My 5 Year-Old Son Still Doesn’t Know about Race

My 5 Year-Old Son Still Doesn’t Know about Race

Since he was 7 months old, my son Jack has been in daycare/preschool. He’s currently finishing out Pre-K this year; starting Kindergarten in the fall.

This entire time, he has been around kids of all other races. This is Nashville; quite the ethnic melting pot.

No one has ever brought to his attention that people have “different colors” of skin from one another. He has yet to notice this on his own; that we are all ultimately different shades of brown.

He is aware that people have different hair colors and eye colors, but not skin colors.

I assume that at some point, perhaps within the next few years, he’ll learn from other kids at his school that people can be identified by their race.

Imagine: to be a kid who has no concept of race; or more importantly, prejudice or racism.

Without someone teaching them, I suppose kids don’t know these things?

Since I took my son to see the new Star Wars movie a week ago, he has kept bringing up Finn; one of the main characters and heroes:

“Daddy, look. This new Lego spaceship I made is like the one Finn flies on Star Wars!”

My son is completely unaware that Finn is of a different race. All my son knows is, Finn is a cool guy.

He’s just as clueless of any concept of race in regards to any of the wonderful people in our lives who happen to be of other races.

And my plan is to keep it that way, until the day comes when the topic is actually related to honoring and celebrating that person’s culture.

Why would I bring up their race anyway? It’s irrelevant to him and it’s irrelevant to me.

I believe in the importance of honoring and celebrating a person’s culture. But until then, I just don’t see a point in bringing up the topic of race to my son.

After all, he’s managed just fine without knowing for these first 5 years of his life. I don’t see how he’s at a disadvantage not knowing.

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Should I Check “White, Not Hispanic or Latino”?

IMG_1124BW

As I was updating my paperwork for the dentist recently, I had to decide whether or not I felt like technically lying.

It’s always something I hesitate on, more than I probably should.

My grandmother is full Mexican. I’m therefore only a quarter Mexican.

So I’m white; but 25% of my genes, and I suppose to some degree, my heritage and culture, is Mexican.

But if I could honestly describe myself to the Census Bureau, which apparently is the organization that most cares about my cultural and ethnic identity, it would simply be this:

Mostly white.

I’m not 100% white, so to proclaim, “white, not Hispanic or Latino” is inaccurate; because I’m absolutely part Hispanic.

The first time I remember having to answer that question was in 1st grade, for a standardized test. I remember how my mom, who is half Mexican and half Italian, told me that she always questioned that herself when she had to answer that question as well.

I think it muddies the waters even more than Italians typically are “more ethnic looking” than most Europeans. I have always thought the same thing about Jews (who are actually considered Middle Eastern) and Greeks (who, like Italians, are Mediterranean).

“White” is a funny term to me, when it references people.

I would love to take one of those ethnic DNA tests where they draw some of your blood and tell you exactly what percentage you are of each people group.

Mainly just because it would be fun to know… exactly. But really, none of that really matters.

What I learned in my HR training course is that ultimately, a person can claim whatever race they most identify with, even if it’s simply cultural.

If you are Chinese but adopted by white parents, you can identify as “white” if you choose to; or Chinese. It’s up to the individual.

As for me, I’m mostly white, based on the last names in my family tree: German (“Shell”), Italian (“Metallo”), Dutch (“Clowers”, derived from “Klaar”), Scottish (“Johnston” and “King”), and English (“Taylor” and “Wiseman”).

And of course I’m also Mexican (“Mendez”). That’s a little confusing as well because ethnically, Mexicans are a mixed race called Mestizos: ultimately, they are around half European (largely including Spanish) and around half Native (or indigenous) Mexican; just like how the United States originally was occupied by Native Americans before the Europeans came over.

The natives in modern Mexico and United States actually derived from Asia, like the Eskimos who settled in Russia and Alaska.

So technically, I’ve got distant traces of Asian blood.

If you really dumb it down, I’m just European and barely Asian.

But there’s not a category for that on the paperwork.

Is Facebook Itself Technically A Social Video Game?

I think it will be difficult for me to ever look at Facebook the same way again…

extreme close-up selfie

Back in February while researching for Rock Music Used To Be Rebellious, Now It’s Rap Music Instead, my friend Sam Royalty simply stated this to me in a side conversation about social media:

“People use Facebook status updates and pictures to find validation in their ideas and life choices.”

The more I’ve thought about it, the more it makes sense.

When I consider the selfie alone, it only makes sense that the “selfie taker” is looking for some kind of validation from their corner of society that their appearance is… relevant.

I say “relevant” because that could mean a lot of things depending on what the person is needing slight reassurance of:

Am I pretty enough? Do I look cool? Can people tell I’ve gotten in shape? Am I still funny? Am I even interesting?

With that being said, it goes beyond just the pictures we post. It transcends to our status updates and shared as well:

Am I doing a good job of being informative in society? Am I an influencer? Is the world aware I am part of it?

Is Facebook Itself Technically A Social Video Game?

I would never want to be seen as the kind of person who is known for “needing attention” all the time, yet there’s this subtle paradox that says if you don’t post enough on Facebook, you’re sort of a Facebook snob who only looks at other people’s info and pictures without contributing or getting involved aside from “liking” other people’s post or very generically wishing them happy birthday after being prompted to by Facebook itself.

My theory is that those people who apparently don’t need confirmation or validation are at least looking for inspiration or, for a few minutes, to live vicariously as someone else.

Of course, I believe if you’re too inspirational, you may appear as a show-off. You don’t want your Facebook friends thinking you trying you’re, in essence, “trying too hard to win” at this unofficial game of Facebook.

Despite the daily overdose of negativity on Facebook, there is a fraction of my news feed that is actually positive; or at least neutrally interesting or fun. Like the pictures of my friends’ families: those are the posts I scroll my feed for.

More importantly, I try to be the person who is contributing those pictures, links, and status updates; just like Gandhi famously said:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

I really don’t think there’s truly a way to “win at Facebook,” sort of like the game Animal Crossings that I loved so much in college on Nintendo GameCube. Ultimately, to someone out there on Facebook, you’re going to contribute too much or too little; seem too showy or too aloof.

You can’t necessarily win or lose at the game of Facebook, but it’s a video game that millions of people play all day long, all over the world.

Video Games: The Movie

In theory, it’s the most popular and relevant video game of all time; that’s an idea proposed in the Netflix documentary, Video Games: The Movie.

But for this modern tower of Babel we have built and participate in, I say this is ultimately why we show up to it:

To give and/or receive legitimate validation, confirmation, and/or inspiration.

The reason I say legitimate is because not all ideas on Facebook should merit reinforcement. Plus, as I recognized earlier, Facebook has its fair share of negative people who would rather attempt to hurt instead of edify others.

Overall though, Facebook is a place (and/or social video game) where essentially anyone can give or receive confirmation on one’s beauty, worth, and relevance.

I can even post an “extreme close-up selfie” and I will get what I want out of it: for people to recognize the humor in it.

And no, I’m not writing this to get more “likes” on my Facebook page, or to try to prove I am a decent writer, or to simply feel validated by my Facebook friends so that I can essentially score more points in this video game we’re all playing.

Or am I?

Why There Can Be No Male Equivalent to the Jordin Sparks Song “I Am Woman” or “Independent Women” By Destiny’s Child

I’m so vain, I probably think this song is about me…  

Thursday night on American Idol I watched Jordin Sparks perform her latest single, “I Am Woman.”  In the likeness of so many popular songs celebrating the empowerment of (single and independent) women, the lyrics of the chorus go like this:

I am (I am) woman (woman)
I am (I am) woman (woman)
I’m a woman
I’m a woman
Yes I am
Ain’t nobody else can do it like we can

But what if instead of Jordin Sparks singing the song, it was the dreamy Scotty McCreery, and he changed to lyrics to be masculine?  No one would hear, “I am man, yes I am, ain’t nobody else can do it like we can.”  Instead, the song lyrics would be perceived as “I am conceited, I am narcissistic.  I’m a jerk.  I’m a sleezebag.  Yes I am.  Ain’t nobody more of an a-hole than guys like me.”

Is this a double standard- that women can sing songs about being proud to be independent and successful, but if a guy did the same thing, he would either A) not be taken seriously or B) become despised by women?

No, it’s not a double standard.  Because only in recent decades has it truly become acceptable to desire for men and women to be socially equal.  Women have had to struggle to get where they are in society today, but men haven’t had to play the underdog gender throughout history.  So it’s ironic to the point of extreme arrogance for a man to boast about his successful independence.  I’ll illustrate this further my “masculinizing” the lyrics to “Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child.  I’ll emphasize the very worst parts in bold print:

What you think about a guy like me?
Buy my own car and spend my own money
Only ring your celly when I’m feeling lonely
When it’s all over please get up and leave

Please don’t call me baby
Cause I’ll call you
Don’t mean to hurt you feelings, got a lot to do
Cause I am my number one priority
No falling in love, no commitment from me

All my independent men
Throw them hands up at me
And all my sexy men
Throw them hands up at me

All my money making men
Throw them hands up at me
All my baller men
Throw them hands up at me

How you feel about a guy like this?
Try to control me, girl you’ll get dismissed
Do what I want, live how I wanna live
Buy my own golf clubs, and pay my own bills

Where my males?
Where all my men?
How did you feel about this groove I wrote?
Hope you got the message men take control
Don’t depend on no woman to give you what you want
Keep that in mind next time you hear this song

If you’re independent
I congratulate you
If you ain’t in love
I congratulate you
Do them girls like they used to do you
If you pimp her
I congratulate you

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule that guys can’t/won’t/shouldn’t brag about their gender in a song, like Brad Paisley’s “I’m Still a Guy.”  But hopefully most people would realize that song was meant to be an innocent, humorous caricature of men.  Maybe another exception would be so many of Kanye West’s songs- but even then, he’s bragging about himself being awesome, not about men in general.

‘Obviously, it’s important that women are socially and economically equal to men. But do women also want to be A) physically equal and B) emotionally equal? And C) does it help a woman in the business world to “act more like a man” by “being less emotional?” And D) do I sound like a jerk or at least naive for asking any of these questions?’

I asked the above questions word-for-word on Facebook for some input.  Based on the answers I received, here is how I would answer those questions:

A)  No, there is no desire to be physically as strong as a man.

B) No, there is no desire to hold in emotions the way men do, or at least they way they seem to do.

C) It can.  And this is a good example of an actual double standard between the sexes.

D)  No, because the motives are sincere in asking the questions.

The most sober and sobering thoughts I can learn through this social survey is that men and women are different for a reason.  They both have their own strengths in which they can compliment each other with.  Imagine how life would be in this world if men and women were truly equal in every way.  Scary, if you ask me. I would have to give birth, express my emotions, and never be able to truly “think about nothing.”  My mind would never stop and I would constantly be thinking about at least 10 different things at once, all the time.

That’s way too exhausting even for a strong, confident man such as myself.

Why Home Improvement is the Most Popular Least Jewish American Sitcom Ever

Are there any Jews in Home Improvement?  I don’t think so, Tim.

Did you know that May is officially Jewish American Heritage Month?  On April 20th, 2006 (my 25th birthday), President George W. Bush proclaimed that the month of May would be Jewish American Heritage Month from then on.  So this year for the 5th ever Jewish American Heritage month, I’ve decided to highlight America’s least Jewish sitcom ever, in order to contrast just how much Jewish people have affected our cherished American entertainment.

Obviously, the most Jewish American sitcom is Seinfeld.  And Second Place goes to Friends.  But on the opposite side of the spectrum, one might expect the least Jewish American to be an African-American sitcom- like The Cosby Show.  But of course, Lisa Bonet (who played Denise Huxtable) is half Jewish. Coincidentally, she was briefly married to Lenny Kravitz, who is also half Jewish and half black. Even more coincidental is the fact that Lenny Kravitz’s mother is Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis on the sitcom The Jeffersons, who in the show was married to a white man, just like she was in real life (to a Russian Jew, Lenny’s father).

But other popular African-American sitcoms were still largely created and carried out by Jews.  Like Family Matters: no Jewish actors, but the show’s producers were: Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett.  Not to mention the fact that Family Matters was a spin-off of Perfect Strangers, a sitcom about two unlikely roommates and cousins, who in real life are Jewish.  So even if none of the actors in a sitcom are Jewish, you still have to consider the producers, the writers, and even the origin of the sitcom.

After much exhaustive research, I have discovered that the most watched yet least Jewish sitcom was definitely Home Improvement (1991-1999). None of the actors were Jewish.  Not Tim Allen (nothing about him is Jewish), not Jonathan Taylor Thomas who played Randy (physically he could almost pass as a Jew), not Taran Noah Smith who played Mark (Jewish sounding first and middle name), not Earl Hindman who played Wilson, nor Richard Karn who played Al.  The main creators/writers were not Jewish.  Home Improvement was not a spin-off of a Jewish influenced show.

There was a close call, however, in the casting of Tim’s Tool Time co-host. Originally, there was no “Al Boreland”, but instead, “Glen”, played by Stephen Tobolowsky, who was definitely Jewish. But his prior commitments caused him to lose out on the role.  Sure there were special guest stars that were Jewish, like Rodney Dangerfield and Penn & Teller (Teller, not Penn, is Jewish).  And Brad’s character briefly dated a character named Jessica Lutz (assumed Jewish because of the last name), though played by non-Jewish actress Michelle Williams. Lastly, one of the executive producers was Jewish; Elliot Shoenman, but he was only there from seasons 4 through 8.

But if it’s that much trouble to point out any Jewish influences on a sitcom as popular as Home Improvement, then I see no way around it: Home Improvement is the most popular least Jewish sitcom ever.  And making that discovery is one of the ways I can help celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month.  I’ll leave it to all the other bloggers to point out the more obvious, influential Jewish Americans like Albert Einstein and Mark Zuckerburg. As for me, I’m here to focus on the petty stuff.

Below are some more exciting and entertaining posts I have written about Jewish entertainers:

Movie Guy, at Your Service: The Social Network (Plus, Which Actors are Jewish)

The Ethnicity of the Cast of The Wonder Years (Plus, Who Did the Voice of Kevin Arnold as an Adult?)

The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of Friends and Seinfeld (Yes, Most of Them are Jewish; Even Matthew Perry)

The Jewish Influence on American Entertainment

Currently Uber Popular Status Update Phrases: Forwards About Religion, Politics, and Knowing People

You think email forwards are so 1998?  Think again.

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who constantly send email forwards and those who are annoyed by them.  Of course these days, email forwards have morphed themselves into a more relevant version- by showing up as the offender’s status update on Facebook and/or Twitter.

It’s hard to be cynical about status updates that tell you to repost if you know someone who has had some kind of sickness or disease.  There’s nothing funny about that.  Then they are the ones telling you to repost if you believe in God, are a Christian and proud of it, etc.  Next are the ones telling you to repost if you support the military.  Then it starts getting really generic… repost if you have a family member (like a brother or mom or cousin).  Or if you’re proud to be from the South.  Or if you realize that it’s okay not to like President Obama anymore and you want him out of office.  If all else fails, make your status update a forward about gas prices- because man, that’s truly original.

I guess the question is, at what point in the downward spiral of all-encompassing status update forwards is it okay to be annoyed by seeing them?  I can’t be annoyed about finding a cure for anything; that’s a given.  We all want to find a cure for all diseases in the world as we have all been affected by the loss of someone close to us.  So I’m okay with that one.  And I guess I’m not supposed to be annoyed about the “proud to be a Christian” ones, because I’m not ashamed to be a Christian- but I would be ashamed to post “I’m proud to be a Christian and if you are too then you should repost this”  as my status simply because I’m the kind of person who is annoyed by email forwards:  I’m ashamed of forwards, not my beliefs- whether they’re religious, political, or whatever.

But I think it’s okay to be annoyed by the ones about having a cousin.  And the political ones.  And definitely the ones about gas prices.

To do my part, I am sharing my current Facebook status update with everyone:

‎- Please copy and paste this as your status if you know someone, or have heard of someone who knows someone. If you don’t know anyone, or even if you’ve heard of anyone who doesn’t know anyone, then do still copy this. It’s important to spread the message, even if no one knows anything about anyone. Oh, and the hearts. ♥ ♥ ♥ For goodness sake, don’t forget the hearts. ♥ ♥

Currently Uber Popular Status Update Phrases: One. Word. Sentences.

I. Am. Trendy.

Would you like to make a very mediocre event into something seemingly noteworthy?  Thanks to one word sentences on your Facebook status updates, it’s not only easy, but it’s super trendy and cool!  Just condense your message to three words, then put periods after each word.  For example, you just watched a snazzy episode of Glee and you want everyone to know it- but you want to make them ask you about it.

For your status update on Facebook, and/or on Twitter, just type “Best. Show. Ever.”  Then a few people will start asking you, “What show?”  Shortly after, through follow-up comments, you will be able to tell everyone how Glee or Grey’s Anatomy has “changed your life”.

It’s that easy to become that cool.  Some other proven one word sentences you can try…

“Worst. Week.  Ever.”

“Crazy. Amazing. Blessed.”

…and my personal favorite…

“Superglue.  Eyelids.  Mistake.”