***This commentary was intended for a mainstream American news outlet, who ultimately didn’t find Sammy Sosa’s cultural imperialism relevant to its readers (?). I however, believe in dialoguing with ALL Americans, Europeans, Africans and Martians about what this all means.
Is Sammy Sosa’s new look merely skin-deep?
The short answer is no.
While the sight of a previously dark and handsome Sammy Sosa sporting a new pasty white face, light green contacts and a conked hairdo has left many people in his native Dominican Republic and the international media dumbfounded, the choice of whether or not to bleach his face was entirely Sammy Sosa’s. Even the way in which he asseverated that the people behind the mysterious cream have fashioned a “revolution” on the Spanish language news program Primer Impacto was rather amusing. Once again: his face, his choice. But when the retired Major League Baseball player brazenly proclaimed minutes into the interview that he’s in negotiations with the European company behind the lightening cream to market it in America, the story took a potentially dangerous turn.
Sosa’s Creamgate would have likely become just another freakish footnote in pop culture history if he would have, say, like Michael Jackson, exercised the right to alter his own appearance. But Sosa’s modus operandi is a departure from Jackson’s own in that he wants you to buy into it, literally. Sosa, with the alacrity of an evangelist, plans to force-feed you the idea that you need to purchase his product to “improve” the way you look.
For the almighty dollar, Sammy Sosa is becoming an all too willing champion of cultural imperialism pushing unrealistic Eurocentric ideals of beauty in a jar. With Latinos constituting 30% of the nation’s population in another forty years, chances are that the very ideal of beauty will change radically. With that said, will people in a shifting society readily buy into Sosa’s archaic standards?
The results of the Primer Impacto viewer poll immediately following Sosa’s interview are a telling barometer of racial attitudes in an evolving Latino Diaspora.
When asked if Sosa’s skin bleaching was acceptable or deplorable, 45% of Primer Impacto’s responders thought too much of a stink was being made of his new look. That’s almost half. However, the fact that the slight majority of responders even took issue with Sosa’s drastic depigmentation may reveal that Latinos are embracing diversity now more than ever before. The stream of Latino consciousness about identity politics may be steering in a new direction after all.
And let’s face it: While some may see Sammy Sosa as the main contender for the Self-Hater of the Year award, he didn’t pioneer the skin-bleaching phenomenon. It’s a well-documented and unfortunate circumstance affecting many people across the Caribbean, throughout Africa and Asia. There seems to be an obsession with achieving the Western ideal of beauty—blonde hair, blue eyes, and waiflike frame—by any means necessary. But the truth is that most Americans can barely pull it off without harming themselves in the process: plastic surgery, chemical peels, eating disorders, boob jobs, you name it we’re doing it.
Perhaps Sammy Sosa’s imminent bleaching scheme may prove to be a good thing in the not-so-long-run. While people are dissing him today, we may find ourselves reexamining our own standards of beauty tomorrow.
When discussing Creamgate on Twitter, Facebook, and offline, the overwhelming majority of Latinos, other people of color and even white Americans who left comments were incensed with the perceived message Sammy Sosa is communicating through his actions and near future plans to sell his proverbial snake oil to the masses.
And really, who could argue with them?
Perhaps I’m being a tad idealistic myself. But when reading into Primer Impacto’s poll results, the comments left on my blog, and the dissatisfaction on the Internet and social networks in respect to Sosa by my fellow Dominicans, Dominican-Americans and other Latinos, I feel like the dissent may be signaling a departure from the Trujillo-like mentality that’s plagued the island’s consciousness for generations. The mixed-race Dominican dictator, whose maternal grandmother was half-Haitian, disliked his skin so much that he often wore makeup to mask his own blackness throughout his tyrannical rule from 1930 until his assassination in 1961.
This writer would like to think that other Latinos won’t drink the cultural Flavor Aid and be compelled to join Sammy Sosa’s “revolución” by becoming ghastly versions of their former selves. Rather, I hope we will become inspired to use what some might consider a parable of one man’s loss of identity as inspiration to explore and redefine our own.