Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dial-A-(Insert Your Pejorative of Choice Here)

            So Hispanic Heritage Month has come and gone, and an anecdote that a professor I TA’ed for last year comes to mind . . . he said that when he was a doctoral student he had a professor who was African-American. Well during Black History Month, said African-American professor would be called up by the campus paper and the local newspaper, to get his two cents on Black History Month.
After he got off the phone one time he looked at Mr. Ned (my professor) and asked him, “Do you know why I don’t like Black History Month, Ned?”
Mr. Ned’s response, “No professor why don’t you like Black History Month?” The professor’s response, “Because it feels like it’s Dial-A-Negro month.”

Needless to say that the theme of the class Mr. Ned was teaching was “Humor and Literature,” so the story fit in well with that days discussion, since we were discussing literature of the south and humor, I can’t remember the title or author of the short story we segued into, but it was a decent story once you could see the humor.

Mr. Ned’s story comes to mind not because people have been blowing up my fonazo to get a commentary from me in regards to HHM. I think the only time I was ever approached to give my feedback or my thoughts on HHM was my first year in grad school. A former student of mine from Xico State e-mailed me and asked if she could talk to me about HHM for the school newspaper (irony, I know). Since I was no longer at the university I gave her the name of a couple of other Xicano Studies professors she could speak with.

But it becomes funny looking back on HHM and my situation and what really gives me the right to give any commentary on a month dedicated to Hispanic people? Is it just that I’m a doctoral student or in Mr. Ned’s case, that he has a doctorate? Why ask us? Why not ask the Hispanic or African-American student?

This summer while I was in Watsonville, I didn’t come across any news reports or newspaper reports on HHM. If you’re from Watsonville, you know that the majority of the people there are Mexican/Mexican-American. But I didn’t hear many if any of them rejoicing that there was a whole month dedicated to us and that we should try to attend all of the functions or events being held by the city (if the city even held any).

Instead on HHM the Mexican people still got up early each morning, around 4am for some and 5am for others, and they still went to pick strawberries, or another crop at a fairly low wage, with minimal or no health benefits. Why didn’t somebody organize a workshop for HHM revolving around this? Or is it that we wanted to continue ignoring the whole slave wage issue, and just focus on the “Heritage” or the cultural aspect? You know the stuff that isn’t too tough to talk about? I know a counter argument can be that we focus on this so much already that it’s nice to be able to learn about the heritage and uplift the people through that as opposed to just thinking about the negative or better yet the present and the very real. Or how about this . . . for HHM why not organize a comida for the Mexican Laborers? Like a thank you dinner for them?

I know many of us drive past them in the morning or early afternoon, and either we look away, or choose not to even look their way pretending that we need to pay attention to the road or that we are too busy thinking about what we need to do at our usually-not-so-back-breaking-jobs.  Or my favorite people, are the ones driving to the gym early in the morning, and when they get out they feel exhausted and think to themselves, “man that must be how those people (or my raza) feel.” Are you fucking kidding me?

Nah, let’s get lost in the uplifting apathy and cheeriness of HHM, the colors, the comida; Boo-ree-dos, taw-cos, and quesa-dill-ass! The art, literature, and poetry of the self-righteous and pompous. Because really that’s what HHM has become. It’s as if to say, “Hey little Hispanic people, we’re dedicating a month to your Heritage/culture, now shut the fuck up and stop complaining.”

Come to think about it . . . since they’re outlawing the raza and ethnic studies in Arizona, does that mean, that they don’t even acknowledge HHM? Hell, does the raza over there even have time to acknowledge it? It’s scary to think how HHM unfolded there before all the anti-raza sentiment let alone now. But hey, let’s shut the fuck up, and think how great it is of Fox NFL to show how they’re acknowledging HHM-you know, by just doing a dual broadcast in Spanish. Or whatever other advertisement was created to gain our attention under the pretense of celebrating HHM along with us.

Well, today nobody decided to “Dial-A-Spic” or would it have been “Dial-A-Beaner”? But hey, isn’t it better that I was more proactive as opposed to waiting for someone to ask the brown guy?

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