Wednesday, October 23, 2013

2 Political Labels... and what Really Matters

By: Marvin DeBose

"The liberals are ruining this country", "those conservatives are idiots", "the Republicans are trying to take over", "the Democrats are trying to take control"... Sound familiar?

This polarized, adversarial political rhetoric is something that I see nearly every day. Yet, with so much talk of political groups in this country, it makes me wonder, what do these political labels even mean?

Better yet, what do the people who use them think that they mean?

When you get a chance, ask a few people, "what is a conservative?" Then, ask a few people "what is a liberal?"

What's a Democrat? What is a Republican?

Don't look for Webster's definition, don't look for the political science definition. What are the people's definitions?

Most likely you'll get a wide variety of answers. But with such a wide variety of differing political viewpoints, one must ask, "Why do we need to put these labels on ourselves and others?"

Why does there need to be "Good Guys" and "Bad Guys"? Why do we need to have a "pick your team" mentality?

How about for a while we just forget those labels, let's forget being a "liberal", "conservative", "moderate", "libertarian"... Let's try being human beings with OUR OWN opinions for a quick minute.

Instead of watching political pundits and listen to them tell us what/how to think, let's try developing opinions based on critical thinking, analysis and an understanding of context.

Most importantly, let's forget judging people's character based off of their political views. Let's judge people's character based on more important things, like their love for other human beings.

I know that idea might sound scary to some people, but I think it's worth a try.

Instead of getting into what someone believes in politically or what button he/she presses on election day, let's ask this: Does this person exemplify a love for human lifeALL of human life?

By human life, I'm not just referring to Americans, I'm talking about a love for ALL human life. I'm talking about human life in places like Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. I'm talking about love for young people living in the dangerous streets of The South Side of Chicago. I'm talking about love for people who are incarcerated, people who are addicted to drugs, people on welfare, people who are homeless, as well as for people who are wealthy.

I'm talking about love for Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Agnostics, Atheists, Deists and all other faiths and beliefs.

I talking about love and a feeling of kinship people from all walks of life.

Now, if a person truly believes in that kind of deep love for humanity, then that's a person who's stands for what I for.

After all, isn't that what really matters?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

0 No, "Mexican" is NOT a Halloween Costume

By: Marvin DeBose

Despite what some people may think, I'm no party pooper.

I know that Halloween is coming up and you want to have a good time.You want your costume to be memorable, you may want to get a laugh, but you might want to think twice before you buy that sombrero for your Halloween costume.

I've been in college, I heard about the parties where people dress up as different ethinic groups whether its a "South of the Border" party or a "hood" party. I've seen the pictures of people on Facebook wearing sombreros and fake mustaches.

But this is bigger than just "Mexican costumes".

Making a costume out of any racial or ethnic stereotype is not funny, it's not clever, and it's never been. In fact, it's offensive, especially to those who are members of the group which you attempt to portray.

...And having a friend of that racial or ethnic group who thinks that your costume is funny (or pretends that it is) doesn't make it cool either.

So that means we don't need to see any of this...

Or this...

Or any of these...

And none of this either...

Now, usually when people get called out on these of costumes for being offensive, there are a common set of responses they'll give:

1) "But, it's just a character, it's for fun!"

Well a ethnicity, religion, race shouldn't be a "character".

When people make "characters" based off of cultural groups, they use stereotypes and create caricatures of the group in question. Therefore, you're likely to already be in the wrong when you decide to wear that costume. These kind of costumes are pretty much walking billboards saying, "Hey, stereotypes and prejudice are hilarious!"

Plus when you make a group of people into a caricature, without even realizing it, you dehumanize that group of people. How? Because you promote the concept of racial/ethnic characters rather than individuals.

2) "Well, I'm not racist..."

Just because you don't hate the race/ethnicity that your costume portrays, that doesn't mean that your actions aren't racially offensive.

Arguments of "I'm not racist, my mailman's black" or "I'm not being offensive, I shook hands with an Iraqi man once" are dismissive of the behavior in question. That's about as silly as someone saying, "I'm not sexist, my wife is a woman!"

When someone calls you out for racially insensitive behavior, that isn't meant to say that you are a horrible person. It's meant to critique (and hopefully correct) your actions which are hurtful.

Being ignorant of how you offended someone is understandable. After all, we aren't all really taught to be culturally sensitive. However, it's how a person goes about correcting that behavior that shows their true character.

3) "Why are you worried about stuff like this, it's just Halloween, can't you take a joke?"

People who say things like this are a part of the problem too.

Just because something doesn't offend you doesn't mean it shouldn't offend others. If you don't understand why something is offensive, just ask why it's offensive. But telling people what to be offended about and not be offended about is offensive and condescending in itself.


Instead of simply saying "it's just a joke", lets ask these questions:

Why do people want to dress up and make a joke out of being another race/ethnicity so bad in the first place?


Why do people find these costumes to be so funny that they're willing to risk offending people just to wear them?

4) "Why can't I paint my face Black?" 

You can research this one on your own... You know how to get to Google don't you? Look up "Blackface".

My Point is... 

Get creative with your costumes. Be funny. But don't go for cheap laughs dressing up as a racial or cultural stereotype.

Like I said, I'm no party pooper. But when the "party" consists of making a joke out of racial and ethnic stereotypes that hurt people, quite frankly, that's a party that deserves to be pooped on.

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