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

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.

Should Girls Wear Makeup?

There has been a rising ongoing centuries long debate about women and the role of makeup and the ” need ” for women to wear it.  When I was a dramatic 17 year old,  I wrote a poem called the ” Loss of innocence” in it I wrote :

And she painted her false lips

And killed the song of innocence

Bird in Flight Illustration by Maryam DiMauro
Bird in Flight Illustration by Maryam DiMauro

A younger friend told me ” But you are like that girl, you killed your inner beauty by wearing makeup”. This seems to be a weird idea, when you grow up you wear makeup. That’s why when  some girls reach puberty they spend their time playing dress up. You are taught to cover up your flaws, your spots , your wrinkles your hairs. You should be flawless, you should be photoshopped.

My mother always told me never to go out of the house after a certain age without makeup. Girls in my classroom and later on in life would always want to give me the ” Ugly Duckling” makeover.  They would tell me ” You would be so PRETTY IF you wore your makeup right”.

Then there is the other side of the argument. The naturalists, the people who tell you that you shouldn’t wear makeup to uphold a certain beauty standard, that you are beautiful because you are you, the unique person with flaws and all. My x boyfriend hated that I wore makeup, he told me I looked much better without it .

There is something problematic with all of these arguments. The problem lies not in the makeup itself but in the fact that we are seeking external validation of how we want to look in that particular day.  I like makeup. I like the smell of it , I like how it sweeps on my eyelids and makes different shapes. I’m artistic, so I love to experiment. But there are days that I just couldn’t care less and I just can’t be bothered. None of these reasons are to make myself attractive to other people. Makeup should not be a reason someone is beautiful but it can be a tool. Makeup can create different characters, explore new dimensions, and it is something people dedicate their lives to. It is also part of a multibillion dollar industry which wrecks havoc on women’s insecurities to make a buck as well as cause irreparable damage to the environment and to animals for no apparent reason other than corporate greed.

Like with everything else in life, it’s how you use something and not the object itself. What we need to remember is that real value of someone’s beauty comes from their soul, the way their heart sings from one place to the next. This does not change. This does not transmute. This transforms. This inspires. This is eternal, not the cake substance we want to put on our face.