Running rabbit: Get Out review


Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run
Don’t give the farmer his fun, fun, fun
He’ll get by without his rabbit pie…. “Run Rabbit Run” by Flanagan and Allen

The other day at boot camp, our trainer had us outdoors several times running. At one point, I had a strangely increasing feeling of fear. I had seen the #getoutchallenge on social media and not understood it. I had avoided reading reviews or watching parodies because I wanted to see the film. Yet the image of the running had stuck with me. As I ran, different thoughts came into my mind:   invisible minority/majority, the cockroach people, the sleeping giant, His Panic.  I thought about Oscar Zeta Acosta and how he disappeared.  I thought about Ruben Salazar and how he was killed. I picked up the pace which is unusual for me. I may be a half marathoner but I lope along at a comfortable pace. I don’t push myself for personal records; I run because it’s therapeutic.  That evening, I ran faster than ever. The image of running from Get Out which I hadn’t yet seen provoked anxieties I have about racism in America.

I finally saw the film. It exceeded my expectations. I have always been a horror movie fan. Horror books and movies have had tremendous impact on me as a person and as an artist. (My Masters’ thesis in long fiction was a horror novel.) It’s a genre that I gravitate towards both as a fan and creator. As a horror film, it was brilliant and terrifying.  I have had nightmares and strange dreams ever since I saw the movie.  I can’t get the song from the opening scene out of my head.

In terms of social commentary, Get Out is daunting. I know it’s film and fiction yet so much of what was captured was real. While Latinos are absent in the film, the various scenes were relatable. The film feels like a Twilight Zone episode (or several) about racism. There was one particular scene when I finally understood what was happening. I whispered to Rambo, “I’m about to burst into tears.” I put my face in his shoulder and took a deep breath. I meant it because the conclusion I made was so overwhelming in its/my sadness, indignation, and disgust. I didn’t feel shock.  None of the events in the film are shocking; Rambo says “it all seems plausible.” At the end of the movie, I turned to Rambo and said, “This is what I’ve been talking about. I’ve been telling you this about these places. I know this!” Then I made a statement which seems funny but also sad and spooky. “They are lying in wait.” That statement speaks to the fear, paranoia, and acceptance of reality.


As people of color in a racially divided and divisive society, what we experience is also what we try to deny. Like Chris, the protagonist, we are constantly having to say “it’s fine.” It is never good. We say that as a means to survive.  We can sugarcoat these realities by saying the Geneva “No, no, no,” or the Chris, “It’s okay.” We can choose to stay silent when micro-aggressions occur.   We can accept subtle racism without fighting back.  We can act like it’s our lot in life and it’s still not right. It never was and never will be.  Y ahora que?

Get Out is one artist’s take on complex, deep-seated truths. It’s an important film in what it says about the myth of post-racial America and has deservedly received critical acclaim.  It has resonated with me and will likely haunt me for a long time.

Red carpet ready

Tradiciones.  I wanted my daughter to experience traditional celebrations from an early age. Quite a few we established as our own family though neither Rambo nor I had experienced them as children including setting up a Nativity crèche during Advent, building an altar for Dia de los Muertos, and celebrating SuperBowl Sunday with our extended family of college friends.  Some I inherited from my own childhood: celebrating Nochebuena, honoring El Senor de lo Milagros in October, and being aware that 28 de Julio was as important to my folks as 4th of July.  Some I continued from my single days: participating in the Dance-Along Nutcracker and hosting an Oscar party.  These are our traditions. We celebrate them year after year with our loved ones. They help us savor the seasons and make the most of moments.
The kiddos approved of the 2015 host
In recent years, the Oscars have gotten increasingly disappointing. They have always been god-awful long. They have always had their share of too-long speeches and ill-conceived musical numbers. They have always been really white.  I have watched the Oscars since I was a junior in high school and the Oscars have rarely featured folks who look like me. Now I love J-Lo but she don’t look a thing like me. Besides, she is nowhere near winning one of the coveted gold statues. In any case, the closest someone I can truly relate to was even close to an Oscar was when my man crush por siempre and once-upon-a-time dinner mate Benjamin Bratt was escort to Julia Roberts.  So, yes, #Oscarssowhite and yet here we are, a household of brown people and our multiculti clan of friends and family still gathering over a feast to watch the damn awards.  You may wonder why.
Sometimes I ask myself that question. Rambo pleads with me at least once a year to give up and host an Alma Awards party.  My one-word answer: tradition.  When I was a misunderstood artsy high schooler, film became a passion.  I would hop on BART and head to the Embarcadero or downtown Berkeley and check out all the Best Picture or Foreign Film nominees. Once I could drive, I’d make my way to the Piedmont.  As with books, movies became a vehicle to unwind or an opportunity to let my own creativity be inspired.  So, watching the Oscars became a way to celebrate some of those films and performers.
Before the New Parkway opened in Uptown, we mourned the loss of the original
The annual Oscar party became a way to share my pastime with my friends but more importantly to bring folks together.  Now, in our 13thyear, my close friends expect my Oscar party. They know I will choose a theme, that I will cook main dish and sides in conjunction with the theme, and that we will roll out our own red carpet. On occasion, I have given out Oscars for best movie-themed costume. My brother is our Meryl Streep, having won the award the most times (twice). Now that the little ones are older, they will cheer for the Best Animated Film nominees and maybe admire a dress or two.  The grown folks will vie for the award for best commentary. With Rambo in the mix, even more shade is thrown. If I was more Twitter –savvy, I’d live tweet some of our zingers.  We have a great time, even when the awards show is a fail like the time poor James Franco and Anne Hathaway nearly killed us with their ill-advised co-hosting gig.
If throwing an Oscar party in light of all the boycotts this year makes you question my ability to think critically, then question away. Folks have been questioning my “wokeness” for years.    It’s my party and I will cry or laugh if I want to.  I’m well aware of how race and ethnicity have played out in Hollywood and it is maddening and frustrating.  But canceling a party that loved ones remember fondly won’t change that mona que se viste de seda.  Chris Rock and I will be holding it down. Besides, maybe Queen Bey will crash the party and let everyone have it with more “Formation.”  One can hope.
M’s 2011 red carpet look

Another fashion mag fail

Elle Magazine (I’m not going to call you dear); I’m shaking my head at you. In what you say is your well-meaning attempt to battle PeopleMagazine’s biased taste in men, you have compiled a list of gorgeous men of color.  But, as with Allure’s lame attempt at celebrating natural Black hairstyles with their article, “You (yes you) can have an Afro,” your writing leaves a lot to be desired.  Your headline alone, “30 of the Sexiest Men Alive Who Aren’t White” was cringe worthy and insulting in and of itself.

I was so taken aback by your headline I reposted it on Facebook. My post opened with “What in fresh hell kind of headline is this?” My friends had reactions similar to mine.

The headline gets the side-eye for real!
 Because heaven forbid we have a list of the 30 Sexiest Men without another requirement. That would take away white men’s spots!
Unlike · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs
 I think they’re trying to make a point.
Like · Reply · 23 hrs
 Its cultural ignorance….so men of color can’t be white. Rubbish!!!
Unlike · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs
 They still would have gotten the side-eye, but why not just label the headlong, “30 of the Sexiest Men of Color.” Simple as that!
Unlike · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs
Like · Reply · 23 hrs
 I think they’re pointing out that the world’s sexiest man has mostly been white.
Like · Reply · 1 · 22 hrs
I don’t know the intent here, but yeah, there’s better ways to make the point that sexy comes in all sorts of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Why is race even called out?
Unlike · Reply · 1 · 22 hrs
 The only problem I have is that they didn’t put me on that list.
Unlike · Reply · 3 · 20 hrs
Now I love me some beautiful men. Harry Shum Jr. and John Cho have both been called my husband over the years. 

Mario Lopez has been fine since 1989. 
I can’t wait to see Michael B. Jordan in Creed.

 Idris Elba is my James Bond. 

Jesse Williams is not only a handsome man but a deep thinker with tweets worth reading and retweeting. 

Boris Kodjoe: I’m speechless.

 Elle, the problem isn’t the gentlemen chosen. It’s the implication that they are an alternative, an also-ran. Your poor choice of words, presented as the hook for the audience, rendered them the second choice. Why not simply refer to them as men?  

I suppose you will argue that your title was your way of countering People’s lily-white choices over the years. But sexy is sexy.  Mentioning race was unnecessary.  Y’all need tougher editors and more thoughtful writers.  If you want to tackle the challenge of media bias, you will need to step up your game. 

White privilege made me late to work the other day

It began when I ran across a Vogue fashion spread about Frida-inspired fashion. Because M and I were attending a Frida birthday celebration in San Jo, I was researching Frida in popular culture as a counterpoint.
Once again, Kermit ended up sipping tea because an expensive outfit couldn’t possibly capture the artistry of Frida(or any artist for that matter.)

Two weeks later, a friend’s Facebook post caught my attention.
I read and posted the article about the responses to an Allure photo shoot onto my timeline.  The Allure photo shoot was more culture vulture nonsense.  Sure, I rolled my eyes and sighed deeply. But I needed to discuss, if only online. I decided to share it on my Facebook timeline because I knew my friends would respond as I had. Mujeres en la lucha, warrior women analyzing and strategizing, commiserating over cultural appropriation as we do other issues that affect us.  

Then, an acquaintance, an older white woman I know through a TV show on which I occasionally appear, joined the online discussion with a statement that made no sense and offended everyone who came across it: 
 If I were black, I’d much rather wear afro hair instead of plastering it down where it looks all greasy and dirty….
She engaged in ongoing arguing with many of my friends and refused to apologize. She exited stage left:  African American women are always offended ….. I said nothing discriminatory. Goodnight Ladies..

Because that’s how it works, this privilege I don’t have.  The privilege to jump into a conversation that wasn’t meant for her. The privilege to never admit ignorance.  The privilege of refusal to learn.  The privilege of walking away without being held accountable.  Call it obliviousness or Manifest Destiny or que son sinverguenzas. It is rampant and real.

It was too much. It weighed on my mind for days. On Wednesday, already upset that I couldn’t rejoin my beloved human rights education institute due to work obligations, I couldn’t get it together to make it to work in the morning. Why give this situation and this ignorant person that power? Why pay this fool any mind? 
I was equally angry with myself for not taking her on publicly. For not cussing her out. I’m sick of taking the high road, of handling situations with professionalism, of being grace under pressure. I can’t. No puedo. 

Online, I have cut off communication with this person. I sent her a terse inbox message, unfriended and blocked  her. We will likely never cross paths again. But she won’t be the last person to test me and those I love in this way. 

Prayer for hope

“A glooming peace this morning with it brings.
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head.
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.
Some shall be pardoned, and some punished…” William Shakespeare, Act 5 of Romeo and Juliet
“America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.” Allen Ginsberg
The morning after a tragedy is quiet on many levels.  There is the usual quiet of mornings.  Also there is the lull of reflection.  Of course, there is the silence associated with various emotions: the numbness that accompanies grief, the tense muteness preceding or following rage, the stillness of shock. So often we are at a loss after a tragedy, however close we may have been to those involved.  I didn’t know Trayvon Martin and yet I, along with millions of others this morning, feel the weight of his loss and the failure of the court system in freeing the man responsible for his death. 
When I first wrote about this case over a year ago (Media misrepresentation in Trayvon Martin case), I pondered how my distance from the events led to my misunderstanding and confusion about the events as news. I also pointed out how the many layers of my life experiences impacted my thoughts.  At that time, I knew Trayvon Martin would impact us as a nation.  This morning, I realize Trayvon Martin has impacted me as a person. 

As a mother, as a woman of color, as an educator of at-risk youth, and as a proud American, the verdict delivered  in the trial of George Zimmerman exacerbates the fear, worry, and heartache I have about race relations in my country.  I live in a country where children can be attacked simply because how they look. 
Talented Sebastien De La Cruz, aka El Charro de Oro, came under fire for paying homage to his Mexican culture as he performed his National Anthem. 

Brand-name cereal Cheerios shut down online comments on their YouTube video feed after their charming commercial featuring a biracial family inspired racist reactions. 

I live in a country in which a TV show featuring several Latinas as sexy maids reaps high ratings and positive buzz despite the stereotypes perpetuated. 

So while we battle these issues in the media and the social networking worlds, I trust that our legal system will not be affected by racist images and misconceptions.  I am crushed when I am disappointed. 

Somehow, I carry and hold up hope.   As an artist, I choose to embrace all people as we come together creatively to build community. 

 As a mother and girlfriend, I choose to stay in my community because it offers an opportunity for my daughter to grow up in a different America, one where all people can live together. 
I choose hope. 

This morning, I offer a prayer for hope, the hope that Trayvon Martin’s death was not in vain, that as a nation we recover from this tragedy in the spirit of reconciliation, and that the families most affected by this loss find peace.  

Mixed messages

Images are powerful.  We base our first impressions on appearances.  And unlike the Dramatics song, what we see is not always what we get or, to be clear, what we ultimately understand.  Sadly, it is easier to have impressions over understanding. In the case of Trayvon Martin’s death, that problem is made worse by the mixed messages the media has put forward. 
I have responded to this case in a number of ways. As a parent. As an educator for over a decade and former assistant principal.  As a woman of color well-aware of racial tensions/conflicts in 2012 America.  This is not an easy case and I’m savvy enough to know that the media plays a role in what impressions and information I have about the case. I initially didn’t want to write about the case simply because there was too many ways I could reflect on it.  Recent findings have complicated my feelings yet motivated me to weigh in on those mixed messages and feelings.  
I admit when I heard about a security guard shooting an unarmed young black man, I immediately thought racist in a Southern state takes advantage of a poorly written law to shoot without good reason.  Then when my brother sent me an early morning text last week, “Zimmerman is half Peruvian,” my heart sank.
I told my parents and they immediately began a debate on the complexities of Peruvian race relations. I found the linked Suzanne Gamboa article but it only added to the conflicting thoughts I have. article about Zimmerman’s ethnic identity

This morning, I have seen the more recent pictures of both Zimmerman and Martin.   I feel bamboozled, fooled, naive.  Like millions of people every day, I have accepted what is presented in the news as fact.  But as my own class discussed, fact is not always truth.  Now I have a less menacing yet fuller picture of the real George Zimmerman, not the boogeyman the court of public opinion would have me dismiss.

As for Trayvon Martin, I no longer only see the memory of a baby-faced child but a more honest picture of a real teenager. Unlike Geraldo Rivera(why does he have to be Latino? somebody take him back), I am not quick to judge Trayvon. Wifebeaters, grills, and tattoos have no bearing on this case.  A young man is dead, another man has lost his reputation and safety, possibly his life, and two communities stand to lose common ground over this case.

On a more personal level, I can’t help but wonder how many people will ponder this case in depth.  I am saddened and moved by this case to be more analytical and reflective. I can’t let the media or even my own first impressions be my guide.