Monthly Archives: March 2015

Should “Dora The Explorer” Be Deported?

 

So I’m at the clinic where my son receives his bi-weekly physical therapy sessions the other day, and next to us is another dad and his son, along with some therapists.  I overhear him explaining about how he had a bunch of “Dora The Explorer” cartoons saved on his DVR, but that he had deleted them, and was recalling his explanation of it to either his son or someone else who had asked him about it (I didn’t hear that part clearly.)

“I deported her ass!” he proudly proclaimed.  I didn’t hear any reaction from the people he was talking to.

Okay, I thought.  Another instance of racism delivered as a joke, which would either be dismissed by some as “just a joke,” or flat-out denied as being racist by others.  But it lingered with me for a bit, and I started thinking of precisely why the statement was racist.

First of all, is there anything about Dora The Explorer that would give someone the impression that she could be deported, other than being Latina?  After all, there are plenty of people who get all riled up about illegal immigrants being in the country, but whenever the notion of racism gets suggested, they are quick to point out that they are against illegal immigrants, not all immigration.

So, what would give someone the idea that Dora is an illegal immigrant?  Sure, she’s an explorer, so you might think that maybe she goes around to places where she’s not welcome, with her talking backpack and human-like monkey pal in tow.  But so was Christopher Columbus, who did much more than just explore “new” places.  And he is seen as a hero by many, along with the other European explorers from hundreds of years ago.  So it’s not just that.  And, from what I have seen, it’s not like she goes to places and establishes herself there, mooching off taxpayers and stealing jobs.  In fact, I think she goes to someplace new in each episode.  Maybe she has a travel visa, and is following the law to the letter with all of her adventures.

So it’s got to be something else.  Oh, that’s right, she’s brown.  So, simply because of that fact, she is deportable?  I guess.  This reflects the deep-rooted xenophobia that I think is at the core of a lot of anti-immigrant thought.  Sure, people will say that it’s only about the illegal immigrants.  But what they should really be saying is that it is about the brown immigrants.  If the cartoon was called “Susie The Explorer” and the character was white, there would be no joke whatsoever, whether she were an explorer or not.

And let’s not go with the “it’s just a joke” thing.  That is a convenient way to hide from ugly truths that come out through attempts at humor.  Whether we like it or not, there is an element of truth to jokes, which is exactly what makes them work (or not) as a joke.  If the guy who made this joke had said something like “she got abducted by aliens,” it wouldn’t make sense at all, because nothing in the cartoon has anything to do with aliens.  Dora is no more likely to be kidnapped by extraterrestrials than you or I.  But it’s the unfortunate attitude in many people’s minds that brown people aren’t as welcome in America as others which makes a joke about deportation possible.  Dora’s perceived vulnerability in this issue is due to the color of her skin, and nothing else.

What’s extra sad about this scenario, on top of it being an unfunny attempt at humor that makes light of a situation (deportation) that isn’t funny for the people who get affected by it (including those here legally,) is that it takes the innocence away from a kid’s show.  Among many other things, having toddlers of my own at home and watching different shows aimed at children has reminded me of how such programming is free from the ugly, selfish and “get yours” attitude that plagues adulthood in our society.  There are no immigration laws among the different inhabitants of Nickelodeon.  Nor are there arguments about taxes, or black versus white, or freeloaders, Obamacare, or anything of the sort.  I’m not sure if this dad was recounting his explanation to his son or someone else, but regardless, his son was right in front of him when he said it.  And that’s where this type of mentality is probably most ardently learned.

Come on, man.  Your kid knows nothing about being a racist.  Give him a chance.

Photo credit – Wikipedia Commons – Ian Gampon

America’s Lack Of Outrage Towards Institutional Racism

Over the past year in supposedly post-racial America, we have seen some glaring examples of racist viewpoints running the gamut from an elderly billionaire like former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling secretly recorded telling his then-mistress not to bring black people to his games, to college-age youngsters in the University of Oklahoma chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity engaged in a racist sing-along on a bus.  These repulsive displays of bigotry caused outrage among many Americans, and rightfully so.

However, while reading Facebook comments pertaining to the recorded chants of the SAE members proclaiming that “there will never be a n____” among their brothers, I came across a critical observation made from a former colleague regarding how American society and the media treat examples of racist attitudes from individuals versus institutional racism, as well as the consequences (or lack thereof) that come along with them.

The “bus o’ bigotry” incident of SAE led to the University of Oklahoma launching an immediate investigation into whether the people in the video are actually students from the university, and threatening to kick the fraternity off the campus if that were the case.  That didn’t matter, though.  The chapter was promptly shut down by SAE leadership anyway.  Donald Sterling was forced by the NBA to sell the Clippers, and received a lifetime ban from the league.  All in all, fairly clear indicators that such blatant displays of racism are not going to be tolerated and are unwelcome is today’s America.

Yet, there were also recent examples of both individual and institutional racism that didn’t seem to ignite as much of a response from the American public as the ones mentioned above, nor did they have immediate consequences that were as severe.  At least not for the institutional part.

The U.S. Department of Justice released a report weeks ago, highly critical of the Ferguson police department and court system for its use of racial bias in policing.  Data was compiled for months, which indicated higher incidences of the use of force with blacks, as well as other practices deemed unconstitutional.  Racist emails that had been circulated among officers in the department and others in the city’s court system were also found in the probe.  Those emails led to two police officers resigning and a city clerk being fired.

But it wasn’t until weeks after the announcement of the investigation’s findings that the Ferguson police chief, Thomas Jackson, finally voluntarily resigned.  There hadn’t been widespread condemnation and outrage directed at Jackson or the Ferguson police force for the findings of the DOJ.  At least nothing that could compare to the beatings that Sterling and the SAE bus bigots received in the media and online.  It is frustrating how, in America, what a person says seems to carry more weight than what a person actually does.  There are even racism deniers, such as the conservative, corporate-mouthpiece hosts of Red Eye Radio, Gary McNamara and Eric Harley, who assert that institutional racism just doesn’t exist anymore.

Just as there are surely more than a couple of individuals across the country that share the same repugnant attitudes of Donald Sterling or the former SAE frat boys, we can’t sit back and pretend that the Ferguson police department is the only American institution that is plagued by racism and discrimination.  And when it is demonstrated that institutional racism exists, there should be just as much, if not more, outrage directed at said institutions from the public.  Because it is this type of racism that has severe real-world implications and effects.  We can’t help what some individuals or groups of people may think of other races, but we can and should do our best to ensure that the institutions meant to serve all Americans do so in a fair and just manner.

Photo source – Pixabay.com – WikiImages