We all know the grim statistics. Hispanics are less likely to graduate high school than other ethnic groups, and Latinas, in particular, still have higher rates of teen pregnancy and fewer college degrees than other young girls do.
So what can be done about this appalling situation? Well, perhaps something as simple as giving Hispanic girls a camera is a start.
Many Americans insist that prejudice is extinct in our post-racial society, where we have a black president and everything. Of course, the officially sanctioned use of racism (ala Jim Crow laws) is a distant relic of the past, and no governmental or academic institution still exhibits racist behavior.
So I was thinking it would be hilarious to put on blackface and… what’s that? It’s racist? No, you don’t understand! I was being ironic. Fine, I guess next you’ll tell me that my white friends can’t put on sombreros and call each other “wetback” to be, you know, funny and stuff.
Clearly, you don’t understand that young, hip, artistic people are just being naughty if they dance on the edge of racist behavior. Yes, everyone from writers for hit TV shows to Ashton Kutcher has recently drawn fire for indulging in racial stereotypes and/or offensive statements.
What they have in common, besides denying that they’re bigots, is that they’re showcasing behavior that has been around for awhile but is only now becoming a full-fledged trend: hipster racism.
So I recently watched the horror-comedyAttack the Block, a British movie about an alien invasion of the inner-city projects. Yes, it’s as preposterous as it sounds, and while far from brilliant, it’s a fun ninety minutes.
However, I made a classic internet mistake after I saw the movie: I read other people’s comments on the film.
I’m talking, of course, about the SlutWalk movement, which began earlier this year when a Toronto cop implied that women who dressed like “sluts” deserved to get raped. Outraged at the cop’s statement, women all over North America hit the streets both to protest the Neanderthal mindset that afflicts so many males, and to repurpose the word “slut.”
“The U.S. Census Bureau expects racial minorities / people of color to make up a majority of the U.S. population in the next thirty to forty years. Do you feel concerned or hopeful about that?”
The question comes from a survey conducted by the Applied Research Center, which asked Americans their opinions about a well-publicized fact: By 2050, if not sooner, the nation’s combined population of racial and ethnic minorities will outnumber white Americans.
I once took a freelance gig editing a book about conspiracy theories. It was an encyclopedia of crazy shit like Mkultra and the Bavarian Illuminati and Area 51.
The book was a highly entertaining read, but it didn’t exactly keep me up at night. I just don’t believe humans are competent enough to pull off fake moon landings and shadow governments and the like. So I’m not prone to yelling, “Conspiracy!” and attributing sinister motives to shadowy figures.
But it’s not a conspiracy to say that Hispanics and African Americans have long been played off one another. And the reason for this is clear: It maintains the status quo.
After all, if America’s two largest ethnic minorities are busy fighting each other, they have little energy to combat the power structures that hinder their mutual growth.
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the Brown Invasion. No, I’m not talking about all those Latinos stealing our jobs, selling our kids drugs, and hooting at our wives.
Hey, that’s old news. Even right-wingers are tired of peddling such fictions.
I’m referring to the recent study that showed ethnic minorities are no longer content to live in barrios and inner cities. For example, “metropolitan New York is being rapidly reshaped as blacks, Latinos, Asians and immigrants surge into the suburbs.”
Yes, my friends, it’s a damn surge out there. Watch out, suburbia.
I used to live in NYC, and my neighborhood, although primarily white, was decently mixed. The same is true of the LA area in which I live now. It’s one reason that I’ve loved both neighborhoods.
However, I have never lived in a suburb, nor do I have any desire to do so. Every time I visit a friend who has bought a house on a cul-de-sac, I get a little jittery, like the 1950s are going to suddenly explode all over me. I expect to look over a manicured lawn and there, in the distance, see a nuclear family in black and white, playing croquet and drinking lemonade.
But that’s just my hang-up. As much as I love living in cities, it would be a sad commentary if every Hispanic thought exactly as I do. By all means, if the Rodriguez family wants to take the commuter rail, I say enjoy the ride.
Still, it’s not like Latinos are blending in effortlessly with their suburban compatriots. That old barrier — segregation — exists even when Hispanics leave the big bad city behind. Latinos tend to be “typically clustered in ethnically or racially monolithic communities,” even in suburbia. So Wally and the Beaver won’t necessarily be hanging with Juan and Maria.
But perhaps that’s in the future, and maybe there are other positive developments yet to come. For example, suburbanites may have more diversity at their key parties someday.
And perhaps the whole concept of suburban angst will have to be redefined. Maybe a couple named Hernandez will feel ennui for once.
This opens up exciting possibilities. Perhaps a Hispanic director will remake “American Beauty” or “The Ice Storm,” but with Latinos in the lead. And of course, maybe someone can take another shot at “Revolutionary Road.”
If so, can we talk Kate Winslet into playing a Latina?
Yes, I still have a monster crush on the woman; sue me.