There is a Difference Between A Culture and A Character’s Culture

 

It’s been unseasonably warm this week, but all the other signs of autumn have been in full effect here in New England. The foliage is changing color, pumpkins and skeletons are everywhere, people are arguing online about what does and does not constitute cultural appropriation.

This year the controversy is over last year’s big Disney hit Moana, an excellent movie centered on Pacific Island culture that had Disney praised for their continued efforts to promote more ethnic diversity among their Princesses and main characters. It’s next big release will be Coco, a movie about a young boy named Miguel that is based around the Mexican holiday of The Day of The Dead. It looks pretty good.

It looks pretty good but if your son is white you need to think twice about buying that costume next year. If you have a little white girl that is a last minute decider don’t let her be Moana this year.

Apparently it’s OK for Disney to make millions of dollars on movies based on other cultures but for a small child to pretend to be a character of that culture when they are not is racist and culturally insensitive. There have been many white Disney Princesses over the years, we should be sticking to those. If this seems to be suggesting to our children that they are only allowed to like those that share their ethnicity, it’s our job to correct them and use it as a teaching moment about their privilege.

I found this news to be deeply troubling. Not because it would force us to change Halloween plans, but because of the Elena of Avalor backpack that my six year old, white, daughter brings to school every day. Elena is latina. She also has a name very similar to my daughter Alaina’s, making her a favorite. The backpack is probably OK but I may have to make her switch back to last year’s Frozen one until I am 100% sure.

 

Elena backpack

 

Fortunately our Halloween costume was decided upon a month ago, no doubt in her mind, no changing costumes from event to event this year. Its been all Mal, all the time. She has been so obsessed with the character, the daughter of Maleficent in Disney’s The Descendants and Descendants 2 made for television movies that we have to have some article of clothing, even it’s just socks or a hair tie, that is the color purple every day.  She now carries a “spell book” everywhere she goes and our biggest challenge has been not wearing out her costume before Halloween actually gets here.

 

mal for halloween

 

Her second choice would have been Thor, which I also assume would have been appropriate, an assault on the patriarchy as opposed to a statement on gender fluidity.

Or maybe it just would have been a little girl dressing up as a fictional character that she likes?

Cultural appropriation is real, and if it seems as if I’m mocking the problem, I’m not. My understanding, however, is that it’s an act of stereotyping someone’s culture, belittling it.  It can be a fine line, but I think a distinction needs to be made between dressing up as an ethnicity, as a cultural stereotype, and dressing up as a character of a different ethnicity.  A Dora the Explorer costume is much different than a “lost little Mexican girl” costume. Jasmine or Shimmer and Shine are OK, dressing your daughter up in a burqa is not.

Maybe I’m wrong. This post was inspired by somebody that felt I was, that felt I was “whitesplaining” and that I should use this opportunity to teach my white daughter that “not everybody, particularly those of color,  get to be whoever they want to be.”

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think there are other ways to teach that lesson. Instead I’ll choose to teach her that heroes and princesses come in many different colors and backgrounds. I’ll celebrate the fact that movies and television are recognizing that.  If we want to continue to promote that diversity, doesn’t segregation of costumes, telling our children who they can and cannot emulate based on their skin color counterproductive?

 

A Silent Sideline

 

This Saturday was spent, as it feels like every Saturday has been for the past ten years, watching one of the kids participate in a youth sporting contest.

There was a different feel to this particular game, quieter, more subdued.  A certain usually boisterous father uncharacteristically keeping his big mouth somewhat shut for a change.

The reason for this silencing was an e-mail from the soccer league earlier in the week informing parents of a new “silent sideline” rule that had been implemented. Applause for good play was still allowed but other than that we were basically told to stand there and shut up.

The reasoning seemed valid. The stated goals being the development of player on field decision making without sideline intervention, improving the player’s communication with each other by reducing the outside noise level, and supporting and aiding in youth referee retention by eliminating dissension from spectators.

 

silent sideline

 

The reasons were valid but I hated it. Hated it and found myself unable to comply. I understand the need to let the coaches coach, try not to yell instructions at my kid during the game. I understand that these referees are all volunteers, feel that I do a pretty good job of not telling them about their mistakes. I’ve never mocked an opposing player for poor play or scolded one of ours.

I yell things like “nice job”, “nice try”, “nice pass!”  Sometimes I yell “get ready defense”, “spread out girls”, “you’re going the wrong way!”

 

silent sideline

 

Anybody that has spent any time at these games has come across the kinds of parents that these rules are intended to curtail. Jackasses that yell at their kids, that yell at the refs, that embarrass themselves and their children. Maybe I’ve just been fortunate, but I’ve found those situations to be very rare.

The e-mail stated that this change had come at the request of a player, leading me to believe that there was some parent at some level of competition that was acting like a fool. I’m fairly confident that it wasn’t me.

As uncomfortable a conversation that I would imagine that to be, I think that the coaches involved in that game should have taken that parent aside and talked to them. Further occurrences could lead to the removal of that child from the team, an unfortunate result that I would hope any reasonable parent would try their best to avoid.

I tried, I really did, and I think it was the quietest I’ve been as a spectator of any sporting contest that I’ve ever attended outside of a PGA golf tournament and even at that I went as nuts as anybody when Notah Begay dropped a twenty five foot birdie putt on the final hole to win.

My daughter is six, playing a sport she’s not very familiar with, and she’s busting her butt, hustling every play, getting better every week. All these girls are. I can give them high fives and words of praise at halftime and after the game but is that really all that fun for anybody, all that exciting to little girls that deserve to be cheered, need that encouragement?

I’ll bite my lip, do my best to tone it down a bit, try and honor the league’s wishes as best I can but if a “silent sideline” is really the result that is ultimately desired I’m probably going to need a muzzle.

 

 

 

How Much Should Sports Matter?

 

I’m both honored and blessed to have readers from all over the world, but I know that much of my core audience resides here in New England, know that many of you, like me, are sports fans. I know that the devastating injury to Gordon Hayward has completely changed your expectations for the Boston Celtics this year, the early playoff exit once again for the red Sox, combined with the New York Yankees success, is causing you emotional pain. What I don’t know, but what I can guess, what I can extrapolate from  my own feelings, is how there is a part of you that is not sure how to feel about how much these things bother you. With so much going on in the world, so much tragedy and pain, what the hell is wrong with us that we get this upset about a game, a game that in the big picture really holds so little meaning?

For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, Hayward suffered a fracture/dislocation of his ankle 315 seconds into his Celitcs career. The Red Sox were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs for consecutive years, their manager fired.

Should any of this matter in a time of Harvey Weinstein, North Korea, and Puerto Rico?

It does. It does because sometimes even those of us that consider themselves well informed, that pay attention to what’s going on in the world around us, that are trying to make some sort of little difference, need to turn it off, to watch something besides the ever depressing news channels.

It’s why I understand those that complain about the anthem protests  from the perspective of not wanting politics to intrude on their escape. It’s part of what makes it an effective protest, an uncomfortableness in having to think about issues at a time when we are trying to escape them.

Rather than boycott the NFL as some people are now doing, my wife and I took a different approach, planning an entire vacation around games that our teams were playing in Tampa Bay and Miami, Florida.

 

should sports matter?

 

I’ll admit that we missed the anthem at both games. Food, beer and poor time management leading to us arriving at our seats afterward. We didn’t know what the players did, didn’t know what the crowd did, just knew that for the next three hours anybody in that stadium wearing the same colors as us were on our side.

After my wedding and the birth of my child, of course, some of my happiest moments have come based on grown men playing children’s games and celebrating those moments with those around me. The Dave Roberts steal, the 12th inning home run by David Ortiz in that same game, the final out of the 2004 World Series, the 24 point comeback by the Celtics against the Lakers in game four of the 2008 NBA Finals. To this day I’ve never seen my father more excited and animated than when Tate George hit his game winning shot for the UConn  Huskies in the 1990 NCAA tournament and he’s not even that big of a sports fan.

Is it silly, an unnecessary expenditure of energy and emotion that would be better served directed elsewhere?

Of course. That’s kind of the point.

 

how much should sports matter

 

 

 

A World of Jerks

 

There are a lot of jerks out there people, something that I’m sure isn’t exactly a news flash to anybody.

I didn’t call them that, used much more colorful language last night as I sat in line on the highway, paving having consolidated traffic into a single lane. Traffic that should have been moving, even if at a slower pace, if not for those that deemed themselves too important to merge sometime in the last mile and a half since the well lit sign informing us of the upcoming closure. Those that decided that instead of leaving that lane, they would wait until the last minute and just move on ahead of those of us that had already made the adjustment. I’ll run us both of the road before I let those people in.

On most nights the profanity directed their way may have been a bit more subdued, muttered instead of yelled out my window, but I actually was in a bit of a hurry. I was on my way to pick up the teenager from her new job, clearing tables and filling water glasses at a restaurant not overly close to where I was coming from. It was 9:20, the restaurant closed at 9:00, and I assumed she would be just about ready to be driven home.

I could have taken my time. On this particular night the restaurant was full of patrons in no hurry to leave, ordering food and drinks that weren’t fully consumed until after 10:00. Cleanup keeping the staff there until close to 11:00, a full hour after they should have been headed home.

It was a day full of frustration, a day of witnessing countless moments of discourtesy and selfishness.

There was the older women entering the bank, rummaging through her purse as she walked in and getting a face full of door as the young guy in front of her quickly closed the door behind him.

The guy at the market who dropped a jar of pickles as he was loading up his cart and simply wheeled away with the rest of his purchases, no offer made to help the poor cashier that had to clean up his mess before returning to the rest of us in line.

Whatever monster decided to leave their cart in the space directly in front of my truck instead of walking the five feet they would have had to travel to put it away correctly.  

 

a world of jerks
who does this?

 

I could go on, as I’m sure each and every one of you could. People with seemingly no thought whatsoever to anybody besides themselves becoming increasingly prevalent.

I’m not a saint by any means, don’t mean to come across as a sanctimonious old man. It just seems that with very little extra effort we could all be just a little bit nicer.

My youngest is nice, for now. She says please and thank you, smiles at strangers. She’ll hold a door open for hours if there are still people coming into a building. One of our most important jobs as parents is raising kids that don’t turn out to be jerks.  Is just trying to set a good example enough? How do I keep her this way?

 

 

Revenge of The Sleep Walker

 

It’s getting to be that time of year again. The Halloween decorations have been brought up from the basement, I’m halfway through Steven King’s latest short story collection and there is a new season of American Horror Story on television. Scary movies have been in regular rotation and I introduced the teenager to The Evil Dead films. Last week my wife and I attended Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando, a very cool experience for those that enjoy that type of thing, and I’m back to annoying my family by hiding this spider in various areas of the house.

 

I actually do this year round

 

The joke’s been on me, however.  None of these attempts at frightening myself or others have come close to the creepiness of a sleepwalking six year old suddenly discovered late at night when you think you are the only person awake, a glace across the couch finding a sitting figure long since thought to be asleep, empty eyes glazed over and vacant.

 

Sleep walking
no idea how long she was sitting next to me

 

It’s a condition called somnambulism, one that I’d heard of but had no idea was actually a pretty rare disorder, had no idea that it was actually considered a disorder. Affecting 1-15% of the population, but more common in children ages 3-8, sleepwalkers do exactly what the name says, usually within an hour or two of falling asleep, eyes open and creepy looking, no memory after the fact of their wanderings.

Sleepwalking seems to be hereditary, though nobody else in either of our families does it. There is a higher instance in bed wetters and those that experience night terrors but neither of those apply. She doesn’t appear stressed or anxious, isn’t on any medications or suffering chronic fevers. I smell her breath before bed to make sure that her teeth have been brushed so I’m fairly confident she isn’t going to bed intoxicated.

It just seems to be a weird little quirk, something that we make people aware of now when she sleeps elsewhere. Apologies to those that got a bit freaked out by her before we realized how often it was happening.

Like me, she’s a big fan of the season, her “traps” and “tricks” growing more sophisticated each Halloween. It’s almost a shame that her most successful frights, the times when I nearly do jump out of my skin, happen when she doesn’t remember them.

 

the sleepwalker cometh
ghostly visitor

 


Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms