The race of my child

I wish this topic was a lot less complicated. Race relations in the US are already a multi-layer mess full of landmines. Add to that the fact that I have a hard time trying to fit into that complicated structure of labels and you have yourself a very difficult conversation that I will someday have to have with my child.

Daddy, what am I?

Start by the fact that I had to be told I was not white as soon as I moved to the US. That said (and it is probably a good idea for you to read that post) I don’t have identity problems. I have problems fitting into American society labels, but I am very proud of my heritage. Not just as Colombian but every day I learn more and more about what it is to be Latino in the US.

If I had to have the conversation with my daughter today I would probably start by saying, you are half American and Half Colombian. I think nationality is a good way to start the conversation. It will continue with, you were born in Kansas City but your Mom was born in Denver and I was born in Cali, Colombia. I will eventually get to the ugly labeling of human beings part, but I want her to first think of people as a complex set of experiences and not just the color of their skin.

Race has been on the news a lot lately. Ferguson is now something cemented in our brains as a negative from both points of view. You can’t win that argument with people that are polarized by it. Then you have an NAACP advocate identifying as black when she was really white. I feel she has been treated unfairly because she should be judged more for the work she does rather than what she identifies as. Eminem did not get rejected by Dr Dre when he found out he was white.

Today another incident is being labeled as a “hate crime.” 9 people are dead supposedly because of the color of their skin. We call it a tragedy, but in reality it is something that should simply not happen anymore in a modern society. We watch Game of Thrones and at times think of that world as barbaric. In reality we are really not that far away from that world where people kill in the name of an affiliation.

I have no clue how much discrimination my daughter will have to face. I don’t want to make her afraid of other people or think of the “race card” as something real. I am curious as to what other parents of mixed background or with mixed children think.

Weekend Recap Rant

Even though I had an amazing weekend with my family I am pretty sad right now. Elliot Roger made a massacre again the leading headline. Wikipedia already has a page for it, 2014 Isla Vista killings. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, I thought would be the last straw for many… I guess I was wrong.

This makes me sad for many reasons, and I am writing this because I cannot seem to get it out of my head. So here are some of my thoughts.

Asperger’s was not the cause, it was only a contributing factor.
Could gun control or laws better prevent this? or do we need to get more serious about mental health?
Where bulling and isolation also contributing factors?

When Sandy hook happened I thought that the answer was square on mental health. I do not think that access to guns is the answer, while I do think that further scrutiny on who buys guns is required I don’t think it will be the end all when it comes to these types of crimes. People that “lose it” will find another way to cause harm in my opinion.

The problem we have here is an individual that got obsessed with a thought. He thought sex was owed to him. He thought he was entitled. And while we could sit here and argue about how we live in a patriarchal society and rape culture is rampant, I don’t think that is the answer. That individual got stock in a thought, the thought he deserved something and when he did not get it he lashed out at the people he held responsible. Careful though… he also blamed humanity… in a way, he thinks we were all at fault for his pain.

I don’t understand Asperger’s completely. What I do know is that while most people can get over a bad thought, someone with that condition can become consumed by it. I think the evidence is pretty clear. I do hold some anger towards the movements out there that radicalize people.

I’ll put it in another context. More than once I have had lunch with a group that has included a woman that has recently ended a relationship. The moment the vitriol starts spewing about not just the person that was a jerk to them (perceived or not) but against all men! I have a problem with that person from then on. Generalizations are fine, we all use them to communicate and convey ideas. I think the issue lies when we blame an entire group of people (gender, religion, color, etc) for our problems. Once someone starts thinking in those terms they lose sight of the real issue they were dealing with.

I did not know the individual but lets say a blond girl did turn him down, lets say she even ridiculed him in front of others. I am sure we have all seen that at some point in our lives. The difference is most of us get over it and try again… but there are some out there that don’t.

From what I know of this case he did have help available to him. I wish I knew the answer to this problem. Did we have a systematic failure where law enforcement should have done something about it? Could they have prevented it?

This hits home because I have personally been the victim of this type of violence in the past. Nobody died that day, but my grandpa did have a heart attack and I got to see what a bullet does to flesh when one of my family members was actually hit by a bullet… I was not even 12 at the time. I don’t hate guns, some day I will write about that day in detail. In the end it was the same story, someone becomes obsessed with a thought enough to act on it.

What happened to Rock?

I guess the question could even be broader than that and ask what happened to music in general. Maybe I am getting old now that I am closer to 40 than 30. I just can’t seem to find good rock anymore. The most exciting thing that has happened recently is Corey Taylor rendition of Rainbow in the dark. How sad is that? No new music has really made me go, wow this is good rock. When J-pop seems to have better guitar than actual rock I think we are either getting old or everything that is produced now is crap.

I am not a fan of the Foo Fighters. The more I get to know Dave Grohl the more I like him, but I still find their sound just ok. Not something that I can listen to over and over like I did with Guns and Roses, Velvet Revolver, The Offspring and Metallica(before Living in Michigan and Mandatory Metallica killed that for me.) Bands like Aerosmith simply don’t exist anymore. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy Disturbed and can listen to some of the pop rock and enjoy it, but it does not evoke emotion the way the rock of my youth used to.

I used to think it was simply age, but it seems that even kids today don’t have a Nirvana.

So is anyone out there listening to something that I should listen to? Or is the simple answer that rock is just dead?

The F@ck You Face

H has been trying to talk me into going into what I consider the ultimate redneck church (Bass Pro Shop) for a while. Mostly because they have 2 big fish tanks and I am a big fish geek, but also because there are a lot of things to see there. The number of taxidermy-ed animals in there was my what first repulsed me. I encountered the practice very early on through some family friends back in Colombia… the dude also collected butterflies and other insects, and that part was cool… the mothball odor was not… I can almost taste it right now. So yea, back to the unreal amount of stuffed animals in one place. This took the place of the previous most numerous stuffed animal display which was impressively held all these years by a friends’ parent’s house that I visited back in college. Don’t get me wrong, you kill it, you eat it and you stuff it is not something I am against, it is just a little shocking when people keep carcasses as trophies, makes me think of predator.

The place is actually fun once you get over the fact that the place is probably hunted by the thousand animals souls separated from their flesh (if you believe in that sort of thing, not sure what the native american stance on that would be.) They have a shooting range… wait, actually they have like 3, real guns, lazer guns and even bows. You can buy more camouflage stuff in there than I though existed. It is a hunters paradise. I did not get to eat at the restaurant but I can only imagine the menu. I wonder if they have a vegan option.

This post is about something else though. The most shocking thing I saw there was the f@ck you face that almost every male that was there with a female sported. It was kind of unnerving to see so many people that looked so angry.

I’ve hung out in the west side of Chicago with some black friends at a park. The people there were not those you take lightly, people just out jail with more muscle than I thought was natural. I was not nervous until I saw a dude fumbling with a gun that did not seem to really know how to use it. We left shortly after. None of the people there made direct eye contact event thought they did look my way, I was a couple of shades lighter than I should have been but I did not feel like there would be trouble. I was not scared there, but I was alert to what was going on around me. That was probably the only place where I was so many people so alert.

I never thought that I would see something similar at a camouflage mall, but there I was around grown man practically dragging their woman by holding their hand tightly while wearing that f@ck you mask. All the guys there that I saw with what I assume was their wife had similar expressions and just wanted to display their machismo I guess. I am seriously not using my usual blank statements either. It was almost as if they were handing plates with feces before you entered the parking lot because I can only assume that is the face you make after you eat a plate full of it.

Then I thought about a conversation I had recently with a friend. I was wondering from an American perspective why is it that higher education or intellectuals are almost looked down upon by so many in this country. My friends theory is that intellect is though of as a feminine or weak trait. That this country is about guns and beer, and that reading a book is for weak effeminate types. Sure, it seems like an extreme view, but there might be something to that.

I am not really faced by the f@ck you face, it does not make me fear you. I live in America… not sure how long the whole ‘MURRICA trend I see getting bigger lately will go, but I hope it goes away… I mean, even the benign flower power of the 60%s went away… right?

Those People – Esa Gente

I realized long ago (but quite early when moving here to the US) that I had become one of “those people.” I was given my label and not just by some people, but everyone seemed to have a label for me that was supposed to identify me. I work with people from all over the world, and not just because the US is full of immigrants, but actual international clients that are based all over the globe. Recently I’ve been working a lot with Latin America and the funny thing is that even though I am Colombian by birth and very proud of it, I still got a label… I am now the “Colombian Gringo.”

The labels don’t bother me, while I know that everything that people say and think about you does affect you to a certain degree that is not the issue. Some labels are about inclusion, most of them are about belonging. Immigrants here in the US is immediately attached to Mexican people crossing the border, by association (skin tone I guess) I am a Mexican as well. I have felt the discrimination and exclusion. Infiltrators is what some Israelis call African immigrants, same issue, same label… again skin color?

The hard part starts when people think you are not like the others. Like when people hear me speak English in a professional setting and they don’t notice my accent… then they start with the, well you are not like those people that don’t learn English… inside my head I am thinking, like my parents that speak broken English because they came here as adults and have done nothing but work hard in this country? or like my Grandma that had no interest in learning more than just the basics because there was no point to learn any more than that.

Even when the color of the skin does not give me away, I am not black… that does not mean that one of my closest friends that feels like a brother to me isn’t. Or the fact that I am not Mexican, yet my niece and nephew share half of that heritage in their blood. I am not trying to make you walk on eggshells around me either, I am just challenging you to think about your perception about what “those people” are.

Poverty is something that has had an effect on my better half growing up. While color might not be something she has dealt with as much as I have she has dealt with the poor thing before. Poor people are also looked down upon by others, “those people” that can’t afford this or that. Unless you have lived it in some way it is hard to relate to it, I understand. Just try to think about it before you generalize a group of people that you know nothing about. Try to find common ground and understand them rather than slap a label on them and call it a day.

Read more Those People – Esa Gente