White People, Please Don't Paint A Sugar Skull On Your Face This Halloween

White People, Please Don't Paint A Sugar Skull On Your Face This Halloween

Latin people have good reason to be offended.
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Halloween is a lovely commercial holiday for adults to dress up in provocative costumes.

Often, it's another excuse for college students to party, and also an excuse for children to consume metric tons of candy that will likely contribute to the ongoing obesity epidemic in America.

Personally, I love to finally have a non-judgmental day to wear "Star Wars" apparel and swing around toy lightsabers like my inner 10-year old is always wanting to do.

But meanwhile south of the border from Mexico all the way to Bolivia, Latin peoples and indigenous peoples have our Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead for those of you who don't speak Spanish.

But let me make this clear -- in no way can this sacred celebration of our ancestors be compared to Halloween without drawing negative connotations.

I know some of you may wonder, "Why do so many Latin call out white people for 'cultural appropriation'?

"What's the big deal?

"Why should I as a white person, care?

"Aren't I honoring your culture?"

If you read on, I'll answer those questions, but first, let me illustrate by giving a brief life story.

As a white male of indigenous and Latin descent growing up in the American South, far from the graves of my father's family, Dia de Los Muertos was never accessible to me.

I grew up hearing stories of Guatemala's rolling green mountains and humid jungle, of my grandparents who worked for the rights of mestizos and other indigenous citizens often treated as second-class citizens.

I even managed to visit a few times with my parents to see some of my cousins and aunts and uncles. But to my shame, I never asked my dad about the Day of the Dead until last October when Guillermo del Toro's colorful masterpiece "The Book of Life" premiered in my local theater.

Intrigued by the reviews and the fact that del Toro was directing (Go watch "Pan's Labyrinth" sometime and you'll see why I was excited about del Toro), I watched the film in a newly furnished theater in Greenville, South Carolina, with only one other family to accompany me.

Nobody would say the film performed poorly at the box office, but most savvy moviegoers noticed its absence at the Oscars that year.

I couldn't help but find this infuriating.

Why had I never thought about Dia de Los Muertos?

Why did seemingly no one care in America?

Why had my father not told me that we celebrate life and death every year in Guatemala?

My abuela had passed away somewhat recently, and I remember my dad sobbing as he knew he would never see her again. She'd never really been a large physical presence in my life as I only knew my grandmother a short few years, (she did visit the States once, and our time together was magical) and I didn't speak any Spanish until late in high school.

Watching that film, I felt as though perhaps I could one day meet my grandparents again, even Abuelo Herminio whose only memory I have is the name my parents gave me. Maybe, on just one day of the year, I could meet them not as their son's white baby, but a full-grown Guatemalan young man who wished to learn about our culture. I, the living, could find lost family in death.

But I know why people did not watch "The Book of Life." Perhaps it will do better on cable in 30 years, but for now, whites remain a majority of Americans, and likely the largest demographic at the box office as well. But this event last year is not the heart of the problem.

I feel a great sadness, disconnected from the heritage that my father left behind in Guatemala in hopes of creating a better life for his family. I feel longing, as I haven't yet had a chance to visit my family's graves, nor taste the delicious fiambre my Tia Lusmi makes every year, or dance and sing with my neighbors in Antigua and San Miguel Duenas.

But more than anything else, I feel so angry at everyone, particularly other non-Latin whites, who appropriate and take for their own my people's culture by parading around drunk on King Street with poorly painted fake sugar skulls.

Can you all not see that you are desecrating the memory of my grandparents?

Of my family and the loved ones we have lost to war, economic enslavement, oppression, and colonialism?

I know that a lot of people don't really know all this. I understand why Dia de Los Muertos might be attractive to someone whose culture has been swallowed up by a pervasive and destructive social construct known as "whiteness," that the idea of finding life in death, finding a connection where it was lost, holds a lot of hope and spiritual connection.

But please, see it from my eyes, someone who shares your privilege, but also someone caught between two "worlds." See it through the eyes of someone who wants to meet their grandparents again.

When we take on cultures as costumes, we take away its meaning, just as our colonial ancestors once did. Where you see a colorful and "exotic" costume in Dia de Los Muertos on your face in the mirror, I see a continuing history of racism and fetishization.

I leave you with this thought- next time your non-Latin friend wants to co-opt an indigenous holiday, show them this article, along with all the links I've provided. Hopefully, they'll understand why this is so important.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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Diplomacy and Revolution

Creating A Federation With The Nation’s 19,505 Cities, Towns, and Villages, And Dissolving The 50 States Of The Union; Will Prevent The United States Of America From Balkanizing As Its Empire Declines.
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As it has become undeniable under the current administration of Donald Trump, the United States has entered its imperial decline as a global hegemonic force. The economic stability of the US dollar as a global currency is wavering and the military apparatus that spans the globe is starting to grind under its own contradictions as an occupying force. As these contradictions start to buckle under their own weight, the economic collapse and military retraction in the United States hegemony is an undeniable calculation. As this economic collapse occurs, the need to reorient economic priorities will be an imperative. As our global military network and apparatus starts to evolve and retract as an occupying force, it will require a new examination of what it means to provide the security of persons in the 21st-century. These questions will be placed in needed context, as external forces press the rapid advancement of these changes; as well as domestic forces trying to acclimate to this rapid transition. As we saw in the past with the Articles of Confederation in the late 18th century, the priorities of the states and their self interests and loyalty to wealth and power place the Federal Union of the United States under threat of internal instability and external pressures that will lead to an inevitable crisis unseen in the United States since the days of the Civil War. To avoid these destabilizing factors, the wise attempt to reconstruct the Federal structure of the United States must be applied.

To do this, we must recognize that our democracy is rooted in the diplomacy between various republics; forming the federation that established the Union of the United States of America under the pretext of the Constitution. Diplomacy must be re-oriented on the municipal level to deal with the shifts of modern communication and transportation advancement; so as to avoid Balkanization. We must keep in mind that Federalism, a federation, is a structure that offers the means of ensuring a formalized diplomatic structure between communities. The Iroquois Confederacy in which the United States Union was based off of focused on representation via tribes; this localized format must be present in any transitional new system. Coupled with a format of modern technological development, a federation of municipalities is perfectly plausible for the various communities throughout the entire United States thanks to current communication and transportation systems; with evolving transportation and communication systems increasing the feasibility and ease of such a networked systems.

We have (as of 2015 data) 19,505 cities, towns, and villages in the United States. As the American empire declines, the calculation that economic divisions will spark a disunity internally must be avoided at all cost via re-federalizing. It is perfectly plausible to create a federation out of the 19,505 communities using representation of each in a federal congress. We have sports stadiums that can house tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of spectators; it would be perfectly plausible create a federal congress using such scales of construction. It would also ensure management of sub regional, regional, and super-regional networks that are internal mechanisms used for unifying local and federal systems. Not only will this new federal system prevent Balkanization and disunity of the American people, it will also offer the potentiality for economic reconstruction with the emphasis on self sustainability and self-sufficiency for every community. Utilizing social contracts such as a Second Bill of Rights to provide things such as food, water, energy, infrastructure, knowledge, and productive abilities for every community and every individuals. Living up to the motto of the United States E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many, One; as well as ensuring life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness in the 21st-century.

Our present is not the first time that the United States has risked division, as already mentioned the Articles of Confederation brought us to the edge of a complete breakdown of the Union, which was operating as only a mere confederation at the time. The slave master rebellion of 1861 that ignited what became known as the Civil War brought the United States further to the precipice of disunity. But as the Union has shown to withstand not only internal strife and division brought on by economic stratification, we have developed a federal system that has expanded its influence around the globe. As we wise up to the foolishness of attempting to assert hegemony over the peoples of the world; we will start to recognize that the survivability of our own systems will rely on a new unifying effort. One that will require nothing less than the declaration of a new Federation of the Peoples of America; guaranteed under the Declaration of Independence and Constitution that set forth to lay the foundations of the United States today. With the same mentality of transition between the Articles of Confederation to the Federal Constitution, and with the pretext of legal declaration such as the Emancipation Proclamation; we can avoid repeating the same mistakes in the past through federalizing anew. And through a new Federation, finally creating the principles and ideals that we laid out in our past but have yet to live up to in the present; by becoming at true Union of Peoples.

Cover Image Credit: Shutterstock

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The Importance Of Empathy

How just meeting new people can make all the difference in your life
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Merriam Webster Dictionary describes “empathy” as, “The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”

During such a time with increasing social, political, and societal divide, a better comprehension of empathy would do wonders to lessen this divide.

Attaining a better sense of empathy allows for one to build upon their perspective and have a better understanding of the people around them. While it may sound too cliche or rudimentary, the best way to build a strong sense of empathy is to explore new things and new people.

In high school I was involved with football, the TV show, the art department, the drama department, the spirit club, etc.. In the fall I attended community college, and now I attend the University of Southern California. I have been able to surround myself with people of different passions, socio-economic backgrounds, and perspectives. All of which makes up a lot of who I am today.

Then while I may have my own preconceived opinions and views, I have fostered some ability to understand the point of views and thought processes of the people around me. Whether it be an privileged high school athlete, or a low-income community college art student, I have been able to interact with people across the spectrum of perspectives.

Surrounding myself with such a variety of people shapes who I am and builds me a stronger sense of self. Then while all these people I have interacted may not be my best friends, nor may I even get along with them all, I at least know where they are coming from and look at them with more than one lens of thought.

From the high school students trying to do something new and build their resume, to the successful college student who just wants to meet some more people outside of their hometown, I cannot stress enough how much getting outside of one’s comfort zone and getting to know people you may have never even spoken to before.

Just by surrounding oneself with a variety of passionate and well-intentioned people, a strong sense of empathy can be fostered. With racial and socio-economic tensions flaring consistently, society would greatly benefit if people just grew better understandings of one another. Once everyone beings to appreciate and value all the different perspectives and point of views that make up this world, a lot could change for the better.

Cover Image Credit: Alexis Brown

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