A Grain of Salt

(Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Illustration by Serina Mercado)
(Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Illustration by Serina Mercado)

Column

By Patrick Tamayo/Opinion Editor

We are shocked that racism and prejudice still exists today but in the grand scheme of things, 51 years is not that long ago. But that’s exactly how long ago our government thought that all the segregation nonsense should maybe come to an end.

Growing up in a border town that was around 75 percent Mexican and 90 percent Latino/a, I experienced next-to-no racism toward me. However, the prejudice against people who entered the country illegally was overwhelming.

To this day I still do not know why people were and still are looked down upon. In reality the only thing that made us different was the fact that we lived on a different side of a river.

Name calling, harassment, taunts and bullying were common occurrences that I witnessed toward the same race of people growing up. Other than the river, the only thing that separated us was luck.

Today, there are people who are ignorant and prejudiced. Racism still exists. The white hoods, burning crosses and lynch mobs in the middle of the night may no longer be something that is seen. But the hatred, anger and callousness of people is still present in our society.

While we are far too sensitive to the majority of things, racism is an issue that cuts deep to many for a variety of reasons. Like many of the problems we face, this is not one that has a simple answer.

Although it’s only been 51 years that anyone can legally drink from the water fountain of their choosing, we have to strive to be better as a whole and somehow attempt to overcome our fears and judgments.

But it will be extremely difficult considering the world we live in.

***

Wal-Mart recently decided to pull a children’s Halloween costume, cutely called “Little Amigo.” The costume consisted of a straw hat, a shirt resembling a serape and a mustache with the most adorable white toddler modeling the costume. The only thing missing was a cactus for the user to take a siesta against.

Now, personally I did not find the costume offensive. But I do however understand why it’s offensive and why some are in an uproar about it. Judging by comments on message boards and news sites, most people were offended at the fact that Wal-Mart would bow to the pressure of the general public and remove the costume from its website.

Who cares that it diminishes an entire race of people to an all too familiar stereotype? It’s Halloween. It’s all in good fun. For anyone heartbroken that the “Little Amigo” costume is no longer available, they can rest well at night knowing that “Asian Boy” and “West African Boy” costumes are still available on Wal-Mart’s website. In Wal-Mart’s defense, the “Asian Boy” costume has an actual Asian boy modeling it.

***

As the NFL gets into full swing, the owner of the Washington Redskins remains adamant that he is unwilling to change his team’s mascot name regardless of who it offends.

A back and forth fight continues of what redskins actually means. Some say redskins were scalped heads of Native Americans while others argue that is a reference to skin tone. Without bringing smallpox tainted blankets or reservations into the picture, one can easily see why the name is offensive.

Starting in 2017 no California schools will be allowed to use the name after Gov. Jerry Brown passed the California Racial Mascots Act. Although only four schools in the state will be affected, the fact that a law has to be passed regarding racial school mascots only validates how far we have to go.

***

White yoga practitioners in Seattle have one fewer place to go from cobra to downward dog. A yoga studio has created a class and has requested whites not attend.

The class in question is called “yoga for people of color,” and it’s creator sees nothing wrong with not wanting white people to show up to their class, “respectfully” asking them not to attend.

Now, you can run a business as you see fit, but excluding anyone, of any color, for whatever reason sounds a tad racist.

What’s next? Not wanting to cater gay marriages?

***

As far as we’ve come as a society, we fall short in many aspects. We live in an ignorant world surrounded by ignorant people. There is hate and prejudice all around us. What might offend you might not offend the next person.

One thing is certain, cutting holes in a sheet to go as a ghost for Halloween won’t offend anyone. Just be sure the sheet fits flush over you head, if not you might offend one or two people.


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Patrick Tamayo | ptamayo@theguardsman.com

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