Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The privileges of the White Mexican

Please note: This isn't a post asking for empathy on my white skin, nor is it a diss on my culture or any minority culture, it's simply an examination of privilege and skin color in the Latino community. My intent is to bring up conversation and questions, and provide analysis from my OWN personal experiences. Originally, this post contained other analysis, but I decided to edit them at the last minute as I did not want to assume or pretend that I knew of experiences of other POC.

I have never been "tan" or "dark". The only thing dark about me are the hairs on my body. I'm as white as any White person and as white as any Mexican woman in a novela (soap opera).

Although my parents were not fortunate enough to experience the privileges of middle class, I was a part of it. I had every intention of going to college and doing better for myself since I understood that I was not by any means poor. I believe that my middle class and skin tone privileges have, in some ways, shaped my outlook in life. While I don't consider myself to be better than anyone, I've come to understand how my privileges have shaped me.

I had White friends, Mexican friends, Black friends but the identity I had was so muddled up. I knew what I was, but was always made to be less than what I felt by others who didn't understand me. I couldn't really identify as Mexican because I didn't speak much Spanish and I couldn't be just American because I had an obligation to identify with my culture. Let's add the color of my skin to the fact that being Mexican American in itself is a demanding job.

Junior high was a time where a lot of my peers started to examine their ethnicity, and I wasn't exempt from questioning how Mexican I was and how Mexican I looked. At that time I had moved to another school district and I found myself hanging out with the Black girls who all thought I was White or Italian (I guess being Italian is a lot better than being just "White", it adds flare). I had to constantly defend my Mexicanness to other people, but I didn't expect to have to defend myself against my "own people".

When I mentioned to one Mexican boy in my 8th grade class that I was Mexican he told me "You're not Mexican you're lying". When I mentioned the same thing to a friend in my dance class in high school who happens to be a very tan Mexican that I am, indeed, Mexican American, she asked me "How are you Mexican when you're so white?". Apparently nobody I have mentioned has been to Mexico City or has seen a novela where the women are as white as I am and their hair is dark as can be. I'm an anomaly to White Americans and an anomaly to Mexicans and Mexican Americans.

Mexicanness is equated with being dark in the media, as being less than. This can be seen in old movies and even cartoons such as Speedy Gonzalez. All the little mice are brown and live up to all of the stereotypes that have ever been formed about Mexicans. What has happened when a Latina has tried to break into Hollywood in the 30s 40s and 50s? All of the ladies are portrayed as White women, hardly ever as Latinas. If they were portraying Latinas, they were cooking and cleaning and probably did not play a big part. Let's not forget that you must have been just as fair skinned as a regular White woman to get a shot in Hollywood.

I don't know if I would ever be stopped in my vehicle or ostracized in an upscale place dominated by White people who I look similar too. There are times where I have been in situations where I'm quite aware that I am the only Mexican, but I'm rarely stared at because I blend in at first notice. I believe the only situations where I am stared at is when I'm the only brunette and it's obvious that I'm just a bit different. Or you know, when your mom is the only one speaking Spanish...

The disadvantages for being too white for your people can be hurtful. Sometimes I don't feel brown enough when I'm in a large group of people who are Latino and some of them get that I am "one of them" and others question me or poke fun at me. I've never felt the need to walk in a room where so many people were obviously Latino and shout "Ok fellow Latinos, I'm just like you, I'm just not brown...". I am proud of being what I am, but there are a lot of other things I'd rather focus on besides having to prove how Chicana I am.

This has always bothered me, and since I have become a person who is trying very hard to become educated about social justice, I recognized my own privileges as someone who may not directly be affected by racism and classism as another Latino will. I have internal conflicts with my identity, and my skin color is one of the biggest issues for me. Mexicanos are particularly proud of their Brown blood, and though I have some in me, it's not obvious. I'm not the only Latino person to face conflicts, but Black Latinos and White Latinos don't exist to people from the outside, and White Latinos have to deal with the privilege they will receive from Whites and the sometimes confusing stares from people of their nationality.

It's seemingly ignorant for me to complain about how I feel like an oddball for not being Brown enough to be considered a "real Mexican". People who are darker than I am, people in my own family, have to deal with misconceptions of any Brown person.

I have the privilege of being able to blend in, but what about my ability to "prove" myself to the darker-skinned members of the Latino community? I have been called guera (white girl) by my extended family for a long time, only to be replaced by my blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white-skinned baby sister. I feel just as Mexican as any other person, except my skin color wants to contradict this otherwise.

It's not just the way I look, but my demeanor and need for knowledge is apparently too White. I have received comments about not only looking like a White person but acting like one as well. If I were to have worn big hoop earrings, with dyed hair or blonde highlights, and spoke in a certain stereotypical way, I guess I would have been identified as Mexican a lot easier than staying the way I've always been. I wanted to be those girls because they were the cool Mexican girls who knew how to dress, and I was just a shy and quiet white person in the background.

I sometimes hear a Black woman around my age comment about so and so "acting White" and then I'll hear a Mexican woman comment on somebody acting like a White girl or not being Mexican enough. When is identifying as a certain ethnicity or nationality enough to be an acceptable member of your group?

It's not enough for a Mexicana like me who is not Brown to learn about her culture's history and traditions; the only thing that seems good enough for some people of La Raza is to get a tan and embody what Mexicans are supposed to be. At 20 years old, I'm almost overdue for a kid according to older generations...It isn't enough that I am going to college and planning on getting a PhD and living my own dream I set out for myself. Going to school, making up my own life plan, and not being tan will always make me questionable and never a true Brown woman. I just want to do my own thing, be proud of where I came from and who I am, and not have to prove anything.

*This post says May 18th because it was originally written at that date, I finished today, June 20th because I had edited throughout the time period.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My 20th Birthday...Looking back on the last decade of my life... How have I matured?

On Tuesday I turned 20 and I don't really feel any differently than what I did a few weeks ago or even last year. I still feel somewhat like the lost 15-year-old who had her Quinceanera and was torn apart by the abusive online boyfriend that I had. I'm not fully comprehending why I feel like this; I have grown a lot and I don't think I give myself enough credit, but I feel like I should FEEL more grown and I don't.

10 years ago around this time was THE last year when I knew my parents were happy. It's a funny thing when you're a child and know deep down your parents' relationship is not the perfect one that it's supposed to be. Ever since my father cheated and left, I blamed him for a lot of things, as I had a right to do... I became depressed as a result of him leaving, my mom suffered emotionally, and he left us financially in ruins. I have tried to be the same daughter to my father since then, but I've never felt the same and I never felt the same effort from him. There have been a lot of changes since he left, and I cannot honestly say my relationship with my dad has gotten any better. Lately things have gotten worse because he yelled at me and cussed me out the same way he used to cuss out my mother when they were together...How long does it take to fully recover from the damage certain men in your life do to you? How much do we really grow from a 10-year-old to a 2o-year-old or even jumping to 40?

I've been told that I'm mature for my age since I was small, but I'm not sure how mature I feel overall as a human being who has been through some experiences but maybe not enough. What is this weird need of mine to FEEL older and wiser? I have another 10 years to keep learning and feeling new things to reach my "self-actualization"... if such a thing exists for a 30 year old.

When I first discovered feminism, I made the mistake of taking a failing relationship at that time and attributing all of my failed relationships to men being horrible beings. It makes me sad that I felt that way and manipulated the concept of feminism to mean hating men. Fortunately, I quickly knew that "hating" the historically privileged sex was just as bad as sexism to my gender. Now I use feminism as an analysis of relationships and situations that come about, and sometimes I am not too sure if it has led me to label each and every thing that I see as either sexist or not sexist...I guess this is the territory given to someone who has changed ideologies and beliefs almost overnight.

I am wondering how many people felt different when they turned a whole two decades old. For some reason I consider it a lot of years, regardless of how many 30+ people tell me I'm still a baby and they wish they could go back to being my age. What's so good about being 20 though? You're no longer technically a teenager but you're not really old enough to be taken seriously yet. People tend to overestimate or underestimate someone because of their age. I think I've met plenty of older adults who are just as immature as any people around my age are...but regardless they are always "wiser"...

I'm glad I have this outlet to write what I think. This wasn't really a post about any set topic and it wasn't supposed to have a good structure. I would consider this a random blurb of thoughts I've been having since my mom and dad asked me how it felt to be 20, and I am not sure and I think I feel a bit embarrassed to feel this way about myself. Even though 21 is next, I don't think I'm gonna feel special about that either even though I will be even more "legal" then when I turned 18, which was no special day to me just like Tuesday wasn't...

Don't get me wrong, I am glad to be a bit older and I enjoyed my day on Tuesday. It was the best birthday since probably my 16th or 15th...How did you feel, or how are you going to feel, when you turn 20, 30, 40 etc? Hmm...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Why are TV sitcom daddies so dumb and silly? And why are their wives shrewds?

One thing that television and commercials never seem to fail on recycling over and over and OVER again is this new joke that daddies are silly dumb things that their wives need to take care of. I can name a few examples that are prime in sitcoms, not only in those that have a predominately white cast, but those shows that have been on that include minorities.

1. The George Lopez Show- I must admit, I LOVE watching this show. This was one of the only shows on television that had a normal Mexican/Cuban American family (ok, as far as normal goes)... The problem that I have had with George Lopez, although funny he may be, is that he has to be the one to get caught on lies and sexist jokes and his "WAPA!"s. Whenever he gets in trouble, Angie is there to tell him how wrong and how horrible he has been. Angie (played by Constance Marie) is constantly portrayed as annoying housewife who means well, but usually needs to butt out of people's business. The way that George treats Carmen as opposed to his son Max is also troubling...

I wont go into detail on the others because I don't watch them as often but here is a list of the few I noticed...

2. King of Queens- The characters go through various comical situations that sometimes include Carrie's (the wife) father, their friends, and neighbors. They both typically do "stupid" things from my viewing of the show, but it is Doug's moronic actions that are usually exemplified. Also, let's not forget the "hot wife, fat husband" dynamic going on here...

3. Everybody Loves Raymond- Ray and Debra and their children live across the street from Raymond's parents (his brother comes over a lot too, although I can't remember if he lives with his parents), who drive Raymond and Debra absolutely insane. It is obvious that Debra is the sane, dependable wife who is also a good mother. Raymond's mother is constantly picking on Debra's cooking and housecleaning regimen. Raymond is seen as a good guy who sometimes says and does stupid things, like the dumb and silly husband and daddy he is!...

4. Yes, Dear- Haven't seen too much of this show... Seems a bit like King of Queens...

5. Family Guy- Lois and Peter live with their three children Meg, Chris, and Stewie with their dog (Peter's best friend) Brian. It has been implied that Peter is mentally retarded many times, and I believe has been stated in a recent episode... One problematic element that is supposed to be amusing is Stewie's desire to kill his mother...

6. The Simpsons- This has a lot of the same elements as Family Guy...

Is it too much to ask for to have characters that are a little bit more complex than the above mentioned. I'm sure there are many more series that portray men and women in this way, which I think is unfair. Men are not "stupid" and women aren't "nice and responsible wives and mothers". People are a lot more complex than that in real life. I understand that these shows are sitcoms, and yes, I'm sure it would take a bit more effort to write a 30 minute show to have more complex and interesting characters, but I think it can be done...

I won't lie though, I watch a lot of these shows on a regular basis. It's a bit hard to watch these shows and not go "Why are the men always saying stupid things? And why are the women the smart passive responsible ones. How sexist" I think producers of shows need to give men and women a bit more credit....

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Whiteness and the new Arizona immigration law.

I have been doing a lot of reading on this topic: from bloggers, to news articles, to op-eds. I have many issues with this law, but the terrible implication from this is the racial profiling of innocent citizens and immigrants.

I understand there are laws of this country, however, just because something is a law does not make it right. I have drastically "liberal" views on immigration that I won't be addressing in this post. I will be addressing Arizona and the White people who find the goodness in the law.

This law upsets me more than just the racial implications. My mother and her family were migrant workers in the summer and would travel the southwest and west to work the fields. Half of my relatives on my mother's side are "brown" and the other half are "white". I am pretty sure they would have been stopped if this law would have been in place back then. (On a random note, my mother was ironically born in Phoenix, and on her birth certificate she is "white", there was no way of knowing statistically who was Latino...)

I want to first differentiate between two terms I see wrongly used. In this article: the author uses the word "migrant" and "immigrant" interchangeably. I believe the author meant to use immigrant...an immigrant is someone who crosses borders; a migrant is someone who moves around for work. Yes, sometimes a migrant can be an immigrant, but a migrant is not always an immigrant, hence why people need to understand the difference. Understanding the differences between these words is crucial for those who think they are one in the same, and therefore mistakenly think "migrants" need to leave the country...

When reading many of the articles and such that I have read, I have seen many hateful comments. The comments that bother me the most in these articles are those that imply that Latino people will not be targeted. "WHERE DOES IT SAY THAT IT WILL TARGET LATINOS? HUH WHERE? THERE ARE EASTERN EUROPEAN AND CANADIAN IMMIGRANTS TOOOOO!" "Ohhhh but it doesn't SAY in there that it will target Latinos" "You will only be stopped if you have violated a law" "If they have probable cause they should be allowed to stop you" "I don't have any problems showing my papers, so why wouldn't Latinos?". I'm going to make a list to counterargue these implicitly racist and ignorant remarks.

1. Considering that Arizona's LEGAL amount of Latinos (obviously primarily Mexican American citizens) is at least 30% percent of the state's population, it is obvious that Latinos would get stopped. Do you honestly think they will target Eastern European or Canadian immigrants? Fat chance.

2. Probable cause is something that is so vague that I have many problems with it. My problems aside, what is probable cause under this new law? It never states what probable cause they are talking about in the beginning... Now, if I am driving and I have pot smoke coming out of my car windows, is that probable cause? I think so. Driving while brown? Not so much...

3. YOU (white people) don't have a problem showing your papers because you know there is like a 1% chance of you being stopped in Arizona. One lady on a Facebook "Shame on Arizona" fanpage trolls the statuses and comments and keeps reiterating this statement. She claims she has to show her ID every single day. I don't know where she works or what her daily schedule is, but most people only have to scan something with identification to get in. Unless you work for the government or something, most Americans don't have to show identification to someone on a daily basis. Now, if I am going to enter a government building and they are asking EVERYONE for their identification, I will be more than happy to oblige. In this case, Arizona is not asking everyone for their papers, therefore this argument is trash...

4. Most people do not understand the history of racism that the Southwest has inflicted upon Mexicans and Mexican Americans. I am not going to pretend I am an expert, however I know a thing or two. In 1954 there was a little something called "Operation Wetback" in which many illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children were deported back to Mexico. Often times, Mexican nationals who were here legally were also sent back...

Whatever a person's opinions are about this new law, let's not pretend for one second that this law does not target people of Latino descent. I even appreciate racists for at least acknowledging that they are racist and that this law is also racist. I wont accept comments that pretend that race relations in this nation have improved since Barack Obama took office. Things have gotten much worse. Whenever things seem to look good for minorities, White people get upset and start getting uppity. They start to claim reverse racism and that social programs are only helping minorities and other things that portray them as the victim. Just because YOU don't THINK that this law will inevitably lead to profiling, doesn't mean you are right. All of the signs and current uprise of upset rich, educated, white people will lead to a social upheaval sooner or later.

Finally, the only way to curve the uproar, at least on the minority side, is for President Obama to address immigration reform in the next few months. The fact that more and more states are considering proposing similar laws means that action must be taken to make sure that: 1) Other states who propose these laws get shut down immediately 2) The Arizona legislature will be forced to withdraw this law. The sooner the process starts, the sooner comprehensive reform will be at the table, instead of avoiding it like we did back in 2006 when things got heated.

This law is no longer solely about immigrants; it's about social justice and human decency.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Contemplating the End of the School Year...Updates...

So I just got finished with my Counseling test and I think it went pretty well. I am very glad that this semester is over with after tomorrow and that I can go back home and go to sleep in my own bed...

This whole school year has been tough on me. I have been through a lot of emotional and physical changes due to various events. I had a friend pass away and a friend almost die. I pretty much held back most emotions after the first good cry, and I think that these events have taken a toll on me without me fully realizing it. In addition, last semester with a particular class was very frustrating...Then I started on birth control pills to regulate my menstrual cycle, got glasses, and am dealing with the side effects of the Pill.

The spring semester was a different story...Still dealing with some of the above mentioned things, I dealt with the difficult teaching styles of a particular professor who taught 2 of my courses this semester...In the end, all is well, but it was still something to learn from. I think my mentality has not helped me at all with this school year, but I'm beginning to see the bright side, as I usually do in the end. I am thankful to those who have helped me get through it..

I'm going to start writing again probably later this week. I want to talk about a particular thing directly and indirectly relating to the new Arizona immigration law. I particularly want to talk about how White people view race and dismiss racism because of a technicality of a law, rather then the implications of it. This may be due to privilege and ignorance of the history of racism against various cultures...but I'd like to also discuss optimism with dealing with racial issues.

I am disappointed in the way people like to twist the words of this law into something that ignores the history of racism in Arizona and in the Southwest...It is so very easy to say "But, not all immigrants are Mexicans, REMEMBER?" Yes I know, but the constituents of color in Arizona are largely Mexican, not Canadian or Eastern European, so who do you really think is going to get asked for papers? Exactly.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Audacity of being Fat.

I am what many societal standards consider fat. To be fat is to make a choice...sometimes. I don't really remember when I became fat, but I do think it was a few years before puberty. It was a steady thing. I only remember particular foods that I liked such as pizza, hot wings, cheeses of all kinds, ice cream, cheetos. I liked fruits too and healthy things, I pretty much liked all foods in general.

During the 9th grade I went into a heavy diet and exercise routine consisting of at least 30 minutes of exercise every day except the weekends, only sandwiches and salads during the week, and anything I wanted to eat on the weekends. I lost weight somewhat quickly, and when I went to the doctor they had asked if I was taking diet pills, I truthfully said no.

Every time I go to the doctor I am told in that voice that I "should really lose weight". I probably should for numerous health reasons. I am around 30 pounds overweight and when I look in the mirror I don't feel that fat. I don't feel thin, but I don't feel like a disgusting whale either. I only feel normal, what I have been for so many years.

My weight continues to yo-yo now that I am in college. The fact that I am taking low-dosage birth control for my horrendous menstrual cylce does not help either. One change that has struck me since taking this pill is that I don't have the appetite that I used to have. (Yes, I liked to eat. Fat people do like to eat, but usually just as much as any skinny person does, except with the fat person it is more obvious. ;) ) How could this come to be? I'm not so sure, but I do plan on going back to my ob/gyn in the future to discuss the effects of this pill.

I'd like to talk about a recent fat woman in Hollywood who has dramatically changed her weight. She is a beautiful woman and amazing vocalist named Jennifer Hudson, star of Dreamgirls and a popular American Idol contestant. She lost a lot of weight and I will say she does look beautiful, but I am disappointed. You see, I guess this is a selfish wish of mine, but I had hoped she would remain her size to show she was a beautiful woman with confidence that did not fit into Hollywood's standard of beauty. I have this theory that the more big women there are in Hollywood the more society will just accept this standard. My theory probably holds many flaws, but that is my hope.

"It is disgusting to be fat. How can we live with ourselves? We should really go on a diet. It is unhealthy to be fat. We will surely die."

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the way that I am. And after all this talk about my fat self, I have decided to start losing weight for 2 reasons: 1) The health difficulties that my mother and father have had for the past few years. My mother has high blood pressure (not always from diet, but from stress so it does not have to be directly related to food, but salty foods does not help) and my father has diabetes, which I know for a fact is because of the way he eats and his weight. 2) Since I have started on the Pill, I have felt so much water weight and I've felt full a lot quicker, and I cannot eat as much as I used to. I think I have to start getting used to the idea of becoming healthier, which is going to mean eating better for nutritious and health related reasons.

All my talk about accepting fat and I decide to lose weight...sounds a bit hypocritical, huh? I think the important thing about weight is that you are comfortable, and I am comfortable, but I can't be comfortable with the fact that I think I can keep eating the way I am and think that I will not be unhealthy later on in life. I feel like I can be who I want and still promote acceptance and tolerance of something that is considered to be shameful. To be fat is to be something extra, and I don't see why it should matter, it is physical effect of eating, sometimes just as much as any thin or normal weight person does. Why is this so bad?

I have issues with the BMI as well, but that's for another post...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Introduction*- Not ashamed to say what I feel and what I think.

Hello,

I felt like it was time to make a blog because I'm sure it is obvious to many of my friends and family that I have strong opinions about many things that a lot of people seem to think are extreme. This often makes me laugh, because my views in comparison to other feminists or humanists are way less in left field. The first impression that I make upon people is that I'm a very quiet and introverted person, which I used to be, and still am to a certain extent. There were a lot of changes I went through in high school that allowed me to be the opinionated person that I am today. I don't really feel like I should have to explain why I have the beliefs that I do, because I don't really have an extraordinary story to tell of how this quiet and introverted girl became an opinionated and outspoken woman. I came across some books and articles, became convinced over time, and my views have progressed from there.

The problem with being a feminist today is that the general consensus is that this is a post-feminist era. "What are you talking about? Women's rights? Women have gotten rights since the 60s!" "How are women not equal to men? You're crazy" "Why do women always think they're better than men?". I always hear things like this from my friends, especially when I post things on Facebook and get some of my male friends who assume that because I label myself as a "feminist" that I hate men and think that the only issue I care about is women. I used to feel that feminism was obsolete. I used to think women shouldn't kill their fetuses because it was their fault for having sex. I used to think that any woman who had causal sex was a whore. I used to think that women have always been paid equally since the 60s. I used to think that I should be flattered when I get hollered at across the street by another man. I used to think that men are just naturally better at math than women. I used to think that women could take measures to prevent their own rape. You see, I used to think like you, but then I realized not everything is so simple just because you choose to ignore facts. These facts are not merely opinions by extreme leftists, they are facts that occur everyday and some of us have been lucky to not have certain things be thrusted upon us. Most of us are pretty privileged in more ways than one...

Let's get one thing straight: I am not better than a man, I am an equal. I think when men assume they can sulk in their privilege and assume their masculinity is what's right is troublesome. You can be a man and still believe in things that are not traditionally seen as manly. A real man, in my opinion, is man enough to realize he is not always right and there are other opinions, whether or not he accepts them. I have longer, more in depth opinions on this but that's for another day.

I'm not really interested in changing people's minds, but I am interested in making people aware of things. Most things I post are going to be opinions, not facts, so honestly what you choose to read is at your own discretion. I probably won't change your view on everything, and you probably won't change mine, but that's just the way it is. I have chosen the title of my blog to be xicanisma, which is another name for Chicana feminism. Again, I'll post more about the topic later.

I will mainly be writing this mainly in the summer since I will have more time.