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Posts Tagged ‘violence’

I watch the Today Show in the morning while getting ready for work. Sometimes it’s background noise, sometimes they have stories that I really listen to. I tune out a lot of the political stuff because I’m sick of hearing about Donald Trump and all of his insanity. The cooking segments are okay and I listen to the headlines, but my favorite things to watch are the human interest stories, stories about real people in different situations and how they handle them, in good ways or bad. The human psyche fascinates me. I am endlessly curious about the motivations people have, what circumstances in their lives led them to act the way that they do.

I was watching on Tuesday when a story came on that caught my attention. Apparently, Old Navy had put out an advertisement that portrayed an interracial family: an African-American mother, a Caucasian father, and their little boy. It’s a really cute picture, as many advertisements are, with everyone smiling and happy. When I looked at it, I  thought that it was a cool thing for Old Navy to show an interracial family, a reflection of our modern society. As I found out, though, the reason that that advertisement was being shown on the Today Show was because many people didn’t feel the same way.

I went on Twitter to read the comments. (I know, I know, the comments are scary, but if you’re going to take something on, you should know your enemy.) I’m not going to put even a fraction of them on here, they were that horrible, but they range from “disgusting” to some extremely vile things. I was really (unpleasantly) surprised that so many comments had something to do with “white genocide” Huh? Genocide? Um, no. Genocide= what Adolph Hitler did to the Jews. Genocide= what is happening to certain groups of people in the Middle East right now. Genocide= what happened to the Tutsi in Rwanda, 1994. Genocide≠ people of different races marrying and having families. The ignorance is staggering and more importantly, frightening. Here is an article from the New York Times, if you’re so inclined: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/05/us/upbeat-interracial-ad-for-old-navy-leads-to-backlash-twice.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0 You can also see the controversy on Twitter and most news sites.

I don’t understand the mentality of people who have been posting those inane responses. Some of them are so evil that I’m surprised they’re walking among us, but most of them vowed to never shop at Old Navy again. Really? You’re not going to shop at Old Navy any more because they used an ad of an interracial family? Stupidity and ignorance at its finest. If you are threatening to harm people because of their racial background, you should not be out on the street. Period.

What really floors me (and makes me smile to myself) is that many of the people who are so opposed to racial mixing are possibly of mixed race themselves and don’t even know it. During the period of legal slavery in the United States and its territories, thousands of children, often the result of rape from white masters. were born to slave women. Some interracial (and illegal) couples also lived together consensually and had  children. If those children, or their children, could “pass” for white, they often did in order to have a better life. Many times, their white families didn’t know and still don’t! A good example of this is Bliss Broyard’s fascinating read, One Drop. The title comes from the premise that if a person had only one drop of African blood. he or she was classified as black and was treated as such during the time of slavery and many years thereafter. Her father, Anatole Broyard, an acclaimed New York Times columnist, had come from a racially mixed family but decided to pass for white when he was a young man. It wasn’t until he was literally on his death bed that the truth came out and his children were introduced to a whole new branch of the family. It’s a fascinating story.

The TLC show, Who Do You Think You Are?, and PBS’s Finding Your Roots have both surprised a few celebrities with DNA test results showing that they have an unexpected racial connection. Ty Burrell, who stars on Modern Family, was surprised to find that the family whisperings of having a black ancestor were true. Several African-American celebrities uncovered white ancestors. Some were surprised, some were not. The truth is, we all have quite the mixture of races in us already, there is no such thing as a “pure” race. People who perpetuate the myth that there is a pure white race need to check their facts, and possibly their DNA.

My own roots are pleasantly jumbled. My father’s side of the family is pretty straightforward English/Scottish/Irish with some Swiss and German thrown in for good measure. My mother’s side, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. My maternal grandfather, Grandpa Nick, was born in Sicily. Poor Sicily, while now part of Italy, has been conquered many times by other empires: Arab, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Northern African. It is difficult to say what our racial background actually is based on Sicily’s history. His son, my uncle, took a DNA test several years back. It showed that we have northern African cousins, in Algeria and Sudan I believe, but it didn’t say how far back in time we were related. It could be 200 years ago or 1000 years ago. Like I said, it was an older test, but my sons and I thought it was cool that we were part African. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, I’m a sickly pale about ten months out of the year, but I have some African roots.

The point I’m trying to get across is that the idea of race as a kind of a club is stupid. Sure, I love looking up my family history and learning where my ancestors came from (especially the English, for the simple fact that they kept amazing records in their parish churches), but equally intriguing for me is finding the different cultures that dwell inside. How exciting!

I taught 5th graders for several years and that is when they begin learning about slavery in United States history. Many of my students would self-identify as their religion, so we always had to have the talk about the difference between race and religion. One can be born and raised into a certain religion, but that is a choice. One’s racial background is not a choice, it’s just how you are born. You can’t choose it before you are born, you can’t change it, it’s something that is a part of you forever. We talked about being proud of whatever background we had, but also how it was important to respect the identities of others and how different cultures contribute so much to the world. We also talked about how it was not okay to disparage somebody because of their race. You see, children are taught racism, it’s not something that they’re born with. Something to think about…

The term “race” has been used by bigots as a way to separate people, to create divisions and animosity, instead of simply being used for historical or scientific purposes. That never made sense to me, seeing as how science and religion agree that human beings both started in northeastern Africa, even if their ideas of how we began are different. Differences developed in response to our environments. A translucent-skinned person like me would burn to a crisp on the African continent today, my lack of melanin meant to soak up Vitamin D from the sun in northern climates. My northern European genes have won out in that respect. My Grandpa Nick, however, had what one would call a “swarthy” complexion, necessary in sun-drenched Sicily to protect him. I look more like my father’s side of the family, but I have just as much DNA from my mother’s side as I do his. What you look like doesn’t necessarily have a bearing on what your roots are. Remember, with every generation back, your number of grandparents doubles: two grandparents, four great-grandparents, eight great-great grandparents, and so on. Unless you are a careful genealogist, you really don’t know all of your racial background. Maybe that’s worth taking a look into. You might find out some really cool things!

Open your mind and think. You’ll be surprised at actually makes sense.

A presto.

 

 

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Oh, it’s been a long time since I blogged. The only reason has been my insane schedule of late. To make a long story short, I auditioned for a show, got a role in the show, continued to parent, teach, and do everything else that I have always done. I thought about blogging, several times, but just couldn’t find the time necessary to devote myself to it.

One thing that’s been on my mind for the past week or so has been the increase in random shootings across the country. This is not going to be a debate about Second Amendment rights. There are so many opinions as to what the right to bear arms entails that it already fills up countless comment pages on any article about the subject. People are so incredibly divided on the whole gun rights issue that we aren’t doing what we need to do the most: come together to find a solution to all of this.

Let’s look at the facts. We, as the United States, have the highest number of gun violence incidents in the world. This does not take war into the equation, only violence committed on other people living their lives. We are arguably the most powerful nation in the world, yet we cannot stop this tide of violence that has been correctly reported by President Obama as happening, on average, once a week, beginning in December 2012. Elementary schools,universities, movie theatres, even a pizza joint, have all been the locations of random, senseless shootings. Sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, police officers, kindergarteners, teachers, have all been massacred. Why? What has happened to make this a normal event in our modern world? I’m not going to pretend that violence in the US has never existed. There has always been random violence in the world, no matter where one is, but the increase in unprovoked, random assassinations has increased. This is not an increase in gang or street violence, this is an increase of shootings in places where we should be safe, schools, pizza parlors, movie theatres. Who sends their five-year-old to school in the morning with a kiss thinking that they will come home in a body bag? No one! Yet, it’s happening more and more.

One partial theory that I have about all of this craziness, certainly not a scientific one and definitely not the only cause, is that some of these kids that snap may not getting noticed at home very much. As all teachers know, children crave attention and if they’re not getting positive attention, some of them will try to get attention by making negative choices, but some will hold it in and let it fester. No one listens to them, no one seems to care that they’re hurting. Eventually, those feeling will spill out, sometimes in depression, sometimes in violence. That being said, there are plenty of kids who have real mental disorders and our mental health system makes it darn near impossible for them to get the help they need. I’m not talking about those kids, which is another topic entirely. I’m talking about average, mentally healthy children who are ignored on a daily basis. It adds up after a while. It kills me to walk by a park and a mother is pushing her baby in a swing or pushing a stroller while yapping away on a cell phone instead of interacting with the baby. Toddlers play, not always kindly or safely, while parents scroll through texts. This generation of parents makes me wonder if we’re not raising a generation of children who are not able to successfully connect with people because their parents choose to spend more time in the virtual world than with them. Maybe if we spent more time with our kids, we’d notice if they were feeling sad, mad, or left out. Maybe we’d notice when a middle school student has a small arsenal hidden somewhere in the house.
What I notice as a teacher is that some parents simply don’t want to take the time to know their kids. It’s too inconvenient, it’s too hard to be consistent with the rules, or they have more important things to do. Kids need and want adults to give them boundaries and to take an interest in them. One of my students, a boy, would try to use his entire reading lesson to tell me about his life. I jokingly asked him if anyone ever talked to him at home. His face grew quite serious and he said that no, no one actually did.
Let’s try something, shall we? Instead of fussing and fighting about laws, let’s PAY ATTENTION TO OUR CHILDREN! Yes, let’s put down the cell phone, put down the tablet, and pay attention to our kids from the time they are born until, well, forever. We’re all guilty of it, at least from time to time. If I have a lot of work to do or if I’m taking a long time catching up on Words With Friends, I know it bothers my kids, especially if they’re trying to talk with me. That’s my cue to turn it off and give them my full attention.
None of us are perfect parents. I’ll be the first one that steps up and raises my hand as someone who needs improvement and technology, with all of its updates, is here to stay. What I’m saying is let’s recognize that we have a problem. Let’s show our kids that they’re more important to us than Facebook or that text conversation that we’re having. Let’s shut our phones off at bedtime to give our babies our undivided attention during a story or feeding time and resist the temptation to check our status while on the school field trip. Let’s listen to his day at school or what happened to her at the park. There will come a day when they stop trying to tell you. You may not have a school shooter on your hands, but there are always other negative behaviors they may indulge in. I saw a saying once, that as my kids grow, I find to be more and more true: Parenting is not for wimps.

This subject bothers me. I send my boys to school every day. They go to the movies. They go to pizza joints. Will they be in there one day when someone decides that they never felt loved and have to take out the whole class because they don’t know what to do with the pain? Who will teach them to talk it out, write it down, deal with it in a way that they feel they are loved and secure? I’ll give you a clue; it’s not Siri.

 

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