So, this is it, guys. We're done. Another year in the books, and, as usual, you've most likely been bombarded with best-of and worst-of 2014 lists from websites, publications and your Facebook friends. Here's a little secret for everyone: We writer types kind of love these year-end issues because it's mostly just compiling silly, easy-to-churn-out lists so we can take some much-needed time off. I just want to wear sweat pants and watch 15 hours of streaming television without worrying about deadlines, just like you.
You name it, people will list it, with a misty, nostalgic tone that makes readers believe that Kim Kardashian's greased-up ass in a garbage bag was a moment of cultural significance and nothing was ever the same. Like Fox Mulder, we want to believe. We want to believe that any year was the year. In many ways, 2014 was. I guess it's just a matter of the what. What was this the year of?
Here's a list of candidates:
1. Rising Up: For a while now, I've been wanting to write in depth about my thoughts and feelings on Ferguson, Eric Garner, the many other victims of unjust deaths at the hands of police officers and white men and the protests that have followed. I've sat and mulled over what I want to say. No article, Facebook post or tweet can capture the rage, disappointment and sadness I feel for our world and for every black person who has been slapped in the face so hard it knocked them back five decades. Then I made a decision.
I felt this is a time to let those attacked by our system take the mic. I didn't feel that black Americans need me, a Latina woman, to speak for them. Many black writers have beautifully articulated what this all means for black Americans and everyone else who feels this system has failed. Their stories and rage is center stage here, and I shouldn't play Angry Person No. 5787 and try to shimmy into someone else's poignant and vital scene just because I am mad, too.
Seeing people rise up and fight back against these injustices has been moving. Watching them shut down highways in protest made me proud. No one's taking this shit lying down. People want this country to change and are fighting to make it happen, and the whole world is watching it go down on TV, the Internet, their phones and their streets.
As a result, people have been rising up to racism. Can you believe how many people you know are kind of racist? I can. When you're a minority, you experience racism so regularly that it becomes normal, which is terribly depressing. You almost have to train yourself to see racism, and if you care about changing things, you then have to train yourself to call it out when you encounter it. This can be very exhausting, because it's everywhere all the time.
I wasn't always great about this. Racism is ingrained in our culture because it's been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. I admit that there was a period of years when I made jokes or laughed at things said at the expense of black people, Latinos and Asians until I eventually realized it's not funny.
My niece's boyfriend was laying down wood flooring at my boyfriend's apartment recently. The downstairs neighbor, whom none of us knows that well, decided to stop in unannounced. My niece told me the neighbor, a white guy, was yelling, "Andale, pendejo!" (loose translation: "Move it, idiot!") to her boyfriend while he worked, as a joke of course. When her boyfriend became upset, she told him to let it go. Later, when I asked her why, she said, "You know how white people are. He was just trying to be funny."
It's one thing to talk about our differences with humor; it's another to say completely offensive things and think it's charming or hilarious. Unless you're Chris Rock, you're not pulling it off, so why don't you pull up a chair and have a seat, you ignorant asshole. There's no excuse good enough to make this offensive behavior OK to engage in or ignore.
When UCSD students, many of them black, shut down Interstate 5 in protest, people lost it. One girl with whom I went to high school complained that the protesters were standing in the way of people getting to work and that protesters don't care because they get "free checks from the government." Of course they do, right? Of course minorities get government checks. I'm sure this person would never call herself a racist because she doesn't burn crosses on her lawn, but what is this if it's not racism? We're so deep in it that we don't see it or want to call it out. You guys, we have to call it out; otherwise, it never stops.
The same applies to women rising up to sexism. Rape was a major topic of discussion in 2014. With Bill Cosby's accusers coming forward to share how the beloved TV dad drugged and sexually assaulted them over the course of decades, fraternities rightly being punished for their horrendous behavior toward young women and feminists proudly and loudly coming forward to discuss issues that affect them, we've heard the rise of women's voices in the media. If there's one thing I know (and love) about feminists, it's that we're relentless in our pursuit of calling out bullshit.
The price of rising up is that there's a lot of pushback from those who don't think people should fight or stand up to injustice. It amazes, but doesn't surprise. But this year has proven that many voices rising up in unison can be cacophonous.
So, it looks like my list is pretty short. Apologies to Kim Kardashian's butt for only getting one mention (besides this one) in my year-end list.
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