Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Mom is Down with the Hood

My mother, who is an otherwise mentally stable white woman of sixty-eight, with a liberal political and religious upbringing, has now taken to carrying racial minorities in her handbag.

"Boy, did I ever score at the thrift store today," she tells me yesterday on the phone, her voice booming with pride and good fortune. "I found a whole bag of Homies."

Me: "A whole bag of what?"

Mom: "Homies! They're a bunch of gangster people. Some of them are Hispanic and some are African American. They're all different, and I have an entire bag of them."

Me: "And you bought them because...?"

Mom: "Mikalh loves them! I pointed out to him that they have dark skin like he does. I thought he should have them to play with."

O.K. My mother thinks that my sweet six year-old Native American son needs tiny gangsters to play with. This makes total sense.

"I'm going to make a scene with them," my sixth-grader Devin says later with enthusiasm. "Look! It's a shooting!"



"Something about this seems deeply problematic, in a way that I can't quite define," I explained to mom.

"Just look at them," she exclaimed with delight, her outstretched cupped hands full of tiny hoodlums. "This one's name is D.G. He's a Mexican!"

Me: "How do you know he's not Guatemalan?" I challenged her.

Mom: "He is holding a Mexican flag, Tara."

Me: "It's like 'My Best Friend is Black' elevated to some completely screwed up new level. 'I love Hispanic Americans! I have one in my purse!'"

Mom: "You're the only one who thinks this is weird."

Me: "Devin, you don't think this is weird?"

Devin: "They're Homies, Mom. I'm fine with it."

Me: "Whatever."

Mom: "I think they're wonderful. They should make a set of Unitarians, too. And a set of Mormons!"

Devin: "She spent two hours on the internet searching for their names, you know."

Me: "Well, that's even sicker."

Mom: "This one is Perico. That's Da Foo and this is Live Wire."

Me: "I'm going not going to talk about them anymore, Mom. You just wait 'til Rowan sees this."

However, when my unusually sarcastic and satirical fourteen-year came home to find my mother and Devin playing happily with gangland figurines on the dining room table, he was unperturbed.

Me: "This doesn't bother you? It isn't weird that she has a bag of gangsters in her purse that she is playing with?"

Rowan: "They're Homies, Mom."

Me: "Whatever."

Finally, though, when my husband saw her with them this morning at our breakfast table, a look of bemused discomfort crossed his face.

"There's something about this that's disturbing," he said.

So there's that final additional wrinkle to the already complicated situation of race relations: middle-aged white people who carry toy Mexicans around in their handbags. Proof of a post-racial society–or just deeply fucking weird?




19 comments:

  1. That is both deeply weird and hilarious. And it makes me uncomfortable in a way I can't really describe. I thought my mother-in-law buying Star Wars toys for my son was bad. This is an entirely different thing.

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    1. I have to say, in my mom's defense, that she also has her own set of Star Wars figurines, Medieval knights, fairies and a rolling Jesus with gliding action. So this, perhaps, is not as unusual as you might think. Also, she is a big enough person to allow me to poke fun of her on my blog, which is a lovely quality in a parent. :) But it IS very strange.

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    2. That's completely fabulous. I think I would like to be a mom like that when I get older. Purse fulla Mexicans and all.

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  2. Your mom, your mom's got enthusiasm. Gotta love a free spirit.

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  3. I ADORE my Mom, too. She's a character. She loves stereotypes and she loves little toys and she is always entertaining.:)

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  4. I absolutely loved this article and clicked on the Follow me link. I want to read more. I notice your name used to be Gordon. I was born into the Gordon family..not sure its the same however.

    Write more so I can read more. I have some interesting articles if you want to check on mine one day.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. :) My family was Gorodnitsky before Ellis Island (Russian Jews)and Gordon is my maiden name. Related?

      I did check your blog out a bit. I love the Obama piece. I immediately emailed the link to my mom, too. She blogs and is looking for older bloggers (older than me, I guess) and thought for sure she'd want to check you out. Her blog is at http://bsstings.blogspot.com/. Anyway, I like the flipcard theme and I will be back to read more when i am not about to dash out to grocery shop.

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  5. Oh goodness. The dialogue is outstanding. I think the fact that they are homies that can be set up for a shooting is the disturbing bit. The multi-racial figurines are cool, but the fact that they are mini-gangsters with names like Da Foo is pretty ridiculous. At the same time, I actually love that your mom took the time to find their names and knows this. She sounds like a lot of fun.

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    1. FYI... "Da Foo" is a comedian. and they are not mini gangsters. Alot of the Homies promote a positive image to keep small kids away from the gang life. Do your research.

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  6. LOL! I don't think it's weird at all since I was collecting them too about 5 years ago! hahaha! I think I'm down with your mom. :-D

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  7. This is a little bit awesome. ;-) It reminds me a little of a post The Pioneer Woman did about different races, too, though on an entirely different level. I'm not sure whether to be disturbed or entertained.

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    1. I am never sure whether to be disturbed or entertained–by anything. I think that is why I write. :)

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  8. I think you should do your research before assuming the Homies are gang- related. I am a serious collector of David Gonzales work, and if you knew anything about him, you'd know that hes very active in the hispanic/mexican community. The fact that you allow your child to set up "shootings" with them is disturbing to me. My children play with thier homies but as an adult, I dont promote gang voilence or "stero type". I found your blog to be very ignorant and stupid.

    Sincerly,
    A Native American/ Mexican American.

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    1. I am very sorry you were offended. This is intended to be a humorous piece and was written for an audience that knows me pretty well and can appreciate the irony I embed into all my writing. I did not "allow" my child to set up a shooting. That is what he did. I find that kids do lots of things that we don't "allow" them to do. In real life, outside of the humor pieces I write for my blog, what I do to handle situations like this is ask questions of my kids and family members about their assumptions and try to have them dig a little deeper, which is what happened here.

      This isn't a piece ABOUT Homies and I didn't feel then or now that it demanded I do extensive research on them, as I am making no cultural criticisms or drawing no real conclusions about them. It is a piece about the idiosyncrasies of my family and how I found it strange and discomfiting that my white mother was carrying them in her purse.

      I live in a multi-racial family, and people make all sorts of broad, bizarre assumptions about Native Americans all the time. I could walk into my downtown grocery store right now and buy a bag of "Indians" and Cowboys for my son to play with and 75% of the people I know would think nothing of it. Despite having my family subject to these casual stereotypes all the time, I don't choose to walk around calling people stupid or ignorant when they unintentionally promulgate them. Mostly, they don't mean to and mostly, they mean well. Here is a great resource for that: http://www.illdoctrine.com/2008/07/how_to_tell_people_they_sound.html

      My Mom actually spent hours online, as you said, "doing her research" on each Homie and on the whole idea, even if she chose to explain to me with her usual glib and ironic tongue. She actually loves the Homies and not because she is making fun of them. All that said, I am truly sorry you were offended. That was not my intention.

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    2. @Native American/Mexican American,

      I'm gonna have to step in here and inject some "Cool Off" juice!

      I'm curious if you followed the link in my wife's blog post? If not, you might want to check it out HERE! It was at the end of the second paragraph, where her mom said, "I just found a whole bag of Homies!

      You made a series of assumptions about my wife, which aren't fair or representative of who she is.

      What you read was her recount of a dialogue that had occurred between her and her mom. It was not a researched presentation, but a dialogue.

      So in answer to your charge...that she ought to do research first, I have to point out that people don't typically research topics prior to having a conversation. That would make conversation unworkable and cumbersome.

      I agree it is unfortunate that you felt offended by her blog post.

      However, as a half Native American, who studied Spanish, grew up in New Mexico and spent several years living and working with Guatemalan immigrants in Northern California, I feel compelled to weigh in on how your response affected me.

      I found it to be derogatory and rude. It is my belief that name calling and offensive language will not only fail to further cultural understanding, it will undermine any chance of cultural empathy. Comments like what you posted tend to have most people to stop listening altogether.

      Here again is the link my wife included above. This is an excellent short video. I encourage all to check it out:
      How to tell people they sound racist

      --Mike Adams

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  9. The Homies are a group of tightly knit Chicano buddies who have grown up in the Mexican American barrio (neighborhood ) of "Quien Sabe", ( who knows ) located in East Los Angeles. The four main characters are Hollywood, Smiley, Pelon, and Bobby Loco.
    Their separate and distinct personalities and characteristics together make up a single, composite entity that is the "HOMIES." In an inner-city world plagued by poverty, oppression, violence, and drugs, the Homies have formed a strong and binding cultural support system that enables them to overcome the surrounding negativity and allows for laughter and good times as an anecdote for reality. The word "Homies" itself is a popular street term that refers to someone from your hometown or, in a broader sense, anyone that you would acknowledge as your friend. In use in the West Coast Latino community for decades, the word "Homies" has crossed over into the now mainstream Hip-Hop street culture that has taken America's young people by storm.

    -Dave Gonzales

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    1. If you are willing to talk further, would you email me at tara [at] faithinambiguity [dot] com? I would love to write a blog piece on the origins of Homies and your work if you would be interested.

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    2. Mr. Dave G.,
      After my mother-in-law had done her internet research on your characters, I became interested and the article my wife linked to in her post also piqued my interest. I hope you will email her and do an interview. I'd really appreciate hearing what more you have to say. Thanks so much for your informational response to this post and I very much hope that you'll contact my wife! BTW, for anyone reading, a quick perusal of Dave Gonzales' art left me thinking it is really great! Museum quality. Check it out:
      http://www.davidgonzalesart.com/
      --Mike Adams

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