There is a movie in theaters now “The Big Sick“. Short summary brown man and white woman fall in love and deal with cultural conflict. I wasn’t interested in seeing it as the previews made it seem awful and racist. However, while driving back from a road trip I got to hear part of an interview with the pseudo-autobiographical co-screenwriter Kumail Nanjiani. I felt connected to his story as he was talking about growing up the child of immigrants. Nanjiani spoke of how he hadn’t given his parents enough credit in their evolving and understanding of his culture, different from theirs.
Then the interviewer Terry Gross, asked pseudo-autobiographical co-screenwriter Emily V. Gordon (spouse of Nanjiani) what her family thought of her being with Nanjiani. Gordon responded that her parents were used to her acts of rebellion they were just happy she found someone who was good to her.
I immediately cringed at Grdon’s gaze of Nanjiani as one of her acts of rebellion and that dreadful phrase “good to her”. Nanjiani then took over the conversation and spoke about how a “rebellious phase” was culturally very American but I was stuck on what Gordon had said.
I don’t ever want to be someone’s tool for rebellion. Which in terms of gender in hetero relationships, as a Latina I am not a tool for rebellion but I have experienced exoticisation, fetishization, for temporary fun, just as a man of color is used as the act of rebellion in temporary fun. I don’t think Gordon thought of this with any maliciousness when she spoke of her family being accustomed to her rebellion. That is part of the privilege for a white woman, that her perspective can be the conflict of dating a brown man as a temporary taboo.
Moving on to the phrase “good to her”– I ignorantly thought this wasn’t something that was regularly used as coded language but something that only I had experienced. I have been told before multiple times that phrase “I just hoped you would be with someone who is good to you”, “I wish you were with someone who could provide for you better”. The racism and sexism were there and what they really wanted to ask was “Why couldn’t I just date someone who was white man who’d take care of a girl?” Recently, a Black man told me that he’d been with non-Black women who had been told “I really was hoping you’d be with someone who was better to you” I was dumbfounded at my naïvety at thinking other people never heard the same things I did. Again, I don’t think this is what Gordon was getting at with saying acts of rebellion and as long as he’s good to me, but her intent and the reality of how many of us experience interracial relationships as an attack on us and those we love–well both perspectives overlapped but not in understanding.
I wonder does Gordon spend her time worrying about Nanjiani when he flies that he will be harmed or arrested? Have people told Gordon that the person she loves isn’t as good as any other white guy? Has she wondered what her presence says when she is next to him? What risks she puts him in by being with her? Hearing Gordon’s perspective only affirmed my desire not to see this movie.
TOSRV 2014 with friends!
Dear Columbus Outdoor Pursuits (COP),
As Tour of The Scioto River Valley (TOSRV) bike ride continues to dwindle in participants, I thought it might be helpful if I reached out, again.
I am a Latina, born in the 80’s, who enjoys cycling long distances. I have done TOSRV 4 times now. I did not participate this year and as it is I do not anticipate participating again—until some changes happen.
If you want to reach younger people, understand younger people aren’t white, and they aren’t middle class. Ohio is getting less and less white. Seriously. We are brown and young.*
Ideas on possible ways to reach new people:
1. Sliding Scale entry fees. (Given white people have every conceivable systematic advantage I wouldn’t charge POC. However, let’s be honest COP, you all aren’t that progressive.) I suggest you make a sliding scale based on income. Making it free for those on free/reduced school lunches. Perhaps, income forms like the YMCA uses for sliding scale fees.
2. Discounts for all first time (at least for the last 5 years) TOSRV participants. (Can’t we compare lists from the last 5 years or so to see if they are “first-time” participants?).
3. Whether or not you choose to have it on Mother’s Day in the future—provide discounts for Mother/Daughter pairs (this also will encourage more women to ride).
4. Discounts when you register 4 or more people together. This encourages teams, and friends to get others out. For example register 4 people at once and one person is free.
5. Work with local breweries. For example, those of you who register as part of the Seventh Son Brewery Team, get to take part in their beer sampling party in Portsmouth!
(Tour de Upland by Upland Brewery was recently cancelled but that was a fun weekend of drinking and cycling—check with them on suggestions of combining microbreweries and cycling. Tour De Upland included meals, cycling, beer, camping and a band for the same price as TOSRV + COP membership.)
6. Create “no-drop” groups: a ladies no-drop group, a first-timer no-drop group etc and allow people to sign up for these when they register.
7. Pay POC and young people to help you come-up with ideas. Don’t expect them to do the work for you and don’t expect that you know how to reach these communities.
*”Ohio Hispanics have a median age of 25.8 with over 21 percent of the population aged 5 to 14 years. For comparison, the median age of Ohioans taken as a whole is 39.3 years”
I am so very thankful for blogtitlan, a group of Latinx bloggers in the early 2000s. It was lonesome being a Xicana in Ohio, not having Latinx friends, being raised in a white community and attending white institutions. Blogtitlan understood me, helped me develop my ideas, questioned me in loving manner and created a community of thoughtful brown folk that I so desperately needed. Part of this community was Veronica Arreola of the blog Viva La Feminista and founder of The #365FeministSelfie. Veronica originally invited me to part of #365FeministSelfie a couple years ago and to their convention being conveniently held here in Columbus, Ohio. I didn’t go and I regret it. It was a really rough time in my life with a horrible professional experience that left me feeling exhausted and hopeless–which is why I should’ve gone to the convention and why I regret so much not making it. #365FeministSelfie is:
…a radical response to the theory that selfies are vain or plain right stupid. Many of the participants in #365FeministSelfie are using this challenge to create media that includes:
- People of color
- People with disabilities
- People with chronic illness
- Not-picture perfect parenting
- Gender non-conforming bodies
- Aging beautifully
- People fighting mental illness
- and the every day struggles of life itself…
So what is feminist about selfies? The people participating in this project are not seeking external validation through their photos. Rather they are creating media that includes people who do not fit the mainstream definition of beauty…although we have some of those too!
At the end of the day (or year), my hope is that people will feel more comfortable in front of a camera, more comfortable with their own image and hopefully see why others in their lives think they are beautiful.
I have started now a couple years late but here I am. I’ve been doing it on instagram (trying to merge with the Flickr and wordpress widget with not great success) and here are the things I’ve found myself thinking with a few weeks in, “selfies are good when I am feeling fugly, looking back on them days later—i am not as awful as i feel., Dayum, i work out more than I thought., Fuck that guy who told me my legs aren’t attractive., You can make anyone look big and small depending on the angle., I really like doing this for me.”
While doing homework today, I had the film The Big Short, playing in the background. It reminded me a lot of my father. I’d like to reflect back to my childhood in this post.
I think I was about 12 years-old, but am not completely sure. Our suburb in central Ohio had a weekly newspaper, usually not very interesting, there was a “police beat section” that dripped with the mundane of the suburbs, the self-congratulatory student honor rolls, marriage announcements, house purchases etc.
In this particular memory of my father, the newspaper had published data on the average education and income of an adult in the suburb, and household income. My father sat reading the article and let out a laugh, like a laugh I’d never heard, in my mind like one of an evil villain cartoon character. Smugly, he explained that he was earning more than the average household income and that they had two incomes and unlike him had college degrees. It was as if he had won against them, I saw insecurity and hubris.
The other laugh I remember distinctly was a few years later sometime in my mid-teens while I watched my father in a business suit put on his tie, he was on his way to court being charged with multiple counts of securities exchange fraud. I asked my father, vice president of the firm, if his boss ‘Red’ was going to go to prison. My father laughed, quite a similar laugh to the one from a few years before and said “No, Elena, he is a very smart man. No one is going to prison.” He was right and just like the people in the film The Big Short , a bunch of white men thought themselves very smart, were fraudulent with the banking system, and never went to prison. Just like those men even after being found out, my father continued on with the same and opened two more firms, until my father was finally shut down—unlike those men he was a comparatively very small fish.
I wonder what it is going to take for this system to finally stop and have a final crash…In 2007 it crashed and we the taxpayers bailed out the banks. We have to have an educated society who stands up against fiduciary irresponsibility and I don’t see us there. I don’t hear our collective, I only hear my fathers laughter, and that “No, Elena, he is a very smart man. No one is going to prison.”
Richard and Elenamary
My good friend Richard, an Australian national phoned me and asked if I would meet him at the North Gate entrance of our university to accompany him to get his haircut. His argument was that my Chinese was better than his and that I could stop them if they started to do something horrendous. My Chinese albeit at this point slightly better than Richard’s (his is now better) was also awful–but I’ve never been timid about trying. I met-up with Richard and shortly after received a phone call from our friend Dee a Thai national.
Dee and I lived in the same building and he was feeling ill, could I please bring him back some anti-diarrhea medicine– no problem I was on it. At this point we were finishing with Richard’s haircut when in walked Adlet our Kazakh friend. Adlet asked what we are up to and laughed at the dubiousness of Richard relying on my Chinese to get his haircut. I argued, “Well look at him, his hair is cut isn’t it? He looks good so my Chinese worked well enough.” Adlet still laughing questioned me inquiring “how are you going to get the medicine?” That I figured was more manageable then a hair cut. “I don’t know the word for diarrhea but I do know the words for poop and explosion. I will use those words and then see what happens.”
Adlet and Elenamary
Adlet always down to tease me, decided to join us and watch me attempt to purchase the medicine. I used my limited vocabulary and when I used the word explosion pointed at my own butt. It worked! I was quite pleased with myself and Adlet enjoyed watching me act out “poop explosion”.
I have been thinking a lot about that day, as I have spent the last few days in Singapore. I never spoke mandarin well but I am realizing that I did know way more than I gave myself credit for. I have had a few, let’s call them conversations (barely conversations) the last few days that have ranged in topic from directions, ordering food, to finding an unoccupied bathroom. I didn’t know I still had that vocabulary. It has been good for the ego. Interestingly, I feel more understood here in Singapore, in that I haven’t had to repeat a word trying to find the correct tone, as I did when in Hainan. I am not sure why I am understood more readily here and need to think about it more.
As I watch people upset about the election results I keep asking myself why are they upset?
The main two candidates were overt racists…one was just called out for it less.
We’ve had W & Cheney before…those dudes were evil and we survived that.
People of color have been surviving shit (colonialism, overt oppression, systemic oppression, institutionalized oppression) for hundreds of years.
However, I am upset with white people who are blaming those who decided not to vote for a racist candidate, and searched elsewhere for representation.
I am upset that I am too emotionally scared to go to class today and have white people especially women tell me I should be more sad about Hillary…a woman who hates my people.
I am upset with white people who are asking why Trump won. We, people of color, have been telling you we live in a racist country…and you only get shocked when it gets overt?
I am going to need white people to do more. To be more active, to know more, to reach other white people. That is how white people can be an ally. They can STFU about why did one racist over another get elected and instead work at understanding the historical contexts and the realities of racism. Racism isn’t and usually won’t be this overt and easy to grasp. So, white people, you’ve got lots of work to do.
To my fam, to la raza, we have to know our history. We have to be loud. We have to be active and keep on keepin’ on. We got this. “We gonna be alright!”