Tag Archive | Stereotypes

Racism? You Don’t Say?

A discussion came up on Facebook regarding the apparent lack of diversity in publishing when Martha Boss, book blogger, educator, and model shared her opinion regarding the lack of diversity at book events. She explained that she had no desire to attend any literary events that didn’t have authors from all walks of life. And in the United States of America in 2017, one would think that such an opinion would be positively acknowledged and celebrated. Unfortunately, an uproar of finger-pointing and finger-wagging ensued by some disgruntled readers of her post. On a positive note, the conversation inspired me to write this post.

Before I delve into where I stand on this matter, I will first give some background knowledge and context.

Most of you may know that my husband is white. I bring up his skin color because of the nature of this post. You see, some time ago Marvel was relaunching Spiderman and making the hero that followed in Peter Parker’s steps a young man named Miles Morales, who is  half-Black and half-Hispanic.

spider-man-miles-morales-peter-parker

I was okay with this change. And as an advocate for diversity, I’m all about the inclusion of more and more people of color in all social constructs. On the other hand, my husband was concerned about this change. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Spiderman, he’s a young man named Peter Parker who happens to be white, like most of the comic book characters that have become not only popular, but also who have become mainstream due to aggressive marketing and appearances in movies (Batman, Deadpool, Superman, ad nauseum). All alternate personas of these heroes are white males. And all but two of them are filthy rich (yes, looking at you, Deadpool and Mr. Kent.)

Hardcore fans are all about staying true to the “canon”. And there are laws that must never be broken.

Two main “no-no’s” are:

THOU SHALT NOT CHANGE THE COLOR OF THE CHARACTER.

THOU SHALT NOT CHANGE THE GENDER OF THE CHARACTER.

My husband was concerned that the writers weren’t staying true to the canon by changing Spiderman’s ethnicity. My husband’s argument was logical especially when he supported it with this gold nugget: “The market should be actively looking for writers with new fresh faces and cultures to add to the Marvel or DC universe. Peter Parker should keep on being Spiderman.”

I agreed with my husband that the Industry or Market should be looking for new material from different perspectives instead of rehashing the same tripe year after year.  Moreover, consumers need to do their job by demanding what they want and if the Market isn’t giving it to them? Well, now. There’s this powerful principle called supply and demand and it’s a beautiful thing. If I don’t like a show, I won’t watch it. If I don’t like a restaurant, I won’t eat there. For example, even if McDonald’s were the last restaurant on the planet I REFUSE TO EAT THERE!

A few months after my husband and I had our third child, he turned to me and said, “I get what you’re saying. You know, about seeing more characters that are people of color. I don’t want our sons growing up not seeing that they’re important. That they exist.”

we need diverse books3

BINGO!

And the cry for diverse books wasn’t enough because then you fall into the bait-and-switch trap that it’s okay for white authors to write books that star nonwhites as the characters. Then, the #ownvoices movement was ushered in to stress how important it is for people of color to tell their own stories in their own voices and not having to fear that they needed to pander to or patronize a white audience or any audience (regardless of color) that didn’t understand where they were coming from.

Too bad these movements aren’t making waves on television. Yet. You see, over the past several months, my husband and I observed a disturbing trend regarding television shows for children. I’ll most likely go into more detail about that in a future post. 🙂

The conversation that my husband and I shared regarding the necessity for diversity in books and comics inspired me to reflect on my childhood as a reader and where I am now as an author and reader. My reflection motivated me to write this blog post.

Now, back to the main topic.

In one of my previous blog posts I discussed the deathtrap of stereotypes.  A common stereotype regarding Black people is that we don’t like to read. It was also one of the arguments that excuses the cold, hard fact that 88% of books reviewed by the New York Times are written by white authors. So, one could ignorantly draw the conclusion that Black people don’t like to write either. Or that they don’t know how to write. But, if they do like to write, they’re not very good at it because they don’t like to read and thus there’s no market for them. And that’s just the way it is.

Uh, no. Just no.

weneeddiversebooksbecause

Yes, indeed. 🙂

When I purchase books for my classroom I choose them very carefully. I want books that will not only keep my students engaged, but appeal to their gender, not only relate to their own experiences, but challenge, and build onto this foundation. My Black students, as well as White, Asian, and Latino students love reading a good book regardless of what color the main characters are . . . or whether or not the main characters are even human. However, there comes a time when nonwhite students wonder WHY their experiences, their truths, their very essence isn’t proudly shown on the cover of a book or even within its pages. I know because I was once their age and wondered these thoughts: Am I not worth writing about? Are people like me not worth reading about? (Well, unless you’re a slave getting the crap beat out of them). By the way, what is the USA’s morbid obsession with Black pathology? Yuck.)

We Need Diverse Authors

About eight years ago, libraries (some may still practice this, but I’m pleased to say my local library DOES NOT) shelved books based on genre in an obsessive compulsive way that would impress even this guy:

monk-logo

Back then, there were no cross-genres.

mixedupauthor

Dear heart, weep not. Tis 2017 and we live and breathe for literary mashups such as yours. 🙂

No, no, no. Every little book went into its own boxed off little shelfie-welfie corner. Oh yes, yes, yes.

So books like this:

black romance

 

 

 

or this . . . romance_black

 

 

 

 

 

 

wouldn’t appear in the general romance aisle, but be ghettoized or segregated from that oh-so lucrative and coveted section and placed in the African-American books, Street Lit, Urban Lit, or wherever library’s chose to place books with dark brown to light brown faces on the cover. Think about your local grocery store and how soy sauce, butter chicken, and curry are cordoned off in their own aisle labeled “multicultural or ethnic” away from the other condiments. Even poor sauerkraut and gelfilte fish has its place there. If I hadn’t watched the Food Channel or binge watched “Great Eats Around the World” I would remain culinarily (made that word up) ignorant! Now, regarding the segregated books: Was this practice intentionally racist? *Shrugs shoulders*. Not sure. But, one could see how this limits authors of color from being discovered from readers regardless of their color even though it fit in the “general genre”.

A couple of weeks ago while visiting my local library I noticed a lot of newer authors I had never seen before. I was so impressed that the library had become “integrated” that I had to take a picture of it!

libraryintegration

A Japanese author, a Black author, a White author, and even a Native American author all on one shelf! 😀 And all different genres! Ha! Impressive. 

Clearly, people and books don’t belong in boxes. Well, unless you’re dead and boxed in a coffin. Sorry, I digress.

In 2015, Lee & Low, a publishing house that prides itself on finding new authors of color shared the results of the Diversity Baseline Survey, which revealed that overall the Industry is predominantly white and female. Bet you weren’t expecting THAT revelation. But, it’s true. And when I say overall we’re talking about all levels:

  • Executive Level
  • Editorial Dept.
  • Sales Dept.
  • Marketing & Publicity Dept.
  • Book Reviewers

Is this predominantly female white status quo deliberate and thus, racist? Well, if you consider the data . . . the other question is will it be kept this way and by design?

While I hunted for facts regarding the struggle many writers of color — Asian, Caribbean, African, South American — experience trying to get published, I encountered similar stories:

  • Mira Jacob, young author of the critically acclaimed novel, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, shared a powerful speech about her struggles as an (East) Indian woman dealing with ignorance and prejudice in the publishing industry. A MUST READ!
  • Jenny Zhang shares how a white poet, Michael Derrick Hudson, used a Chinese pen name, Yi Fen Chou.
  • Paul Langan, a white novelist writes popular series about Black students growing up in an Urban setting.
  • Brandon Tensley discusses America’s Problem With Writers of Color.
  • PP Wong, author and editor shares how many times her novel was rejected. One of the reasons is really, really, really stupid. And clandestinely racist.
  • Phenderson Clark, speculative fiction writer of Afro-Caribbean descent draws back the curtain regarding racism against fellow Black authors (and the lack of characters) in the science fiction and fantasy community.

To piggy-back on the final bullet regarding the science fiction and fantasy genre that I write and adore I come to a fork in the road. Lately, several of the Big Five publishers that are located in New York are requesting romance novels from Black authors. I don’t know how to write strictly Romance. I mean, doesn’t it entail, you know, like a “formula” where handsome guy meets gorgeous lady and they don’t like each other at first until he or she does something and then the tide is turned and then they like each other, but not like that and then they fight and break up and then you know — heck, I DON’T KNOW! So, my point that I’m trying to make is do I just “sell out” and go to the “Crimson Wine and Chocolate Covered Cherries Side” of Le Force and write Romance because it’s popular and I’m more than likely to succeed since there’s an open call for it?

Like I said before, I don’t know how to write strictly Romance. I need creepy scenes, an occasional vampire or demon to slay. I need undiscovered elements on the periodic table. I need a nod to the current status quo and how to change it. I need to believe that there are dragons to slay whether they be literal or figurative. I need to hope for windows, doors, closets, basements, or even dreams that lead to alternate dimensions.

I may not write Romance yet, but I could learn, if I feel so inclined, and not because it’s what a publisher wants of me to selfishly benefit themselves.  In other words, why should writers of color pigeonhole themselves? We should be able to write what we want.

This scenario brings this excerpt from Rachel Deahl’s Publisher Weekly’s article, “Why Publishing is So White”:

So how does the industry move forward and do better? Right now, publishing seems to be struggling with the difference between words and actions. Take, for example, a situation a publisher at a reputable Midwestern press recounted. Claiming he is “always trying to diversify our staff,” he brought up a recent editorial assistant search that initially yielded 250 applicants. The press narrowed its options down to eight finalists, five of whom were white and three of whom were people of color. Although all the finalists were “excellent” in his estimation, the position went to a white woman. The reason? “There’s no room for tokenism at [our press].”

Dude, there’s no need for tokenism! What a cop out!

There’s always going to be a first and you don’t have to stop there. A first — if that’s the intended direction you want to go — will lead to a second and a third.

It only takes one to turn the tide.

The need for diverse books from diverse authors with different stories to tell isn’t a trend and never will be.

I'mnotatrend

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet with me @moniquedesir

 

 

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Cultural Appreciation, Please?

 

Cultural appropriation_disturbing

Dear America (not just white people), can we appreciate and respect each other in a genuine manner? Can we learn what other people’s cultures consists of and not do “our own thing?”

Some time ago another blogger, the talented and charming, Jess of Daring to Jess invited me to write a post about cultural appropriation vs cultural appreciation. I was more than happy to do it. But, I wanted to get it right. I wanted to give this important and provocative subject justice.

So, here we go.

Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. … Often, the original meaning of these cultural elements is lost or distorted, and such displays are often viewed as disrespectful by members of the originating culture, or even as a form of desecration.

Desecration. A word like that made me think of one of my favorite RPGs, Dragon Age where mages (magic users for the uninitiated) can enter unholy covenants with demons and transform into tainted, demonic abominations.

morrigan.

Obviously, the word desecration let’s you know, dear reader, that cultural appropriation has a negative connotation and for good reason.

Cultural appropriation is like treating other people’s cultures like an all-you-can eat and not all-you-can stay buffet, picking and choosing which parts of a culture you want to take part in. It’s superficial. It’s shallow. It’s not a good look.

Why? Because you cheat yourself into not getting to know the people of said culture; being ignorant of who they are as individuals; lacking the culture’s history; its struggles, its beauty; its mistakes; its successes; etc.

Likewise, cultural appropriation isn’t looking at a culture’s multifaceted parts. Instead, it’s a practice of using bits and pieces of that culture as a fashion statement. Which is just plain tacky . . . or plain creepy like a study in the twisted doctor Frankenstein stitching the pieces of dead body parts to create his “masterpiece” or monster.

frankenstein

Oooh. Who does your hair? It’s electrifying!

But I have digressed . . .

Some examples of cultural appropriation are:

kat

Pop singer Katy Perry dressed as a geisha.

Oh yes. I went there. Popular singers and actresses like Katy Perry and even Destiny’s Child (before Beyonce went solo) have sported kimonos and fetishized the geisha of Japan. Have these women — especially Katy Perry — considered how harmful it is for Asian women to fetishize the stereotype of the submissive and sexually exploit them for entertainment?

destinygeishacrap

*Face palm. どうして?(Japanese for “Why”?)

The question is, do these women even know what purpose the clothing and hairstyles serve? Do they care? Do they even know what the heck a geisha is? And is knowing important? Damn straight it is! Ask G.I. Joe.

the_battle-

G.I. Joe: Knowing is half the battle.

 

 

 

 

Other cultural appropriation examples are wearing a hijab or cornrows in a selfie and posting these egocentric and annoying photos on Instagram because you think it’s cute or cool or whatever. However, people who naturally wear this attire aren’t immune to micro-aggressions that the “fashionistas” get praised for whilst sitting at home taking more selfies in the safety of their bedroom or bathroom.

jennerisannoying

Uh. No.

 

 

Basically, a Muslim woman may face or have to deal with dirty looks as she shops for groceries or a Black woman who rocks cornrows will be sent home from work because her hairstyle isn’t considered “professional”. Even worse and more annoying is that people who play dress up with another person’s culture don’t even know why the culture they’re imitating has these types of hairstyles or clothes. Nor do they care to know! It’s arrogance in ignorance and I don’t understand why people love it so much! With search engines like Google at their fingertips, they couldn’t think to look up why people dress the way they do and why? Sheesh. I think maybe I’m asking too much . . .

For example, Black women have been rocking cornrows for decades. Historically, cornrows or braids, also called cane rows in the Caribbean, are an ancient traditional African style of hair grooming, in which the hair is braided very close to the scalp, using an underhand, upward motion to produce a continuous, raised row.

However, when white women like Bo Derek, Kylie Jenner, et al come along – then suddenly everyone loses their effing minds! Headlines declare, “Blah-blah or so-and-so has broken the Internet after doing such-and-such!” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/9-times-white-people-have-appropriated-black-hairstyles-since-2014_us_55a81211e4b0896514d0c3ca). Commenting viewers think it’s stylish, they think it’s beautiful, they think it’s oh-so effing amazing.

How often are Black women mentioned for the beauty of their hairstyles, the versatility of their hair by non-Black people? We’re often our own cheerleaders.

#FACT, motherduckers!

Cultural appropriation  FLASH-ATTACK! (HADOUKEN):

In some predominantly white-audience magazines, Bantu knots are ignorantly called minibuns.

No minibuns

Hmmm. Just tell the truth. Bantu Knots came from south Africa’s Zulu tribe and God forbid if Whites knew that they’d refuse the hair-do, right? (#sarcasm)

Uh, no. Just no.

 

bantuknots

Black women often wear Bantu knots as a protective style. Click and learn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What about the culture the hairstyle came from? Anybody heard of Africa? You know, the continent with over 50 countries and such diversity and history that its beauty could fill scores and scores of books? The hairstyle is also popular in Jamaica where my mum is from. After you wash your hair, you part your hair and then simply twist the hair (two parts — not three) and then knot it around to lock it in place. It can stay in place for days or more and when you untwist the knot, the hair falls in a lovely manner!

bantuknotsout

Bantu knots undone. Beautiful!

 

 

getoutThe social thriller movie, “Get Out”, written by Peele (the other half of the dynamic comedy duo, Key and Peele) is a perfect example of cultural appropriation on steroids. I’ll discuss those juicy tidbits either on another blog post or on my Youtube channel, Monique Monique, Quite Unique. 🙂 *rubs hands and giggles mischievously*.

Now, for the sake of argument, I shall play Devil’s advocate.

devils-advocate

Sometimes our own perception of potential problems does not connect with reality due to a gap.

While browsing the Internet and all of its many wormholes, I noticed a comment by a White woman who pointed out that it’s not fair that Whites are often criticized for being cultural appropriation villains when non-Whites (particularly Black women) have committed crimes by appropriating White women’s hair. I considered responding to her lament, but fortunately another commentator, Tamika Mustipher, beat me to it. And I’m so glad she did because she was more patient than I would have been and I don’t think my response would have been as clear as Tamika’s.

Below is her explanation in all of its absolutely fabulous glory:

“Agreed! Overuse of heat appliances on hair does cause damage, regardless of ethnicity. I have to disagree with your idea “that cultural appropriation is what they call it when White girls wear cornrows” though. The problem with that statement is that it is far too broad and insinuates that every Black woman is concerned with the ways in which White women style themselves. Let me tell you, that couldn’t be further from the truth because I do not care what you or any other woman does with her hair. Yes, there are some who gripe about cultural appropriation, because it is a very real thing but in my opinion the insult of it is far more profound than hair. A Black woman wearing straightened hair or extensions is not necessarily trying to “be White”, just as a White woman wearing cornrows is necessarily trying to “be Black.” Riddle me this; was Bo Derek trying to be Black when she wore cornrows? No. She was a woman, working. Was Nicole Kidman, who admitted that she “ruined” her curls by heat straightening trying to be “more White” by straightening her locks? No. She simply preferred straighter hair. As I said above, and I’ll say again, we as women should be able to style our hair as we wish without negative commentary and attacks from anyone, ESPECIALLY other women.
As for your statement regarding Black women walking around with beautiful jet Black hair straighter than yours, and demanding that they stop trying to be White, have you taken the time to consider that perhaps your look may not be the look they are going for at all? In all my years, I haven’t seen very many White women with naturally, jet black, straight hair. In fact, it’s actually a look that is more specific to the Natives. Another fact is that African and Native Americans have shared a rich history, as many runaway slaves were harbored by Natives and intermarried, etc. With that said, consider the idea that many Black women are not thinking about trying to emulate White women at all, and simply find indigenous beauty admirable.

Thank you, Tamika, for letting me use your words! 🙂

Dear America, cultural appreciation is a beautiful thing to experience!

When I traveled to Japan as a Sister Cities International ambassador, I made sure that I was respectful to the native family I lived with; the native students I taught; and the people I encountered by:

  • Slurping my ramen noodles (real ramen – not that packaged crap)
  • Bathing in a public bath. I embraced Japanese culture even though I was freaked out about bathing where other people could see me! Eeeek!
  • Wearing a kimono for parties/celebrations (not pretending to be a geisha)
  • Taking my shoes off and slipping my feet into uwabaki (上履き)
  • Whatever the family ate that day, I did too. Why? Because I appreciated their culture! I had traveled to the other side of the planet and I wasn’t going to waste my time eating McDonald’s when I could feast on delicacies like okonomiyaki, tempura (which is actually from Portugal, but Japan adopted it to their list of yummy foods). 🙂
  • Speaking the language! If I didn’t know how to say something in Japanese, I asked in Japanese, “Nanto ii masuka?” __ にほんご なん いいます か。
    __ wa nihongo de nan to iimasu ka? How do I say __ in Japanese? Why? Because I appreciate the culture! I said that phrase so many times, I still remember it to this day.
  • I’m still friends with the Japanese couple I lived with!

And that finally bullet is key. I love building connections, cultivating relationships, and making friendships that can last a lifetime. I’m also a xenophile and I love learning about different cultures, languages, and people!

moi_kimono

Yours truly wearing a kimono (a gift from my family in Nagano).

 

Isn’t that one of the reasons we’re on this Earth?

So, don’t be ignorant! I challenge you to connect with new people on individual levels and learn something!

Ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s plain tacky and tasteless!

#FACT, motherduckers!

Desperately Seeking Answers

Warning: Despite this blog post’s length, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the rampant increase of police brutality and blatant racism that is spreading not only all over the United States of America, but also the rest of our precious world. So, make yourself a cup of tea. Pop some popcorn. It’s going to be a long read.

I had considered posting this long blog post in one hefty steak-and-potatoes meal, but I’ve chosen to have my readers read it in bite-size, healthy chunks so that they can digest it, reflect on it, mediate on it, and then act. This is a serious post and even though I may dash a few humorous rainbow sprinkles in it to ease discomfort, it is of dire importance to our ever-changing world. Change is uncomfortable. And yes, change can be good. But the changes that are taking place in the United States are disturbing, distressing, and must be acknowledged.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I will say it again: I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I have realized that whenever something disturbing happens in the USA, instead of peeling back the comely visage of America the Beautiful and seeing the sometimes horrible ugliness beneath, it’s due to fear and the stubborn unwillingness to address or even accept the terrible fact that: something is rotten in the USA (to paraphrase Shakespeare’s Hamlet).

Some time ago, the “business company” I work for had us participate in a training called “Ouch! That stereotype hurts!” http://ouchthatstereotypehurts.com/ We had to watch a series of videos that not only angered and disgusted me, but set off a mega-thunder clap of super-cala-frajalistic-espialadocious EUREKAS in my brain. At first, I thought I would have a seizure at any moment, due to the massive pain in my head, but then I realized it was merely a headache spurred on by stress and distress.

During this training, here are some things I learned:

*Stereotypes are pervasive.

*Some stereotypes are accepted more than others (the Model Minority – uh, if you never heard of it before, I’ll discuss more on that later).

*Stereotypes can affect people on a subconscious level . . . (more on that later too).

I have a particularly twisted sense of humor and some of the dumb, thoughtless things some people say in public (and often get away with) brings to mind this tongue-in-cheek satire of racism in the United States of America:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVWD4AcKw5M

Some viewers thought that this portrayed blacks as upstanding citizens and whites as ignorant, self-serving nincompoops who were not only oblivious to their white privilege, but also to the unfair prejudice against blacks and other melanated minorities.

Well, burnt cookies for you, haters, and you can swallow them down with a nice, frosty glass of Hatorade!

The fact of the matter is some whites and some blacks ARE ignorant. Some whites and blacks are oblivious and/or don’t WANT to accept the reality of White privilege! Why?

Many reasons.

Let’s eviscerate one reason and reveal all of its bloody, glistening guts, beneath the glaring lights of the autopsy table of truth.

I asked my husband-to-be about this (he’s white and no, I don’t believe he’s the spokesperson for white men everywhere) and he admitted that he often did feel guilty about how he is treated in comparison to others that aren’t white. I responded that he need not feel guilty because it’s not his fault. Also, guilt doesn’t help. (Especially when I devour an entire cheesecake in one sitting). Yes, I feel the guilt and it is so heavy it weighs down on me like a sack of rotten potatoes, but a month later the guilt is ignored and replaced with my longing for more cheesecake paired with a side of ice cream.

Guilt doesn’t DO SH!T! It’s often an emotional reaction that gives no solutions and greedily denies a path to answers.

Yes, the video is disturbing, like a train wreck, that you just can’t look away from no matter how hard you try. HOWEVER, it is a satire, which pokes fun at the many nuances of racism and stupidity in the USA.

If I received money every time I heard “Oh, you’re not the average black girl because [insert stupid, insensitive comment here] . . .” I’d be richer than Solomon of the Bible! Or Oprah! Or J.K. Rowling!

Shake my head . . .

And when I shared how I felt growing up as a black woman in the United States of America, I didn’t think my husband-to-be would understand. And something wonderful happened. He found this video on Youtube that revealed some of my own thoughts and feelings:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tN4Zulagb8

I asked him why he felt the need to text this to me (this was before we were engaged).

He said, “Because I’m sorry. I’m sorry for some of the insensitive things I may have said.”

Now, back to my EPIC EUREKA MOMENT!

Stereotypes: The Lie That Just Keeps Giving

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Joseph Goebbels

Stereotypes are similar to lies that are created by lazy, human thinking. Some sociologists call them “shortcuts”, like a**holes call deception little white lies. And stereotypes do more than hurt. If repeated again and again and again in various formats — they become internalized. They’re accepted for unchallenged truths. Stereotypes are destructive.

According to http://beachflute.teachforus.org/2007/10/28/the-list-of-stereotypes/, here are the following most common stereotypes for blacks, whites, latinos, and asians (I had to research these on my own):

Stereotypes about Black people:

  • Stupid
  • Irresponsible
  • Crack babies
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Drop-outs
  • Incarcerated
  • Fathers leave their kids
  • Love fried chicken and Kool-Aid
  • Hard workers? Lazy? (there was considerable debate on this)
  • Athletic
  • Violent
  • Live in the ghetto/the projects
  • Wasted generation
  • Loud, obnoxious, rude
  • Nappy hair
  • Bad attitudes, disrespectful
  • Hoodlums
  • Poor
  • Obese
  • Dirty
  • Sex, drugs, porn, weed
  • Guns
  • Low job expectations
  • Speak different English

Stereotypes about White people:

  • Eating disorders
  • Trailer trash, rednecks
  • Very proper
  • Sense of entitlement, power
  • Always think they’re right
  • Rich with big houses
  • Have better jobs
  • Racist
  • Smart
  • Priority is staying in a relationship
  • Drink a lot of beer
  • No rhythm and bad music
  • Serial killers, suicidal
  • Can’t discipline their kids
  • Like crack, ecstasy, LSD, PCP
  • Gay
  • Stuck-up
  • Nerds
  • Always in a hurry and on time
  • Impatient, rude
  • Scared
  • Can’t dress
  • Not funny
  • Not athletic
  • Plastic surgery
  • Serious
  • Smell funny
  • Blush

Stereotypes about Latino people:

  • Construction workers
  • Flirtatious, lots of PDA
  • “wetbacks”
  • family-oriented
  • dangerous, gang members
  • taking over everything
  • filling cars with people
  • illegal immigrants!
  • Hard workers, odd jobs
  • Stealing music
  • Thieves
  • Ruthless
  • Fake teeth
  • Jewelry
  • Greasy hair
  • Spicy food
  • Run-down houses
  • Don’t use their intelligence
  • Nosy
  • Noisy
  • Too many kids

Stereotypes about Asian people:

  • Parents are conservative and strict
  • Have bad English
  • Sikhs are the same as Muslims
  • Bad at athletics, but know Martial arts . . .
  • Most are doctors or engineers
  • Poor except for Arabs
  • No fashion sense
  • All look alike
  • Meek, humble
  • Females are submissive
  • Males are effeminate
  • Socially awkward
  • Hard workers
  • Success driven
  • Failure to assimilate
  • Stealing jobs
  • Too little kids
  • Restaurant owner

I noticed while reviewing each list that each ethnic group possesses both negative and positive stereotypes. But ask yourself, which ones are challenged as merely stereotypes? Which ones are glorified in mainstream media? Which group has the most negative stereotypes that effects the ethnic group’s success as a whole?

Which ones are accepted as Truth to you?

I’ve been an educator for over a decade and counting. I noticed that when as a school we’re analyzing data, blacks are usually the lowest. No, strike that. They’re always the lowest, followed by Latinos. Whites and Asians are at the top – provided that they are not ELL (English Language Learner) or have an ESE disability that compromises their many, many test scores. I also learned that a great majority of black children (especially boys) are placed in ESE classes – rarely ever Gifted – and smacked with a learning disability or some whack-a-doodle diagnosis of Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD). Sadly, some of these young men have beautiful, brilliant minds and are actually Gifted, but are simply bored and tired of a school system that wants them to assimilate and act like well-behaved little automatons who raise their hand, speak at the same time, stay in their seats, and only talk when told. I passionately feel this way about boys of all colors and ethnic groups! Boys and girls are NOT the same, but education is a “one-size-fits-all-and-if-you-don’t-fit-we’ll-make-you-fit-darn-it” kind of business. The educational system with all of its multi-billion dollar te$ting, cutting beloved programs (Art, Music), and a myriad more list of self-defeating naughtiness, sometimes reminds me of a diabolical Greek character named Procrustes who would stretch his victims or cut off their legs to make them fit his iron, torture bed.

When I was an elementary school kiddo, we had recess and PE every single day! Now, our children – of all colors – have been robbed of recess and don’t get PE every day. I don’t know if this is true for other states around the country, but it’s true of the state that I live in.

Now, flashback to the meeting I attended for Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts! During the meeting I started wondering what effect long-lived stereotypes taught inadvertently to generation after generation, shown in the media, played in commercials, and/or presented in literature could have on the mind (especially a young, pliant mind) and what ramifications it would have on children and the generations before and after them. As an avid reader and an aspiring history buff, I recall the study conducted by Dr. Kenneth Clark and his wife, Mamie Clark for her master’s degree thesis. It’s an interesting study with disturbing results that gives me shivers and grieves my heart. Basically, the results proved that “school segregation was distorting the minds of young black kids, causing them to internalize stereotypes and racism, to the point of making them hate themselves”.

The purpose of this blog post isn’t to prove that Blacks have been taught by design to hate themselves, due to the pressure of white hegemony and the malicious myth and lie of white supremacy. That fact has been proven time and time again for centuries. The point of this blog to expose the fact that Blacks, Latinos, and Asians have been crushed by the heel of white hegemony since time immemorial. And then after being crushed, ethnic groups like Asians (dubbed model minorities) have been tempted and enthralled to believe that they have been accepted by the white majority against their fellow minorities. That way, instead of uniting with other minorities in order to fight against this nonsense, some stand divided in the supposed United States of America. I’m not saying that minorities as a group banned together against whites. What I am saying is that if more and more people regardless of their color and ethnicity choose to fight for the sake of other people, because we all share this ephemeral human experience on this planet, those in power who want to keep us divided (focused on race – which is a myth and a societal fallacy) we can get to work fixing our country.

Here, let me break it down like this:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The above quote comes from Martin Niemöller, a protestant pastor and foe of Adolf Hitler. Reread the quote, replace it with an ethnic group that isn’t yours. What’s been happening to Blacks and what has happened to Asians and Latinos regarding police brutality is a warning of what will happen to anyone in this country. It may be practice for something bigger and so terrible it’s hard to imagine. Heck, I don’t want to imagine it!

The position that Blacks have once held as the hard-working model minority has been eclipsed deliberately and passed onto Asians and Latinos who were once just as hated and feared by racist, power-hungry whites. When will it change for them too? Like a pendulum, this trend can swing, and Lady America is oh so capricious.

The Myth of the Model Minority

modelminority

The title of “Model Minority” was a label given first to Japanese-Americans by Caucasians in an attempt to honor them for their success and triumphing against discrimination and subordination. Supporters of this backhanded compliment argue that Asians no longer face discrimination. As the saying goes “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, and it is debatable that giving such a title was motivated by good intentions; however, the label is merely just another negative stereotype. Basically, the success of Asian Americans is simply generalized and simplified. Instead of giving credit where credit is due, Asian Americans are successful simply because they are Asian and not because they possess positive human qualities shared with other ethnic groups, (whites, blacks, Latinos) such as good work ethic and determination. This obnoxious title robs them of their humanity and makes other minorities look less than and lacking in their humanity as well.   Sadly, I often hear students at the school where I teach exclaim, “Of course she got an “A” – she’s Asian!” Need I ram my point home further? I think not.

Murder of Vincent Chin

“What kind of law is this? What kind of justice? This happened because my son is Chinese. If two Chinese killed a white person, they must go to jail, maybe for their whole lives… Something is wrong with this country.” Lily Chin, mother of Vincent Chin

Vincent Chin was born in China. After being adopted, his family moved and settled in Michigan. The night he was murdered, he celebrated with his friends the upcoming wedding when two white men insulted him and blamed him for their lack of employment. Chin demanded that they not call him names. The two white men didn’t like that and decided to get revenge because how dare an Asian man disrespect not just one white man, but TWO white men and think he can get away with it?, right – especially when they’re the ones who started the argument in the first place. I mean, he should have just kept his mouth shut and bowed or something, eh? (dripping sarcasm). To make a sad story much shorter, one held him down and the other bludgeoned him with a baseball bat. He died four days later from the injuries. Initially, the men served no jail time, served three years of probation. They paid a measly fine of $3,780 (court cost and fines). Fortunately, Chin’s determined mother chose to fight back. If you want to learn more, I’ve assigned it for homework.

Stereotypes Can Change

For some time in history (during Reconstruction Era after the USA Civil War and up until the Civil Rights Movement) Blacks were considered the model minority. Blacks worked long hours with little pay. Blacks would work under deplorable, unfair environments in order to pave their way to the American Dream. For a couple hundred years or so, Blacks in the USA have struggled with being given the basic human rights that everyone deserves regardless of their skin pigmentation. Year after year, February after February, Americans are bombarded with slave movies, the black struggle for Civil Rights, the enduring abuse, rapes, murders, and downright disrespect that comes with being Black. And I used to think that perhaps the intentions behind these movies were good, even at the expense of such a shameful past being constantly thrown in society’s face. So, as the surviving Jews of the Holocaust would lament, “Never again. We must never forget our past”. That was the mentality I chose to have, despite the fact that I didn’t cater to these recent movies.

Now, not so much. This constant rinse and repeat of slavery and “you had no rights” because you were slaves in a “white man’s land” isn’t and wasn’t always Black America’s legacy. Like other ancient civilizations around the world, Africans have a multifaceted past, both glimmering and shining, but also dark and disappointing.

This too is the shared music of humanity’s legacy. We humans, yes the human race – I don’t believe in different races, but one – are not cookie cutter creations. Even when writing fiction, you can’t get away with Pollyanna goodie-goodie heroes or Sinister-Charlie-Curling-Moustache villains.

And Africans weren’t always slaves. Nor were they the only civilization who took part in a slave trade.

Africans, were not always slaves, as the media likes to portray over and over again. Africans came from a rich past of royalty – princes, princesses, kings and queens lavished in gold and lapis lazuli that any European queen would envy.

And now?

Now out of all the ethnic groups, I hear a lot of hate – vitriolic, poisonous hate spewing from the computers of people hiding and click-clacking away at their keyboards. Blacks, as of late, are treated as the worst of minorities or people of color in many countries. I think of the dark-skinned native people of Australia, the native Africans of South Africa denied equality with their white neighbors and it grieves my heart as to why that is. Blacks in America are perceived and portrayed as lazy, drug dealers, Welfare Queens, Ghetto squatters, the masters of improper grammar, and murderers of not only others, but of their own.

Here are some examples of hate I found while reading comments during the latest murders of young, Black men (emphasis mine):

*“Why aren’t Hispanics in East Baltimore brutalized? Here’s a hint they don’t act like animals.

*“It’s not a police state. If the black community acted like everyone else none of this would be happening. How many Asian boys are brutalized?”

*“Ya sure – just ignore the real issues. no justification for brutal cops but the clear reality is black men have very little to fear from cops since 98% of the shooting deaths are from other black men.

*“Only by picking up their pants and speaking good English can blacks stop police brutality. Remember, the system never has to change, the victim does.”

I had to take a break after reading most of these comments. A lot of them didn’t address the real issue, a deeper issue that is of such scope and magnitude, I don’t know how it will be resolved. Instead of asking for answers, commenters blamed the victim who was shot and killed. The victim was Walter Scott, an innocent, unarmed Black man, who was shot eight times. May he rest in peace. You can find more information here for your own perusal: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/08/us/south-carolina-officer-is-charged-with-murder-in-black-mans-death.html?_r=0

Despite the string of negative, ignorant comments, two comments gave me a ray of hope: First this one: “Basically the officers don’t see the community as individual people but the enemy. A dysfunctional mass of people that they have to aggressively police. They see the carnage and dysfunction up close that impacts a person. Teachers at inner city schools go through a similar process.” And the second: “Maybe it’s time to address the real issues of bad schools, poverty, broken families, no jobs etc. Ya know the things the press never really covers and liberals won’t talk about for lots of poor reasons…”

No, I’m not a liberal, nor am I a conservative, but this last commenter showed that he understood the issue of Blacks being murdered in cold blood. And now, crime in poor areas isn’t necessarily the problem, but a symptom of a much larger issue. I detest both sides of the same coin of liberal and conservative. I just want a politician who won’t lie, cheat, steal, and one who will keep his or her word about fixing our country – I’d much rather vote for Batman than any of these uber-wealthy men or women who have no idea what it’s like to be an everyday American. Heck, at least, Batman gets things done. 🙂

Personally, I know how the American system had nearly destroyed my psyche as a young, Black woman. And though I can’t speak for every Black person, I know what struggles I endured and overcame:

*Fighting becoming a statistic (single mom; never married)

*Speaking out and acting against stereotypes and discrimination (speaking proper also known as “talking white” – (more on that in Part Two), pursuing a good education, going to college, being a writer, speaking multiple languages, traveling, etc.)

*Despising being Black and learning to love who I was not because of my skin color alone, but because of who I have grown and matured into being: a woman of great accomplishments, a mother of two beautiful children, a writer, an educator, an artist, a xenophile.

A powerful and poignant scene comes to mind from a book I love to hate and hate to love: Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”. It centers on a little, Black girl named Pecola who believes that if she had white skin, golden hair, and blue eyes, she would be loved and all of her problems would vanish. Her very whiteness would wash away her unhappy, miserable life, which is perpetuated by the Black adults in her life, who hate themselves just as much as she does. “Here was an ugly little black girl,” the text reads, “asking for beauty…A little black girl who wanted to rise up out of the pit of her blackness and see the world with blue eyes” (Morrison, 174). I too remember being like this little black girl wanting to be like the Barbie dolls in the toy store; the Sweet Valley High twins with their fair features; the “popular” girls deemed beautiful by white America on various soap operas, commercials, magazine covers, and music videos.

Growing up, I would often wonder: “Where am I? Where is a girl like me with dark brown skin, warm brown eyes, and a bright smile? Where is she?”

And if she is nowhere to be found, she must not be wanted. And she is not beautiful. But, thank God that I learned with the love of my parents and also due to my pursuit of knowledge, I learned that I don’t need mainstream society’s skewed carnival-mirror to reflect me. I have my own mirror. I have friends and family who love me. And I have my legacy. I am more than a pretty face.

I am so much more.

CONCLUSION of PART ONE:

Last year, I read Banks’ book “Is Marriage for White People: How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone”.

Overall, the book fulfills the adage: “A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.” Ralph often mentions “white follows black”, meaning that trends that occur in the black community will eventually effect the white community. If one closely observes what’s been happening to our society for the past one hundred years or even most recently within the past decade, his theory is frighteningly accurate. “White follows black” indeed. I will not go into detail because I don’t want to spoil the reading experience for others. Even though the book stirred plenty of emotions in me (both negative and positive) the book was an eye-opening, validating, and bitter-sweet experience. There is a family-destroying-agenda in this country and as it has been seen in the black community, the white community will soon experience the devastating effects also. Like a domino effect, we’ll all come tumbling down, crushing one another.

Why?

Hmmm. An answer would just be the very tip of the iceberg because once we have an answer, we’ll need a solution and unfortunately, I don’t think the majority of Americans want a solution. Why do I think that? Well, I’m realistic, and I often verge on the side of pessimism with a dash of optimism. “Hope for the best, expect the worst, dearies!” I sing.

George Carlin, deceased potty-mouth comedian extraordinaire often said, “Nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care.”

And it’s true. That’s why there’s so many problems in our country and it’s only going to get worse before it gets much, much worse. Why? Because most Americans even if they notice, they don’t seem to care. Caring seems to take too much effort.

Awww, darlin’. You thought I was going to say “it’s only going to get worse before it gets better, right?”

Sorry, I won’t and cannot coddle you with lies. Ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s poison. A verse in the Bible says, “My people perish for lack of knowledge”. And yes, never forget that knowledge is power. The most important thing is knowing what to believe and with the viral expansion of knowledge in our world, there are groups who want you to believe the wrong things.

I shall leave you with this gem of profane-laden truth a la George Carlin, which only begins to answer the problems in our country, before vexing you with a deluge of more questions:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acLW1vFO-2Q

You dear reader, must be proactive. You must choose what kind of America you want to live in.

The choice is yours.

Knowledge is power. And knowing is half the battle . . .

Say it with me, fellow 70s and 80s babies: “GI Joe”.

Stay tuned for Part Two coming soon.