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June 06, 2011 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-06-06

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Monday, June 6, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

5

h ati*s t s * 9 JEFF ZUSCHLAG
GAlrighGt, gu.s, nwt
Schwarzenegger and st

E-MAIL JEFF AT JEFFDZ@UMICH.EDU
,, arr nt Wt no~rinr mintn i

he recent 1, 1

As a Spanish major and a Mexi-
can-American, I am interested in
understanding Latin American
culture. Cer-
tain classes
through
the Spanish
* department
- like His-
tory 348: Latin
America: The
National Peri- NICK
od and Span- BRINGARDNER
ish 430: Race
and Nation in
Latin America - have exposed me
to the breadth and richness of Latin
America. From taking these classes,
I, like many other historians, soci-
ologists and poets, realized how
illogical it is to brand people in the
United States as Latino. Latino is
not a race.
Latino is an American con-
struct and a blanket term covering
over 400 million people spanning
beyond three continents. Using
one simple term like Latino doesn't
begin to capture the complexity of
the people it includes, or the scope
of its use. To me, race implies color,
but Latinos cover the entire spec-
trum. They range from the whitest
of Spaniards (yes, even redheads) to
the piel morena (the U.S. standard
"Mexican or something" medium
brown skin tone) to the black of
Caribbean Spanish-speakers from
the African Diaspora who ended up
in every country from the Domini-
can Republic and Cuba to Argentina
and Venezuela. That's right; Latinos
can be black, white, red and yellow.
For some reason, the skewed Amer-
ican perception imposes its ideas of
racial identity onto people of this
obscure category. It puts Domini-
cans or Cubans (or any othernation-
ality with dark skin) in an odd spot.
How can they tell the census that
they're Hispanic/Latino and Black
at the same time? Bi-racial doesn't
exactly cover it either - the same
way mestizo didn't really cover
their collective history.
Collective culture also exists
between the many different eth-
nicities covered by Latino, but that
doesn't make any of them inter-
changeable. Similar to the way
an American may get offended by
being called Canadian by an igno-
rant foreigner, Cubans don't like
being mistaken for Peruvian or
Puerto Rican. Each country car-
ries an individual identity, but our
perception of Latino is limited to
the countries we are exposed to and
blends the rest together, making
Latino only Mexican or only Puer-

to Rican when it should be more
inclusive than that. Unfortunately,
its vibrant and diverse culture has
limited exposure in the U.S. and the
popular Latin perception has been
manufactured to mean something
different from what it is, and often
carries negative connotations of
reggaeton, gang violence and drug
trafficking.
Since it applies to so many cul-
tures and ethnicities, asserting an
individual Latino identity is dif-
ficult. In twenty-two years of iden-
tifying as a Latino, I have struggled
with things as arbitrary as a last
Using race as
an identifier is
problematic.
name - my last name is German
and not Mexican. So I thought
learning Spanish and understand-
ing the culture would bridge the
perceived gap. During academic
breaks I would search for Spanish
novels to read and maintain fluency.
I remember two summers ago when
I really felt like I was Latino. My
entire reading list was comprised
of "Latino" novels: "Cronica de una
muerte anunciada" (Chronicle of
A Death Foretold), "The Mambo
Kings Play Songs Of Love", "The
Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao"
and "The Savage Detectives." But
then I had to catch myself during a
few moments because I, still with a
bit of lingering prejudice, wondered
why authors with names like Daniel
Alarc6n and Junot Diaz were writ-
ing in English. I realized I would
have been remiss if I did not accept
that moving to the United States
and having children who speak
English is part of Latino history.
Latino means so many things. So
using race as a means of identifica-
tion is problematic. We know that
already - we are college students.
We have probably beaten this "race"
horse to death both inside and out-
side the classroom. But that doesn't
mean everyone else is enlightened.
It takes close study and questioning
of a subject to fully understand it.
Acceptance of the broad concept of
Latino is easy, but striving to under-
stand the depth of the various cul-
tures within Latino is a better way
to approach the subject.
Nick Bringardner can be
reached at njbring@gmail.com.

bCurreelntas
IIEvents

With .nelecto.crnngup
there's a lot of important
issues to discuss and-- Son of a
eygusA aata.
Representative
just twseeted a
picture at his
crotch!
uTent uient
Events Events
Club Club

Some days I just can't win.
I went to a party last weekend.
It was one of those nights that
my friends had
persuaded me
to go out, and
I succumbed
like the social
weakling I
am to heavy-
weight peer
pressure - a VANESSA
mistake, I RYCHLINSKI
would find out
later. It was
an unusually dead Friday ,and
to top it off, it was raining. Once
we finally got to our destination
- a huge mansion-type house on
South Division - I was wet and
completely unenthused. Sitting
on the couch in the large living
room, I sulked, glowered even,
as I sipped on a very full-flavored
beer someone had given me.
After being angrily bored for
some time I decided to make the
most of my situation. I turned to
my buddy keeping me company on
the couch and said those fateful
words, "Hey, you wanna dance?
Let's dance!"
After about five minutes, I was
actually enjoying myself. There
were other people getting down.
My best friend had finally made
her way to the dance floor from
wherever she was in this mon-
strous house to join me. The DJ
was decent, and there were no
unwelcome undergrads trying any
nonsense. Sigh. Almost perfect.
Right on schedule, the fun-
sucking University Police chose
this moment to show up and issue
a noise violation. Most of the par-
ty-goers scattered by instinct, and
my friends and I decided to take
our leave. I walked over to the
couch, picked up my purse, which
had been knocked to the floor and
my phone was gone. I searched
everywhere, under tables and
the piano standing nearby. I even

Party foMf
ripped apart the couch, the scene
of my prior melancholy moodi-
ness. Oh the humanity - my
phone was gone.
Needless to say, I was angry.
A person that tends to see red
more often than not anyway, I
was completely incensed that my
phone had been filched from the
very room I had been standing in,
when I had left it unattended for
about fifteen minutes total, after
sitting on my derriere for the
entire night.
The story of the Awful Friday
Night is not over yet, however. I
walked home using a shortcut
to get through my parking lot
behind my apartment - the typi-
cal Ann Arbor hole-in-the-fence.
This hole has been mended sev-
eral times, though I once heard
a girl living below me yelling at
someone in the process of kick-
ing it, and it is quite handy, I will
admit. Upon squeezing through
the fence, I saw that the passen-
ger side mirror of my car, which
I habitually parked in the same
spot had been ripped off the side
of the vehicle.
After spending several days
phoneless, I looked at the call
information from the night the
phone was taken and the perpe-
trator had made a whole host of
text messages. I called one num-
ber after another. The story was
the same with every call - these
were people from my own phone
book, not the thief's like I had
thought originally. Whoever it
was had contacted around ten
people with offers of graphic sex-
ual favors. From looking at the
phone records, some of the con-
versations were quite extensive.
Good thing I have no shame, I
tell you. The list included ex-boy-
friends, an awful one-time hook-
up, girlfriends, gay friends - the
whole gamut. When I turned an
old phone on that day, I received
several texts from people appar-

ently attempting to follow up on
the dizzying array of promiscu-
ous fun I had suggested.
I found this night, besides an
exercise in anger management,
quite interesting. What is it about
students here at this school that
makes them think that they can
do whatever they want? True, no
lasting harm was caused. Both
of the situations can be fixed. I
ordered a new phone, I duct-taped
my mirror and I contacted every
person to explain what had hap-
pened (the ones who had errone-
ously thought that the sexting was
genuine lamely tried to tell me
that they knew it was all a joke).
The night was an
exercise in anger
management.
But none of that is the point. It
costs money to go to this school,
and it's the truth that most stu-
dents take classes and live here,
on the parental dime. I'm not an
exception to this, quite honestly.
But there is something seriously
wrong with a campus where stu-
dents think it is acceptable to
make a joke out of someone else's
property. At the end of the day,
it's not really about the damages.
It's about the fact that now I don't
park my car in a certain spot in
my own enclosed parking lot. It's
about the fact that someone I don't
know sitting near me at a party
could be a thief with an imbecilic
sense of humor. It's about the fact
that some people who live here
are apparently entitled assholes.
And that's just too bad.
Vanessa Rychlinski can be
reached at vanrych@umich.edu.

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