Crayola Doesn’t Make That One

I logged into MySpace today to find that they had begun listing AMBER Alerts on user home pages upon login. I took a look at the listing and noticed something.

Skin Color: Hispanic

We're a society that needs to categorize everything into easily digestible bits. Perhaps this is just one of our human characteristics. But the last time I checked, "Hispanic" wasn't a color. There is no listing for race under this child's description, and I suppose they would have put Hispanic under that listing had there been one. That wouldn't have been right either, as Hispanic is not a race, but an ethnic category.

Our skin colors range from the palest to the darkest. We may be of any race. This is something that I'm still amazed some people don't know. We are not all a certain stereotypical shade of brown. We are White, Black, Asian, and anything else under the sun. There is no one "Hispanic" skin color. It isn't a color to begin with. I wasn't sure if the designation there on the alert was a product of confusion or simple ignorance.

While I applaud the growing
inclusion of Latinos in the American collective awareness, there's
obviously still a great distance to go. Most people's images of us don't necessarily mesh with the reality of just how diverse a group we truly are. On television, we are either Ugly Betty or Dora the Explorer. What about someone like Edith González? Sammy Sosa? The range of Latino faces is so vast and rich.

The reason this got me to thinking was partly because it concerns a missing child. "Skin color:Hispanic" doesn't give a clue to what this child looks like. Who am I looking for? Is he light like me? Dark like Sammy Sosa? It's in the authorities' interest to get it right because it might help us find these kids with more accurate information.

The decrease in cultural ignorance would simply be a bonus.

Diversity in Dolls

I'm sick. Have been for days. So just a brief update based on a press release I just read.

When the rollout is completed next week, Kmart stores will sell nearly
four dozen types of ethnic dolls — a nearly fourfold increase from
what's currently available. The dolls are flanked by an advertising
campaign in the store's circulars and designed to appeal to black,
Hispanic and Asian parents.

Personally, I wonder if by "Hispanic" doll, they mean one that tries to copy Dora the Explorer and be a stereotypical brown/dark brown/dark brown representation of us, or if there will be variety in what is represented. We're a very diverse group, and it would be nice to see that reflected in the types of dolls sold. Little Latina dolls with green eyes or light skin, blue eyes, or really dark skin, blonde hair, as well as dark brown or black eyes and hair would be a progressive step in truly representing us. I have dark brown eyes and hair, but there are still lots of Latinos with different color combinations, and those who don't fit the brown/brown/brown mold often feel on the fringe or are looked at askance. I recall going to join a Latino organization in college, and being told I "didn't have to be Latina to join". We're a mixed population, and unique in that we can pretty much have any color combination.

Hopefully, Kmart and other manufacturers don't forget that in their vision.

A Few Thoughts

I caught part of American Idol last night, and saw Jennifer Lopez perform. In a way, it was a proud moment, seeing one of the biggest shows on television feature a huge star singing in Spanish on national television. Regardless of anyone's personal opinion of Lopez' musical career, the fact that this milestone was achieved is pretty important. It's a good demonstration of how Latinos are ever more out there, and how pieces of our culture are shown to be completely at home among all the other diversity America has to offer. At the same time, nobody made a big deal out of it being a sort of milestone. It was just a seamless blend with the rest of the show. That's important, because it normalizes such a performance and the occasional Spanglish and Spanish-language advertising I see on a regular basis.

 I bet most of the audience didn't understand the song and yet they seemed to get into it anyway, simply enjoying the music and the performance for all it was worth. That's where the pride comes in, knowing that enjoyment and music are things that cross cultural and language barriers.

On a related note, I saw this headline via E! News the other day: "Salma's Spicy Studio Deal" which was referring to the recent production deal signed between Salma Hayek and MGM,  to form Ventanazul, a company to develop and distrubute Latino themed film projects. "Spicy"? Way to stereotype. Now, I know most of us are very proud of being a passionate people, but these terms only serve to marginalize and give people a certain impression of us, especially of us Latinas. We're "spicy", "spitfires", "feisty", "hot tamales", etc. But wait – I'm geeky, nerdy, calm, passionate, yes, but whatever happened to celebrating the whole of a person instead of attempting to water them down to an adjective or two? Ventanazul is actually trying to do just that, says Salma, saying that the projects will be involved in "telling uniquely Latin stories like that of Frida Kahlo, to creating unforgettable characters—who just happen to be Latin—like Ugly Betty." Then why such a ridiculously stereotypical headline from the E! writer?

Not that I necessarily disagree that "spicy" may truly describe some people, but it's a tired adjective when attached to stories involving Latinos, and it's about time someone gave these writers a new thesaurus. In the end, I'm happy to hear of the Ventanazul production company and look forward to what kinds of projects will come out of it.