Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The American Fascination with Identity and Latinos by Odilia Rivera-Santos

Perhaps, the one with the most adjectives loses . . .

In the United States, we are taught to think about our identity at a young age. Ethnicity, race, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation and school affiliations are fragments of a self. I suppose a person's view of him or herself is also a part of identity. If one can look in the mirror and see a victim, aggressor or a neutral character with the non-superpower of being incidental -- not an instigator or catalyst, but just one who takes up room on an elevator.

Obama may have too many adjectives

Obama's identity is too big for some people; he's multi-racial, from a family with varying degrees of 'success,' as it is measured in American culture, with roots in different continents, a peripatetic mother whose superhuman effort got her through poor single motherhood to becoming a scholar at a time at which a single mother was expected to move into a small room in her parents' home and give up on career and a public life, and he was a gifted child who fulfilled his potential to become a brilliant wealthy powerful figure. And, there are different religions in his family. After 911, some Americans began to look at Muslims as strangers when they've always been here and many of us grew up with Muslim kids with no overriding sense of strangeness or even the need to ask questions. It was a religion with practices, rituals and expectations like any other religion.

Television is a place where complex identities disappear.

On television, complex identities disappear because one aspect of a personality is emphasized, simplified and exploited to elicit laughter from people who may have the TV on as background noise as they cook or avoid an argument with a significant other.
The guy who is gay becomes the gay guy. The girl who is nerdy becomes the nerdy girl. The Russian girl becomes the White girl. The Irish/Scandinavian guy becomes the White guy. No one has a complicated name and syllables are kept to a minimum.

People of European descent don't get a backstory, don't have an accent, and their countries of origin or that of their ancestors' do not in any way enter into the writing or situations.

Are Latinos more complicated than zombies?

Zombie shows and films are very popular, and I was trying to figure out why. They always do the same thing: they walk slowly toward their chosen victim(s), arms akimbo, mud and flesh flaking off their faces, and due to the stupidity of those they pursue, the zombie catches up to said victim, knocks victim to ground and begins munching on a sensitive area such as the cheek or eyeball -- zombie always looks up mid-chew with human flesh dangling just in case you, the viewer, had not grasped the gravity of the situation, and the viewers discuss the cool realistic look of partially eaten people. Apparently, this is something people were lacking in their lives: zombies.
Under the mud, twig parts, and green dead-people makeup, there is an actor whose work requires very little effort on the part of the writer. Zombie scenes are dead air. Stomp, scary music, screams, repeat.

Maybe, executives who find the complex identity of Latinos too unwieldy could consider simplifying us in some way.

Could we keep our names and act like zombies?

Stomp around slowly and do one thing that would be stereotypical of a Latino?

Ms. Martínez could put a scarf on her head, yell for her kids to come help, turn on some salsa and clean the house like it's a crime scene: with Clorox and big rubber gloves.

Stomp, dance music, bark out orders, repeat.


Latinalogue Part I: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/69697

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