appreciation of diversity to the rest. By the way, this doesn’t mean that white isn’t beautiful, because it very much is—that’s been normalized—but so is everything else!

In the end, I married a beautiful Afro Latina who I would say looks Mulatta (mix between White and Black) but carries mostly Black African physical and cultural attributes. Yes I was attracted to her physically, but I was also attracted to the cultural aspect of who she was. I envied her strength as a Black woman; I saw power in the knowledge she could pass down to our children; I loved the way she danced to our Spanish and Yoruba songs, and most importantly, her body drove me nuts! But I love her! And of course I love her as a human being—I didn’t marry some quadruped creature—but I am willing to acknowledge her race as beautiful, because there is something very humane about it. Humanity is the assorted races that exist. It is replete with the color-tones and phenotypic features that we have all limited ourselves to in the name of a social categorization that lacks justification in our society and much less within our mind-frames.

Why am I writing this? Because by acknowledging and coming to terms with race, even whiteness—as a normalized discourse (societal message/condition)—we are stepping in the right direction. We aren’t hiding behind the elephant in the corner. The more vulnerable we are with racialized constructs, then the more honest we can be with each other. If you don’t think someone is attractive based on your racialized beauty scale, that’s okay. I don’t like it, and I think you’re limiting yourself in the most insane way, but it’s okay, as long as you can equally accept that race is real, that color matters, and that quite frankly, you might be racist because of your judgment. It’s okay. Again, you’ve been pretty much molded from birth about what to think about a specific kind of person and their racial group. Your job now, would be to unlearn these racist tendencies and adopt alternative ways of understanding race.

Open your eyes concerning beauty among the various racial and ethnic groups that exist, and do not dwell on something that’s been appropriated to be non-white and beautiful but is actually emulating White facial or racial features to be deemed as attractive. I’m talking about an actual racialized conception of beauty, something contextual yet applicable to all humanity. Understanding this actually places us in the route where an honest and authentic post-racial society can exist; where we don’t judge the potential for relationships and love based on ill-manifested racialized conditions.

However, I truthfully don’t believe that such a society, a post-racial one where we all get along happily regardless of what color or race we are/identify as, would actually be possible. Western society just isn’t manufactured that way. It never has been, nor will it ever be. There are too many powerful stakeholders that would do anything to make sure that such would never happen; even if the majority of the population were to be of color, or so mixed that you couldn’t even tell. A powerful and racist minority is still very possible, and in some ways that’s already present today. This message, if you even want to call it that, isn’t just for white people, it’s also for our communities of color in the effort that they shed colonial prejudices and begin to adopt a new lens to their own racial identities, their own beauty; because if you cannot begin with a positive manifestation of a self-beauty then nothing else survives unless it is what mainstream thought tells you, that white-only is beautiful.

So look at yourself. Look at others. Look at race, and look at races. Notice carefully. Never be deficit, especially to a group that is not your own, and watch and learn. Understand that race is real. That it will never go away; and at the same time, confront the fact that you might not like someone based upon their race, and that it is racist. Accept it. Own it. Then challenge it. Work around it. Open yourself up. Be vulnerable and let the world share itself with you. You’ll find that there is much you didn’t know, much you now know and much you will know. Always be safe and always appreciate, never hate…Peace      

(ii: In this piece I use the word You or We, sometimes I, a lot. I leave it up to the reader but when I write “You” I generally am referring to a white person or someone of color who identifies with whiteness. “We” being people of color or all of humanity, and “I” being me, the author.)

Monday, June 9, 2014

To Speak Spanish or Not…? An Argument between two Non-Native Speakers

When my parents came over, I wasn’t expecting for the following to ensue: my pops and wife to be arguing over what language ought to be spoken in OUR home, and taught to Luca, OUR son, nuestro hijo. At first the visit was typical. My mamita dropping off food and the abuelos getting to know their grandson. Typical.

But my dad said something in English to his grandson, and my wife responded jokingly, “en este casa, hablamos espanol! Jaja, Luca no entiende ingles [in this house we speak Spanish! Luca doesn’t understand English]. We [my mamita and I] laughed. My dad with a smile responded, “Yina, you know when Tino was 5 or 6 years old his teacher came to us and yelled at us because he didn’t speak any English. She said, ‘Mr. Diaz do you know where your boy is heading if he doesn’t learn English? Nowhere!’ I believe she was right. It would have been confusing for him. I didn’t want him growing up with an accent. I didn’t want him being discriminated. I didn’t want people hating him because of how he sounded. She was Puerto Rican too.” Mamita adds, “Peor que sea Latina tambien” [she just had to be Latina too]—my Mom was always opposed to and never followed our English-only household policy.   

Instantly, my wife and father go at it--when I say go at it, I mean the culturally relevant notion that WE as Caribbean Latinos associate the meaning of an argument, LOUD but not angry, and if angry not that Western kinda' angry. My father defends his nativist strategy for survival on behalf of his two-generations down posterity; my wife, responding with her own ESL experiences and unloading about 4 semesters worth of graduate work with English Language Learner research and study.  The point that struck me in their argument, with my mamita in the corner spurring on my wife and shouting a “Si” and “Mira,” backing my wife up, was when my wife said “And look at your son, a man who looks Latino but can’t speak like one. A man who wishes more than anything to communicate with his own people, but feels like he can’t!”

It stunned me…

There was a moment of silence before they further explored the many-nuanced subject of language acquisition and identity. She was so right that it hurt. It wasn’t intentional, of course. It was more out of love than accusation; more out of experiential warning than blame. It was the love of a parent and spouse that understood the past injustice of language and racism, nativism and education, and wanted her son equipped for these same struggles, not ill-prepared.

I supported my wife on this one. I had to. It isn’t just that traditional spousal agreement that we non-verbally consent to—to back up each other’s debates. But what she said hurt because it was true. Language for me had always been an issue. I never truly felt “Latino” because I never spoke like a “Latino,” I never spoke Spanish. When I was/am given the opportunity to speak I usually freeze up. I get nervous. My words leave or I stutter, and words repeat themselves in 3 to 7 cycles. As I talk, these same words feel like weights, each pronunciation like a 45 lb. steel-plate dampening the chords of my identity.

I’m somewhat good now, pretty good. What did it take? A lot of listening and shame-filled practice. It’s all good. It had to be that way. It used to make me so angry—still does—whenever Mormon missionaries at the Spanish congregations in Church I’d attend scoff when I would respond in English to them. They said, “Haha, hermano solamente hablamos espanol aqui.” “Screw you” I used to think. Screw all of you. Whiteboys that think they know my own language better than I do—but they did, and that’s the hard part—and comfortable, sometimes in jest when they err with  no critique: “Elder, esta bien” they would all say, comforting the Elder or Sister missionary that made a mistake, “aprender otro idioma es dificil.” When I make a mistake, in my own language critiqued by my own community, I am the welcomed recipient of perplexed looks and sympathetic but poetically disguised pats on the shoulder. No words.

But you have to understand the position my dad comes from. You see there’s a context to why he feels the Uncle Tom way he does. My mamita came to this country in her early 20’s. My dad came in the beginning of his high school years to Brooklyn, NY from La Ceiba, Honduras. In high school he was surrounded by young Black and Puerto Rican bodies that did not speak Spanish and that terrorized him because that was all he knew. His barrio slaughtered him. Roughed him up and created that tiny stick of terror that I now know as Dad. Homie, literally grew up in the school of Hardknocks and graduated. My mom once told me about a group of Italian dudes that chased him all the way home screaming racial slurs because they heard him talking on the phone as he walked back from work, I was at home and barely born. So I understood why he said these things, why he believed them. There was context and I can’t hide or ignore that. It’s often the reason why our people—and I use the term “OUR” loosely because I don’t believe in essentialized configurations—are wedged in colonial constructs that create a kind of lateral oppression. Get me right, I don’t agree with my dad—not at all—but I understand given his narrative, weighted around with context. We need to remember this.

In the end, my wife is right and so is my dad. It’s complicated right? How about this: My wife has a great understanding and foresight about where language and identity need to become addressed for the future, she sees a position for language and identity in social justice (in the home), and my Dad displays a context for what has occurred in the past and where we can start to deconstruct and decolonize, he represents the background of society along with its intersecting layers of oppression.

They both have much to contribute to the issue of language and identity, oppression and society. I don’t look at my dad’s experience as deficit, but as that of a young immigrant body seeking sense in a world that alienated him. As for my wife, what more can I say except that she is the voice of a future where families are no longer afraid to speak their native tongues in their own spaces and harness the sustainability of their racial and cultural legacies within their homes. Besides, she’s always right… J