The Big D

I once took a diversity assessment, which sought to gauge how I related to people of different ethnicities and creeds.

The assessment’s feedback stated that I had spent very little time with people who didn’t share my racial background. I found that hilarious, because by virtue of growing up Latino in the Midwest, and then working professional jobs around America, I’ve spent more time with white people than I have with my fellow Hispanics. The assessment, therefore, was very, very wrong.

And that is a big problem with measuring diversity. In essence, how do you do it?

statistics

The problem has stumped social scientists, educators, and government officials. Everybody wants more diversity, but as a recent study concluded, “no matter how you look at the numbers, it’s difficult to get a full picture of diversity.” In fact, we can’t even agree what diversity means, much less how to measure it.

After all, is diversity “a measure of equal representation among racial and ethnic groups? Is it a measure of how closely … racial makeup represents society writ large? Or is it something else entirely?”

Perhaps most intriguingly, there is a movement to use “qualitative research methods to try to measure diversity—or the level of inclusion or exclusion of minority groups.”

In other words, maybe we shouldn’t just count how many Latinos are in the city, or at the company, or enrolled on the campus. We should look at how well they fit into that given community. Are they really part of the culture? Or are they just window dressing that allows people to say, “Look at how damn diverse we are!”?

We will most likely never have a perfect level of diversity, but it is even less likely that we will ever have a perfect measurement of it.

But that doesn’t mean the concept isn’t worth chasing.

 


Born in the US of A

Not so long ago, life was easy for xenophobes. They could slander Latinos and immigrants simultaneously, because they were thought of as one and the same. Also, there weren’t that many Hispanics around, so one could spew within the comfort of an imposing majority.

Well, the Pew Research Center just made everything more difficult for the narrow-minded among us. The organization recently announced that the U.S.-born Latino population is growing at a faster rate than the immigrant population. This means that Hispanics are now more likely to be born and raised in America, as full-blooded American citizens.

This also means bigots will have to supplement their rants about undocumented immigrants with plain old racist tirades, thus doubling their effort.

At the very least, when told to “go back where you came from,” Latinos are likely to deflate the assertion with something like, “You mean, go back to Wisconsin?”

bucky-badger-wallpaper

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On the Road

When I was in college, my roomies and I road tripped to New Orleans, where we had the standard debauched adventures that young men are required to have. It was a great time.

open-road

But now that I’m older, I’m gunning to be the object of the road trip. Specifically, I see that Al Madrigal (otherwise known as the senior Latino correspondent on the Daily Show) is travelling across America to “capture a unique portrait of the many facets of Hispanic culture and life in the U.S.” for an hour-long TV special. Madrigal “will be joined by special guests along the way.”

And that’s where I come in. I’m willing to be one these cryptic “special guests” who comment on Latino culture. I mean, why not? At the very least, I can take Madrigal to a bitchin’ pupuseria right here in my neighborhood. What other qualifications do I need?

I’ll let you know if Al returns my phone call.

 


The Soft Sell

As we all know, Latinos are about as likely to vote Republican as they are to sprout feathers and fly.

The conservative reaction to Latinos’ tendency to vote Democratic is usually disbelief and the continued insistence (despite all evidence to the contrary) that Hispanics are really Republicans but just don’t know it. Even this misguided, paternalistic response is preferable, however, to the other common reaction from conservatives, which is overt hostility to Latinos and the claim that Republicans don’t need nothin’ from those illegal alien sumbitches.

Well, give credit to the big kahunas of the conservative movement, the Koch brothers, who have realized two things:

They need Latinos to win elections. And insulting and denigrating Hispanics doesn’t win them to your side.

As such, “one Koch-backed group is using a softer touch to try to win over part of the nation’s booming Hispanic population.” The group, the Libre Initiative, “is sponsoring English classes, driver’s license workshops, and other social programs to try to build relationships with Hispanic voters.”

As one leader of the Libre Initiative explained, the group is striving to build trust, with the hope that if Hispanics like the organization, “they may seek our opinion on something else.”

It’s unclear what this ominous “something else” is, but it apparently includes the idea that real Latinas “respect authority” and the acknowledgement that the rich are America’s “only productive class.”

For further edification, the speeches at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) may offer a clue. At this who’s-who of the conservative movement, that grand old crazy lady of the right wing, Ann Coulter, was met with applause when she called for the formation of death squads to take out any politician who supported immigration reform.

guat death squad

Now, if there’s one thing that many Latino immigrants know, it’s what a death squad looks like. So it’s clear that conservatives are finally speaking our language.

 


Many Years Later, as He Stood Before the Firing Squad…

The greatest writer of all time has died.

200px-Gabriel_Garcia_Marquez

It is of course impossible to summarize the career of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or to assess his influence on Latin America, the land, he said, of “poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality.”

My favorite Garcia Marquez line doesn’t come from one of his novels, not even the majestic One Hundred Years of Solitude (the greatest novel of all time). No, I like how he stated in an essay the simple truth that “Puritanism is insatiable and feeds upon its own excrement.” It’s one of many brilliant observations, poetically rendered, that he left to the world.

He has no successor.

 


X Marks the Bigot

I’ve never taken Ecstasy. My understanding is that it makes you breathe heavily and feel like having sex with whoever is dancing next to you.

ravers_baby

However, according to a recent study, “there might be a darker side” to the so-called cuddling chemical. Researchers have found that taking the oxytocin hormone “motivates in-group favoritism” and the “derogation of outsiders.” Scientists say that oxytocin has “a role in the emergence of intergroup conflict and violence.”

Basically, dropping E makes it more likely that you will behave like a racist jerk.

The researchers’ study had Dutch males choose imaginary people to join them in a lifeboat. Guys on Ecstasy discriminated against those “with Muslim or German-sounding names,” but “the men who were given a placebo didn’t pay attention to the origin of the names.”

Apparently, Dutch guys have some issues with both Muslims and Germans.

Now, I doubt that Ecstasy suddenly made these guys more racist, in the same way that alcohol does not inexplicably turn people into raging bigots. All these drugs do is lower inhibitions.

Drunk or stoned or otherwise altered individuals lack the capacity to think, “I better say or do what is socially acceptable.” As a result, they go with their gut instinct or true emotions, which are often prejudicial as hell.

Still, if I ever had a desire to go clubbing and pop pills with teenagers, this study has killed that flickering drive. I don’t want some woman dressed in neon colors and sporting day-glo bracelets to start shouting epithets at me over the drone of house music.

That would be the ultimate buzz kill.

 


Shakin’ All Over

Last week, for the second time this month, we had a significant temblor give our house a shake. We live in Los Angeles, so this kind of thing is not unexpected. Our one-year-old son, native Californian that he is, even slept through the last one.

But I’ve noticed something more than a little off-putting about the nation’s reaction to California earthquakes. Message boards and internet commentary usually light with people proclaiming their earnest wish that all of us out here in California, well, just die horrible deaths.

Some of the comments I saw included, “Too bad it wasn’t the Big One,” and “Waiting for California to slide into the ocean. Goodbye, weirdoes!” and “If only earth would finish the job and slide that festering leftist infection into the depths of the Pacific.”

It doesn’t seem to work the other way. When tornadoes hit Missouri, I don’t see commentators wishing that the entire state be blown away. And when hurricanes hit Florida, there is often an outpouring of goodwill and wishes for those in the storm’s path.

But California? Well, I guess we deserve to get swallowed up by the Earth.

earthquake-gallery-9

Of course, a lot of the animosity is directed toward our state’s undocumented immigrants, which if you believe right-wing media, currently account for 90 percent of the population.

The rest of it seems to be a combination of petty jealousy over our good weather, disdain for Hollywood celebrities, and vitriol aimed at our state’s frequently liberal policies.

But regardless of your political viewpoint, I would add that if the thought of thousands, perhaps, millions of your fellow Americans meeting a sudden, violent death is something that fills you with glee or smug satisfaction, then there is very little difference between you and Al Quada.

In any case, we here in California are not pleading for you to stop picking on us. We would just like the haters to acknowledge their irrational anger and stop pretending to love America (while despising its largest state and wishing destruction upon all who live there).

And to be honest, we are concerned about the next big earthquake. We’re worried that all of you will drop off into the Atlantic.

 


We Don’t Need No Education

When I was in grade school, the principal or some other authority figure would occasionally pepper the morning announcements with a dose of Spanish. He or she might get on the PA to say, “Today is Monday, or lunes,” or inform us that hola means hello.

Well, that kind of commie prank doesn’t fly in Texas, where almost 40 percent of the population is Latino.

Recently, the principal of a middle school in the city of Hempstead told her students that they were forbidden from speaking Spanish anywhere on the school property, even if it was a private conversation.  And yes, she announced this policy via the PA system, just to make sure everybody knew she wasn’t fucking around about it.

Microphone_studio

Clearly, this was an attempt by a government employee to make English the official language at a government-funded institution (which is unconstitutional) and to limit the free speech of US residents (which is way, way unconstitutional). So the school board, in the parlance of the day, responded by declining to renew the principal’s contract.

That means her ass was fired.

Of course, it’s always interesting to note how true patriots are quick to eliminate other people’s rights because that’s, you know, the American way and everything. Such individuals rarely have any knowledge or interest in the US Constitution, which is the document they supposedly revere.

But in case there were any people in Hempstead who supported the principal’s attempt to be a one-woman language police force, they may have been brought up short by the man at the school board meeting who “read a list of American Founding Fathers who spoke multiple languages. They included Benjamin Franklin (French) and Thomas Jefferson (French, Italian, Spanish and Latin).”

So it’s clear that this idea goes against the Founding Fathers themselves. Damn, what’s an English-only aficionado to do? Certainly, they cannot take comfort in the fact that “there’s no evidence that speaking Spanish hampers learning English, and…in most of the rest of the world, it’s common to speak two or more languages.”

In essence, kids in Hempstead can keep jabbering away in English, Spanish, Spanglish, French, Latin, Elvish, or whatever else they want.

Good for them.

 


Salute

Whenever I write about some subtle act of bigotry, I get comments that I am indulging in race-baiting, and that racism is more or less dead (except to agitators like me who keep bringing these issues up).

It’s much harder to make that claim when the act is overtly racist, especially if it occurred in the distant past. As such, I expect no slapdowns over the recent news that President Barack Obama gave the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans, who “if not for the hue of their skin or their ethnicity…would have received the prestigious medals for their valor long ago.”

moh

Yes, it seems that back in the day, the US Army was riddled with bigots who didn’t take kindly to handing out the nation’s highest military honor to anybody but white guys. As such, these men — who displayed “gallantry above and beyond the call of duty for their combat actions in Vietnam, Korea, and World War II” —were denied proper recognition.

The Obama administration ordered a review of the records, which is how the US Army found that two dozen of its bravest soldiers were dissed. So the men are now receiving their medals, decades later.

Sadly, “only three of the soldiers are alive to receive the recognition.

The rest—soldiers with last names including Garcia and Weinstein and Negron—are dead.”

 


The Best of Intentions

President Obama recently held a town-hall meeting to pitch the finer points of the Affordable Care Act to Latinos. And when I say, “the finer points,” I mean that he basically said, “This is driving me nuts. You should be signing up in droves.”

But Hispanics are doing no such thing, and despite the fact that “the Latino population is disproportionately uninsured and relatively young… enrollment hasn’t been going well.” This is because, like all things related to the Obamacare rollout, things were botched and fumbled.

Fumble

For example, “instead of starting with what would resonate with Latinos, outreach campaigns were developed in English for English-speaking audiences,” with the result that Obamacare details and benefits were not “directed particularly at the Latino population.”

Even more alarming, many Hispanics are under the mistaken impression “that signing up for the Affordable Care Act could get family members deported.”

So now some of Obama’s biggest supporters — who also stand to benefit greatly from the ACA, and who are also more likely than most Americans to be uninsured, and who are more at risk for some particularly vexing diseases – are cowering in fear rather than bum rushing the registration desks and swamping the ACA website.

It’s a cruel irony, and one that could have been easily avoided, if the Obama administration had put as much effort into proper outreach as they do in fending off right-wing attacks.

But a quick and easy solution isn’t coming. Indeed, at Obama’s town hall, “as the questions came, some of the challenges the president and his administration face in selling the health care law were brought into focus.”

Hopefully, they got the message.

 


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