Tag: cultural power

How Very Droll

By now you’ve seen that infamous photo in a Florida high school’s yearbook. The shot pictured six students dressed in ponchos and sombreros and wearing fake mustaches, with one student wearing a shirt labeled, “border patrol.”

It’s offensive and idiotic, of course. But that’s not really the point.

Kids do dumb things, and rather than lambast the students in the photo, it would be better to point out to them that such behavior has no redeeming value. If that doesn’t convince them to be a little more aware of the culture in which they live, let them know that thanks to social media, such ill-conceived photos will haunt them for years to come.

No, the issue here is not the kids.

The problem is the adults. I’m taking about the parents who raised their kids to think it’s hilarious to embrace racial caricatures. And yes, I’m aware that some of the students in the photo are Latinos. If anything, that’s even worse.

And I’m talking about the yearbook advisors who saw nothing wrong with the photo. Hey, I was on my high school yearbook’s staff, and our advisor vetoed things left and right. I can’t imagine the teacher who looked at this and said, “Eh, a pointless and mean-spirited jab at Hispanics. Whatever.”

bored-professor

More than anything, I’m talking about the defenders of the picture, who are out in force on the internet. So let’s look at some of the adult excuses we’re hearing over what should be a pretty clear case of foolish, needlessly hurtful adolescent behavior. Here are some of my favorites:

It was only a joke. If you’ve ever said this to justify an insult, you have either never been on the receiving end of a verbal assault, or you are too dense to realize when someone was attacking you under the guise of humor. In either case, you were probably able to shrug it off because you are in a position of social power (racially, economically, etc). It’s a tribute to your lack of empathy that you figure everybody shares your charmed life.

Lighten up, it was funny. This is an amped-up version of the previous excuse. To any adult who actually thought the photo was hilarious, here are a few pointers about humor, before you really kill ‘em at your next stand-up routine. Humor tends to work when it’s directed at those in authority (rather than at a demonized underclass). It also works when it reveals profound truths or upends convention (rather than wallow in hackneyed, false stereotypes). In brief, the picture was about as witty as frat boys lighting their farts.

I’m German, and people have called me a kraut. I’m continually stunned that people believe all ethnic terms have the same resonance. No one hurls “kraut” as an insult in 2015 America. Now if you were bombarded with this term in, say, 1944, it might be different. In any case, terms that call out your European heritage bounce off a shield of cultural power, based on sheer numbers and societal influence. You can easily laugh them off. But don’t worry. In the future, when Hispanics are more than a quarter of the U.S. population, maybe we’ll smirk in smug condescension at “wetback.”

People are too sensitive. Yes, how great it was to live in the good old days, when offensive comments were met with forced laughs and seething hatred. Well, I have news for you. Society isn’t any more sensitive than it ever was. But people who gritted their teeth and let it go in the past are sick of your bullshit. So now you’re going to hear about it. And I can say—with a bit or irony—that if you don’t like it, tough.

Those kids shouldn’t apologize. It’s the illegal immigrants who should apologize. Hey, thanks for verifying that your issues with undocumented people have absolutely nothing to with race or ethnicity. Nope.

Soon we won’t be able to say anything out of fear of offending someone. If you mean that you can’t pull out tired racial stereotypes and rub them in people’s faces, well yes, I weep for your lost world.

Finally, there is the issue that the Latina student who called attention to the photograph, Jessica Morales, has been insulted, denigrated, and mocked for her decision to speak up about the picture. To the best of my knowledge, she didn’t scream that her fellow students were racists or demand a cash payment for pain and suffering or get all histrionic.

Her critics, however, are content to sit behind their keyboards and attack her, mostly under a cloak of anonymity of course.

Yes, kids being unintentionally offensive is bad. But adults being loudmouthed bullies is a hell of a lot worse.


The Unbearable Whiteness

You may be surprised to know that Latinos can change their race at will. Oh sure, for most people, race is a fixed attribute that was determined at the moment of conception. But Hispanics, unlike mere normal humans, can just go snap, and presto we’ve changed our race.

It’s kind of like Mystique, except we’re not naked all the time.

mystique

The proof of this superpower is in a recent New York Times article, which stated that between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, 2.5 million Americans who said they were Hispanic and “some other race” changed their minds and declared themselves to be Hispanic and white.

This was the largest shift in racial classification among Americans, and it provides, according to the Times, “new evidence consistent with the theory that Hispanics may assimilate as white Americans, like the Italians or Irish, who were not universally considered to be white.”

The data, supplied by the Pew Research Center, is “particularly significant” because “the shift toward white identification withstood a decade of debate over immigration and the country’s exploding Hispanic population, which might have been expected to inculcate or reinforce a sense of Hispanic identity, or draw attention to divisions that remain between Hispanics and non-Hispanic white Americans.”

Basically, it implies that many Latinos are saying, “Enough with the la raza talk. Consider me white.”

Now, some commentators have called shenanigans on this whole story. Indeed, it is quite a leap to glance at some raw numbers and make the sociopolitical conclusion that America may not be “destined to become a so-called minority-majority nation, where whites represent a minority of the nation’s population.” That’s because those predictions “assume that Hispanics aren’t white, but if Hispanics ultimately identify as white Americans, then whites will remain the majority for the foreseeable future.”

Let’s assume for the sake of argument, however, that the numbers reveal something profound about American culture and its future. Namely, that Latinos face “pressure — and the growing opportunity — to blend into society and to identify with the majority.”

Of course, this is a familiar phenomenon. Since this country’s founding, white people have held the vast majority of the political, economic, and cultural power. As such, it makes sense that Americans today “go on unthinkingly treating whiteness as the ideal and social baseline of American life.”

Indeed, there are very real advantages to being white — even if you’re not traditionally white. For example, Hispanics who see themselves as white tend to have higher levels of education and income, and they are less likely to have experienced discrimination.

Now, as we all know, Latinos can be of any race. There are your traditional brown-skinned Hispanics, black Brazilians, blue-eyed blond Argentineans, and just about every hue and texture in between.

As such, it’s no surprise that Hispanics have forged “a cross-cutting identity that can feel like a racial category (shorthanded as ‘brown’) that is sometimes set beside the other major blocs of America’s racial color grid.”

With our place on this mystical grid so amorphous, Latinos are often free to move outside the boundaries, which other ethnicities have trouble doing. Of course, this “fluidity may suggest a lot of things, including a pattern of Hispanic assimilation into whiteness.” And, according to the Times, “white identification may be an indicator of assimilation,” which is a potentially alarming statement.

After all, doesn’t that imply that real Americans are white?

I’ll have more on this in a subsequent post, but I will leave you to ponder that inflammatory question for now.

 



Plot Twist

My wife is pregnant.

Yes, it’s pretty great news.

Our daughter is due in January. We’ve never been parents, so by next summer, I’ll be one of those annoying first-time fathers who believes the most important thing in the world is his baby’s capacity for drool. Just wait, I’ll be blogging about it day and night. This may cut into the readership of the 19.3 million mommy bloggers out there, so I apologize in advance for usurping their authority.

But with all the hectic preparation for the child’s arrival, and careful time set aside for crippling self-doubt and solipsistic panic attacks, I’ve barely had time to ponder the political ramifications of this kid. That has to change.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


The Tyranny of…Well, Something or Other

Recently, I wrote about America’s love affair with guns. One argument that Second Amendment proponents use, to great effect, is that an armed citizenry prevents government tyranny.

Indeed, there are many Americans who believe that a “disarmed society is an obedient society…in which, at the extreme, people obey their own government’s orders to follow the line into the gas chambers.”

Well, that certainly is an unpleasant image.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


No More Getting Pushed Around

When I was a kid, my mother provoked a controversy in our neighborhood by demanding more funding for local schools. She even got in the mayor’s face about it during a public hearing.

Our neighbors, as well as the people who went to our church, were scandalized. It wasn’t that anyone disagreed with her about the pathetic state of the schools. No, what caused them to whisper among themselves was the fact that she had spoken up about it.

To continue reading this post, please click here.


Meet the New Boss?

Over the years, I’ve received readers’ comments that range from astute to insane. The thoughtful, the witty, the shrill, and the easily offended have all sent me missives. Both praise and damnation have hit my inbox.

However, only a few comments have prompted me to write a whole post in reply. That short list just got lengthened.

To continue reading this post, please click here.


Back in Black

We often measure a group’s cultural power by that most base of indicators, the theoretical root of all evil itself: Money.

By that gauge, Hispanics lag far behind the majority culture. However, as befits the largest ethnic-minority group (and the fastest-growing demographic) in America, Latinos are a growing economic powerhouse. In terms of consumer spending, we actually have more clout than African Americans do.

Still, as I’ve written before, black Americans are more likely than Hispanics are to have their shit together (politically speaking). That’s why movements such as the Empowerment Experiment get going.

This project is the brainchild of African Americans who aim to help black-owned businesses thrive. People who join the Empowerment Experiment agree that for a year, and to the best of their ability, they will patronize only African American merchants.

As you can imagine, it’s not easy to bypass white-owned businesses. There are also legitimate questions about the ultimate motivation behind this idea.

Is it a display of cultural pride, and a helping hand to struggling entrepreneurs who are often overlooked, especially in these economically dismal times? Or is this, as some critics put it, “ethnic cheerleading” and possibly even reverse racism?

A slew of angry conservatives say, “There would be outrage if a movement developed to make sure that people shopped only at white-owned businesses.”

No, that would just be the verbalization of a normal business day. Sticking to white-owned businesses would be the easiest principled stance of all time, like declaring that from now on, I will breath only air that has oxygen in it.

So let’s say that the Empowerment Experiment is a well-meaning project that leaves an icky aftertaste, dependent as it is upon picking companies based on the owners’ ethnicity.

From a Latino perspective, the issue becomes “Should we copy this strategy?” Is it a good idea for Latinos to patronize only Hispanic-owned businesses?

Well, adopting this plan creates a few logistical problems. For starters, although it may be easy to find a great place to eat (Mexican restaurants, El Salvadoran pupuserias, etc), buying goods and services beyond that would quickly become a challenge for even the most dedicated Latino.

This fact relates to deeper issues. I’ve written before about the insecurity complex, or outright jealousy, that Hispanics often feel with regards to our African American brethren. The Empowerment Experiment is another reminder of how we’re not quite up to their level of influence. In most of the country, we don’t have as many entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, and so on to propel such a movement – hence the envy.

But the flip side is that Latinos are less likely to push for such a development in the first place. Despite the prevalence of ethnic barrios (which I’ve written about before), many Hispanics want nothing more than to fit into the majority culture and to be accepted. This can sometimes take the form of self-loathing or ingratiating behavior.

But for the most part, we simply want others to know that we are part of U.S. culture. Any Latino who has ever been told, “You look American” knows what I’m talking about. Even illegal immigrants want their contributions to the American story to be told.

We do not have the security of pointing out that many of us are new to the country. We don’t want to offer an opening to those who claim we don’t belong here, and saying that we’re only going to shop at certain establishments does exactly that.

African Americans have four hundred years of residency in the United States – most of it, of course, spent as second-class citizens or much worse. But after generations of setting down roots, building families, and influencing the culture, even the most virulent racist would have a hard time saying that blacks are not authentic Americans.

Latinos do not have that sense of hard-won security, not yet at least.


  • Barrio Imbroglio (An Abraxas Hernandez Mystery Book 1)
  • Calendar

    September 2017
    M T W T F S S
    « Aug    
     123
    45678910
    11121314151617
    18192021222324
    252627282930  
  • Share this Blog

    Bookmark and Share
  • Copyright © 1996-2010 Hispanic Fanatic. All rights reserved.
    Theme by ACM | Powered by WordPress