The Cultivation of My Brand

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This past week I’ve been realized one thing, I am cultivating a brand. I started doing this years ago without realizing it. Once I knew what I wanted to do, I tried my hardest to be as consistent as possible.

I will admit that I had no idea exactly what I was doing but I figured being recognized under one screen name would be the best possible thing for me. This way when someone was looking for my blog they would always be able to find it. That is why my twitter and tumblr are the same. If you play me in world with friends or any game on the iphone, you will know how to find me: latinegro.

It is also that consistency that has also allowed me to have the same message. While, this particular blog tends to get personal at times. I still, for the most part, try to advocate for the recognition of Afro Latinos and to a much larger extent, Latinos. Then there is my overall feeling on the fight against racism and oppression that I have been so out spoken about. I also believe in education and easy access to it. I think that it is our responsibility to help our youth get a better education.10240G Brand Yourself

With that being said, I realize that I never mentioned how I am the president of the Latino Alumni Network of Syracuse University (LANSU). This is something that I’m very proud of but I don’t feel the need to brag about it. Quite simply, there is a lot of work to do to get this organization to where I envision it. Last week, we had our first collaborative event of 2013 that was very coincidentally called: Branding Yourself in the Global Marketplace.

While I also knew about branding myself, It was very interesting to see other people’s opinion on it. It made me reenforce what I had done the week prior to all this, which was using my ability to write to create a theme for LANSU that needs to be solidified. Quite frankly, I have never been comfortable asking for money. Even when I was a telemarketer for brief time in the late 90’s, I had trouble asking for money and that was my job! But, I have a passion for my former students at SU and for fellow alumni. My job is to bridge that gap through networking at the fulfillment of the LANSU Scholarship Fund.

I had spent the first few weeks of January really trying to get LANSU’s name out there through twitter, facebook, and Linkedin. I was in a very long meeting with Syracuse University to get what I need established. This almost lead me to forget the other side of my brand: The Latinegr@s Project. This was something that I figured was unforgivable in my book especially with Black History Month. I wanted to create a ripple in the water in a way that I have never done before.

The last time I wrote for The Huffington Post was in July of 2012. It had been weighing on me that I have access to this awesome medium and I was not taking advantage of it. While I had planned on writing my final SU based article in November, there was something about it that just fell through. It wasn’t strong enough.

People ask me all the time “How did you get to write for the Huffington Post?” Well, the answer is networking. I got lucky that I knew someone that knew someone that works for them. When the call went out for new bloggers, my name was given and I was contacted. This is one of those times when being a mentor to a fabulous person like Victoria Chan pays off. I will always be grateful for her because of this and I will always make sure I am there for her when she needs advice.

I was asked to only write about College and Higher Education topics, which I did and struggled with. I have a personal copy editor (my girlfriend) who tears my articles up, demanding I be more clear and concise. I noticed after the 3rd article I posted that there was way for me to submit a blog through Latino Voices (a branch of the Huff). I kept that in the back of my mind knowing that I will have to post about Afro Latinos one day and hopefully they will accept this.

Fast forward to last Friday. As busy as I was, I was debating on if I should even write something or wait until Monday. Most times, I would write a post and it would take a day for me to edit it and go back and forth with how good it may or may not be. I just decided to write something during my lunch hour. It was something really quick and straight forward that was barely 700 words if that. I fact checked it and sent it to my beautiful girlfriend to destroy (I tend to be vague with a lot of typos). She emailed it back with two edits! I was shocked. Later she would tell me that it was the most straight forward article I have written.

I submitted it to Latino Voices around 3pm. I was thinking that, if they do post this, it wont be until Monday. I was almost mad at myself about that because I had waited so long to write it. At 5m exactly…they posted the article. The rest has been a whirlwind of comments and praise that I was not expecting. I did a radio interview with a show out of Syracuse the very next day. It turns out to be the most read blog post I have written ever.

I was asked what was it like to create a brand for yourself? Simply put: Absolutely Amazing.

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Christmas List 2011

Last week my girlfriend (still love saying that) asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I was a bit thrown back by this because I cannot recall the last time someone asked me this question. My parents don’t ask me this because I get money from my dad and step mother (which is always appreciated *smile*) and my mother usually gets me a sweater or something like that. So it has been indeed a long time since anyone has simply asked me what I wanted for Christmas.

But, the funny thing is, I never answered her because truth be told I don’t know what I want. I mean, I have my list of 5 things I want to get myself for 2012, but I do not expect anyone to help me get for them. This is the 3rd year I have done this list and it helps me figure out how to live a little. The best part about last year’s list was that I was able to get all 5 things. However, this list is a little more grand, so we will see.

Blu Ray makes this worth it!

I will start with a Playstation 3. This is something that I wanted to get myself as a gift for all the hard work I put in this year. My plan was to get this when I started a new job, but that never happened. While I got a Nintendo Wii earlier this year and still play it, a true gamer as to have another system that is either a PS3 or a X-box 360. I debated both and even asked people on Facebook and Twitter as to which I should consider since both systems have basically the same games. PS3 won out because of one basic feature…the Blu Ray player.

I love the vest and tie!

Earlier this year I made the choice to buy 2 suits at Men’s Warehouse because it was close to graduation and I had planned on interviewing. It was apparent then that I needed a better wardrobe because the selection was so awesome. The quality of clothes alone make a trip to this place worth it but these clothes are extremely expensive. Then I go to JCPenny a month ago with my girlfriend to shop for some gifts for the holiday season and they have this kiosk that you can search anything they sell online or in the store.  It also allows customers to scan the bar code and send the items to email. This renewed my sense of of getting new clothes.

Straight up, I need a new washing machine. Mine broke down months ago and I am tired of saving quarters. I have tons to choose from, but I think I will get a Maytag. The most important thing is to get one that has water level control. This helps with the water bill. Home Depot usually has some good deals. I will have to give some thought to coin-operated machines, but as I said, I am tired of saving quarters…although, I could me getting more loot. I would get one from Lowe’s but not after reading this.

I love my glasses. I love them so much that I debated never wearing contacts again. There was a point in which contacts just got annoying for me to wear. However, I find myself not wanting to put my glasses through the everyday grind. So now, I want to return to wearing contacts for this reason. I may have to get picky on brands because I am not sure why some contacts bother me more than others. One thing I would like to be able to do again is wear sunglasses.

The final thing is something that I wanted to add to my collection and that would be The Black in Latin America DVD. I really enjoyed doing workshops on this documentary, but the DVD is owned by Syracuse University. I want my own so I view and perhaps watch it with others that are in need of an education. In addition, I feel that I learn something new with each additional viewing, perhaps something I missed due to being focused on an issue.

Latino Student Apathy or Entitlement?

I wanted to the last two posts about Black in Latin America to ferment in the minds of my readers. I think it is a lot of information to take in even if you have seen the series before. This is middle of Latino Heritage Month and I have been on that steady mission of educating people on how” our rich culture is.

Sure, I have focused my energy on Afro Latinos. That is to be expected. I know that is the buzz word now and almost the “in” thing to do for most. But, I take this seriously because I feel I am learning with everyone else. More importantly, Latinos come in all colors and shapes and that is something that we need to hold on to.

What frustrates me is the lack of interest that I see amongst Latino students. People want to just call it apathy but, I want to call it entitlement. I realized after seeing fellow Syracuse University alums this past weekend during Coming Back Together 10, that our past cannot be ignored. The struggles of our people before us cannot be overlooked because it is because of them that our brightest youth are where they are. Yet there is this sense of entitlement because there is nothing for these students to fight except for each other.

I wondered how these same students at Syracuse University felt if we just stopped celebrating Latino Heritage Month. I am sure there will be complaints about how unfair it is because there would be no programming exclusively for them. But, would they really complain outside of missing our annual Fiesta Latina? Sure, I personally fought to have this month celebrated years ago, but it pains me to see these same student take it for granted. I know how Moses felt when he broke the commandments after seeing the Jews break every last law and take their freedom for granted.

So where does the sense of entitlement come from? The fact that these students have everything they need. Social Justice takes the shape of canned food drives and tutoring students as part of a job or a Fraternity/Sorority philanthropy. While those maybe important, the idea of education of their own culture becomes less important quite simply because they don’t have to. It is not their core curriculum.

I shake my head at the students who tell me that they didn’t know what was going on which is just an excuse. We should all make it our business what is going on either on the campus or in the world in general. There were plenty of Latino Heritage Month calendars going around, but I am quite sure that students know when the next NPHC or NALFO party is. I am sure they know when the next party is on Marshall Street. I am quite sure they know when Jersey Shore comes on MTV. They will plan their social time and studies around those.

So what now? I will continue to do my workshops and promote workshops because they are important because if one student is positively effected by our programming, then it is worth it.

LHM: Black in Latin America – Dominicans/Haitians

Out of all the four documentaries in this series, I knew this one would be the most popular. In this series, this place called Hispaniola or Quisqueya is the only place that two cultures are compared in such a way. Black in Latin America: Haiti and the Dominican Republic is billed as the story of one culture in denial and the other in love with its independence.

I was so excited about this workshop, which was last Saturday, that I invited a very special guest, Dr. Silvio Torres-Saillant. He is the intellectual that appears in the 13th minute of the episode. Dr. Torres-Saillant is a professor at Syracuse University that always amazes me with his intellect. The other person with this particular subject was fellow blogger and SU Alum, Jose Vilson who lives in both worlds being Haitian and Dominican. I figured I had my bases covered. Little did I know that Dr. Torres-Saillant was about to bring it.

First the highlights:

  • The people of Hispaniola have shared the island for over Five Thousand Years
  • Hispaniola was the first place to import African as Slaves.
  • Dominicans are proud to a mixed raced society and Haitians are proud to be black.
  • Santo Domingo was founded in 1496 by Bartholomew Columbus.
  • Most Dominicans consider themselves Inido.
  • The motherland for Dominican Republic is considered Spain
  • Sambos represent what being black means.
  • One of the first sugar plantations was in the Americas was in Nagua.
  • Sugar production did not last long in Santo Domingo within Century the production was centered around Brasil. Cattle Ranching became means to survival
  • Cattle Ranching plantation worked differently than other plantations due to the nature of the work. The master/slave dynamic was different. There was almost an equal footing.
  • The collapse of the Sugar Industry lead many whites to leave Santo Domingo. This left people of color to basically fend for themselves. They maintained loyalty to Spain.
  • There are some musical customs that contain African Roots and have been around for 500 years.
  • Haiti occupied Santo Domingo in 1822
  • The Haitian government had a profound effect on the Dominicans such as trying to change the language from Spanish to French and making changes to religious practices.
  • The Dominican Republic gained independence on February 27, 1844
  • Dominicans reject everything that was considered Haitian, including, in many ways, their skin color.
  • Dominican elite tended to “whitetify” historical figures if they were too black.
  • Years later, Haitians become migrant workers who did jobs that Dominicans would not do. This gave many Dominicans the notion that they were in a higher class than the Haitians. The imported tens of thousands of Haitians.
  • Blackness became a Haitian trait and a negative term in the D.R.
  • Rafael Leonidas Trujillo was a dictator who did more to harm relations between the people on the island than any propaganda or slanted education did. He declared Santo Domingo to be a white nation and hid his own dark features. 

At this point the documentary begins to focus on the Massacre River and how over 15 thousand Haitians were slaughtered there. So to expand on this point I simply looked it up. Dr. Gates mention this happening in October of 1937, which is true, but the event itself was across the island and lasted a week.

Trujillo did order what is known as the Parsley Massacre or, in the Dominican Republic, as El Corte (The Cutting), in which the Dominican Army killed Haitians living on the Dominican side of the border. They massacred 17,000 − 35,000 Haitians between October 2 and October 8 of 1937. To avoid leaving evidence of the Army’s involvement, the soldiers used machetes rather than bullets. The soldiers of Trujillo were said to have interrogated anyone with dark skin, using the shibboleth perejil (parsley) to tell Haitians from Dominicans when necessary; the ‘r’ of perejil was of difficult pronunciation for Haitians. (I got this from Wikipedia)

This fact alone was not thoroughly explained in this episode and becomes a unique point with Dr. Silvio Torres-Saillant. He explained that although he enjoyed this episode and being a part of it, there is only so much history of a country that can be explain within an hour (24 minutes for the Dominican Republic to be exact). He goes on to explain that he Dr. Gates had a story to tell which slants this view of Dominicans not wanting to be black thus making Haiti this proud race of people. Dr. Torres-Saillant makes evidence of this when he points out that Dr. Gates refers to the Haitians in having a “extraordinary rich and noble history.”

Before I continue, I need to mention that we did watch the entire episode. Due to time constraints and the point I want to make here I wont go into the Haitian side of the story because quite frankly, it was not discussed largely because we talk more about the racial views of the Dominican Republic. Of course I talk about being amazed by this episode and how it shows racial views as how we know it. Jose Vilson comments about his own struggle of racial identity before being comfortable with the term Afro Latino. However, it was Dr. Torres-Saillant that made everyone in the room what to read more about the extraordinary rich and noble history of Santo Domingo.

Now where in the documentary does it state about the numerous rebellions of the Dominicans Slaves. He begin to explain about the first major slave revolt in the Americas occurred in Santo Domingo during 1522. He talked about how many of the slaves managed to escape to the mountains where they formed independent maroon communities. This was something that I did not know. I was floored by this. Dr. Torres-Saillant said he mentioned this to Dr. Gates, but this was not included in the episode.

It comes down to this, and this is a summarization, it is not whether or not Dominicans say they are black or not. They know that come from Africa. It is in the culture. It is in the religion. It is in the music. There is a part about about voodoo being practiced in Haiti, but many of those same things are also practiced by Dominicans in very similar ways like we saw in Cuba. Dr. Torres-Saillant points out that he is not interested in what people say but rather he is interested in what people do. Dominicans do black things. However, it is a type of “black” they are rejecting. They are rejecting the negative types of black that has been instilled in them.

When I had a chance to talk to Dr. Torres-Saillant afterward, I mentioned to him that although I am not Dominican, it seems that my family rejects this notion of blackness too. I told him how my grandmother once told me I should not date a black woman. He is response was eerily similar to my fathers. He said to me that it is not an issue of weather your family is racist, it is more the fact that image of blacks in this country is so bad, she doesn’t view you in the negative way that black people are being portrayed.

He then gets technical and says that in reality we are all the same. Skin color is based on the human body’s need to adapt to different conditions around the world. Culture is what people really fight about but they connect culture with skin color in America. Black is not viewed in the Dominican Republic or even in the Caribbean the same way it is viewed in the United States. It is only when you are forced to identify yourself do you reject or accept the choice given to you. That made me realize something else, this episode never talks about American influence in Santo Domingo. Trujillo was an American backed dictator… again, very similar story to Cuba.

Yes, Haiti was the first black independent commonwealth in the Americas and it is very inspiring to many black people, but this idea that Dominicans just accepted the assimilation of the European ways is completely false. More importantly, the 22 year rule of Santo Domingo by Haiti give many Dominicans this notions that the two people were completely different. In realty, two sides of the same country split in half by two different ruling countries sparked divides that exist today.

LHM: Black in Latin America – Cuba

As I mentioned earlier in the month, I am hosting four workshops on the PBS series called Black in Latin America.  This was a documentary that was ground breaking in the way it showed the rich history of Afro Latinos in the Caribbean and South America. Last night, I hosted the first. I showed the the episodes on Cuba and although the audience was small, it was well received. For those who did not see it :

I took some notes of interest that stuck out in my mind when viewing this. These we also discussed when the viewing was done.

  • Cuba received over a million slaves from Africa. That is double the amount than the United States
  • The Haitian Revolution caused a shortage in sugar production in which forced Cuba to fill thee gap that lead to hundreds of thousands of slaves being shipped in order to meet demand. Whites feared a possible revolution in Cuba and because of this, plantations were operated like prisions.
  • By 1825, all of Spain’s colonies were independent with the exception of Puerto Rico and Cuba. The sugar industry was too profitable for Spain to lose
  • Carlos Manuel de Cespedes made the “Grito de Yara” on October 10, 1868. He declared his slaves free and this started a 10 year war.
  • Antonio Maceo and Jose Marti believes in a Cuba for Cubans and the Spain was trying to break Cuban unity by making race an issue in war.
  • Cuba abolished Slavery in 1886, 21 years after the United States

The documentary does not get too much into the Spanish American War. But it it interesting to point out the United States influences when it comes to racial policy. That can be seen with political cartoons of Cuba being defined as the “black child” of the United States.

It was at the mid way point when showing this documentary that students really got into this. When we wrapped it up, there was a mention that this type of information is not readily available. How else could they learn this information because history class is certainly not providing that.

  • Pedro Yvonnet and Evaristo Estonez (not mentioned) formed the Independent party of Color in 1908. This lead to the Cuban governmant massacring 3000 Afro Cubans in 1912 when they staged a revolt.
  • Son was considered black music and thus declared illegal but was declared a legal in 1925 by President Machado
  • The Cuban Revolution was on 1 January 1959, when a rebellion army lead by Fidel Castro overthrew the US-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. The wars lasted 5 years. (much of this detail is not mentioned)
  • Castro declared Cuba to be free of Racism.

There is was a lot of talk after the viewing that Castro is viewed as this evil man, yet healthcare and education is free to everyone in Cuba. He made it a point to wipe out illiteracy as best he could. However, the USA has view of him as an evil dictator who aligned with the USSR when the embargo was placed on them. It is, of course, a matter of perception. It is no secret that Castro’s revolution lead to many White Cubans leaving the island and migrating to Miami.

  • The collapse of the Soviet Union lead to the loss of 6 Billion Dollars to the Cuban economy. That is about 80% of trade and over 50% of the GDP. This loss of money made racial inequality glaringly obvious.
  • Money from abroad (families in Miami send money to families in Cuba) is one reason for racial divide. The other is the currency: the peso vs the CUC.

It has always been my belief that Cuba has always been a racist country. One person int he documentary points out “Prejudice never went away in Cuba, it was just pushed under the table”. The reality in Cuba is the more class issue that has race written all over it. It just so happens that the rich are White and the poor are Black (as it oftens is).

Another thing that was discussed was Hip Hop in Cuba. It is very interesting that music of “Black” people can be under a certain type of scrutiny. I view Hip Hop to be just like Son in because it speaks to the poor and underrepresented.

I enjoyed showing this episode and will be showing another one this Saturday. I expect a larger crowd as we view and discuss Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Latino Heritage Month 2011

It has taken me more time than I am willing to admit to decide whether or not to do another Latino Blog Challenge. The problem is that I haven’t been able to come up with 30 new topics. Not to mention that I am more busy this year as opposed to last year. What I do intend on doing is to post strictly on Latino Heritage related things during this month. This may not be a challenge, but I intend on writing about what I learned this month as well as the various things that are happening at Syracuse University.

First and foremost, I am facilitating four workshops on the PBS documentary Black in Latin America. This was a phenomenal documentary that aired last spring which brought to light many things. I posted a blog about Peru in particular. The workshops are basically viewing each episode and then having a conversation afterwards. I will pose some critical questions about each to engage the audience. The flyer above is something that I want to remember because I do not get a chance to do things like this very often.

I am happy that I do get this opportunity because last year I contributed to this month by being the keynote speaker at Utica and it should only be right that I do something at the very school I work for this year. But this is not the only thing that I am involved with this year. I have been working hard to promote Fiesta Latina coming up on September 23 with our featured guest, Frank Negron. I remember about 2 years ago he came up to a festival that the city of Syracuse was having and he rocked the place out. I had tweeted him if he would be interested ever coming back to play for the University and he said he would. That started the ball rolling in terms of trying to get the funds and the planning down. I am excited that he is performing at the Schine Student Center. He will be our biggest Salsa artist to date on this campus.

This year we have two commemorative speakers that I had the pleasure of selecting. The first is a very good friend of mine Carmen Mojica. She has guessed blogged here before and she currently has two books out. One is Hija de Mi Madre and the other is Odas de la Mujer de Miel. I would suggest everyone support her and her writings. I am looking forward to her lecture. The other woman is Michele Carlo, author of Fish out of Aqua. I read this book in March and it is fantastic, so much so that I needed her to talk about her experiences as a Latina growing in New York City. I will do a book review in the upcoming weeks.

Finally, I am beginning my Being Afro Latino Project. I announced this on my tumblr account. The first stage is looking for a few people who are willing to help with posting on the on that blog as well as on the twitter account. I have come to realize that two people (me and Bianca) cannot represent all Afro Latinos in our works. Opening it up to people is the best way to go. So the message is this: 

Are you interesting in being a contributor to the Being Afro Latino Project? We are looking for intelligent and willing volunteers to post various pictures and articles on the Latineg@s Tumblr account as well at the @BeingAfroLatino Twitter account. If you are interested leave us an inbox message stating why you think you would be a great asset to the team!

This will be a good month! 

"I am boycotting Q-tips."

I have been thinking about this for a while now. Let me preface this by saying that this blog post is about 2-3 weeks in the making ever since “Black in Latin America Mexico & Peru: The Black Grandma in the Closet” aired on PBS. My whole thought process about this has been festering since then and I have not been able to devote the time to really express how I feel about seeing this episode.

I think that the Black in Latin America series was incredible to begin with. There was not a single episode that was not simply amazing in terms of the amount of information presented. This was a ground breaking series that all history teachers need to show their students. I enjoyed it so much because it made me realize that there so much more that I need to know about the plight of the Afro Latino. Each episode was filled with information that I enjoyed very much to tweet small bits of information that we all should remember.

My world view never really changed in any of the first 3 episodes. Most of the documentaries were not really surprising to me. Racism is prevalent in just about every Latin American country. It is a fact that most of the slaves went to Latin America and this series made it a point to reference that all the time. This becomes important when ignorant people begin to state that African Americans and Latinos do not have a shared ancestry. It even looms larger when Latinos in general start saying they are not black.

This brings me to the final episode to this series in which the two countries highlighted are Mexico and Peru. I want to say that I knew about Mexico and it’s treatment of their Black Mexicans. I personally wrote a blog about Memín Pinguín and how racist those images are. So, nothing this documentary said about Mexico really surprised me.  I was actually proud of myself for doing that type of research, but nothing prepared me for Peru.

Let me talk about El Negro Mama, which is basically a minstrel show that is shown on prime time television.  This is character that portrays Afro Peruvians in such a negative light. This is worse than any black face incident or nonsense I have ever seen. I wont get into it as much as this blogger did, but needless to say this was something I was not even expecting. I plan to do my research on this and write about this properly in time for Latino Heritage Month.

The thing that had me really upset and reeling before they even showed El Negro Mama, was this one simple fact: Afro Peruvians pick cotton in the very fields that their slave ancestors did for $5 a day. This is something that I cannot even begin to wrap my mind around. It is one thing to have blatant and apparent racism in your face everyday, but to do that same job that your slave ancestors did? That is such a slap in that face and what really breaks my heart is that this is probably one of the better jobs one can get if you are black.

Think about this: people of color in the United States have it good. If you are working in a shit job and complain about how horrible work conditions are then I suggest that you shut the fuck up and realize that there are people who look like us practically being enslaved on this side of the planet in the year 2011! It makes me angry how people do not realize the implications of this. Sure, Peru is the only Latin American country to apologize to its black population about slavery but what does that really mean? Is it still ok to apologize for something you did wrong and continue to do the same things.

After that day I was ready to boycott Q-tips. Of course, I say that not knowing if Unilever (the manufacturer) actually uses Peruvian cotton. Trust me I did look this up and while I do not think so, it was the only thing I can say to raise an eyebrow and get a chuckle. I firmly believe that humor can be a way to spread awareness because the alternative is anger and that will not do me good.

So, I had been brooding about this weeks after it aired on May 10th. I was thinking about all this so much that when I was at a reception a week later, I stated to a group of friends and colleagues at the table I was sitting at that I was planning on boycotting Q-tips. Now, this was a joke. I was just pissed about the whole picking cotton thing and we were talking about this documentary. What makes this story hilarious was that at this very table was the Dean of Student Affairs (my boss’ boss). I know him personally and he is a great guy but all he asked was….why are you boycotting Q-tips?

This of course this made me laugh as I had to carefully explain with no curses what this documentary was and what they had shown. His reaction was really serious like….“so Q-tips uses this cotton?” I wanted to bust out laughing and I told him that I was joking. But, I appreciated that he understood where I was coming from.

So where does this leave me? It leaves me with the feeling that I need to learn more about Afro Latinos. My world view has changed a bit, at least when it comes to South America. Of course, I know that Latinos are a complicated people, but there cannot be a time in which any of us really believe that it is ok in this day in age to treat others like second class citizens. More importantly, it is the mentality of many of the Afro Latinos that do not see how they are being oppressed is what makes this even more tragic.

I plan on buying this series on PBS.com and I highly recommend that you all watch these episodes which are available here.