Flags of Our Fathers and Mothers

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ethnic authenticity and the struggle for self-identity in a post-multicultural world.

Actually, that not’s true. In reality, I’m more apt to be thinking about taking my car in for a tune-up, or the odds of the Packers winning their division, or what Kate Winslet is doing right now (probably something sexy).

But when stray thoughts about ethnic authenticity and… well, the rest of it, actually do enter my mind, I think about a recent news story that caught my eye.

Here in California, we had a brouhaha, an imbroglio if you will, when a woman posted a video of herself berating people for flying a Mexican flag in their front yard. The woman, who was running for political office, ultimately lost her day job when the video went viral.

The family with the Mexican flag explained that they were simply expressing ethnic pride and meant no disrespect to America.

amer flag

There are several things going on here. First is the fact that a jingoistic bigot thought she would impress people by posting a video of herself being a bully, and maybe win the xenophobic vote in the process. It’s a sign of progress that this backfired horribly.

Second, the incident shows that for many Latinos, maintaining ties to one’s homeland is crucial to the concept of self-identity. And this drive for ethnic authenticity can span generations.

You see, Hispanics aren’t cowering under the boot of assimilation, like they did so often in the past. Back in the day, Latinos hid evidence of their roots, or they outright disowned their ethnicity, or they did anything they could to try to bluff people into thinking they were descended from the swarthier pilgrims on the Mayflower.

But contemporary Latinos are less likely to be ashamed of who they are, and displays of ethnicity are assumed — correctly — to be a right that can’t be subjugated.

Basically, if some nut comes onto your private property and starts lecturing you on how to be a real American, you are well within your rights to tell them to fuck off.

Now that this is settled, let me get back to those thoughts of Kate Winslet…

 


More Than Skin Deep

What Latino doesn’t love President Obama? Well, what Latino who hasn’t had a family member deported?

But I kid.

In the last presidential election, Hispanics overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama, and their affiliation with the Democratic Party is well-established. Now, it didn’t help much yesterday, when Democrats were trounced by a political party whose leaders include a hog-castrating nutjob.

But maybe some Latinos are jumping on the GOP bandwagon after all. You see, a new study implies that there is a “relationship between skin color and partisan preferences among Latinos.”

black to white
The research found that Latinos with the darkest skin showed a 98% chance of voting Democrat, while those with the lightest skin showed just a 43% chance. Put another way, “lighter-skinned Latinos are more likely than darker-skinned Latinos to identify as Republican and to vote for Republicans.”

So apparently, the lighter skinned you are, the more likely you are to believe that climate change is a myth created by gay socialists who are trying to force everyone to have abortions. And that’s true even if your last name is Rodriguez.

 


Movin’ On Up?

Sometimes you take good news where you can.

So here’s your positive tidbit for the day: The nation’s poverty rate dropped significantly last year for the first time since 2006.

celebrate

Yes, well, hip-hip hooray and all that.

The overall rate dipped from 15% to 14.5% (still pretty damn high).

That rate was pushed down primarily thanks to the efforts of Hispanics, who showed the most improvement. The rate for Latinos fell from 25.6% to 23.5%.

So instead of “over one-quarter of Hispanics live in poverty,” we can now say, “just under one-quarter of Hispanics live in poverty.”

Hey, I warned you that the good news was limited.

Among the reasons for the decline in Latinos’ poverty rate are the improved job market and the fact that more U.S.-born Latinos are entering the workforce. And remember that U.S.-born Latinos “tend to have more education [and] tend to be English-speaking,” which often leads to higher earnings.

Latinos were the only ethnic group to see a noticeable change in their poverty rate last year, but even with that, the percentage of destitute Hispanics is still substantially higher than it is for whites or Asians.

And while Latinos make up 17% of the American population, they constitute 28.1% of poor people.

Do you still feel like celebrating?

 


Not Quite Halloween

Back in the 1960s, the great essayist Joseph Mitchell wrote about his awe at seeing murals depicting “animated skeletons mimicking living human beings engaged in many kinds of human activities, mimicking them and mocking them… I was astonished by these pictures.”

He was describing, of course, the imagery of Día De Los Muertos. In Mitchell’s era, the Latin American holiday was exotic and largely unknown to US readers, and he was performing his writerly duty of passing along intriguing cultural information to his audience.

Today, we all are familiar with Día De Los Muertos — the white face paint on celebrants, the ubiquitous illustrations of grinning skulls, the small panoramas of skeleton musicians and dancers.

diadelosmertos

However, there is still great confusion in America about what this holiday actually signifies. Although it takes place at the same time of year as Halloween and shares the theme of ghostly visitors, there are fundamental differences.

To continue reading this post, please click here.


The Spirit Moves You

Congratulations to Chase, JT, and Guillermo, all of whom won passes to see Ouija, the new horror movie coming out next week.

I didn’t want to mention this before, but Ouija sounds suspiciously like the 1980s classic Witchboard. That movie starred Tawny Kitaen, so you know it was good.

witchboard1

Clearly, we should all be on the lookout for any future movies that address the problem of demonic mass-produced board games.


It’s pronounced, “We-Jah”

I may have mentioned, once or twice, that I am like many Hispanics in that I love horror movies. So it’s no surprise that just about the only contests I have on this site consist of tickets to see horror movies.

For example, I’m offering you the chance to win passes to a screening of Ouija, the new horror movie coming out on Halloween. In the film, a group of friends awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board (this was probably not very smart of them).

ouija one

You can catch it in one of the following cities:

Dallas

El Paso

Los Angeles

Miami

New York City

All you have to do is comment on one of my posts (including this one) about anything you please. Just make sure to tell me what city you plan to see the movie in, and tell me what names (up to two people) I should put on the guest list.

I’ll announce the contest winners in the next week or so.

The Ouija board tells me I will have many takers on this one.

 


Encroachment in the Neutral Zone

Accusations of “selling out” are often flung around when Hispanics clash over controversial topics, like immigration reform or Obamacare or whether Jennifer Lopez has ever recorded a decent song. It’s an easy way to discredit your opponent while bolstering your own bona fides,

But usually, it’s all just talk. I have to admit, however, that the selling-out label may actually fit in one particular debate. And it’s over the dry concept of net neutrality.

Bonlie-Net-Neutrality-Cartoon

As we know, net neutrality is the concept that everybody should have equal access and priority on the Internet. It seems obvious enough that this is a good idea.

But telecommunications companies see an opportunity to make extra bucks by charging for access. So they’ve enlisted organizations like the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership, which says that net neutrality policies could inhibit investment and leave disenfranchised communities farther behind. 

This is absurd, of course. And anyone who supports the telecoms must be getting paid off (i.e., selling out).

Sane parties, such as Latinos for Internet Freedom, point out that an open Internet means more job opportunities and better educational opportunities for Latinos. The group says, “creating new hierarchies of faster and slower websites means a new variation on the ancient theme of discrimination.”

The fight is getting personal. The Latino advocacy group Presente.org has started a petition titled, “They Don’t Speak for Us,” which harshly criticizes those Latino organizations that support the telecoms.

One way or another, the outcome will greatly affect Latino consumers’ access to the Internet. And it will provide a perfect example of what selling out really means.


A Matter of Life and Death

I became a father last year. In between the debates about proper discipline, bed times, and circumcision pros and cons, my wife and I agreed on one thing: Our son will learn how to swim, and soon.

It amazes me how parents who will take the time to teach a kid how to ride a bike or throw a football will not insist on swim lessons. You see, it is highly unlikely that one’s life will depend upon the ability to fly a kite or bake a perfect cookie or any of the other skills that parents often deem essential.

But knowing how to stay afloat is crucial. For grim evidence, I refer to a recent story out of Oregon. Four members of a Latino family — representing three generations — drowned in a single accident. None of the family members knew how to swim.

While extreme in its heartbreaking intensity, the tragedy is not an isolated incident. Many Hispanics do not have access to water-safety classes, equipment, and other resources that will keep them safe in the water. And too many Latino parents view swimming as a luxury, or as unimportant to daily living, or as something that white kids in suburbs do.

But keep this in mind: Children, in particular those who cannot swim, face a higher risk of drowning. And only about 40 percent of Latino children can swim, compared to about 60 percent of white children.

Many of my family members cannot swim and/or are actively terrified of the water. I taught myself how to swim when I was a kid, because I loved jumping into lakes so much (it was a phase). But let’s face it, taking swimming lessons is better.

life-time-swim-03

In the Oregon town where the tragedy occurred, local officials are reaching out to the Latino community to emphasize the importance of water safety. And a nearby facility will host family swim lessons, offering financial assistance for those who need it.

So when summer comes around again, do yourself and your kids a favor. Hit the water and dog-paddle for all you are worth.

 


Quick on the Draw

Recently, I wrote how everyone (except for you and me) is prone to furious outbursts of racist invective at the slightest provocation.

That got me thinking about a related issue.

Namely, why are conservatives so quick to defend someone who spews racist, homophobic, or otherwise hateful speech?

After all, it wasn’t liberals who said, “Hey, that’s cool, Mr. Oldman. Tell us more about your sophisticated sociopolitical outlook.”

bram-stokers-dracula-gary-oldman1

Nope, it’s primarily conservatives who say it’s no big deal, or that the First Amendment protects such language, or that it’s time to take a bold stand against the insidious forces of political correctness.

Now, I’ve written entire posts about how pulling out the First Amendment or bashing PC is a loser’s lament, so I’m not going to repeat those points here. And to be clear, there are plenty of conservative libertarians who support the right to free speech. Just as there are plenty of liberals who would like to see Bill O’Reilly legally forced to shut up. However, these perspectives are not so closely aligned with the general philosophy of right wing and left wing.

What I’m talking about here is your basic social conservative, particularly when it comes to hate speech. It is a bit disturbing how swiftly these individuals rush to defend — or even praise — idiotic, racist bullshit.

I would like to think conservatives are earnest lovers of the concept of free expression. However, in many cases, these are the same people who threaten legal action if someone says, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” And remember back during the Iraq War, when up to 40 percent of conservatives believed that protests against the conflict should not be allowed (and that was constitutionally protected free speech, no less).

In fact, there is some evidence that this issue pops up in the ultimate justice-is-blind venue: the US Supreme Court. A recent study found that “liberal justices are (overall) more supportive of free speech claims than conservative justices,” and that “conservatives on the court are far more inclined to bias than their more liberal colleagues.”

Conservatives have historically shown little love for the idea of allowing people to speak their mind, and in truth, live and let live is not traditionally associated with the conservative movement. Whether it is gays getting married, or a mosque being built down the block, or some anarchist burning an American flag, there are usually conservatives there denouncing and demanding and denigrating. Rarely do you hear a Fox news anchor defend such actions.

But if some washed-up action star says that Mexicans are wetbacks, then conservatives abruptly clutch the flag to their chests and say, “It’s his right, damn it.”

But once again, we have to ask, why is this?

Well, maybe it’s because defending morons gives conservatives the perfect opportunity to appear principled and astute. Or maybe it’s because so many of their heroes are actually, well, racists. Or maybe it’s because these comments reveal what so many of them are really thinking.

Damn, I hope it’s not that last one.

 


White Heat

The intersection of race and privilege is an ominous crossroads.

It pops up whenever a white person says something like, “People have made jokes about my Irish ancestry, and I never get offended. So what’s with all these Latinos getting upset about wetback jokes?”

If you’ve said something like this and fail to see the problem, I’m not sure I can help you. But let me just point out that the inability — indeed, the outright refusal — to see the world though anyone else’s eyes is a hallmark of privilege.

white-privilege

In America, the concept of privilege is closely related to race. White privilege is even its own catchphrase and subset of cultural angst.

Recently, my friend Hector Luis Alamo wrote a piece for Latino Rebels in which he stated that “resentment towards whites runs deep in Latino communities.” He went on to list the reasons for this resentment, including the fact that “Latinos in America aren’t granted nearly as many tools and opportunities as whites.”

This is all true, of course, but it doesn’t stop there.

Over at Huffington Post, César Vargas stated that white privilege seeps into the Latino community itself. He implied that Latinos who are lighter in skin (like me) receive benefits that darker-skinned Hispanics do not. Vargas wrote that the “Latino representation in the States seems to be a microcosm of the racial and social disparity in Latin America” and that “white Hispanics [are] ill-equipped to speak for the rest of us.”

About this time, we all start getting a bit uncomfortable with these ideas.

After all, we’re not talking about some Klan member shouting that whites are the master race. We’re referring to good, sincere white people — and even light-skinned Latinos — who enjoy an easier life by virtue of their skin tone, and who are repulsed at the very idea of bigotry.

But white privilege is a powerful and quite real thing. It sneaks up on its recipients in ways that they may not even recognize.

For example, many studies have shown that people are more likely to help individuals who resemble them. Ergo, whites in positions of power are more likely to mentor and guide their fellow whites, regardless of their actual talents or abilities.

And of course, if you’re a white cop who shoots an unarmed black kid under the most suspicious of circumstances, literally hundreds of thousands of people will rush to your defense. And they will most likely be white.

What does all this mean? Well, at the very least, it should mean that if you’ve benefitted from white privilege, give thanks for your lucky genes, and strive to make America a place where such randomness doesn’t prop up our entire social structure.

And if someone makes a joke about you being Irish, don’t think it lets you off the hook.

 


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