Pink is Oppressive

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Yeah, I know. This isn’t pink, but I will get to that.

I recently spent some time in Disney. While I’m not one to fall for the theme of the Magic Kingdom, which is dreams do come true, I did have a great time. The numerous amounts of things to do kept me busy pretty much all day. Rides, shopping, food, parades, and fireworks pretty much defined my days. However, the woman and I were not going to fall for the subliminal messages of it all.

Pink is oppressive became a battle cry of sorts that the woman made sure she said whenever there were too many images on what Disney thought little girls should aspire to be. I started to really think about all the images that have been fed to us. I always try to make a point of recognizing an absence.

Let’s not get into the fact that Walt Disney World is a business and the sole purpose of that business it get as much money as possible from its costumers. If you go to any of their theme parks understanding this, you should have a pretty good time. I need to preface all of this by saying (again) that we had a great time at Disney. We had a game plan and a budget that we followed (not to mention we walked the length of the park about three times which makes for a great workout).

20140506-151357.jpgWith all that being said, I did have a problem with much of the imagery when it comes to women. Granted, we are not talking about Game of Thrones here but we are taking about a belief that dreams can come true but first don a princess dress and wait for your Prince (Joffery) to arrive. I thought about that when it came time for me to buy something for my god-daughter. Do I really want her to be a princess that wears pink? No, I would rather she be a warrior, a Wonder Woman. Actually, I would rather she be Michonne, but more importantly, I would want her to be able to make that choice without the subliminals.

It was my woman who really pointed out a set of dolls that were all Disney princess and the one that looked the saddest was Pocahontas. It was almost as I if she was saying to the world that she didn’t belong in such a place with her lack of crown and her brown skin. Which now brings me to my next point and biggest gripe.

Downtown Disney is an amazing area that has a plethora of places to eat and shop. Admission is free so if its a pretty nice place to get your Disney on without having to pay $100 a ticket. So within this sea of capitalism is a place that sort of put a light in my eyes, The Lego Store. Legos are one of those things that take me back to my youth. While I was not a talented builder, they were a staple of my childhood. So, as an adult, I’ve had to fight the urge to buy The Sith Interceptor or the Millennium Falcon because while it would look really cool, where the hell would I put it, much less have time to build it?

20140506-151128.jpgAnyway, so we go into this grand store and there are Legos everywhere. Box sets of just about everything from Avengers to Lord of the Rings on the shelves. There are massive Lego statues of Buzz Lightyear with Woody and The Hulk. Of course, the place is swarming with kids. Just when I was getting the point that I was thinking how much I would bring my non-existent children to this place, I see this kiosk where you can build your own little Lego person. The nerd in me is thinking this is greatest thing ever (next to building your own droid). There is only one problem, all the Lego people are white.

Each little cubby hole in this kiosk is filled with parts: heads (with different facial expressions), toros, legs or dresses, hats or helmets, weapons, etc. So if you want to build a firefighter, police officer, or a combination of the two you have the tools. There were gender specific parts so you can match them up and switch things around but yet I am pulling way because I know I cannot build my “replica”. In my mind, it wont be me. Of course the little kids around me don’t care. The black kid next to me is having fun and so are the Latino kids on the other side of the kiosk and I suppose in many ways people will say that it’s not big deal.

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This is our Lego replicas. Something is off…

Well, that’s wrong. It is a HUGE deal. First, I don’t want to hear the argument that Lego “skins” are generic and represent everyone because they don’t. If they did then Nick Fury from the Avengers would not be brown. Is it that hard to add brown faces to the kiosk? Disney gets visitors from around the world, is it that difficult to be diverse? Of course not but there is a sense that I got much like the “pink is oppressive” feeling my girlfriend had. I really thought about buying a Star Wars box with Mace Windu so I can have the brown parts I want. The thing is, too many companies are trying to sell a homogenized product which is much more disturbing than just being color blind. You almost get this assimilation is futile feeling these days because despite everything that happens there is only one color that matters and that is green.

Money is the only thing that matters and it’s the only thing that separates us once you get past the oppression of racism because beyond that is an invisible wall of classism with a strong undercurrent of patriarchy…and THAT is what Disney maybe be truly about.

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The Grey

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It seems like everyday I’m finding another grey hair on my face. Which I suppose I am ok with since I am deciding to grow more facial hair. If I get tired of it, I can just shave. Yet, I look at it as proof that I continue to survive from year to year.

I often joke that each grey hair on my head is assigned to various people in my life both past a present that have left their stressful mark on me. However, the obvious reality is that I am getting older. I would like to think that my graying hair means that I am growing in wisdom, but I am not sure how true that is. I feel that I make enough mistakes to keep me young. Of course making mistakes is what being human is all about but, making mistakes usually means that one is out there doing new things.

For some reason when I think about the eventual salt and pepper look I will get (which will be a LONG time from now), I think about my maternal grandfather. I kind of knew, by my hair type, that I would be dealing with a greyish look. My dad has a different hair structure (I still compare him to Danny Trejo) that is very flowing and South American. Mi abuelito had hair that was more traditional with afro Latino…

{Pause}

I want to take a pause here because I am trying to not laugh…really. I mean, look at me trying to be all politically correct when it comes to the quality of the hair certain family members have. I could be really honest and just categorize it the way most people do. My father has good Latino hair that flows like Jesus and mi abueltio has pelo malo (bad hair) that flows like brillo.

{Un-Pause}

I think that I will eventually go back to the clean shaven look since there seems to less grey on my head than on my face. I’m really not that old. I’m staring at 39 in about six months and I feel like I am about 25. Truth of the matter is that being grey is not so bad. I feel like most of my life has been different shades of grey (which by the way…I hate that the book has coined this phrase).

{Pause}

Now that I think about, those are not grey hairs. They are white. Maybe, they seem grey when compared to the black hair. I find that interesting. I mean, I have been called racist by white people so I wonder if there is this psychological thing that does allow me to call a white hair white. Maybe, I am color blind in the sense and don’t want to recognize the importance of a certain color so I just call it grey. Interesting thought.

{Un-Pause}

It’s all good. I think have the wisdom to get through such trivial things like grey hairs. I am just glad that I still have my health. I just hope that I never get to a point where I consider using products to color my hair back to black. Do not get me wrong, both Clyde Frasier and Keith Hernandez are both legends but I’m not doing that little “touch of grey” thing that they have been promoting for years.

I think that when people get older they need to own up to their age and just face facts. Getting crap like botox or any anti-aging things will only end up making you look plastic. I mean, just imagine how they will look during the zombie apocalypse. No one wont be able to tell if they are alive or dead AND that is a damn shame.

I am owning up to my impending age. I think I look good. I can’t help but laugh at the fact that when I was younger two things occurred. The first was that I always cried about being the shortest and the youngest. I would always look too young or small for anything and I hated it so much, I could not wait be old (when you’re a kid being old is 19). The second was the fact that I looks so damn young and nerdy, women never looked at me.

Well, I think now I have the last laugh on both cases. 🙂

Black History X: The Bird Cage

I laugh. I laugh at the ignorance of others and realize that at some point the American Education System has failed so many. I laugh because my sarcasm just does not cover the range of things that I could say to people who just do not know their history nor do they know what goes on around them. This is not limited to the young people in this country either.

What am I talking about? Is Black History Month the issue? Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t but my issue is that ignorance is not constrained to just one month. It becomes prevalent as we get close to and into months like this. This really is a month of reflection on where we have been and where we are going. Instead, I feel we live in a world where people actually believe that racism is not an issue anymore. I am not even talking about white people.

I understand that most white people do not understand the intricate system of oppression. I get that they do not see white privilege. I see why they do not understand the black and white paradigm or why the color blind ideology is negative. I expect the responses from them because they are raised in a world that is made for them. But what about our people? What about Black and Latinos who have been white washed to believe that racism is a distant memory that they see in black and white news reels where they see black people being hosed by firefighters in the south?

I have often talked about the color blind Latinos. This is nothing new. The whole idea being lighter skinned in the Caribbean and South America is to obtain a high social standing. We have pretty much the same thing here in the United States when it comes to how black women are viewed. The concept of beauty is to be as light as possible (and as skinny as possible). African Americans should not feel that because Obama is President that we have gone through great strides in “solving” Racism.

On the contrary, racism is at the heart of the issue in the GOP political debates. While it is not being directly said, let’s think about the tone of things being said and what we are willing to let people get away with. Newt Gingrich, who is known to say bigoted things, can come out and say that “Spanish is the language of the Ghetto” and where is the uproar? Sure, Newt will say that Mitt Romney fabricated such a statement which begs the question, even if Mitt did, how is this ok to even lie about?

I can use tons of examples of how Newt views the working poor (who are seen as black), but the one thing that is my absolute favorite is how Mitt Romney is now considered Latino. We as proud Latinos are so eager to claim anyone and of course we should because most Latinos are just as prejudiced against African Americans as white people.

What gets me is that most people don’t see the things that are blatantly in front of them, which brings me the the Birdcage Analogy.  A few years ago I read an article by Marilyn Frye called “Oppression.” In this article she talks about the oppression that women endure by the hands of men. I have often believed that if one group of people are oppressed then we all are. Even though she focuses primarily on women her Birdcage Analogy fits racial oppression very well:

Consider a birdcage. If you look very closely at just one wire in the cage, you cannot see the other wires. If your conception of what is before you is determined by this myopic focus, you could look at that one wire, up and down the length of it, and be unable to see why a bird would not just fly around the wire any time it wanted to go somewhere. Furthermore, even if, one day at a time, you myopically inspected each wire, you still could not see why a bird would have trouble going past the wires to get anywhere. There is no physical property of any one wire, nothing that the closest scrutiny could discover, that will reveal how a bird could be inhibited or harmed by it except in the most accidental way. It is only when you step back, stop looking at the wires one by one, microscopically, and take a macroscopic view of the whole cage, that you can see why the bird does not go anywhere; and then you will see it in a moment. It will require no great subtlety of mental powers. It is perfectly obvious that the bird is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers, none one of which would be the least hindrance to its flight, but which, by their relations to each other, are as confining as the solid walls of a dungeon.

Grasp the power of this analogy and realize who the bird in the cage is. There needs to be a general understanding of the system of oppression in this country that is not limited to just people of color. When you do not see the wires of the cage then you do not realize that you are trapped. Like the bird, people think everything is ok in their world and automatically resist the urge to step away from it. Kinda sounds like The Matrix, huh?

It is only when you can step back and see the cage or the system as whole do you realize the grand scheme of it all. The only way to see the entire birdcage is to educate ourselves to these things. Let’s not forget the people who own the birdcage are apart of that system. They may not see it that way because the system has been that way for years and they are just doing and benefiting from such a system for centuries that they have no idea that it even is a cage.

I get tired of the unwillingness to understand the need for Black History Month by hearing such a question like, “Why is there no White History Month?” Very simple. Every month is White History Month. The fact we even have to be given a mere month to keep the masses aware that Black people did contribute to this country is just another part of the wire in the cage. Just like when the Tea party wants to ban any mention of the founding fathers having slaves from History Books because it gives a negative view on them. Perhaps the fact that Arizona can ban Mexican Studies should suggest that many people wish to have a color blind education. The funny thing about being color blind is that you see no color but we are are Black and you cannot hide that.

No More Excuses.