Tag: hispanic

Grand Larceny

Well, that didn’t last long.

The GOP candidate for president had been suspiciously quiet for some time about immigration, and he has even gone a fair amount of time without badmouthing Latinos or saying that we’re a just one huge pack of rapists.

Of course, he’s been pretty busy lately, trying to wave away his open admissions of sexual assault and picking fights with members of his own party and implying that our whole democratic process is a total sham.

But, god bless him, he will always find a way to come back to blaming Hispanics for everything that is wrong in America. In fact, now he’s blaming Latinos for things that haven’t even gone wrong yet, but that might (in his paranoid delusions) happen at some point in the future.

Yes, I’m referring to Donald Trumps’ recent assertion that “there is tremendous voter fraud,” largely because “illegal immigrants are voting all over the country.”

That is indeed a serious allegation, one that I’m sure he has researched thoroughly and for which he has overwhelming evidence.

Ha, just kidding — proof is for chumps.

No, the idea that undocumented immigrants are stealing votes is just another in a long — very, very long — list of conspiracy theories, internet rumors, and baseless accusations that Trump has flung into the faces of the American people, hoping that at least a few million of us will buy his bullshit.

As I’m sure you know, voter fraud is rare in America, and undocumented immigrants casting ballots is even rarer.

Therefore, the idea that millions of swarthy invaders will rob Trump of his rightful victory is so bizarre, so pathetic, that anyone who believes it probably is insane enough to think an alien force, not of this world, is attacking humanity.

Furthermore, insisting that the undocumented will sway the election is the amped-up, remixed version of shouting that “illegals” are stealing our jobs and stealing our country and stealing… well, who knows what else they’re stealing.



But if you’re a Trump fan, you likely believe this conspiracy theory too. After all, you’ve already accepted the idea that that zombies are more likely to vote for Democrats.

And yes, now that you mention it, this is the perfect segue to plugging my novel Zombie President, being serialized here and soon to be published in book, ebook, and audiobook forms.

In any case, when you go to the polls this November, rest assured that the Hispanic guy in line behind you is here legally, and that you don’t need to monitor him, and that nobody is fixing the machines to register nineteen million votes for Hillary Clinton that she didn’t get.

And when you walk out of that voting booth, just be grateful that this damn election is over.


Last Chance

I am going to break several self-imposed rules with this one.

First, I am going to adopt the dreaded open-letter format, which is an arrogant viewpoint for any writer (“Hey, everybody, here is my open letter to President Obama! I’m sure he’s gonna read it!”).

Second, I will employ the second person, which is a ghastly narrative device.

But you knew that already, didn’t you?

And most important, I am going to directly address Trump supporters, something I have avoided to this point in deference to my sanity and blood pressure.

However, we are rapidly coming to the end of this horrific, nation-scarring election season, and I have to say something.

And that is the following: Please, Mr. and Mrs. Trump Supporter, don’t vote for that malignant clown.

I don’t say this out of some partisan desire to get out the vote for Hillary Clinton. We all know that she’s going to win, regardless of your vote — assuming, of course, that there’s not another October Surprise of the magnitude of Trump’s videotaped sexual-assault boast. Yes, unless someone has footage of Hillary Clinton shooting Vince Foster while selling arms to Isis and laughing about Benghazi, her odds are pretty good.

No, I say this because moral tests, on a national level, are actually pretty rare. For example, if you voted for Mitt Romney, history will not be harsh when judging you. Even if you voted for George W. Bush a second time, history might look at you askance and mutter, “WTF?” But you will not be portrayed as the personification of fear, anger, hatred, and bigotry.

But voting for Trump will assure you that place in history. Casting a ballot for or against him has become a moral test.

No, none of us can definitely say how future generations will appraise us. Hey, when I was a kid in the 1980s, it never crossed my mind that girls with sky-high mall hair looked ridiculous. Who knew?



However, please believe me on this one. It’s an easy call. In later years, the name Donald Trump will be lumped in with Father Coughlin and George Wallace and every other hate-monger who has become emblematic of ignorance, inhumanity, and xenophobic rage. Contemporary society shudders at the mere mention of these names.

And the infants of today, once they reach adulthood, will shake their heads in wonder, amazement, and more than a little contempt when they find out that 40 percent of America was so easily led into blind hatred.

Now, I know I’m not supposed to talk to you, Mr. and Mrs. Trump Supporter. As many of my liberal friends are quick to point out, the average Trump supporter is insane, repulsive, and/or outright stupid. You are to be shunned.

And I also realize that this plea is most likely futile. If you are still seriously considering voting for Trump at this point, you are most likely beyond the reach of reason, shame, or basic decency. In fact, you probably think that I am one of those Latino libetards who is hypersensitive about being called a rapist and is actively plotting to destroy America (or at the very least, determined to not let it be, you know, great again).

But I have to give it one more try.

After all, you don’t even have to take a public stand. You don’t have to risk alienation by your social group (however twisted your social group may be) by saying, “I’m with her.” And you certainly don’t have to be a Freedom Rider, risking your life for a moral cause.

You just have to refrain from pushing a lever or blotting out a circle for the most heinous candidate in modern history. It’s that easy.

I will leave you with one final thought. I’m a member of Gen X, so Martin Luther King was before my time. As such, I’ve often marveled at all the Baby Boomers who revere the man. However, common sense and basic math tell us that many of the senior citizens of today once despised MLK. They couldn’t all have loved him — it’s not possible. But they all say they do. And I wonder how many of those Baby Boomers who hated King would now give anything to go back in time and proudly march with MLK, so they could tell their grandchildren that they were ahead of their time and on the right side of history.

But they can’t.

As for you, there is still hope. And if you dismiss this final option, I guess that, several decades from now, you can always lie about voting for Trump. Nobody will find out.

Deep down, however, you will know the truth.




Don’t tell me about Oktoberfest.

I’ll tell you about Oktoberfest.

You see, I’m from Wisconsin (specifically, Milwaukee, as I’ve written about). And because I hail from a city that is synonymous with beer and a state that is awash in Germanic culture… well, let’s just say that I’ve partaken a few times in the festivities.

Hint: When you’re drinking from the glass boot with your friends, avoid gulping the heel. It just bubbles up in your face.



Of course, the tradition of Oktoberfest has spread across America.

Hey, just yesterday, I saw a dozen people dressed in lederhosen, sprinting down the street outside my apartment, in some kind of bizarre footrace for beer. And I live in Los Angeles, far better known for its Latino, Asian, and Armenian influences than its German ones.

In any case, Oktoberfest has become Americanized, just like — yes, it’s true — Cinco de Mayo and Día de los Muertos.

The difference is that there is no movement to sever Oktoberfest from its Germanic roots. And nobody views Oktoberfest as an affront to American values, or complains that everything was fine until those damn Bavarians showed up.

You get the picture.

For some mystical reason, it is fine — even glorious — to celebrate Oktoberfest or St. Patrick’s Day. And there will be no political backlash.

Cinco de Mayo and Día de los Muertos, however, are likely to get at least a few people all huffy.

When we acknowledge Germanic and Irish culture, no one claims that doing so “divides us” or undermines the quest for a colorblind society (whatever that means) or somehow cheapens the label of “American” because we’ve put “German” or “Irish” in front of it.

This is not the case with any holiday that has committed the grievous sin of having a Spanish name.

Well, I’m sure it’s simply an unfortunate coincidence.

So let’s all just relax and have a beer.



We all know math can be scary. In fact, I recently wrote about how intimidating all those numbers and figures can be.

But math is never more terrifying than when it crushes our deeply held beliefs and contradicts our political agendas.

For example, a recent study has shown that despite all the screaming and cries of calamity from the right wing, immigrants are not taking Americans’ jobs.


The study “found little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the longer term.” Basically, this means that when the GOP candidate for president slams immigrants — especially Latin American ones — he has no idea what he is talking about.

Of course, we all knew that already, but it’s nice to have hard data confirming that the guy is a lying shithead.

In any case, the report went on to state that immigration is “integral to the nation’s economic growth” because immigrants “bring new ideas and add to an American labor force that would be shrinking without them, helping ensure continued growth into the future.”

Specifically, high-skilled immigrants, especially in technology and science, have a significant “positive impact on Americans with skills, and also on working-class Americans. They spurred innovation, helping to create jobs.”

Furthermore, by flipping this argument on its head, we see that the GOP candidate’s plan to deport undocumented workers “would result in four million lost jobs by 2030.”

OK, so it’s settled that immigrants are not stealing jobs, and in fact, they may be kickstarting the economy to create new ones.

But what about that side claim that immigrants cost the US government bazillions of dollars each year in handouts and “free stuff”?

Well, the math is a little fuzzier on this one, and it may be true that recent immigrants cost more in government expenditures. However, any deficit is gone by the time the second generation (i.e., kids of immigrants) enters the work force, and “by the third generation, immigrant families contribute about $223 billion a year to government finances.”

The bottom line is that the net effect of immigration is positive, especially when one looks at the long term.

So I’ll ask again — don’t you just love math?


Revenge of the Whigs


Remember that political party that vowed to make America great again?

No, I’m not talking about that one. I meant the Know-Nothing Party, which has the most pitifully truthful name of any political group in American history.

In any case, the Know-Nothing Party originated in 1849. Its members strongly opposed immigrantion. Their whole thing was about preserving what they felt was the perfect America — one in which (by sheer coincidence) they held positions of power.

Well, it didn’t turn out so well for that party, as we know, and it collapsed into disgrace.

And that reminds us of the Republican Party — no, not the current one.

I’m referring to the Republicans of the 1930s. That version of the GOP gave our nation the most horrific piece of legislation with the most hilarious name: the Smoot-Hawley tariff, which helped kicked off a little something called the Great Depression.

Regardless, the 1932 GOP platform boasted that the “restriction of immigration is a Republican policy” and featured unabashed “hostility to almost all immigration.” This didn’t work out exactly as they hoped, in that it “contributed to the defection of ethnic voters to the Democratic Party and to Democratic dominance of the political scene for more than a generation.”

There are other examples of political groups basing their appeal on anti-immigrant feelings, and in every case, this approach has backfired.

Hey, just ask residents of the state I live in, California, why the Republican Party is basically extinct here. It can be traced back to Governor Pete Wilson, who led the GOP on an ill-fated anti-immigration crusade.

You see, anger toward immigrants has never worked — as a political strategy — in American history.

And this brings us back to the current GOP, and its insistence that it will make America great again, which is really just code for this:


Even if Trump wins the election — a nauseating thought that is mercifully unlikely to happen — the prospects don’t look good for the Republican Party in the long term.

Don’t take my word for it. GOP strategists have admitted that Republicans “must find a way to appeal to more nonwhite voters” and that “the math is only going to get worse” when it comes to ethnic minorities and immigrants.

Again, every political party that has pushed an anti-immigration agenda has either been obliterated or had to rebrand itself decades later. It has never worked in the long run.

So why would Trump’s version of the GOP be any different?

2+2= KKK

As a writer, I am supposed to despise math.

Look at it, looking all smug with its cosines and discontinuous divisors and irrational numerators.

It’s just so absolutely certain about the world. I must hate it.


But I don’t. Although I’ve always been drawn to words, I’ve never been intimidated by numbers. I did pretty well in math in school, although I never went past pre-calculus.

So I’ve never understood people who freak out about math, or panic at the mere sight of an equation. This fear, I believe, turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and soon people are insisting that they can’t do basic addition and throwing up their hands at polling data or stiffing the waiter because they don’t dare try to figure out the tip.

But maybe these mathphobes are on to something. Because to my great disappointment, it turns out that math is a big old bigot.

Yes, a recent book argues that “math is essentially being used for evil,” in that “algorithms and big data are targeting the poor, reinforcing racism and amplifying inequality.”

Now, inflammatory (and completely misleading) claims about math being “racist” aside, the point is clear. Numbers are only as good as the humans who input them. As such, “any algorithm can — and often does — simply reproduce the biases inherent in its creator, in the data it’s using, or in society at large.”

For example, “nearly half of U.S. employers ask potential hires for their credit report, equating a good credit score with responsibility or trustworthiness.” This is despite the fact that the reliability of these reports “has remained in doubt for more than a quarter century.”

But because of our faith in data — or our fear of numbers — we continue to think an equation is “superior to human judgment — never questioning the assumptions that get baked in.”

This is a flawed assumption, and it not only helps reinforce inequality, it taps directly into that most vile of human drives: racial prejudice.

It turns out that numbers are not as culturally neutral and objective as we would like. Again, this is not because the numeral “3” somehow dislikes Latinos or the figure “864” really hates blacks. It is because “while algorithms might work with data alone, it’s always human beings that decide what factors they weigh.”

So what can be done about this issue? To begin with, simple acknowledgement is necessary, combined with the awareness that one can prove just about anything with the right set of figures.

And then we can get the world’s mathematicians to work on creating a formula that will rid the world of bigotry. That will be one truly great equation, and it will, of course, most likely equal 42.

The Pivot That Wasn’t

He did not turn over a new leaf. Instead, he planted another disease-ridden, toxic tree.

Yes, last week, the GOP nominee for president gave a much-anticipated speech on his favorite topic — immigration — that was supposed to illustrate his softer, more nuanced approach to the issue. In theory, we would see a Trump who was free of vitriol and rage and more respectful toward immigrants and Latinos.

Ha-ha, just kidding — the guy double-downed and “baited a fired-up crowd with red-meat rhetoric” about all those illegals before trotting out his dumb-ass idea about a giant wall.

Now, anyone who has actually paid a millisecond of attention this campaign season should not have been surprised that Trump was never going to abandon the right-wing base that has gotten him this far.

And yet, there were people who were shocked — shocked, I tell you — that Trump didn’t get all nicey-nicey.


In particular, “for many Hispanic conservatives who had advocated passionately for Trump, the speech was not merely a disappointment, but a betrayal.”

I don’t know what is more perplexing: the idea of Hispanics advocating passionately for Trump, or the fact that these same self-deluded souls really believed Trump was ever on their side.

Apparently, many Republican Latinos seriously thought that Trump would “address the immigration problem realistically and compassionately” and “lay out a plan for dealing humanely” with undocumented immigrants.

Excuse me for getting snide, but I must ask these Latinos the following: What the fuck ever gave you that idea?

I’m truly baffled how anyone could be confused about where Trump stands on immigration. And I’m awestruck at the mental contortions that a conservative Hispanic had to undertake to read something into Trump’s words that implied he would ever be reasonable about the issue.

It’s as if the previous year of relentless racism and belligerence wasn’t enough for them. What part of “they’re rapists” is vague to you?

To be fair, there does seem to be genuine confusion about the specifics of Trump’s approach. Indeed, Trump’s advisors have tripped over themselves trying to ascertain whether there will or won’t be a deportation force.

Quick aside — say what you will about Obama or Clinton, but I don’t recall a time when their advisors were forced to painfully decipher their policy positions to the American people. I mean, Obama and Clinton are adults, and they can speak for themselves. As opposed to Trump, who is nonstop when it comes to insults and threats, but needs others to explain his actual ideas. Of course, that’s exactly how one deals with a toddler.

In any case, maybe Latino conservatives can drop the wishing, hoping, praying that the GOP will finally listen to them. They need to just be honest about their self-loathing, like everybody’s favorite Hispanic, Marco Gutierrez, who founded Latinos for Trump. As we all know, Gutierrez recently warned us of an ominous future where taco trucks are on every corner, never putting together that this might actually be pretty cool.

Hey, the guy may be a laughingstock and horrific human being, but at least he knows what he stands for.



A Little Jumpy


I just got done telling you that Latinos are not terribly worried about the future, when an inconvenient report has forced me to add a caveat to that optimistic viewpoint.

You see, while it’s true that Hispanics tend to be happier, and less fearful about scary shit like the economy and the presidential election, there is one subset within Latino culture that is feeling some gnawing concern.

Specifically, many Latino Millennials are worried about all those white supremacists who have dragged themselves out of the shadows of American culture in the last few years.

According to a recent poll, Hispanics between the ages of 18 and 30 “are more afraid of U.S.-born white supremacists than they are terrorists abroad.”

Yes, young Latinos think it’s more likely that a neo-Nazi will come gunning for them than it is that Isis will roll into their barrio.

In fact, 55 percent of Latino Millennials say they are “very concerned” about violence perpetuated by white extremists. That’s just behind the 62 percent of young African Americans who feel the same way.

The survey points out that “in contrast, just one-third of white Millennials agreed.”

Now that’s a cultural gap.

One can hardly blame young ethnic minorities for feeling this way. The technology they grew up with has allowed vitriol to spread and multiply like never before. The number of hate groups in America is on the rise. And of course, the GOP nominee for president has based his whole campaign on telling white Americans to despise anybody who is the wrong skin color or religion.

Yes, for Hispanic Millennials, it’s not all youthful exuberance and inappropriate selfies.


selfies stuff

With hope, the potential for violence will die down once this accursed election is over. And there is the fact that ethnic minorities will only continue to gain social and economic power each year.

So maybe young Latinos will soon not be as fearful of what their fellow Americans might do in a fit of racist rage.

And they can get back to chasing Pokémon or jumping on Snapchat or jamming to Taylor Swift or whatever it is those kooky kids do these days.

Yeah, I’m feeling old.



What’s the 414?

I was a teenager a million years ago.

OK, it was the late 1980s.

In any case, once you cross 40, a lot of your teen memories start to fade, or get augmented in unintentional ways, or just get merged with John Hughes movies.

One truly unpleasant memory that I had not conjured up in years came back to me recently.

The catalyst for this flashback was an article by Sarah Hoye, who wrote about her childhood in Milwaukee, the city that recently suffered a fall-blown race riot and which CNN implied was the worst place in America for black people.



Hoye wrote that “more times than not, when I tell people that I am from Milwaukee, I get a sympathetic head tilt followed by, ‘I’m sorry.’ And that was before the recent protests.”

OK, I relate to that. Because I too am from Milwaukee. And it might pain my Wisconsin crew to know this, but I’ve often received that exact same “I’m sorry” reaction from people when I mention where I’m from. My hometown’s reputation is not a good one.

Now, I haven’t lived in Milwaukee since I graduated high school, but I go back often to visit friends and family.

I spent my childhood in the Latino section of town, an enclave on the South Side that is still heavily Hispanic to this day. Yes, I’ve written about this era and place more than once.

When I was a teenager, we moved to a quasi-suburban area (still within the city’s limits), where all of our neighbors had German or Polish or Serbian ancestry. Our house was all the diversity you were getting for many blocks in any direction.

To be clear, I have fond memories of this time. However, even then I knew that all was not right in my city. You see, Milwaukee has long been the most segregated municipality in America. Growing up, I assumed all cities had stark lines separating the ethnicities (and indeed, to some degree, they all do). But I had no idea Milwaukee was such an extreme case.

And this brings me back to the creepy memory that I had long ago shifted to my brain’s attic.

No, it’s not about the many times I was called spic or wetback or had someone “joke” that I had jumped the border. Hell, I remember those things just fine.

The memory I had forgotten was about my friend J.

I won’t use his full name out of respect for his privacy, even though we lost touch after high school, and it’s highly unlikely he’s reading this right now.

Just in case, however — hey J!

J and I were teammates on our high school football team. We weren’t close friends, but we got along well, and one day after practice, I invited him back to my house to play video games.

Later that evening, he walked to the bus stop for the long journey home. Yes, he was African American, and as such, he lived on the North Side — several miles away and a whole other world socioeconomically, politically, culturally, etc.

I kept him company at the bus stop. We were talking the usual teenage shit — girls, school, football — when we noticed a car slow down as it approached us.

I’m sure both of us considered the odds that the car’s driver was lost and needed directions, or that the vehicle was stuffed with hot cheerleaders just roaming the city looking for a couple of hunky football players to keep them company.

But come on, we both knew what it was.

As the car passed, a young white man leaned out of the window and yelled, “Fuck you, nigger!”

J rolled his eyes, like he had gone through this a million times already that day, and such bullshit no longer fazed him.

The car stopped at the corner, as if preparing to turn around. J and watched to see what the driver would do. After a moment, the car sped off, leaving us in peace.

J’s bus arrived a minute later, and we high-fived, and he left. On my walk home, I realized that I had never, not even for a moment, been afraid that some thugs would jump out of a car and take a swing at me just for being brown.

As I said, I had received my fair share of insults and vague threats. But the real potential of physical violence was alien to me.

After all, it’s not like I was black in Milwaukee.

Instinctively, J and I both knew, without discussing it, that a black kid couldn’t stand around in that neighborhood for more than a few minutes without someone yelling an epithet at him or the cops being called.

And we just accepted it as normal.

I doubt J even remembers this incident, because it was most likely among the milder forms of verbal abuse that he has received in his life.

Indeed, in Sarah Hoye’s article, she writes that “in the Milwaukee I know, I have been called nigger more times than I can count.”

Hoye ends her story with a burst of optimism, saying that “I truly believe, as idealistic as it may sound, that there is hope for a city in pain, and hope for a way forward.”

I share that hope.


Dude, Chill

Like most Americans, I’ve watched this election season with a combination of amazement, amusement, befuddlement, and stark terror.

After all, we are perilously close to electing a president who is openly racist and misogynistic, ignorant of the Constitution, fond of fascism, and quite possibly demented.

But you know who is not afraid of this development?

That’s right — my fellow Latinos.


You see, a recent poll found that despite Trump’s “harsh anti-immigration rhetoric throughout this year’s presidential campaign, Hispanics are less likely than either whites or blacks to strongly agree that they are afraid of what will happen if their candidate loses.”

Just 38% of Hispanics say they are worried about the outcome of the presidential election. In contrast, 53% of whites fear the outcome, while 64% of blacks are nervous that their choice won’t become president.

Breaking down the numbers further, 45% of native-born Hispanics are afraid of what will happen if their candidate loses, compared with 30% of Hispanic immigrants.

Now, this may seem odd, in that Hispanics are second only to Muslims as objects of loathing in this election. And Latino immigrants, in particular, should be jittery as hell about the possibility of a Trump presidency. And yet, Hispanic immigrants are among the least worried about what happens in November.

But it actually makes sense.

Think about it — when was the last time you heard a Latino say, “If my candidate loses, I’m moving to Canada”? We don’t make empty threats like that, possibly because so many of us have already endured tremendous hardships to get here to America, so we’re not going to pack up and flee just because some jerk becomes the chief executive.

Also, there’s that whole thing about Hispanics being more optimistic about the future, more confident about the American Dream (however one defines it), and in general, just happier about life.

So yes, despite my fascination (bordering on obsession) with this year’s election, I’m not really worried about the outcome. Oh, don’t get me wrong. A Trump presidency would be a disaster. However, despite what you’ve heard from commentators both respected and fringe-dwelling, electing that narcissist would not mean the end of civilization.

Throughout our history, we Americans have overcome war, civil unrest, and economic calamity. Just add “terrorism” to that list, and you’re talking about the last decade alone. And yet we’re still here.

Certainly, four years of a delusional, mean-spirited little man at the helm would be extremely harmful, but it’s not going to destroy us.

And if that isn’t an all-American, patriotic, can-do viewpoint, then I don’t know what is.


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