Monthly Archives: April 2010

“Be Italian” (or any other ethnic group that is cool)…

Whenever I see a post about the kids on “The Jersey Shore” it’s always followed by comments about how they aren’t really Italian. There’s always someone pointing out that if they went to Italy they would be made fun of and not accepted because they don’t speak Italian and don’t look/act like they are from there either.

Now, the issue about “being Italian” has also been brought up in interviews with the cast, and they are always quick to respond that they aren’t representing Italian Americans; for them it’s about the Guido lifestyle. I can respect that. I’m curious though, about the gap that viewers see in “being Italian” and “being Italian American.” From my understanding, “the Jersey Shore” cast sees it as there  still being cultural ties/practices that relate back to the “old country.” So in living their way of life, and through ethnic background they consider themselves to be Italian…so why can’t the rest of us?

How much does cultural background influence us? If we have the ethnicity in our genes can we really say we identify with it  if we pass for “white” and are not raised in a place/by a person that encourages a connection with our heritage? What about those who are white, but were brought up in a place where the majority of people were from a different racial/ethnic background and that influence was strong?

In a way I can relate to the cast’s plight because as a Latina (who doesn’t know Spanish) I’ve been told many times over (usually by people of the Caucasian persuasion) that I’m not Hispanic. If this has ever happened to you, you can understand how incredibly frustrating it is to have some say this, especially when you do have many ties to your culture. There are subtleties that outsiders would miss. Hell, there are people who I’m related to who don’t really understand specific traditions because they were not brought up with those concepts in mind.

I’ll admit it, I’m annoyed by those people who don’t really identify with being Hispanic unless it makes them look cool among their “white” friends or helps them get a scholarship/job when they tick the box on an application form. It’s unfair for the rest of us who’ve had to put up with racial slurs and being treated with prejudice.  In fact I know one person who passes for white, who sort of laughed it off when their fiance boyfriend called them “a wet back,” simply shrugging and said he doesn’t know better.” All the people I know(white or Latino) would find that unacceptable, but maybe that’s because they’ve been immersed in the Hispanic culture. Or maybe they  just know that exploiting and insulting people of different ethnic backgrounds is never in vogue.

4 Square

Ok, so I skipped my Top 5 in February, but I give you my belated “Top 4” for March.

1.)Charlie McDowell: I’ll be honest, I’m still a bit unsure about Twitter. I can’t get on board with constant “tweets” about when a person is on a lunch break, what they’re eating, who they’re eating with, etc… Listen people, I know you think your life is interesting, but if you’re tweeting about it more than once a day/everyday then it probably isn’t that great.

I have an account, and I occasionally/rarely update. Ok, so most of them are “@s” to celeb tweets with the hopes that ONE of them with respond to me(sadly, this has yet to happen).

Thanks to one of these celebs(Alyson Hannigan, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer/How I Met Your Mother/American Pie-fame) I discovered the brilliant tweets of Charlie McDowell. The majority of his postings are dedicated to the girls living in the apartment above him. If you’ve ever had an obnoxious roommate or neighbor, you’ll be able to appreciate Charlie’s electronic post-it notes to those girls. If I didn’t know better I would think the girls above Charlie were my two ex-roommates from when I was 20(they were the least self-aware people anyone could meet, and they were each others #1 fan). This is the one time I wish Twitter had existed 5 years ago, that way I could document my “pain” and share it with the world.

2) Freedom Writers: I’m a sucker for films about good teachers connecting with and inspiring students that have been ignored by the public school system. I like it even more if the movie/novel is based on a true story. In Freedom Writers, we’re introduced to Erin Gruwell, a first year teacher assigned to a freshman English class filled with at-risk students. While most teachers would be eager to assign busy work, counting the days until they could pass these kids off to the next grade, Erin takes the time to get to know them and introduce them to a world they didn’t know existed. She cares about who her students become, and she wants the best for them.
Freedom Writers

3) TRANSform Me: It’s part of VH1’s “Beauty’s on the inside” hour, except it’s way better than its lead in show–Jessica Simpson’s “The Price of Beauty” (seriously,  skip that one!). It may seem like your typical makeover show, but I’m impressed with the message this one sends out. First off, the person who wants a makeover submits the video; there’s no secret footage, no moment where the host jumps out from some bushes to inform someone they are a fashion DON’T, and their family and friends are embarrassed to be seen with them. (Now, I like those shows, but I know lots of people who don’t). Second, our three lovely hosts (Laverne, Jamie and Nina) understand what it means to undergo a major transformation since they are male to female transsexuals. I think this adds a sincerity to the show, that others lack. They understand it’s not about what is on the outside; if a person doesn’t feel beautiful or confident from within, then appearances really don’t matter because then they lack depth.
Laverne, Jamie, and Nina!

4) Her Stories – African Amerian Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales: I stumbled across this collection when babysitting the other night. I have to say Virginia Hamilton has compiled a wonderful collection of stories, including one of my childhood favorites “The Talking Eggs.” While this book is aimed at children, there are some fun facts for adults to read at the end of each tale. It’s a difficult book to put down, as each story seems better than the next. Leo & Diane Dillons’ beautiful illustrations add to the stories.
Her Stories