Tag: ethnic identity

Where Do We Even Begin? 

Nazis are bad.

There, was that so damn difficult to say?

Well, yes, if one is a black-hearted egotist whose only concern is keeping a clammy, slippery grasp on power. In that case, it can be quite difficult.

As we all know, our straight-talkin’, tell-it-like-it-is president was unusually quiet last weekend, when fascists, racists, and violent thugs descended upon Charlottesville. The man who tweets every umbrage or perceived slight had nothing to say when the KKK started throwing punches, and white supremacists chanted Hitler-era slogans.

He then came out with a baffling, condescending condemnation of “both sides” of the violence. I suppose he was trying to be fair to both homicidal bigots driving their cars into people, and the demonstrators who should be blamed for… well, I don’t know what — perhaps for violently putting dents in the car or cracking its windshield when the vehicle plowed into them. Yeah, both sides are clearly to blame.

Of course, Trump did eventually come out against white supremacy, which proves that he will indeed take a moral position — provided that both sides of the political spectrum, millions of Americans, and every half-respectable media outlet scream at him for days to denounce fucking Nazis, which let’s face it, is the absolute minimum qualification for being considered a decent human being. But hey, he did it, right?

No, because he changed his mind the next day and went back to equating sign-carrying liberals with deranged Nazis who murder people, setting off a shitstorm of outrage and disbelief. So there was that.

Now, there are only three possible motivations for Trump’s false-equivalency nonsense:

  1. He is an impulsive man-child who lashes out at others even if it is detrimental to his own cause.
  2. Some dark part of his soul — perhaps a bigger part than his followers would like to admit — agrees with the white supremacists.
  3. He is a chickenshit politician who is scared of offending his base, which is ironic when one considers that he is supposedly the anti-politician who is not afraid to speak his mind.

All three of these options are terrifying. In all three scenarios, the guy who is the face of America, and its political and even moral leader, has abdicated his responsibility (and possibly his humanity) so that hate-filled men shouting anti-Semitic slurs can feel good about themselves.

Of course, it’s perfectly obvious to me that someone should have told the president that the fascists in Virginia had mocked his tiny hands, or pointed out his dismal approval ratings, or brought up his disastrous leadership skills. If that had happened, he would have lacerated those bastards in a furious speech before they could finish saying, “Seig Heil.” But that didn’t happen, and now we have to wonder about the following:

Is this a turning point?

I don’t mean that in the political sense. We all know the gutless GOP will not turn on Trump unless and until he has outlived his usefulness to them. Otherwise, they will just keep apologizing for his maniacal outbursts and ugly tirades, or looking the other way, or somehow coming up with a twisted rationale for it (like, “liberals made this happen”). Hey, I guess it helps them sleep at night.

No, I’m talking about a cultural turning point.

After all, there can no longer be any doubt — if there ever was — about the kind of man Trump is (i.e., the kind who coddles Nazis). There could not be a clearer contrast between his delayed scripted words of false comfort and his spontaneous, appalling endorsement of racism.

Similarly, those who have excused his abhorrent behavior to this point have finally run into a non-negotiable, unambiguous, swastika-shaped look into his loathsome mind. Any defense of his stance goes beyond the usual pathetic, infuriating, illogical, baffling excuses that Trump supporters have offered for other transgressions (and there have been a lot of them).

This is so sickening, so reprehensible, so concrete in its evil that it threatens to permanently brand anyone who defends it as either a spineless coward or a sociopathic villain.

Witness that prominent conservatives, corporate CEOs, and military leaders are all blasting Trump. These are hardly liberal snowflakes getting riled up by fake news.

So it’s fair to ask if this is Trump’s Katrina moment. Could this be the final outrage that pushes his casual supporters over the edge and solidifies his calamitous reputation?

Already, a majority of Americans — not just progressives, but most of the country — is aghast at their president’s unhinged craziness. A full 40 percent want his impeachment.

Those numbers will only increase. The sense of disgust will only snowball. And because Trump burned up so much good will mere months into his presidency, it is difficult to imagine the trend ever reversing.

For Trump supporters, after this point, there is no turning back. Which of them wants to be the last deplorable standing, waving his Make America Great Again hat around as the rest of the nation looks away in shame and horror?

 


Plays Well with Others

We’ve heard a lot of shouting about “safe spaces,” and how liberal college students across America are pampered little snowflakes who crumble at the slightest sign of conflict… while simultaneously being violent thugs who will gladly pummel the first conservative they see.

Yes, like a lot of conservative tropes, this one relies on contradictory oversimplifications.

In any case, right-wingers are clearly not fans of higher education — or, it could be argued, of education in general.

Damn that ivory tower.

Valley News – Shawn Braley

However, for those conservatives who still value learning, knowledge, and non-alternative facts, there is good news.

A recent study has shown that there is a way to improve the effectiveness of elementary school education. Grade schools that possess one specific trait tend to have more productive students.

Yes, it turns out that the best way to make a campus safer for its students is to embrace that most feared of liberal schemes: Diversity.

You see, the study found that kids “who attend racially diverse schools feel safer, less lonely and less picked on than their peers at more homogenous schools.” And by the way, this was true of all kids, including the white ones.

The researchers say that the emotional well-being of children “is important because their state of mind affects their ability to learn” and that “if you’re afraid in school, you’re not even going to raise your hand in class.”

This makes sense, of course. But the news that racial diversity is good for all kids — not just ethnic minorities — is bound to upset some people, sort of like the fact that racially diverse movies tend to be bigger hits (which is true, by the way).

In any case, by embracing racial diversity in education, we can do what’s right for kids while acknowledging a simple fact about changing demographics — a double whammy of societal goodness.

Wow, it’s never that easy. So let’s savor this one.

 


This Is Your Ad Campaign on Drugs

If you live in the fine state of Washington, you might have been driving along recently, minding your own business, when you were suddenly and rudely accosted by the following billboard.

Yes, Washington state’s Department of Health thought it was a good idea to spend $100,000 on the billboards, which aim to dissuade marijuana use among Latino teens by… well, I’m not sure what mechanism they’re going for here. Apparently, Hispanic kids won’t try the evil weed because they’re so very inherently cool (by default, no less).

Now, I suppose I should be offended at this.

But to be honest, I find the ad so bizarre, so baffling, so hilariously misguided that all I can do is laugh.

It reminds me of the infamous “Users Are Losers” campaign back when I was a kid. That simplistic jingle — a pathetic attempt at telling teens to stay off drugs — did indeed provoke a powerful reaction in its viewers: Fits of giggles, especially if you had just taken a massive hit from the bong.

In any case, the Washington state campaign aims for the same kind of hip-adults-talking-the-hip-lingo approach as those misbegotten ads of the past. But this time with a racial element thrown in.

As you can imagine, the billboard is not a hit.

Many people complained that the billboard implied Latinos are more likely to abuse drug, or conversely, that non-Latinos are more likely to abuse drugs (I told you the campaign was baffling). Others said the ad implied that people who take drugs are cool, which is exactly the opposite of the intended message. And of course, many people just thought the ad was some combination of tasteless, inflammatory, and lame.

To be honest, we haven’t seen such an immediate, overwhelmingly negative reaction since… well, whatever the last thing it was that Trump did.

With no small degree of embarrassment, Washington state has apologized for the fiasco and removed the billboards.

However, this botched campaign could serve as a ham-fisted metaphor for the whole War on Drugs. As we know, that cataclysmic attempt to end drug use in America only served to destroy countless lives — mostly those of ethnic minorities — and didn’t keep one person from getting high for a single day.

Then as now, we have government officials who are too busy demonizing pot to address the root causes of drug abuse, and we have a phalanx of government resources aimed directly at ethnic minority communities that, we are told, are cesspools of moral degeneracy and helpless pathology.

By the way, that’s not how those same governmental officials view, say, the opioid crisis that afflicts white working class communities. Locking up meth-addicted white people and throwing away the key isn’t a popular option, even though it remains the go-to tactic when it comes to blacks and Latinos smoking reefer.

Yes, it all makes me glad that I don’t smoke pot.

But of course, I don’t have to take drugs. I’m Hispanic, so I’m cool by default.


Full Count

We’re at the All-Star break, and my team is currently in first place. This is a major deal to me.

Yes, like a lot of Gen X Latinos, I’m a huge baseball fan. In fact, I recently achieved a fatherhood milestone when I took my 4-year-old son to see his first big-league game (he enjoyed it, even if he kept yelling, “safe!” and “out!” — usually at random).

I’m also a fan of science, which is one reason I’m not a Republican. Ha, just having fun there, my GOP friends… anyway…

Among my favorite science writers was the late Stephen Jay Gould. He wrote an intriguing essay titled, Why No One Hits .400 Anymore, in which he argued that while .400 hitters were fairly common in the early days of baseball, it’s become nearly impossible to reach that milestone today.

 

 

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Karma, Baby, Karma

So as I have mentioned before, my mom is my personal hero.

This is not just because she’s my mom, or even because she’s triumphed over serious adversity multiple times. While those are major factors, there are many other reasons why I admire her.

Among them it is this: The woman doesn’t take anybody’s shit.

You see, in the city where I grew up, my mom is (as the kids say) kind of a big deal. Until her recent retirement, she helped run the town.

During her closing days of wrestling with municipal politics, she interviewed candidates for key city positions. And she was commuting to City Hall one morning when she encountered that most American of moments: road rage.

 

A young white man took offense at her driving and — as young white men often do — decided he had every right to let everybody know exactly what he thought. So the guy pulled up next to my mom’s car and made several obscene gestures, punctuated with the shouted comment, “You fucking Mexican!” Then he drove off at an unsafe speed.

By the way, my mom is from El Salvador, not Mexico. But I digress.

In any case, my mom brushed off the guy’s idiocy (she’s very Zen about such things), and drove on to work. Later that morning, she joined the rest of her team in a conference room for a group interview with a finalist for a job.

You probably saw this coming, but yes, the person being interviewed was the asshole who cut her off in traffic and yelled racial slurs at her.

Now, he didn’t recognize her. Guys like him never notice any details about the people they harangue. They just move on to the next person to castigate.

But of course, my mom recognized him. She was perfectly polite during the interview. She’s a professional, after all. However, when it was time for final questions, she asked the following of the young man:

“Would you say you are respectful of other people’s cultures?”

The man smiled at such an HR softball of a question. He gave a practiced, interview-safe answer that just about anyone in a corporate setting would offer. It was all very, “Yes, I have the utmost respect for every creed, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, vegetarian or carnivore, smoking or non-smoking, tall, short, fat, and skinny example of god’s creatures, blah blah blah.”

That was all fine and good. But my mom had a follow-up question:

“If that’s true, then why did you call me a fucking Mexican this morning?”

I think we can all agree, this is not your standard interview question.

The man blanched and gasped. My mom’s co-workers were intrigued. But my mom just waited for his answer.

The guy denied it was him, said it was mistaken identity, then doubled back and gave conflicting, incriminating statements that proved it was indeed him after all. Then he tried to justify his road-rage outburst, backpedal on his previous comments, and wound up floundering so hard it’s amazing the mayor himself didn’t walk into the room to just shoot the guy and put him out of his misery.

But of course, it was all useless. Because let’s face it, there is no good answer to the question, “Why did you call me a fucking Mexican?”

The interview was over.

The guy didn’t get the job.

And my mom got back to work.

 


We’re All in This Together… Aren’t We?

Well, this is depressing as hell.

You see, with all the debates over authenticity and intersectionality and mutual struggle, one idea is largely unstated but heavily implied. And that is the concept that all ethnic minorities share a bond. After all, we are united against the bigotry and xenophobia of Trump’s America.

But like myriad other political and cultural assumptions, this one may not be true.

One only has to point at George Zimmerman to see that some Latinos are just as terrified of black males as your most racist white person. And even if we dismiss Zimmerman as an anomaly —to the point of insisting that he’s not really Hispanic — what do we make of Jeronimo Yanez?

You know him. He’s the cop who shot Philando Castile, an African American motorist, for the crime of… well, for basically doing nothing wrong. Yanez just opened fire because (and this is the cop excuse for just about everything) “he feared for his life.”

Yanez — who is positively, one hundred percent Latino — had the same reaction that so many white cops have when they encounter a black man: fear. And this fear has provoked many cops to do some very bad things to African Americans.

Clearly, this reaction of pure terror — based on racist assumptions — afflicts many Latinos as well. It’s obvious, then, that we are not always there for our African American compatriots.

Another societal ill, Islamophobia, has also leaked into the consciousness of some Hispanics. We all know about Nabra Hassanen, a Muslim teenage girl, whose alleged killer is a Latino man. The crime is being portrayed as extreme road rage.

But come on.

Does anybody think the girl’s headscarf had nothing to do with provoking this guy’s fury? Furthermore, does anyone believe that all the hatred aimed at Muslims hasn’t infiltrated the minds of at least a few Latinos?

We cannot assume that the simple fact we are often the targets of bigotry somehow means that we ourselves cannot be bigoted.

It just doesn’t work that way.

 


Bang and Blame

So I just got back from a conference in amazing New Orleans (always one of my favorite cities). The conference featured lots of breakout sessions where the presenters encouraged us to seize the day and live our passions and grab the bull by both horns while seizing your passion every day and so on and so on.

In any case, I noticed something odd about the breakout sessions. For the most part, during the short Q&A portion at the end of each presentation, the women would raise their hands and ask questions. In contrast, the men pretended that they were asking questions, but most of them just made statements.

During session after session, the women seemed more interested in having an expert answer their inquiries and/or engage in a conversation. The men seemed more interested in asserting their expertise, contradicting the moderator, and in general just declaring how super fucking awesome they were to a room full of captive strangers.

 

On the penultimate day of the conference, some lunatic shot at several congressmen in Washington D.C. Much has been made of the fact that the shooter wasn’t a right-wing nut job. He was ardently anti-Trump.

Sadly, I wasn’t too surprised at this. You see, a pro-Trump man with anger issues has less reason to open up on Congress, because his guy is in charge right now. Oh, he might consider taking a shot at a leading Democrat or a pesky journalist, but ultimately, he will likely decide that it’s not worth it. After all, Trump will have all those traitors thrown in jail soon enough, right?

Now, if Hilary Clinton had won… well, let’s just say that one of the few pluses of Trump’s appalling victory is that we may have been spared from even more violence than we see now, most prevalent in the form of surging hate crimes. Yes, it could have been even worse if Trump’s fans felt robbed and ignored, rather than smug and empowered.

This brings us back to the loser who opened fire on people playing softball. You see, he was a guy who felt victimized, and like many men, he decided that violence was the obvious solution.

The only difference between him and many of his peers is that he correctly identified the people who were fucking with him. He knew it wasn’t immigrants or gays. It was the rich guys who rigged the game.

But other than this insight, he had the exact same reaction as do so many other old guys with access to firearms. He didn’t believe in looking at his own life decisions, or working to improve the system, or helping out his community. No, he believed in punishment and fear and hatred and searing rage. He insisted that, as a white man in America, people were going to listen to him, damn it. He was going to make people pay, and everyone would know how great he was.

That’s what he was thinking. That’s what many men are thinking.

And the objects of their scorn may vary, but their solution is consistent. And that is fucking terrifying.

 


Your Barrio Isn’t Worth Saving

Let’s say that you live in, once lived in, or otherwise have a fondness for a traditional Latino neighborhood in your city.

No doubt, you are aware that gentrification is a powerful force that is either the worst cataclysm in the history of urbanization, or a mighty godsend that will rescue every blighted neighborhood on the planet. Opinions vary.

But let’s sidestep that very real issue for now and address something we can all agree on: Many Hispanic neighborhoods have economic problems that need to be tackled, and improving the quality of life in Latino areas should be a top priority.

Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not going to happen. Because your neighborhood, your barrio, is not going to improve.

You see, we have only so many resources — and more importantly, only so much empathy — in this country. And currently, both are being used up in the effort to rescue small-town America and the white working class.

Now, you might ask, “Hey, isn’t the white working class synonymous with ‘Trump voter’? And isn’t there lots of proof that many of them are racists who have sold out our country because of their fear, hatred, and ignorance?”

Ha, no. I have it on good authority (i.e., the mainstream media) that the WWC are actually the salt of the earth, and they have been cruelly left behind by economic elites, and they have suffered greatly due to myriad other injustices that curiously never get mentioned whenever we talk about ethnic minorities (but that’s a mere coincidence).

In essence, we have unlimited sympathy for poor whites, and vast reservoirs of excuses for why they are free of responsibility for their problems and/or questionable decisions. For those Latinos who live in struggling urban neighborhoods, however, the message is clear: This is all your fault, so quit your whining.

For example, that opioid epidemic devastating rural America? It’s a full-blown crisis. But drug problems in the inner city? Just the moral failures of black and brown people.

Aren’t you glad that I cleared that up?

Oh sure, you might point out that based upon every statistical fact, lower-class white people actually have many advantages over Hispanics, and in some cases even over those Latinos who don’t live in poverty.

It doesn’t matter, because the image of the proud but destitute coal miner — the embodiment of the white working class — is stronger than any silly little facts or figures you could throw around.

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Subtle Subtext

“The implications are bizarre.”

That’s certainly true.

But what are we talking about? Perhaps the fact that the president of the United States doesn’t know basic facts about American history? Or that millions of Americans still believe climate change is a nefarious liberal plot? Or that Eric Thames in leading the league in homeruns?

No, we’re talking about a recent study that concluded racism motivated Trump voters more than just about any other factor.

This study has jolted those Americans — whether liberal or conservative — who insist that racism is dead, and that Trump won simply because of his brash tough talk or pro-business views or patriotic fervor or blah blah blah.

The immediate rebuttal to the study’s damning assertion is that Trump’s predecessor was a certain African American gentleman, whom you may remember fondly. So how could a nation of racists have elected Obama in the first place?

 

Well, here are some theories that explain that apparent contradiction:

First, the report implied that “a lot of racially bigoted people were willing to vote for Obama [but] flocked to Trump when he made ‘political incorrectness’ central to his pitch.” Basically, many former Obama voters aren’t overt racists, and may not even be aware that they harbor negative feelings about ethnic minorities. But once someone gave them psychological cover for their negative perceptions, they could justify pulling the lever for a guy who was endorsed by the KKK, without thinking that they were bad people. Yes, this is a spinoff of the old (and increasingly pathetic) defense of “I’m not racist. I’m just not PC.”

These voters who got mindfucked had their deeply buried prejudice activated when a candidate — say, an egomaniacal sociopath — reinforced their racism. There are various ways of doing this, mostly of the dog-whistle variety. But the gist is that “if you want a racist’s vote, you have to make an appeal directly to their racism. Without it, he or she just might vote for a racial minority.”

A second factor is moral licensing. This is a fancy term for a psychological self-defense mechanism where “any act and any thought that you consider to be ‘good’ can license a subsequent ‘bad’ behavior because we feel that we deserve a reward for being so righteous.” For example, if we voted for Obama, we may feel that this is proof that we are not prejudiced. It therefore gives us a moral license — a sort of free pass — to be bigoted in the near future.

Moral licensing is our psyche’s way of saying, “Look, you voted for the black guy. That gets you off the hook. Go ahead and put that Trump sign on your lawn.”

A third reason why some Obama voters switched to Trump is the discomfort many white Americans feel over the nation’s cultural changes. A decade ago, white people were just starting to feel their decline. But by 2016 — with the opioid crisis in full swing and a black guy calling the shots and more Latinos popping up on television — it was undeniable that the good old days were over for white people.

During the Obama era, push very quickly came to shove for white people, who saw their numbers dwindle and their power slip (albeit slightly). This was enough for many white Americans to declare that enough was enough. After all, it was one thing for ethnic minorities to make some progress, but it was another to see so many dark-hued people doing better than they were. Indeed, “the achievements of black Americans, those who have become CEOs, scholars, scientists, artists, doctors, lawyers and politicians—and now even president—have fueled the resurgence of intolerance and anti-immigrant sentiment.”

In other words, many white Americans sincerely didn’t believe that blacks and Latinos, by gaining just a modicum of cultural and political power, would actually do that much better. It was alarming, and it provoked them to call for taking their country back and making America great again and otherwise returning to a glorious past where ethnic minorities knew their place.

Finally, there is the fact that Obama’s election in the first place was — and this is disturbing to admit — a bit of a fluke. After all, in our nation’s history, no other ethnic minority has even gotten close to being a major-party nominee. And it must be acknowledged that Obama’s first campaign in 2008 came amidst an economic meltdown and the waning days of a Republican president widely regarded to be an incompetent frat boy. In other words, one reason that Obama won in the first place was because shit was so horrible that the country was willing to take a chance on a black man. Eight years later, with the worse over but vague dissatisfaction lingering over Obama’s “socialism,” it was much more acceptable to embrace white nationalism.

So there you have four pretty good reasons why many bigots voted for Obama but then switched to Trump. And these handful of closeted racists were enough to decide the election.

And how will they vote in 2020, when their savior, the Orange One, fails to improve their lives and make all the minorities go away?

That’s an excellent question.

 


Don’t Say the R Word

By now, you’ve seen the research that implies Trump voters were more motivated by racism than… well, by anything else when it came to casting their ballots.

We can certainly debate the root causes of Trumpism, and it’s unlikely that historians will ever agree on one concrete reason for the election of man who sounds more like an intelligible dementia sufferer than a sitting president.

Think of all the variables — from the Comey letter to Russian hacking to misogyny to American’s perpetual hero worship of celebrity. All are plausible reasons why destitute people in small towns looked at a smug billionaire with no governing experience and thought, “Hey, why not?”

But two factors seem most salient. The first is a love of authoritarianism, which many studies have pinpointed as the single most common trait of the Trump voter. People with this trait “have little tolerance for deviance. They’re highly obedient to strong leaders. They scapegoat outsiders and demand conformity to traditional norms.”

Other experts have subdivided this trait into populism, which “is a type of political rhetoric that casts a virtuous people against nefarious elites.” Populists also have a “deep mistrust of any group that claims expertise.”

However you want to define or dissect it, this all sounds like a hardcore Trump voter. Indeed, I still believe the authoritarian/populism vibe is the primary reason why we have the Orange Menace in the White House. It is also the main reason why his base continues to support him, despite the glaring lack of accomplishment in his first 100 days. They are, after all, “highly obedient to strong leaders” and don’t believe anything that experts (i.e., the mainstream media) tell them about their Great Leader’s failures.

But what about that racial thing?

Well, this recent study made the bold claim that “racial attitudes made a bigger difference in electing Trump than authoritarianism.” The study’s authors state that “we’ve never seen such a clear correspondence between vote choice and racial perceptions.”

Of course, this goes against the common refrain that Trump voters are all salt-of-the-earth types under such economic stress that they tragically fell for a con man’s bluster.

Just don’t say bigotry had anything to do with it.

 

Conservatives embrace this idea because it allows them to believe there is no racism in their movement (and more important, no prejudice within themselves). It also helps them in their quest to dismiss progressives as a bunch of hypersensitive whiners who play the race card nonstop.

And many liberals agree with this because they don’t want to appear to be a bunch of hypersensitive whiners who play the race card nonstop. Also, some liberals foolishly believe they can somehow win over extremists if they are just nice enough. Plus, liberals are often just wimps who don’t want to be, you know, all rude and shit by calling someone a racist.

However, a significant chunk of Trump’s supporters are indeed overt bigots. After all, those Nazis aren’t cheering for Elizabeth Warren. And our common sense tells us that many more Trump fans are, at the very least, a bit leery of ethnic minorities.

And as these studies show, the prevalence of bigotry within the Trump movement is not just anecdotal. We have statistics and everything.

“Wait a minute, you lying Latino,” says the fervent Trump supporter. “How could America have elected a black president if we’re so racist? Huh?”

I’m glad you asked. In my next post, I’ll discuss this apparent contradiction.

For now, you’ll just have to trust me when I say that there are some very good reasons.

 


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