Ever since I read the book, “Down and Delirious in Mexico City,” by Daniel Hernandez, I have found myself going the author’s blog from time to time to catch up on his insights. He was part of the reason I was inspired to apply for this field study and do research in Mexico. I feel like we have a lot in common. He also has Mexican parents who migrated to Southern California and had their children there. Like him, I grew up with the Mexican culture that my parents taught me, but there was always the American culture right in my face. It was hard for me to find exactly where I fit in this mix of culture and tradition, and somehow, I found myself leaning more towards the culture of the country I lived in, rather than the country of my ancestors. Although it is not a bad thing, I feel like this is a matter of choice. I was choosing to adopt a new culture that I liked and enjoyed and forget the one I grew up with. However, now that I am older, I realized that I am losing a part of myself that makes me unique and that is fun and real, and honestly, is a part of myself I can’t really get rid of. I tried to find that Mexican culture and tradition again, and that is why I am a Latin American Studies major. That is what Daniel Hernandez did too when he realized he was torn between two ethnic identities. He traveled to Mexico to discover a country and people he felt a strong connection with because he wanted to understand the connection.
Today, while browsing through his blog (called Intersections), I decided to quick search “media” and find out what he had commented on the matter, and how it influenced the people of Mexico. I stumbled across a really interesting entry about a study that took place just last year. A research group wanted to see how kids reacted to race. To do this, they presented young children with two dolls, one white, the other black. They then asked the children which doll they were the most like, also asking questions like “Which doll is the good doll?” and a large majority of the kids pointed at the white doll. This made me wonder who was responsible for the racist attitudes displayed by the children? Could it be the parents, the government, society, the media? As would be expected, such a study caused controversy all around. While some found this to be disturbing and questioned what could be done to change it, others denied that it the study was accurate, and with good reason. As pointed out by Hernandez and other officials, the study was misleading and they posed their questions in a way that manipulated answers. Giving the children only two choices to pick from was unfair, seeing as the majority of them are mestizos, a mix of Spanish and indigenous. They cannot identify completely with one doll, but the interviewers asked them to. The children were asked to pick the “good” doll, and although I don’t know the word for this, it seems really unfair and manipulative for the interviewer to ask a leading question. If the study were better organized and the biases were better controlled, would the results still be the same?
On the other side of the reaction (and there may have been many sides, not just two) some agreed that children in Mexico were being conditioned to believe white to be a superior race to black. What was one of the things blamed for this? The media, of course. The majority of telenovelas have characters with lighter skin, and those who have darker skin tend to be the maid or farmhand or something like that. Some television networks approve instances of racism to play on tv and they have been criticized for that.
I know that the media affects it viewers/readers/listeners. We are shaped by the world around us and the world around us is the media. What the viewers choose to watch is another factor in determining how they are affected. Some may not be affected at all. I know that I was influenced by the media back when I was in high school and I know that it affects me now. It may not only shape the way we think, but it may also inspire us, introduce us to new things, teach us something interesting. While the media serves many different purposes, I am most interested in how it affects the identity of the youth and their educational and career goals. I hope to find out this summer.