The Veil of Political Correctness

Political correctness only gives you a tool to make it seem like you are informed or not prejudiced. It never teaches you to reach out and have conversations with other people, it does not teach you to constantly be educated. Anyone can fall into ignorance or prejudice. It’s how we truly want to deal with it that makes the difference

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In one of my favorite scenes of Harry Potter, Sirius Black goes into the veil and is never seen again.  The veil changes everything, and once people go into it, we can’t go back.  In some ways, this is a reflection of what has happened after the Election. We have gone beyond the veil of political correctness and people can’t unsee all the maladies that USA has.

There has been more than 700 hate crimes around the USA since the election, and a movement of Nationalist and  White ” Pride” has come into the fray that of the Alt Right.  There are still people who want to deny it exists. Everywhere you turn  there are reports of hate, prejudice and intolerance.  I was on the phone with one of my best friends and I was a little perplexed. ” Why are people so surprised that racism , sexism and intolerance still exists in this country?”

I started to contemplate the idea of political correctness and it being a veil for privilege or awareness. By avoiding certain words in your vocabulary, by trying to be politically correct due to the fear and the  real consequences for your actions, by policing speech people we are able to give an appearance of equity in society.  The USA can keep on with the narrative that it is an educated and informed society free from prejudice with equal opportunities for all.

People are shocked by someone saying a racial slur, and forbid them to use it but we don’t stop the behavior or provide educational programs in schools to teach tolerance. We don’t engage in real dialogue of why this keeps happening decades after the civil rights movement and women’s rights movements.  Neighbors of diverse races and background merely politely ” ignore” each other while living in the same street, yet will continue to harbor prejudice in their heart.

For me, who walks in between a bunch of worlds, this dichotomy and hypocrisy rarely shocks me. For some reason people are who they are around me. The moment they ask me where I am from and I say ” I grew up in El Salvador” since I was a kid people have been saying things like ” Oh it’s a shame that Latinos bring crime into this country” or ” People are so barbaric over there” or ” I am glad my ancestors were slaves in this country and not some backward country in latin america ” ( Double whammy for that one folks!!). It’s as if, because of my skin color and the way I talk ” American” somehow I am not an Other but a ” Them” and by consequence they can tell me how they really feel.  This was not limited by people who were white, but people of many cultures and backgrounds who had misinformed opinions about El Salvador.

” Well, at least you know how people feel and you aren’t left guessing ” Said my best friend Rachel. I guess this is true. Of course, I can walk into a store and no one will think I am going to rob it. I can speak and no one will be annoyed by my accent. Living in other countries is considered exotic and interesting and not something that is a disadvantage. I have an Arabic name and have a religion that is not Christian but I look innocous enough that people can ” pardon ” that.

What people are voicing around the country is something they already had in their heart. This was not something that started with a presidential candidate, rather it only broke the veil of Political Correctness. Should we go back to simply using the right words , and yet have small microagressions of prejudice? Should we smile politely and interview people of color for jobs and yet still end up hiring people ” like us”?

When I was walking back from the prayer vigil for the North Dakota pipeline, a well meaning protestor asked me where I was from. I told her I grew up in El Salvador , and she started to ” inform” me about all the political groups in El Salvador  she was a part of, and how things worked in the country I grew up in all my life.  I’ve seen that before too, the kids with Che Guevara on their wall, who spend a long time talking about injustice and are knee deep in the latest educational or political theory book they have been studying. Some go to their preferred place of activism to take over the narrative,  to ” educate” people of their own suffering and experience because they have read a bunch of books in an Ivy League University.

Others are well adept in Slacktivisim and love to post things on their walls that made them seem well meaning and informed.  For them,  activism is almost a show a way to pat themselves on the back. My x boyfriend was like this, always lecturing me on how to think or talk constantly putting things up on his wall to seem informed reminding me about how much you have to ” Check your privilege”.  Being around him was exhausting, it was all about the ” right ” thing to say, and never truly admitting that sometimes you were ignorant about things.  In that world, it was all about seeming ” open” but never truly about engaging in conversations with people of diverse opinions. It was silently judging everyone else was was prejudiced or ignorant but in many ways it made them complacent in their own misconceptions.  It was about talking about causes but never truly volunteering or trying to work towards significant change.

He would talk about his “exotic” x girlfriends as if they were badges of his awareness. He would make sure he would say it in front of any of my friends especially if they were a different race or culture.  It’s the kind of activism that is more about a sense of guilt and how it looks then really wanting to make a difference.   At times this approach is judgmental and divisive, a sort of competition of who is  most ” aware “, the type that posts about their achievements more than actually doing anything . The cause ceases to be important.  You know the type. The kind that loves to pose in front of a lot of ” diverse” children smiling to the camera and give inspirational quotes about their achievements. They know all the right words to say , but cease to see people as people and more as causes. They are more about how activism looks to other people and not doing actual true significant change.  Yes they are politically correct, educated and ” aware” but are they really truly free from prejudice?

In college , I worked at a vegetarian Co Op. (I was a horrible employee. I admit it. I left at the earliest possible moment, so take this story with a grain of salt). There was a girl there , we shall call her Thea.  Every week there was an employee meeting ( not paid btw) and everyone talked about their ” feelings” . I briefly said I was doing ok, there was a flood going on in El Salvador but everyone seemed to be fine. I shrugged. Then it was Thea’s turn. Her blonde dreadlocks wobbled around her as she teared up. ” I am so worried for my womyn ( Yes, that’s how she pronounced and wrote it) in COATetepeque ( She made sure she emphasized it) those wonderful women that I spent two weeks with … ” The girl went on and on and on and on. Everyone ran to console her while I looked at her with a raised eyebrow. “Girl, this isn’t your tragedy. Stop.”

I know, I am being really judgmental about this type.  I’ve found that oddly this type is also the most judgmental towards my own background. When I say I grew up in El Salvador and I don’t feel like giving the whole explanation of where I am from,  and when people find out my mother is Scottish and my dad is Italian they think I’ve ” Lied” about my background. That I am not really ” from ” El Salvador. It causes a real visceral reaction in people.  It’s as if I have to justify my existence. It’s an odd thing, because if the roles were reversed and you told someone who was not born in the USA but grew up there that they are ” Lying” and they are not ” really American” it would be insulting and absurd.

The truth is, I am not from a particular place. I am from many countries and backgrounds. I’m ok with that.  I think people who are multicultural and to an even larger degree people who are biracial or multiracial challenges political correctness, challenges what people want to believe or judge about others.

Political correctness only gives you a tool to make it seem like you are informed or not prejudiced. It never teaches you to reach out and have conversations with other people, it does not teach you to constantly be educated. Anyone can fall into ignorance or prejudice. It’s how we truly want to deal with and to take the first step towards ridding ourselves of prejudice that makes a real difference.

I’ve encountered three types of prejudice in my life , the first is just simply ignorance. Some people just don’t know. They weren’t taught in schools and they are mirroring what their parents are saying.  Then there are those who hate others and know they hate them.

But there is a third kind which I think are the most damaging. It’s the kind that simply denies it’s existence. It’s the kind that live in a bubble, the perfectly nice polite person who knows all the right words to say but doesn’t really truly want to hear when things get ugly. It’s the person whom if you say you have been sexually harassed on the street will say ” Oh I am sure you didn’t hear it right”. It’s the reaction when you say that your friend in Spain was ostracized for being hispanic who will just shake their head and ignore it. It’s the person who wants to live in a society where pain and ugliness does not exist. Who desperately wants to think that we live in a world that ” sees no color”.  They want to erase the narrative because it challenges everything they believe in. Imagine if you thought all your life you lived in a safe neighborhood and then one day your neighbor has their car stolen.  The first reaction to this is ” Oh maybe they just lost their car or maybe the man didn’t really mean to steal the car, it doesn’t mean that my neighborhood isn’t safe”. If they admitted that their neighbor’s car was stolen on their street, it would mean that their view of the neighborhood is a lie. It would mean that crime does exist it just hasn’t happened to them.  Instead of working with your neighbors to address the issue and try to make your street safer, you live in a denial that it even exists. The neighborhood slowly becomes so filled with crime and problems  until it reaches a point where you can’t ignore it anymore. This is what has happened to America.  And yet still you can try to make yourself believe that it doesn’t exist or happen.

That’s the most dangerous kind of prejudice as it is willful ignorance, surpressing the victim and gaslighting their experience because it makes someone uncomfortable.  It’s hiding behind a word and not really want to see the ugly things behind the veil. It’s seeing footage of a crime and STILL denying it.

It’s calls for unity and love yet not really wanting either, rather to surpress the uncomfortable reality we live in. Real unity is not in words alone. It is in actions, it is in the everyday cosmos of living in a diverse world where there isn’t just one truth. It’s acknowledging that while you may not have ever said horrible hateful things to someone , it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

Instead of denying it’s existence, grab someone’s hand and smile at them. Instead of taking over the narrative, try empathizing with your fellow man.  We need to start talking with each other, trying to have these difficult conversations. We need to admit we don’t know all the answers just because we have the right vocabulary.

Finding Peace and Equality

 

Annoying Clichés in Young Adult Romance Fiction

O.k I am going to talk about my LEAST favorite genre in the young adult books. This is also the one I am pretty concerned about because there are some themes that are being retreaded over and over and over.
When I was a kid, if you wanted to read YA romance novels you usually turned to sweet valley high. They weren’t perfect- they are pretty darn close to pretty little liars- but it seems Ya fiction has come a long way from that former assessment.
I guess romance novels have become a beast in of itself, and while I was sort of expecting chick lit- which I don’t seem to mind reading from time to time- this seemed a lot more like harlequin romances than anything.
They are also trending number one in teen novels…beside fantasy/ sci fi and dystopian novels.Which have the same similar themes. As I started to read them a lot of them became blurred into the same darn plot albeit some key changes here and there.

Lover Boy as the Bad Damaged Distant Guy

He has penetrating eyes, and strong biceps tends to be a ladies man but doesn’t seem to connect with anyone. He is damaged , in some way or another. He has a dark past which usually involves sexual, physical or some kind of abuse. He has horrible parents or absent ones. He has no direction in life until he meets….

Wimpy Damaged Heroine

Our damaged heroine is a victim. She has been a victim of horrible parents/death/rape/incest/domestic violence… but somehow is still pretty wimpy. She shivers a lot and is unaware of her captivating beauty. That all changes when she meets ( insert ridiculous name here ) who awakens her and frightens her at the same time. Even though he is dangerous, and can’t stand having anyone talk to her or any men around her she feels ALIVE. She has no real ambition of her own. We don’t know any of her talents, we don’t know how she thinks and quite frankly she is pretty annoying. Despite people saying how great she is, she is pretty one dimensional

I hated these two themes more than anything else because it promotes the idea that if you fall in love, your pain and scars will disappear… if anything without therapy a relationship with two very screwed up individuals can become even more conflicted , toxic and codependent. It is not a cure, and romanticizing codependency is an extremely irresponsible thing to do . They very rarely really deepen on how this pain affects the characters. If you really want to know the effect of physical or sexual abuse go read i know why the caged bird sings, among other books. It’s really very dark and you do not recover just by some manly man cradling your weakened body into your arms.

Unecessary Conflict
After a lot of misunderstanding they get close… like fall- in -love- after- three- days -close. And then like there is some random stupid barrier that doesn’t allow them to get closer …. some misunderstanding

At the last minute
They realize their love until

Another unecessary conflict
Usually someone is about to die, is going to die or will die. Only they don’t …they make some miraculous recovery.

The girl is always a virgin
There is a lot of very steamy love scenes in this which surprises me because it is catered to teens where the stupid inexperienced virgin ( that everyone is surprised she is a virgin at 17 ….) gets experienced finally by the bad boy.

All Characters are white and American…
These guys don’t get around much in terms of diversity.

The characters get married
They get married without finishing school, having any ambition or even a view of the future. Most of these characters get married within six months of knowing each other.

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Bad romance novels bad. I am not a romance novel expert so please school me but surely we don’t have to retread the same plot over and over to appease teenagers.

Whitewashing History

When I was growing up , our teacher in El Salvador used to teach us social studies and every year we were taught the history of the Spaniards coming to Latin America in increasingly gory detail.  The Spanish Pizarro, who promised the Incas gold but ended up slaughtering everyone in his way including Atahualpa. The musuem in Antigua Guatemala, which still contains torture devices they used towards the Mayans. It was more than known how horrific the Spaniards were. Christopher Colombus was another story. ” He conquered America and brought in Glory”.

We weren’t taught how violent he was, how he was a cannibal who raped and murdered and tortured people.  In El Salvador, the conquered and conqueror are combined in the blood.

This is not the case in the United States. History books have long whitewashed Christopher Colombus. They have long celebrated his glorified pillaging and sacking and thought it as progress. We don’t talk about everything he did to contribute to the Native American’s suffering because we don’t acknowledge it. It doesn’t exist.

Whitewashing history means simply erasing it from existence. When I was walking around in Madrid in the palaces I was shocked to still see giant Iron doors of the Conquistador raising his hands to the sun and the Indigenous people at his feet looking at him in adoration. I was shocked to see skulls in nunneries decorated with ” gifts from overseas”. When we went to the ” Museum of the Americas” they spoke of all the tribes in America yet in the map there was a mysterious ” drop” in the population no one explained why. Gone were the gory stories of Pizarro and his pillaging, of the horrors done to the Aztecs. Gone were the tales of conquest and forced marriages in Latin America with the spaniards and the indigenous people.  It simply was ” washed out” from history.

Today is Colombus day but what it really is the whitewashing of history. Whitewashing erases the truth and makes it more palatable. Until we recognize these wounds and traumas we can’t possibly move forward. Until we have museums about what happened in times of slavery we can’t possible understand it and not make the same mistakes. We aren’t our ancestors but by not talking about what happened and whitewashing history we are complicit in the lie.

The normalcy of insanity

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about how violence can become normal in El Salvador.  I was thinking of this the other day when I think of the insanity that has become the United States in the past seven months.  But I am always shocked how people just think everything that is happening is normal.

The truth is , we can normalize anything . It’s the classic analogy of the frog boiling in water. Our human minds can’t seem to grasp that our lives have turned upside down. The truth is, people have lives to lead. The rat race continues.

When I was in London after the riots, the charred remains of so many businesses could be seen in the skyline, yet people kept going on as normal. When the Occupy Madrid movement happened, most people sidelined the streets where people were occupying the avenues and kept going . Most people just keep their heads down and plug themselves back into the matrix. Having gone through two earthquakes, a flooding, a civil war and a series of natural disasters it seems human being’s resilience forces people to continue. When we see tragedy or turmoil in the films we don’t see what happens next. We just recognize the turmoil briefly and continue on. The problem is that we bury it all inside and don’t deal with this trauma.

When we abolished slavery, we didn’t automatically abolish racism. Yet society acted as if it did. When the civil rights movement ended in the sixties we didn’t automatically achieve all civil rights. When women tried to for equal rights we didn’t automatically solve all problems with sexism.

The truth is, we created a whole other subest of new problems but human beings chose to ignore it, patch the leaks with super glue and hope for the best. When natural disasters happens, or a war or an unexpected political turmoil people are forced for a brief cosmos in time to deal with the traumas and unforeseen leaks in the system. We are forced to confront our worst fears : Maybe society isn’t as progressive as we thought, maybe we aren’t truly changing but just putting small changes into a system that is already sinking.

People believe ” I need to take care of my family” but when a natural disaster or tragedy happens,  we realize that it’s not just ” Them ” who are affected but ” Us”. When we can no longer look from afar in our nice homes, and our comfortable couches, when we are forced to face the collective trauma then we can truly come to terms of what needs to be done. But the truth is, we rather not. We rather leave it to politicians, and activists and donate cash to causes. We rather stuff our pockets and try to ” Get on with it”. That’s because we are overwhelmed in a system that is drowning us but we still need to find a way to keep afloat. We don’t realize that we aren’t truly alone. We are all drowning and together we need to stop focusing on this crumbling foundation and we have to build a new one. In order for that to happen we have to recognize the injustices , the racism, sexism and horrific nature that society has created. We have to stop being a Them and become an Us.