Sammy Sosa: Before

Short Notes: Day and Age (and My Radio Show Appearance)

Short Notes 6 Comments

Sammy Sosa: Before

Sammy Sosa: Before

A few links:

On Friday, I was blessed to be a guest on Rise Up Radio, a program on WBAI Radio, New York City’s awesome radio station on 99.5FM. (Those of you who didn’t get to hear me on Rise Up Radio on WBAI can download the hour-long show here.) On the show, I discussed child sex acts, the 25 Chicago children arrested for their food fight, health care and the Stupak amendment, and Sammy Sosa’s skin bleaching.

While we really went into these topics, I failed to make a few points important to the topic of Sammy Sosa and why it hurt the Black and Latino community when we saw Sammy look so ghastly.

  1. Rafael Trujillo, the most famous ruler of Dominican Republic to date, advocated for white supremacy and changed the whole dynamic of race in a country with a huge African ancestry to a country where most of the darker-skinned people believe they’re “Indian-colored” even when their facial features say differently, differentiating themselves from “Blacks” (read: Haitians, who were slaughtered under Trujillo’s rule). Thus, Sammy Sosa’s color change resuscitates the ideology that pervaded the Trujillo era.
  2. This kind of stuff happened in America often, most notably with Rita Hayworth who changed her whole name, electrocuted her hairline to push it up and straight, lightened her whole skin tone entirely, and made a few other alterations to become acceptable to Hollywood … and became very successful in the process. This is the first time I’d ever known that an Afro-Latino ever went through this process, at least for non-medical reasons. We question, then, why Sammy would do that since he was already successful … at least until recently.
  3. Raquel Cepeda is mulling some of these topics herself on her blog. Check it out.

This week, I’ll be discussing my stance on a variety of educational topics. Please check it out. Let me know what you’re thinking.

Jose, who likes his skin color a lot …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 6

  1. Mom101

    Wow Jose, thank you for the incredibly kind words about my post – and for the retweet.

    Only no thanks for all these amazing links. Like it’s not late enough for me already, now I’m going to be up another hour reading!

    1. Post
      Author
      Jose

      Thanks so much for replying to me, Mom101. For one, I thought it was a real, thought-out essay. Secondly, I wanted you to say aloud, “The most important part about being a mom who blogs is that I’m a MOM (who blogs).” You can pretty much use that statement and replace the “mom” with “teacher” or any other profession that actually matters in the spectra of dealing with children or other people in need.

      PS – this is the first time in months I’ve actually done a links roundup, so I feel somewhat vindicated by you staying up all night. Thanks again.

  2. risingsun

    Rita hayworth was already considered white. The problem that hollywood had with Rita Hayworth was about ethnicity; not race. Ms Hayworth had electrolysis done to her hair line and not electrocution. This is a bad piece of writing. If one read your article and didn’t know any better they would think Rita Hayworth was black. What i do know is that the dominican republic is a terrible place for dark or darker skin blacks when it come to social and economic status. The full story of what is going on in the DR for black people is the bigger story. That story might tell us why why sammy sosa lost his mind. He looked better with his original color. This Skin color change could be very damaging for the young people of color who looked up to him.

  3. Post
    Author
    Jose

    Here’s something to think about, risingsun (and thanks for getting me think more deeply about this):

    How would she still be considered white if she went through this skin bleaching process and changed her name from Margarita Carmen Cansino? I’m not sure if you saw pics of her from before, but even with her Irish and English background, a part of the reason why she might have gone through such a process was to fit into the mainstream’s view of “white,” leading her to a successful career from there on. She wasn’t quite as successful until then (if at all).

    I’ll give you that I messed up on the “electro” word, but does it take away from the whole article? Me thinks not. Also worth noting, this still gets filed under “Changing one’s skin tone to fit the look of ‘success’ of general populace.” After all, the concentration at that point of the essay wasn’t about her being Black, but about notable dramatic skin bleaching from popular figures in the United States.

    Now, as for what’s happening in DR, it isn’t so much that Sammy Sosa lost his mind; it’s that he already had that mentality. He already rejected Black awards because he doesn’t consider himself Black but “indio claro.” It’s not just about what Sammy Sosa did to himself, but the legacy that it represents there and throughout the African diaspora. People are still calling into their local radio and TV stations defending Sammy vehemently. That’s not happening in the US. The perpetuation of the race dynamics down there shocked people in the US because skin bleaching seems more like an extreme. In the US, dark skin is more readily tolerated and most don’t see the need to lighten themselves to such a degree. In DR, it shocked people, too, but if more people could afford to do it there, they would and to that degree.

    That’s the difference.

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    Author
    Jose

    I think it’s pretty clear, Marta. Rita Hayworth is an example of this sort of lightening ones’ skin, where the look was ostensibly clear. However, as it mentions up there, it’s the first time I’d known that an Afro-Latino like Sammy had done it. That’s the bridge. Not too mysterious.

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