Tag: crime

Wall of Denial

Yes, we’ve all been highly entertained by the chaos, comedy, bluster, and insanity of this year’s presidential campaign.

And perhaps no single concept illustrates the bizarre, parody-proof nature of this election more than Donald Trump’s plan to build a “big, beautiful wall” along the Mexican border.

 

pinkfloydwall

This idea is hugely popular with his base, many of whom are rather overt about their preferences for a certain type of skin hue. But other supposedly rational people are onboard with this proposal. Its simplicity speaks to them: “It will keep out all the illegals!”

So John Oliver recently devoted a segment on his show to how realistic Trump’s wall really is.

Just to summarize his findings, it seems that the wall would cost $25 billion to construct, and billions more per year in maintenance costs.

But that’s not our problem — right? Because Trump is going to make the Mexican government pay for it.

Well, the Mexicans themselves have no intention of spending money on this xenophobic folly, and we have no real way to make them do so.

Except of course, if we go to war over it, which Trump has not ruled out.

Naturally, we have to ask if this wall thing is really fighting about.

Well, building a wall presupposes that America is being overrun by… well, you know who.

But in that place called reality, immigration of all types — legal or illegal — is down. In fact, “the number of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally is at its lowest number in more than a decade.”

And despite all the fear, hatred, and blame thrown at undocumented people for their supposed killing and raping, the truth is that “immigrants are less, not more, crime prone than their native-born counterparts.”

So the wall would be a drastic solution to a problem that is overblown in the first place, and that is resolving itself.

Thus, the bottom line is this series of questions:

 

Do you really think the United States can force Mexico to pay for a wall?

If not, do you believe we should go to war —literally killing Mexicans and sacrificing American troops — over this?

If not, are you willing to cough up $25 billion (just to start) to construct this thing?

If so, are you aware that illegal immigration is down and undocumented immigrants are actually less prone to crime?

If so, are you aware that a wall will be of limited usefulness and not stop people who are truly determined to come here?

Answering these questions brings us to a pair of incontrovertible conclusions.

 

If you support the idea of a wall, you are possibly a racist.

But if you honestly believe a huge wall is going up in your lifetime — regardless of who is elected president — you are either delusional or actively stupid.

Now that’s simplicity.

 

 


#MoreThanALabel

Recently, the good people at Simmons College asked me to take part in their blog carnival.

carnival-1

Well, how could I say no to anything with the word “carnival” in it? Will there be rides? Will there be virtual cotton candy? Can I get my picture taken next to the bearded lady? (Note: it is no longer socially acceptable to make fun of women with facial hair, so please mentally delete that last sentence).

In any case, it turns out that the blog carnival is part of the #MoreThanALabel campaign to shine a positive light on immigrant communities, defy labels, and combat the stigmas of being an immigrant.

Now, I am not an immigrant. I was born in New York City, which many conservatives will tell you is not part of the “real America,” but alas for them, it technically counts as the USA.

As I’ve stated many times, being born here is not an accomplishment. It is pure luck.

However, my mother is an immigrant. She came here from El Salvador in the late 1960s, and she has now been an American citizen for longer than she was a resident of her native land.

Many of my cousins are immigrants. They came here as kids and have become citizens, started careers, and raised their own children.

One of my cousins has done multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean, really, how patriotic can you get?

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter how successful the immigrants in my family have been. Nor does it matter that immigrants have lower crime rates than native-born Americans. And it doesn’t even count that immigrants pay plenty of taxes and have a net positive impact on the economy.

That’s because a huge percentage of Americans are convinced that their lives suck because of all those people who were born south of Texas. And those Americans cannot be reasoned with.

So while it’s great that the #MoreThanALabel campaign is working to improve the image of immigrant communities, I’m just too cynical to contribute much of an uplifting narrative.

You see, I’m through with trying to convince xenophobes that immigrants belong in America. That is backward logic. It is the racists who represent the worst of the USA, and they always have.

And before everybody gets crazy, let me issue an obvious disclaimer: I’m not saying that everyone who has issues with immigration reform or is a conservative is a racist. Again, I’m not saying that. It would be absurd.

But the racial element is there, winding around the debate. It makes movements like #MoreThanALabel a necessity. No other group has to take such great efforts to convince a segment of the American population that they are human beings.

Still, the good news is that immigrants will persevere. Each new generation of arrivals struggles to its feet and establishes itself as part of American culture. It is an inevitable process, and it will go on and on.

So, if you need me, I’ll be hitting this blog carnival’s Tilt-a-Whirl. See you there.

 


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.

 


Sick Days

Yes, I’m as guilty as any other white-collar worker of bitching about office politics, inane corporate policies, and clueless colleagues who walked straight out of Dilbert.

dilbert dogbert

But at least there is a pretty good likelihood that I will not get killed at my desk. Of course, my odds would be better if I weren’t Hispanic.

That’s because a recent study found that Latino workers are 18 percent more likely to be killed on the job than workers of any other racial/ethnic group.

So it’s bad enough we Latinos have a tougher time getting a job in the first place. Now it looks like once we are gainfully employed, we have to punch in next to the Grim Reaper.

 

Why is this? Well, the chief reason is because Hispanics are heavily represented in the construction and landscape industries. And those are dangerous gigs.

It’s even more lethal if you are an immigrant worker, who experience the highest risk of death on the job. Those would be the same immigrant workers who are, you know, destroying America by stealing jobs and launching crime sprees and raping people nonstop (at least in Donald Trump’s world).

In any case, the report is even more troubling because it shows that the number of people who die while working continues to decline each year… but not if they’re Hispanic.

It makes you wonder about a system that exploits undocumented workers, puts them at an increased risk of death, and then, quite literally, adds insult to injury by blaming them for every possible social ill (even though there is rarely any data that validates this viewpoint).

 

I would go on about this grotesquery, but I’m getting a little nervous about working at my computer, being Latino and all.

So if you need to talk to me, I’ll be cowering under my desk.

 


Safe at Last

As you recall, the town of Murrieta, California, became the symbol of intolerance last year when throngs of protestors greeted a busload of undocumented people (many of them children).

The protestors unleashed a frenzied jingoistic display that prevented the immigrants from being processed in the town, and the bus had to turn around. Yes, it was a proud time to be an American, especially if you’re a believer in mobocracy.

mobruleIn any case, many of the protestors claimed that the recent influx of Latino immigrants had caused crime to skyrocket, and they weren’t going to take it anymore.

Well, I think we can all agree with their concern about crime, considering that recent statistics point out that Murrieta is the second-safest city in the country.

What’s that?

Apparently, all those recent Hispanic arrivals going around terrorizing everyone hasn’t had much of an effect on the place, because Murrieta has the lowest rate of assaults in the nation. The city also has the lowest rate of violent crimes among all large cities in the country. In 2013, there was a total of one murder in the city (no word on whether a Latino did it). Put it all together, and Murrieta is second only to another California city (Irvine) as the epitome of peace and tranquility.

But of course, a busload of undocumented women and children was going to turn Murrieta into Mogadishu overnight.

That was a close one.

 


Another Round

So there I was, blasting away at the bull’s-eye with a .22 rifle. When I was done, I handed the gun back to its owner and wondered if I should feel exhilarated or manly or something. But I just felt indifferent.

I was fourteen, and that’s the only time I’ve ever fired a gun. In the decades since, I’ve had no desire to repeat the experience.

I don’t own a gun, a fact that aligns with a larger statistic. We Latinos are the ethnic group least likely to own a firearm. Just 18 percent of us are packing heat. In contrast, more than one-third of white people (and a sky-high 61 percent of Southern white men) are armed.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


Bang

A few weeks ago, the head of the NYPD criticized Latinos and blacks for tolerating gun violence. Commissioner Ray Kelly’s timing could not have been more exquisite, for as we all know, some nut in Colorado has decided to take part in that most American of activities: the mass shooting of strangers.

Although it’s true that “America’s Hispanic population suffers from firearm violence at rates far greater than the U.S. population overall,” the idea that Latinos are more accepting of violence is darkly hilarious. After all, most of the mass shootings that grab headlines have taken place in predominately white small towns and suburbs.

To continue reading this post, please click here. 

 

 


Special

Remember that commencement speaker in Massachusetts? He told graduating students, “None of you is special. You are not special. You are not exceptional.”

The internet was ablaze with comments, most of them positively gleeful. Many people believe that the speaker revealed harsh truths and deflated the younger generation’s supersized egos.

Of course, a lot of the adults who cheered the speech are unhappy with how their own lives turned out, which is why they got off on a guy sticking it to a captive audience of teenagers. In any case, the graduates who most needed to hear such a message (i.e., the arrogant, haughty ones) are the kids most likely to dismiss it. When he was done, they flipped open their cell phones and said, “Some bitter old man tried to step on our day. Whatever, loser.”

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


Muy Peligroso

I’ve written before about my family’s roots in El Salvador. I’ve also written about how I have never been there, but hope to go someday.

Well, it looks like I sure can pick lovely vacation spots. A recent report pegged my family’s homeland as the most dangerous country in the world. The homicide rate is 71 per 100,000 inhabitants — the highest rate on the planet.

For the sake of comparison, such terrifying places as Colombia (35 per 100,000), South Africa (34 per 100,000), and Haiti (22 per 100,000) all register at less than half the homicide rate of El Salvador.

I am less than thrilled to hear this, if for no other reason than Cousin #7 now lives there, and I am naturally concerned about him. But I also don’t like hearing that one of the few countries I really want to visit someday has so many murders that you have to wonder if the babies carry handguns.

The culprit, as it is in much of Latin America, is the out-of-control drug war. El Salvador had actually gotten on the right track after its gruesome civil war ended in the 1990s. But the cartels and their bloody business model have wiped out the nation’s meager improvements.

I suppose I can use this new information to create some kind of tough-guy origin myth. I mean, how many Americans can say that their family emigrated from the most dangerous country in the world? Come on, how badass are we?…

Actually, that’s not very satisfying, and nobody’s impressed anyway — so skip it.

By the way, the United States clocks in at 5 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, which is a pretty good number compared with the rest of the planet. But if you really want to feel safe, go to Iceland, which has the lowest crime rate in the world and a murder rate of zero.

Think about that — nobody gets killed in Reykjavik. The same cannot be said of El Salvador.


Be on the Lookout

Here in Los Angeles, we’re relieved that police have arrested the thug who beat up a San Francisco Giants fan outside Dodger stadium (yes, I know the suspect is innocent until proven guilty, but let’s just say for the sake of this post that he did it).

As you may recall, on Opening Day in LA, a man dressed in Giants regalia, Bryan Stow, was jumped by a pair of angry Dodger fans, who beat him into a coma from which he may never wake up.

These boosters of the local team were supposedly pissed that a San Franciscan was on their turf. The real reason, of course, is that they were moronic hoodlums.

Because the main assailant was described as a Latino, Hispanics had time to brace ourselves for this latest ethnic embarrassment. Indeed, the suspect, Giovanni Ramirez, is described as “a stocky 31-year-old with a head shaved bald” who is a “documented member of [a] street gang,” and has “at least three prior felony convictions.”

In other words, he’s a cliché. But he’s a particularly lethal one.

I’ve written before about the frustration that Latinos feel whenever a Hispanic person commits a high-profile crime.

It’s an unpleasant sensation that doesn’t afflict members of the majority culture. For example, I doubt many white people cringed when Jared Loughner’s race was revealed (although we all winced upon discovering how easy it was for a psychotic to get a gun in this country).

Ramirez is just the latest living stereotype to make us all look bad. He’s one of the reasons why people frequently conjure up imaginary Latino assailants when they’re trying to conceal their own criminal behavior.

Recently, for example, a Canadian man named Robert Spearing lied to his wife about having tickets for Oprah Winfrey’s star-studded, mega-hyped, our-messiah-is-ascending final show.

Who knows why Spearing told this blatant fib to his spouse, but regardless, they drove all the way to Chicago before the guy realized, “Shit, I better make up some reason why I don’t have tickets.”

So “just before showtime, Spearing — bleeding from the forehead and his hands badly scraped — filed a report with cops claiming he had been mugged and the tickets stolen. He said two men — one African American, one Hispanic — had attacked him on the street.”

I suppose this can be viewed as an egalitarian approach to ethnic profiling. It wasn’t two black guys or two Latinos — it was one of each!

Of course, the cops quickly uncovered the fraud. Perhaps they realized that if anybody was going to be mugging people for Oprah tickets, it wasn’t going to be two guys (of any race). It was going to be distraught suburban women clutching copies of O and shrieking about Dr. Oz.

With hope, both Ramirez and Spearing will get their comeuppance. Their penalties will look very different, and their crimes don’t compare. But they share a mindset: They both believe that Latino men equal violence.

The fact that one of them is Hispanic just makes it all the more pathetic.


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