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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Dear My Inner Racist,

Why do I keep having to kill you? When I least expect it, you rise up and tell me your lies. You try to tell me that when I look in someone’s eyes there are walls to my love that divide us from sharing the joy of being human. Sometimes I look at people and I can see that they hate to see me. Is it me? Is it them? It must be me, for I am a firm believer that love is contagious and if somebody who sees me reflects upon their face a look of mistrust that it must be I who do not trust them as well.

These feelings seem to rise up most often among people physically different than me. It is like the centuries of isolation from each other, or thousands of years of shed blood have created these mountains in our psyche that we consciously must cross.

It is strange though. I have grown stronger, and I can kill you faster everyday in spite of the constant reprogramming. What is this cultural programming that creates racism? It is partially a result of tradition. To preserve one’s cultural identity one must follow a common protocol.

Step One: Learn your history. Not somebody else’s. Yours! A Dominican friend was explaining to me why there is animosity between her nation and Haiti. In school each of their histories focus on the negative intrusions upon their nations by the other’s. For example, one of the things young Haitians are taught is about the horrible dictator Rafael Trujillo whom killed tens of thousands of people along the border for being too dark or for speaking Creole. One of the things young Dominicans are taught is about how after Haiti’s liberation from the French the Haitian president Jean Pierre Boyer occupied the Dominican Republic for twenty-two years while attempting to crush Hispanic culture and its ties with the Catholic Church. This focus on victimization creates a duality in which in the name of retribution the disrespect for another’s culture begins. You know how it goes… “I can’t forgive the ______ because of what their ancestors did to my ancestors.” This may seem simple but it is a really big factor in the maintenance of this parasite we call racism. I am not advising we forget about the traumas of our ancestors and the ripple effects they have on their modern descendants but if we look at situations not with one eye, but with two we may be able to open up our perspective enough to realize that over time all we and our ancestors have ever been fighting for is at its core the same thing: prosperity. The fear of not having enough resources often causes people to think family first when it comes to survival. What is race but an extension of one’s family?

Step Two: Love your culture. Not somebody else’s. Yours! This is a hard one. It is natural to fall in love with the sights sounds and tastes of home. Where we are born and raised holds a cherished place within all of our hearts. Nationalism is not necessarily a bad thing. One’s homeland feeds us our consciousness, however broad or narrow. I have many sweet memories of times at Nonno and Nonna’s (grandparents in Italian) listening to stories of the old country, sharing recipes, and playing in their ex-pat garden. The complexity and love that goes into the traditional preparations of food! All cultures have their trademark dishes that take hours to compose and a lifetime of savoring them is enough to make many feel they could eat this one food and live in this one culture for their entire life and die happy. My grandmother certainly fits into this category. Just the other day we got into a talk about race and I flat out asked her how she would feel if I married a black guy. There was no power in the response on her face- just fear and a bit of disgust. She shook her head and said “I respect black people but they should marry black and you should marry white.” I have a very special position with my grandmother- out of 13 grandkids I am her favorite. We often talk for hours about life and I deeply honor her opinions on many things. This lady survived a revolution in Venezuela when the people were hunting Italians out of the country. She and my mother have seen the discrimination of people thinking she is stupid for not speaking English. Times are different now, and it seems that more and more bilingualism is treasured. In their times, their culture was something that kept them from becoming normal, and like I treasure my tattoos as marks of my choosing to belong to an alternative tribe of humans, their identity as Italians allowed them a sense of security from the flaws they saw within American culture such as the disintegration of family or ignorance of traditions. I looked at her, her eyes so much like mine that it is like looking into a mirror and asked if she would still love my children if they were mulatto. She proceeded to make excuses, but you know what she didn’t say? She did not say no.

The great irony is that certain Italians are racist against other Italians! Just this week I was at a punk party and one of the guys from a band saw my flowing red and gold flowered skirt and called out to me “Hey gypsy girl!”. I said, because he looked it with his wild long curly hair “Hi gypsy boy!”. To which he sharply shot down saying no I could never be gypsy, I’m descended from the Medicis (a big Napolitan ex-noble family). In his drunk stupor he continued, half in Italian- which I understand most of, and half in English to say essentially “Fuck you gypsy, you are trash with no identity”. To which I said “At least my dignity is not built upon fucking my cousin.” Sincerely, Stephanie Racism-Will-Fail

About the Contributor
Stephanie Fail served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years Opinions Editor: 2009-2010 *Culture Shock Editor: Fall 2010 *The Culture section only lasted from 2010-2011, with Marcus Mersier taking over in Spring 2011.