Karma is the cause of my Schadenfreude

So according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary,“Karma” is “the force created by a person’s actions that some people believe causes good or bad things to happen to that person”. Even though this “force” has an abstract and maybe even a “spiritual” meaning in some religions, I truly believe in the concept (besides being an agnostic).

The term Karma doesn’t have a specific time in which it was first used or a specific author who came up with the term, but it is first registered in a Hindu scripture in Sanskrit called Bhagavad Gita, which was probably written between the fifth century BCE and second century BCE. In this sanskrit, Karma (referred as Karma Yoga) has the idea that human beings should comply with their dharma (religious duty), while they maintain themselves separated from the bad or good results of such activity.

Later on in books such as the Bible, the book of Genesis refers in different verses about the phrase “…as you sow, you shall reap” similar to the western quote “what goes around comes around”, first used in Eddie Stone’s Donald writes no more in 1974.

I can personally describe Karma as life’s way of being: Do good and you shall receive good; Do bad and you shall receive bad. Defining something as “good” or “bad” really depends on various factors such as: the society, country, religion, customs or personal view of things; but I consider some things “Universally good” or “Universally bad” that are independent from the above factors mentioned mainly because of our human conditions and qualities. For e.g., helping an elder cross the street may be considered “universally good”, just as mugging a person in the street may be considered “universally bad”. So, speaking in terms of Karma if you’re a person that helps elders cross the streets or are a good friend/brother/sister/father/mother, you will have good and positive effects of life over you; on the contrary, if you’re a person that take advantage of people, neglect your child or cheat on your spouse/fiancee/girlfriend/boyfriend, you will have bad and negative effects of life over you. In this I truly believe.

SCHANDF0

Now the word “Schadenfreude” is a German word used in the English vocabulary. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it means: “a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people”. This feeling could be used in situations as simple as walking down the street with a friend and he or she trips; in some occasions it may seem as a funny thing so we laugh at the minor trouble. Other situations such as a person feeling happy or laughing while knowing that someone they know got murdered, may not seem so “sane” or “normal”.

I consider that having Schadenfreude is normal (up to a point) in the majority of people. I personally have laughed a few times after my friends trip a step while walking, or felt happy when Ariel Castro, the kidnapper of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus in Cleveland, Ohio was sentenced to 1,000 years in prison; but the main cause of my Schadenfreude is watching when Karma finally gets its way.

I’ve had some people in my life who have resorted to being hypocrite, hurt my feelings, talk behind my back or treat me wrongfully. I usually take time to really get to know a persons true colors, since I tend to expect the best in everyone; and I also have a difficult time in trying to discern a persons intentions. Since I believe in the “do good and you shall receive good”, I don’t resort to vengeance or in “paying with the same currency”; I prefer in just letting go (early or late into the relationship) and leave the rest to Karma or life (as I usually refer to Karma). Since I like to do good and receive good, I tend to keep it that way so that Karma would never deem to encounter.

Like the time the first guy I liked broke my heart and treated me like crap, and later on I knew that he has been a failure in his career, I tend to feel kind of “relieved” or “proud” that Karma has finally done it’s work. It may sound a bit “sick”, “evil” or “disappointing” but I’m a human and I’m not perfect nor “godlike”.

I guess everyone has felt Schadenfreude at least one time in their lives. I’ve felt it, especially when life comes and delivers the good or bad actions and values that you’ve harvested throughout your lifetime.

 

 

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Tanned gringas and blond dominicanas

Despite being part of the 90% of the Dominican Republic population with black and mulatto ancestry , racism is a daily conflict in Dominican Republic. From your curly hair to your darkened skin, all the way up to your “french-sounding” last name, you are viewed and depicted as a “Negro” or “Haitiano” by the same Dominican people that are descendants to those enslaved African men and women that came from western Africa.

It is popular knowledge in the social Dominican culture that those who have a light skin tone, straight hair or facial structures that resembles European colonizers are considered to be “white”. Me being a Senior Medical student I have learned in the studies of Genetics two very different concepts: Genotype and Phenotype. If a person has a “European fenotype”, it doesn’t mean they have a pure “European genotype”; this is also applied vice-versa.

The Genotype is a set of genes in each person that encodes specific characteristics in an organism or individual. The Phenotype are the physical or observable characteristics in an organism or individual. This means that although I can be a tall, blond, white, blue-eyed female with facial characteristics of a European, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I have a pure European genealogy.

During the eight years I spent between elementary school, middle school and high school, in Dominican Republic, I was taught about our colonial history and learned about the different cultures and mixtures that our country eventually adopted from the native Tainos, the invasive Spanish colonizers and the estranged African slaves. I learned that there was mating (weather voluntarily or non-voluntarily) between Tainos and Spanish, African and Spanish, and the offsprings that resulted from those unions were mating between other offsprings and so on, resulting in a new dictionary for the then “Hispaniola” that conformed the so-called “System of  colonial breed” created by the Spanish colonialists.

Mainly there were three racial pillars:

  • Mulatos: Those who came from a union between a European white parent and an African black parent.
  • Mestizos: Those who came from the union between a European white parent and an Indo-american parent.
  • Zambos: Those who came from he union between an African black parent and an Indo-american parent.

The result of the union of those offsprings and the next generations, were then given other classifications of the System such as: Castizo (Mestizo & European white), Morisco (Mulato & European white), Chino (Morisco & European white), Salta atrás (Chino & Indo-american), Lobo (Salta atrás & Mulato), Gíbaro (Lobo & Chino) and the other 7 more classifications.

There has been no racial census made in Dominican Republic since the 1960’s, but the recent actualization of The World Factbook has estimated that 73% of Dominicans are a mixed race, 16% of Dominicans are white and 11% are black. This translates to a 73 out of 100 Dominicans aren’t white neither black; they are the mixture of different ethnicity, not belonging to a particular one.

The CUNY Dominican Studies Institute has a Research Monograph made by Silvio Torres-Saillant in 2010 called “Introduction to Dominican Blackness” where it is confirmed that 90% of the Dominican population has black African ancestry.

Then, why am I considered white because my skin color is light? Why are my friends are told to brush their hair better because they wear an afro? Why are my friends with last names like Philippe, Hervé, Saint Marc are considered Haitian or Black?

The thought of seeing “gringas” and other European women (and hell, even latinas!) wanting to enhance their lips, butts, bosoms to make them bigger or wanting darker skin by recurring to tan salons or injecting themselves with Melanotan or even wanting to imitate the curly hair look with a Perm makes me sick to the stomach, because us Dominican women are denying our black ancestors characteristics while women who don’t have them are spending thousands of dollars trying to obtain them.

We Dominican women are trained to protect our skin from the sun by using small umbrellas on sunny days, or using “whitening” creams to lighten up our skin. We are also trained to get get our African coarse and curly hair “relaxed” as a quinceañera’s gift since having an afro is not “aesthetic”, “pretty” nor worthy of a lady. It’s common between Dominicanas to want to have blond hair or blond highlights; more than a personal taste or preference, I see it as a subconscious preference for white European attributes.

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Our Dominican society has come to a point were “negro” is a bad and derogatory word, and the ridiculous and funny part is that you can see a mixed race Dominicano saying “negro” to another mixed race Dominicano without realizing that even though one of them has a lighter skin tone, both of them have African heritage.

There are even some night clubs, bars and restaurants that forbid the entry of dark-skinned Dominicanos or Dominicanas with afro hair which is, again, absurd with the fact that the same ones that are prohibiting, are the same ones with a mixed race tagged on their Dominican ID since they are “Dominicanos” or “Dominicanas“.

So, we see these gringas getting tanned in the beaches of Punta Cana, but we choose to lighten our skins with skin bleachers. We see these gringas getting perms and their hair braided, yet we choose to straighten it out with relaxers. We see these gringas getting butt and breast implants but we choose to deny our African physical attributes and say we are “blanquitas”, “morenitas” or “indiecitas”. We see these gringas flaunting their french-sounding last names, but we choose to discriminate and point out those we have them.

Here is a message to you Dominicana and Dominicano: The more you “whiten” your skin, the more you “relax” your hair, the more you deny your African heritage, the more you say you’re “white”, the darker your “Negro detrás de la oreja” turns; because every time you discriminate someone “black”, you’re discriminating your great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers, and mostly yourself.

What a shame, what a shame.

 

Supporting texts:

  1. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/dr.html
  2. https://www.ccny.cuny.edu/sites/default/files/dsi/upload/Introduction_to_Dominican_Blackness_Web.pdf

What are your strenghts? What are your weaknesses?

So every time you have a formal job interview, these two questions are never left out: 

What are you strenghts? What are your weaknesses?

In my opinion, these are the hardest ones to answer; I mean, analyzing your whole personality in just 5 seconds is a moment of terror. It’s not that I don’t know myself it’s just that I’ve actually never had taken the time in my life to analyze my weaknesses and my strenghts.

The first thing that always come up in my head are the positive things: I’m very organized, I’m responsible, I’m a multitasker…and that’s about it really. (The nervousness and the 2 or 3 seconds to think are influencing factors). Then, while the human resources lady writes them down, you start thinking about your weaknesses…and then it all stops.

My weakness? I don’t think I even have them…man, I’m not that perfect but I can’t start saying all my defects to this lady If I really want a job…To be honest, I can’t even think of one right now.

And your weaknesses Ms.?

That is when time stops. 

Since I only have a couple of seconds to answer, I look at the window behind the interviewer and I look at her and reply tha first bad thing that pops up my mind: I’m very strict…meaning that I like things to come out in a certain way, I said.

The lady looks down at her sheet and starts writing what I say.

As a human being it’s rather difficult to find our weaknesses within. We might not even recognize them until someone else points them out for us.It’s not like people analyze themselves everyday either…unless you’re a yoga senpai or learned meditation at Bali (reference to Eat, Pray, Love).

Ain’t no one got time for that, I say in my head.

As we finish my job interview, I say goodbye to the human resources lady and walk towards the door. As I close it behind me I think: What are my real weaknesses?

It’s been a while since I don’t do an introspective analysis of myself; last time I did was at my psychologist’s office as part of the therapy like two years ago.

I admit, it’s not easy to identify within yourself the negative aspects of yourself. They are always kind of hidden beneath your bed in a locked box with a key that keeps loosing itself. Most of the times I do recognize my weaknesses, it’s usually when someone else points it out. Of course, it’s your job to identify the person who does to see if they’re doing it with a goodwill to help you, or with a bad faith to fuck you over.

After this interview, maybe I’ll take some time to sit down and unlock that box underneath my bed. Next time I get interviewed I hope I can answer: what are you weaknesses? with a full and secure response.

Silence

You can silence my voice, but never silence my words.

You can silence my actions, but not my ideas.

You can silence my art, but never silence my imagination.

You can silence my books, but never silence my knowledge.

You can silence my eyes, but never silence my memories.

You can silence my feet, but never silence my path.

You can silence my education, but never silence my conscience.

You can silence my letters, but never silence my words.

Human Being

Why be a human being instead of a rainbow fish?

I could dive into the darkest hollows of the sea and not have fear. I could feel the water sliding against my scales and not have chills.I could have the sea like my home, and never get to imagine the horror of going out to the forbidden place; the surface. There with my rock, I am safe and nobody can harm me.

Why be a human being instead of a star?

I could emanate my stellar wind and never turn off for the next million years.When the day of my explosion have arrived,I will turn into a big and intense Supernova. Nobody will envy me because I’m the most beautiful thing that could ever exist between galaxies; from the inside to the outside; from the earth to the UDFY-38135539.

Why be a human being instead of the wind?

I could move myself freely from one place to another without gas, without money, without acetylcholine; without family, without ring, without document. To travel in all directions and whistle my stealthy music in the ear of the loved, the living, the dead, the afflicted.

Why be a human being instead of your brain?

I could control your movements so that you can always be where I am; control your memory so you can erase what’s pain, and keep what’s happy; control your learning so you can learn from your mistakes and know to never make them again; control your insular cortex so you can emanate love to others and never hurt others feelings.

I don’t want to have Irritability to stimuli, nor Metabolism to obtain nutrients, nor Reproduction to multiply, nor Relation to adapt.0473de53846f8dbc578acd6d9a4c116a

I want to have Love before hate, books to obtain thoughts, spirit to spread everyone with joy, and I want to have you so that you can accompany me to…

Discover.

Undress.

Rehabilitate.

Discover my being, Undress my flesh and Rehabilitate my soul once lost, but now found.

 

 

Love like spines

I loved you once, and you betrayed me. I gave you a second chance and you chose to betray me again.

Why do you think I would ever love you again? 

Loving you is like moving your fingers towards the spines of a cactus: the first time you did you pinched yourself and it hurt for a few seconds, but you could bear the pain.

The second time you did, you thought that it wouldn’t hurt as much as the first time, so you pressed your fingers harder than last time against the spines and you wounded yourself. 

You wouldn’t think of getting your fingers close for a third time because, you know that if you do, the wound would grow deeper and even though you like the sensation of pain, it would take some time to heal or maybe it would never get to heal.

Why would you believe that I’d have the stupid idea to ever love you again?

The “whitening” of my latin hair

Latin America has a rich mixture of different ethnicities between African, European and Native American ancestry. It is estimated that 40% of the total population of Latin America has Afro-descendants which is why some of us have one other physical characteristic from our enslaved fathers such as a dark skin color, some facial features and hair texture. In most of Latin American countries, not only does your physical appearance influence your ethnic roots but social status and socioeconomic values are also involved; which it’s no coincidence why 60% of those Afro-descendants live in extreme poverty.

Having 2 Dominican parents and living for 15 years in the Caribbean has gained me lots of experience in the “whitening” process. “Whitening” in Latin America is defined as: the removal of any trace of African ancestry you have that can reflect itself physically; this includes the enlightening of the skin tone and straightening of the hair. It’s not a secret in high school when you have the opportunity of getting your first “Relaxer” as a quinceañera’s gift. I remember all the girls at school arriving the next day to class with a flat out shiny hair. Some girls with noticeable tight curls would admit they had the process done, other girls would just say it was thanks to the “magic of the blow dryer” in a way to take the dirt of negro heritage off their shoulders.

I am a living proof of the “whitening” movement. My hair is naturally curly; if I were to classify it, it would be like a type 3 which is a soft curly hair; since it’s fine it tends to puff up under humid conditions. Throughout my years at school I was never really bothered about my hair. I really liked; it was easy to have them curled as it was easy to straighten. I always went to school in a ponytail shaped in a big curl. When I started to grow up, I used to see that some of my classmates wouldn’t get puffy hair while doing gym time, which I would always end up with spiked hairs and curls out of nowhere from the humidity. When girls started talking about the “Relaxer” I was in shock! …I mean, my hair wasn’t as curly as theirs and I definitely didn’t have a “Brillo pad” hair, so I always thought I didn’t need any “relaxers” in my hair and decided to keep my original hair for time being.

As crazy as it seems, being part of the few girls at high school that maintained her natural curly hair, most girls seemed delighted to touch and complement my curly ponytail saying things like: “Oh, I wish I had your hair” or “You have such nice curls”. Ironically I would think to myself: “Well, if you stop using that relaxer, you can actually go back to the curls you used to have”. Those days I decided to wet my hair and mousse them up into my curls, those were the days I would become a hair phenomenon! I would hear things like: “Oh, you should wear your hair like this to school everyday” or “See? Your hair isn’t bad, it’s pretty nice”.latina

As time passed, the obsession of getting straighter hair grew bigger in a way that 9 of 10 girls in my class went to school with their hair straightened (counting that I was the 1 out of 10 that didn’t). Each year that passed I started getting more and more mad at my hair for not being in place when the wind blowed or puffing up at the slightest view of a rain cloud. When I was finishing my senior year I finally got the courage to go to my mother and tell her: “Mami, I want to straighten my hair for my high school graduation”. My mother said: “Ok, but only because I’m tired of you complaining about your hair”.

The day of my high school graduation I paraded the school’s entrance with my super sleek straightened hair; I also dyed it darker with a semi-permanent hair color since relaxing your hair “opens the pores of your hair so that the dye takes up faster” (said by my mother’s hairdresser who also relaxed her hair as well). While me and my classmates where sitting down on our outdoor scenario, I saw the sky getting grayer: “Uh-oh” I thought, but then reminded myself that I got my hair relaxed and my hair was not going to puff up. Till this day I’m still embarrassed of my graduation photos since my hair looks like Hermione Granger’s hair on her first year at Hogwarts. I thought: “This shit doesn’t even work on my hair. Damn this hair relaxer!”. After that, I relaxed it a second time a couple of  months later thinking that maybe it had been applied wrong the first time.

Since my “relaxing” days (which were only 2 times), I have applied on my hair different straightening processes like the “Brazilian Keratin Treatment”, which I stopped using after I almost passed out with the formaldehyde smell (yes, the main ingredient of embalming at the morgue). Then I stopped using Keratin after 2 years of usage and just started blow drying my hair every weekend at the beauty salon. I now have 3 years stuck to blow drying my hair every weekend which has, eventually, straightened out my hair till a point where my hair is now a type 2. Sometimes I go back to my old curly hair days and curl my hair with a diffuser, but it will never go back to the curls I used to have during my childhood and teenage years.

Part of me is disgusted by how I felt peer pressure into the “whitening” of hair. Lately I’ve been alternating the hair salon with fixing my own hair with a diffuser in one hand and mousse or coconut oil in another. Thankfully my mother never pressured me to “whiten” my hair, she just helped me get the best goods and treatments during the time I used relaxers, or the other time I started the Brazilian Keratin. She always told me that “The hair is the frame of a woman’s face” maybe one day I’ll stop blow drying my hair overall and wear my natural hair as it is on an every day basis. Meanwhile, I enjoy the few weeks of the year in which I get to keep my hair natural and free from the whitening culture every Latina has to put up with at some point of our lives.