Archive for April, 2013

April 29, 2013

I Hope

I hope you never miss me
I hope you never return my calls
I hope you never write me back

And when I die
And my parents invite you to the funeral,
I hope you remember
How cruel you were
To the girl who did nothing
But hope you were happy

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April 24, 2013

#CYP

Have you ever had a conversation in which the person you’re talking to says something that you aren’t comfortable with? Something that you’re offended by, or you feel could be offensive to someone else? I definitely have. And it’s really hard to blatantly call someone out on things like that. But if people don’t realize that what they’re saying is offensive or hurtful, we can never expect them to learn and grow. Right?

Well, I propose we start a trend.

We all want to help build inclusive communities that celebrate rather than stifle diversity. We all want respect from one another, and we have a right to expect it. But sometimes people, even those who don’t have a single malicious bone in their bodies, say things out of ignorance or misunderstanding that can be hurtful or offensive to one person or another. This is especially true when it comes to talking about minority groups and stereotypes.

Well, I’ve come up with a little tool that you can use when having discussions with people about diversity-related topics in a respectful but critical way. It’s called CYP.

CYP (pronounced like “sip”) stands for Check Your Privilege. When you say “CYP,” you’re asking a person – without the use of public humiliation or anger – to rethink the way that they say things. You’re requesting that the person ask themselves Could what I’ve said offended someone? You’re also asking them to think critically about the advantages they have in our society. These advantages (or privileges) can change the way people view the world around them. They can also change the way people view other people, especially those who are different. 

Here’s a good example:

A couple weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a friend from back home (who is a white, heterosexual, cisgender male). We were talking about being queer in a predominantly heterosexual, cisgender world. He said, “I’ve never seen any LGBTQ people treated differently just because they were gay. That doesn’t really happen around here.”

Enter the CYP. Note that this actually took place before I came up with the acronym.

I explained to him that just because he, a white, straight cisgender man, doesn’t see discrimination happening doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. Being unaware of something doesn’t make it any less real. I explained that a big reason he doesn’t see discrimination against LGBTQ individuals is because of his privilege as a white, straight cisgender man. We live in a society where he is unfairly given an advantage over minorities, because of his majority “status” (for lack of a better word). And he doesn’t see how privileged he is because he has never been required to look.

As a minority, I am forced every day to see just how disadvantaged I am. This is something that my white friends never truly experience.

I see it in the way media portrays women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community.
I see it in how my family treated differently by cashiers at stores because my mother’s accent makes her questions sound different from those of a white woman.
I see it in how people ask me if my sister is my daughter when they wouldn’t dare assume the same about a young white girl.
I see it in how police watch me a little more closely than my white counterparts.
I see it in how many times TSA has asked to search my bag instead of anybody else’s.
I see it in my family’s history.
In how my father’s family lived constantly straddling the poverty line because Latinos in the 40s and 50s were never afforded the same opportunities as their white counterparts, and as a result had to work twice as hard for half the gain.
In how my mother immigrated to the U.S. from a developing country, seeking a better life, but not being met with the kindness and opportunity promised to her by the Land of the Free.
I see it in the looks that I get when I tell people that I’m bisexual.
I see it in the way people ask me where I’m from, as if I could never be American.

These are just some of the things that a member of the minority faces on a daily basis. But if you’re a member of the majority, you don’t see this. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of it.

That’s where CYP comes in. It can be as simple as writing it on a note or whispering it in someone’s ear. CYP is a way of holding a mirror up to the world and getting people to think critically about themselves and the difference between their perspective and reality. All perspectives are skewed by experiences. But that’s no excuse for ignorance.

We can eliminate ignorance. Slowly, but surely. One CYP at a time.

#CYP
#CheckYourPrivilege

April 24, 2013

Gray Areas

My housemates and I just got into a rather brilliant discussion. We all seemed to disagree on a particular issue, and we voiced our perspectives, heard the other side, gave rebuttals, etc. The subject matter is unimportant. The subject matter is not what I gained the most from. The most important thing that I derived from it is this: no opinion is perfect.

Every opinion has its pitfalls. That’s why I have a hard time committing to anything, or telling people that they’re wrong. True, there are several things that I value and certain opinions I hold that I refuse to compromise on; that’s what makes me the unique person that I am. But there are many things that I am on the fence about. Almost everything, in fact.

I’ve realized that this is because, in most cases, I can’t say with confidence that one solution is any better than another. If I had all the research and all the evidence that proved beyond a sliver of a doubt that one way was wholly better than the other, I would be able to make my decision with surety. But unfortunately, most controversial issues are not so simple. And I feel that to commit to a decision without hard evidence from all sides in favor of that decision is – from a scholarly perspective – reckless and irresponsible.

If my education has taught me nothing else, it’s to never take anything at face value. Life is multi-faceted. Everything you encounter in life came into existence only after hundreds of millions of variables collided in an inconceivably unique way, molding and forming this thing in front of you from nothingness. Nothing is truly simpleand to treat things like they are simple is to be dishonest with one’s self.

I love learning. I do it best when my mind is open. I want to take everything in. I want to learn and understand every perspective to the best of my ability. I want my mind to be a blank slate, ready for each space to be filled with beautiful, complex, diverse knowledge. I want to do this so that when I’m old, I can die knowing that I lived a well-rounded, full life. Every gray area explored. No stone unturned.

I think my parents would be proud of that life. I think my children would be proud of that life. And most importantly, I think I could proud of that life.

April 17, 2013

My problem with Macklemore.

Can we talk about something that’s bothered me for the better part of two years now?

Image

Macklemore.

Don’t get me wrong; Macklemore is great. Macklemore makes me really happy. Macklemore is a trailblazer in hip hop and is making tremendous leaps and bounds introducing individuality, creativity, diversity, and inclusiveness into the music industry. I love his music, his style, his attitude, his general outlook on life, all of it.

But why do I feel like (mostly white) people are suddenly treating hip hop like art now that Macklemore has hit it big? Why do I hear white people saying, “Macklemore is an artist,” and “Hip hop is beautiful,” and “Hip hop is poetry,” only AFTER Macklemore made it to the top 100?

Weren’t you the same people who told me that my music – KRS-One, Lupe Fiasco, Wu Tang Clan, Tupac Shakur, Ice Cube, Lauryn Hill, the Fugees, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Immortal Technique, NaS, OutKast, Common – was trash? Shouldn’t even be considered music?

But now that there’s a white rapper from Seattle that you like, hip hop is suddenly art? Poetry?

Do you not realized how blinded you are by your privilege? That you can’t see something for what it really is until one of your own shows it to you? It’s like you don’t take the opinions of minorities seriously. Like our opinions are so inferior to yours that we can’t speak the truth. That you have to speak it for us before it can actually be considered “truth.”

Hip hop was art long before white rappers came around. Hip hop is moving, fluid, carnal, raw poetry. It utilizes the natural beat of a heart pumped full of adrenaline, taken from tribal rhythms in African cultures. It takes that base beat, and lays a heavy layer of pure, unadulterated human emotion over it. It takes all the pain, all the suffering, all the anger experienced in life, and turns it into a story that everyone can relate to. Good hip hop makes you think. Good hip hop makes you cry. Good hip hop makes you want to show everyone who ever told you that you couldn’t make it that they were wrong. Good hip hop makes you want to love people just a little bit more. Good hip hop makes you want to love yourself just a little bit more. 

And that didn’t happen when Macklemore came out of the woodwork. That happened long before him.

I’ll leave you with this song. It came out in 2008. It’s about hip hop. Everything that it is and what it represents for people. Maybe you’ll get an idea of where my frustration is coming from after watching it.

He said, “I write what I see
Write to make it right; don’t like where I be”
I’d like to make it like the sights on TV
Quite the great lights, so nice and easy

He picked up his son with a great big smile
Rapped every single word to the new born child
Then he put him down and went back to the kitchen
And put on another beat and got back to the mission of

Get his momma out the hood, put her somewhere in the woods
Keep his lady lookin’ good, have her rollin’ like she should
Show his homies there’s a way, other than that flippin’ yay
Bail his homie outta jail, put a lawyer on his case

Throw a concert for the school, show the shoulders that it’s cool
Throw some candy on the Caddy, chuck the deuce and act a fool
Man it feels good when it happens like that
Two days from goin’ back to sellin’ crack, yes sir

One you never heard of I, push it hard to further the
Grind, I feel like murder but hip hop you saved me
One you never heard of I, push it hard to further the
Grind I feel like murder but hip hop you saved my life