Tag: African American

Not Exactly a Golden Age

So here’s a question: Are you among the half of Americans (49 percent, to be precise) who say racism is “a big problem” in society today?

I know I am.

And I also know that I would prefer to be among the 7 percent of Americans who say racism is “not a problem at all.” When referring to those people, I speak for the rest of us when I say, “I’ll have what they’re having,” because they clearly possess some serious alcohol.

Drunk-guy

The recent survey revealed that prejudice and bigotry remain societal ills, and “in every demographic group surveyed, there are increasing percentages of people who say racism is a big problem — and majorities say that racial tensions are on the rise.”

The percentage of Americans who feel this way is higher than it was 20 years ago, when 41 percent said racism was a big problem. As recently as 2011, that percentage was down to 28 percent, suggesting a rebound effect, or perhaps racial good feelings simply plateaued a few years back.

Of course, Americans may agree that racism is worse, but as the report states, they often “disagree profoundly on who the targets and victims are.”

Ethnic minorities have historically been the objects of racial prejudice. However, white Americans often feel that they are being discriminated against, a perplexing development that, according to the report, can be traced to “simmering rage fueled by the backlash of Obama’s election, the economic struggles of lower- and middle-income whites, and demographic shifts across the country.”

Because of this, the report says, “latent racism is becoming more open, because a lot of people are feeling threatened.”

Now to be clear, most white Americans do not feel that they are the targets of racial scorn. In fact, just 43 percent of white people say racism is a huge concern.

But 64 percent of my fellow Latinos say racism is a big problem, slightly less than the 66 percent of blacks who say the same thing.

Those numbers should tell you all you need to know about how race is perceived in America.

So is there hope for the future? Well, supposedly, the Millennials were going to eliminate racism once and for all because they’re all, you know, ethnically mixed and down with diversity and come from multiracial families, and are in general far hipper than Gen X or the Baby Boomers could ever dream of being.

Um…but another recent study showed that “despite the Millennial reputation for inclusiveness, young white Americans don’t have especially multicultural friend groups.” In fact, two-thirds (68 percent) of whites age 18-34 say, “they overwhelmingly associate with other whites.”

By the way, the same is true of just 37 percent of Millennial Hispanics and 36 percent of Millennial blacks.

So this might take a while.

 


Straight Outta That One Place

I’m old enough to remember when hip-hop first broke through. I’m talking about artists like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Slick Rick, and Run DMC. And what about Kid Frost, arguably the first Latino rapper?

Of course, I definitely remember the first time I heard NWA. Those guys were fucking terrifying.

 

o-STRAIGHT-OUTTA-COMPTON-facebook

At the time, I had never been to Los Angeles. Now I live here — something I could not have predicted all those years ago. And yes, I have spent a little time in South Central.

Compton today is not the gangsta mecca that is was back in the day. The city still struggles with poverty and unemployment. But crime — especially homicide — has plummeted in recent years.

And for the place that symbolized African American disillusionment, there is some irony in the fact that Latinos now make up about two-thirds of the city.

Does this mean everything got better when Hispanics moved in? Well, that would be an interesting, even bigoted claim to make.

There are, of course, myriad reasons for Compton’s improvement over the decades, but it is undeniable that Hispanics have changed the city in many ways.

Naturally, culture clashes have occurred. It is human nature, unfortunately, for tribalism to kick in when “outsiders” show up. And that’s true whether it’s blacks moving in white neighborhoods, whites moving into Latino neighborhoods, Hispanics moving into black neighborhoods, and so on in every combination of cultural and ethnic diaspora possible.

But again, does the fact that this particular city is a lot more livable than it was thirty years ago mean that the album Straight Outta Compton is a period piece? Hardly — nor is the movie a look back at a distant past that is inconceivable to us.

Events in Ferguson and around the nation are enough to prove that.

The man himself, Ice Cube, says the only change in race relations is that cell phones now exist so that violent confrontations can be filmed.

Somehow, that doesn’t make us feel all warm and fuzzy.

 


Nice Try

So for two years in a row, the top individual prize in the entertainment pantheon — the Oscar for best director — has gone to a Latino.

birdman

That’s great. And Mexican auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu took time in his speech to give a shout out to immigrants, which was classy.

But of course, much of González Iñárritu’s triumph was overshadowed by a truly tone-deaf chiste from that master of humor, Sean Penn (as an aside, is there any artist who is more respected but less liked than this guy?).

Now, González Iñárritu has pointed out that Penn’s comment was an inside joke between friends. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, then, and say that Penn isn’t a straight-up racist.

But perhaps inside jokes aren’t a very good idea when millions of people across the planet are watching. And maybe tossing racial jabs isn’t very bright when you’re representing an organization that is hypersensitive about its horrible record on diversity.

All Penn’s joke did was make every white liberal in the audience uncomfortable, confirm the bias that many ethnic minorities believe lurks within the system, and “underscore the problem the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences has been trying desperately to disprove.” Namely, that the Academy has a racial issue.

The stunning lack of diversity in the entertainment industry is a well-known facet of American culture, and I’ve written about it more than once.

And it is not, as many right-wingers seem to think, just blacks and Latinos clamoring for jobs they haven’t earned. It’s about equal access and opportunity. One could argue this is all that any fight over civil rights is, at its core.

But when it comes to the entertainment industry, specifically, it is about something more. As González Iñárritu has proved, different perspectives lead to new ideas and new stories. It is essential for any art form that, to remain relevant, it continue to grow.

And to be blunt, there are only so many more movies that we can take about an upper-class white family gathering together for a funeral/wedding, or a white guy’s attempt to bond with his elderly and uncommunicative dad, or the adventures of white prep-school kids coming of age.

We want something else.

 


I’ve Seen All Good People

This is a response, of sorts, to Brit Bennett’s article “I Don’t Know What to do with Good White People.”

But it will not be a full-fledged attack of the type that made the internet infamous. That’s because in her article, Bennett makes some insightful points about white privilege.

She explains that “sometimes I think I’d prefer racist trolling to this grade of self-aggrandizement,” adding that there are many “good white people [who] expect to be rewarded for their decency.”

Yes, she pissed off a few readers, and made others uncomfortable, with her mocking of liberal condescension. Bennett points out that many white people practically shout, “See how enlightened and aware we are? See how we are good?”

halo

 

That’s all true of course. And the comfort level of white liberals is not high on the list of national priorities.

Despite this, however, we need good white people. For starters, every social movement needs as much assistance — as much cultural firepower — as it can get.

But more important is the fact that white privilege will continue to be a problem as long as people (primarily whites) deny it even exists. So we need white people to criticize their own privilege, and many will not do this if their efforts get thrown back into their faces.

For example, the recent CrimingWhileWhite hashtag came under fire for co-opting the pain and rage of the black community and redirecting it toward the white perspective. It’s a fair criticism.

Still, it seems to me that the point of the Ferguson/Gardner/ et al protests was to indict systematic racism in our nation’s police force. An effective way to do this is to draw contrasts with how white people interact with the cops. CrimingWhileWhite nailed this.

In essence, to dismiss good white people is to alienate one’s allies. And it’s clear that blacks and Latinos need all the help we can get.

 


A Revealing Anecdote

I recently wrote about the Ferguson/Gardner cases, and I mentioned that cops often treat ethnic minorities differently than they treat white people.

Well, I thought I would add my own personal observation to the #CrimingWhileWhite trend, but mine is in the third-person because, well, I’m Latino.

Anyway, years ago, when I still went to raucous house parties, the cops were called out to break up a fiesta I was attending. Yes, we were a little loud, and the neighbors were within their rights to call the police.

house_party

 

In any case, the cops showed up and knocked on the door. My group of friends and I decided now was a good time to leave, so we exited out the back. My girlfriend at the time, who happened to be white, opened the door. A cop was waving a flashlight around the darkened backyard, and he shined it directly into her face.

She was understandably pissed. And all of us were flummoxed about why a cop would be prowling around in the dark with a flashlight. What was he trying to find?

Regardless, when the light hit my girlfriend’s eyes, she shouted, “Get that fucking light out of my face, you asshole.”

The cop complied, and we all left, without further incident.

Now, if I had shouted this statement — or a tall, black male had yelled it — I’m pretty sure there would have been a very different outcome.

 


And Another Thing…

I recently found out that I have distant in-laws who live in Ferguson. They are my wife’s extended family, and I met them once in passing about a decade ago. That is my only personal connection to the city that has joined the short list of places whose very name signifies tragedy and/or disaster (e.g., Newtown, Chernobyl, etc).

In any case, there is not much I can add to the national debate over police brutality and systemic racism. I have never claimed to speak for all Hispanics, and I certainly can’t claim to speak on behalf of blacks. Maybe Charles Barkley can handle that.

barkely

But I just want to reiterate a couple of points that many people seem to have forgotten during all the chaos in Ferguson and the outrage over Eric Gardner’s death.

First, claiming that Brown, Gardner, et al were no angels is irrelevant. It only implies that you think cops have the right to execute people in public, without a trail or even a charge. You should rethink this position. Really.

Second, changing the subject to black-on-black crime is also irrelevant. There’s also more white-on-white crime than interracial crime. What does any of that have to do with whether cops are out of control or not?

Third, claiming that racism doesn’t exist is just idiotic and/or self-serving. Similarly, claiming that you don’t see color is either a lie or a tremendous delusion. It’s been scientifically proven that you do see color, so just drop the above-it-all attitude.

Fourth, stop insisting that if ethnic minorities just behaved, they would not have issues with cops. This is not only insulting and condescending, but laughably naïve. There is a whole trending item about how the police perceive white people differently. Check it out.

Lastly, go ahead and condemn violence and the looters. But don’t let that distract you from the real issues here. And those issues are legion.

 


Parallel Lines

I have not written about the Ferguson situation to this point. It’s not because I am indifferent. It’s because I didn’t think I had much to add on the topic.

ferguson_day_6_picture_44

I mean, so many people have addressed the black-white racial divide, our flawed justice system, the increasing militarization of the police, the obliviousness of white conservatives regarding racial injustice, and the fact that an unarmed minority teenager is more likely to be demonized than a white teen who actually murders people.

That covers a lot of ground.

So let me just point out what few people have mentioned, which is that Latino teens have more in common with Michael Brown than a lot of Hispanic parents would like to admit.

You see, “the deaths of Hispanics at the hands of law enforcement officers literally stretch across the country — from California to Oklahoma to New York City.”

Yes, a majority of Latinos agree “that Brown’s killing raised important racial issues, [but] only 18% of Latinos said that they were following the Ferguson news closely.”

Perhaps Hispanics just find the parallels too disturbing to think about. Or maybe Latinos are exhausted from fighting for basic rights all the time, and want to let our African American brethren handle this issue, under the assumption that it’s more of their problem anyway.

But of course, it’s everyone’s problem.

As we all know, “being Latino in some places is enough to be pulled over under the guise of a minor traffic stop and be asked to prove American citizenship.”

And that should be enough — along with the appeal of basic human decency — to pay more attention to the turmoil in Missouri.


Hard Times

The recession has been over for some time now, and the economy is booming… wait. You say, it’s not booming unless you’re rich?

Well, if you’re still feeling pinched, maybe it’s the fault of individuals heavy on the melanin. The odds are pretty good that you blame them anyway.

pointing

You see, a new study has shown that Americans “become subconsciously more prejudiced against dark-skinned people when times are tight.”

That’s right. On top of devastating the country, wiping out many people’s savings, and increasing the obscene gap between the wealthy and the rest of us, the Great Recession may have had the side effect of increasing racial tension.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


All You Need Is…

I’ve written before about the mythical Hispanic Health Paradox. Basically, despite the fact that Latinos “are less likely to have health insurance, go to doctors less often, and receive less in the way of hospitalization or high-level care when they are sick, they have lower rates of heart disease, cancer and stroke.”

Now, a new study shows that Hispanics “throughout the U.S. outlive people of all other races.” That’s right — having a bit of Latino in you means that you will probably live almost three years longer than white Americans, “and in some states, nearly eight years longer than African-Americans. The effect is more pronounced in immigrants but also applies to Hispanics born in the U.S.”

The reason the word “paradox” is attached to this phenomenon is because Latinos face “higher rates of poverty and lower rates of education and employment,” which implies that we will die off faster, not live longer. “But after nearly 30 years and hundreds of studies looking at the health behaviors, migration patterns, and characteristics of Hispanics, scientists still haven’t found the answer” to why we stick around for years past our white and black brethren.

Well, the latest conjecture for why this happens is a little awkward, scientifically speaking. Some experts have theorized that the reason is, “in essence, love.”

hearts

Yes, the infamous Latino fixation on family apparently provides Hispanics with strong emotional support and social interaction, both of which are important in fighting off disease and recovering from illness. Other cultures in America do not have the same bedrock foundation, and this may be why they kick the bucket sooner.

The report concludes that “the importance of family is more pronounced among Hispanics,” which has to be the least shocking announcement ever. But the fact that those same families help us to keep chugging along is an insight that researchers hope “has the potential to help us all live longer.”

So once again, you’re welcome, America.

 


Winners and Losers

Recently, everybody’s favorite crazy uncle of old media, the New York Times, asked the loaded question, “What Drives Success?” The article pointed out that some ethnic groups are more economically successful than others, and it pinpointed three reasons for this. The first is “a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.”

It’s an interesting thesis. But lost in the analysis and point-by-point explanation was this side note: “Most fundamentally, groups rise and fall over time. The fortunes of WASP elites have been declining for decades.”

In other words, nobody stays at the top or the bottom forever. And as the article points out, “The fact that groups rise and fall this way punctures the whole idea of ‘model minorities’ or that groups succeed because of innate, biological differences.”

dna strands

So for all the people who think Latinos are innately inferior, keep in mind that there are some “Hispanic groups in America that far outperform some white and Asian groups,” and that this trend is likely to accelerate.

The fortunes of groups twist and turn in a perpetual cycle. And one can choose to find that either comforting or terrifying.

 


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