Tag: Latin America

White Heat

The intersection of race and privilege is an ominous crossroads.

It pops up whenever a white person says something like, “People have made jokes about my Irish ancestry, and I never get offended. So what’s with all these Latinos getting upset about wetback jokes?”

If you’ve said something like this and fail to see the problem, I’m not sure I can help you. But let me just point out that the inability — indeed, the outright refusal — to see the world though anyone else’s eyes is a hallmark of privilege.

white-privilege

In America, the concept of privilege is closely related to race. White privilege is even its own catchphrase and subset of cultural angst.

Recently, my friend Hector Luis Alamo wrote a piece for Latino Rebels in which he stated that “resentment towards whites runs deep in Latino communities.” He went on to list the reasons for this resentment, including the fact that “Latinos in America aren’t granted nearly as many tools and opportunities as whites.”

This is all true, of course, but it doesn’t stop there.

Over at Huffington Post, César Vargas stated that white privilege seeps into the Latino community itself. He implied that Latinos who are lighter in skin (like me) receive benefits that darker-skinned Hispanics do not. Vargas wrote that the “Latino representation in the States seems to be a microcosm of the racial and social disparity in Latin America” and that “white Hispanics [are] ill-equipped to speak for the rest of us.”

About this time, we all start getting a bit uncomfortable with these ideas.

After all, we’re not talking about some Klan member shouting that whites are the master race. We’re referring to good, sincere white people — and even light-skinned Latinos — who enjoy an easier life by virtue of their skin tone, and who are repulsed at the very idea of bigotry.

But white privilege is a powerful and quite real thing. It sneaks up on its recipients in ways that they may not even recognize.

For example, many studies have shown that people are more likely to help individuals who resemble them. Ergo, whites in positions of power are more likely to mentor and guide their fellow whites, regardless of their actual talents or abilities.

And of course, if you’re a white cop who shoots an unarmed black kid under the most suspicious of circumstances, literally hundreds of thousands of people will rush to your defense. And they will most likely be white.

What does all this mean? Well, at the very least, it should mean that if you’ve benefitted from white privilege, give thanks for your lucky genes, and strive to make America a place where such randomness doesn’t prop up our entire social structure.

And if someone makes a joke about you being Irish, don’t think it lets you off the hook.

 


Black is the New Black

In my previous two posts, I wrote about Latinos who view themselves as white. Well, it may be coincidental, but I recently ran into a disturbing news item that illustrates how some Hispanics have adopted a traditionally white viewpoint about one topic.

And that viewpoint is a hatred of black people.

Now of course, the vast majority of white people in this country do not hate black people. Nor is bigotry toward black people an unknown concept in Latino society (just look at George Zimmerman for proof of this).

zimm

Still, as we all know, only white people can be truly racist (ha, let’s start that debate again).

But some Latinos in Florida are doing their best to prove that, damn it, we can be racist too if we just try hard enough.

You see, the owners of a Miami apartment complex allegedly turned away prospective tenants who were black, saying that there were no units available. However, when Latino prospective tenants showed up (in some cases, mere hours later), they were quickly shown apartments.

It doesn’t get much more blatant, and the owners, who are Hispanic, are now being sued.

So why would Hispanics, no strangers to prejudice and racial animosity, be so overt about discriminating against black people?

Perhaps it is because ever since the colonization of Latin America, white skin has been portrayed as more desirable in Hispanic culture. Even today, there are Hispanics who, subconsciously or intentionally, see it as their duty to “mejorar la raza,” which means, “to improve the race.” This means “marrying whites only (including white Latinos) — and specifically staying away from indigenous, black, Asian, or mixed potential mates.”

By the way, I’m not saying that Hispanics who marry white people are self-loathing or bigoted against black people.

But it is clear that in some quarters, the message that Hispanics “are expected to internalize is that Latinos should literally become as white as possible over time.”

Such a goal is not only morally repugnant, it is foolhardy. After all, in the future, everybody is going to be so ethnically mixed that we’ll all be a pleasing shade of brown.

It will be enough to give a 22nd-century racist a conniption fit.

 


Many Years Later, as He Stood Before the Firing Squad…

The greatest writer of all time has died.

200px-Gabriel_Garcia_Marquez

It is of course impossible to summarize the career of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or to assess his influence on Latin America, the land, he said, of “poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality.”

My favorite Garcia Marquez line doesn’t come from one of his novels, not even the majestic One Hundred Years of Solitude (the greatest novel of all time). No, I like how he stated in an essay the simple truth that “Puritanism is insatiable and feeds upon its own excrement.” It’s one of many brilliant observations, poetically rendered, that he left to the world.

He has no successor.

 


Scary

Our babysitter is a recent immigrant (from Africa). She was confused about the concept of Halloween, so she asked me to explain it to her.

Halfway through mentioning the various aspects — ghosts and goblins, people watching horror movies, children going door to door for candy, adults getting drunk, women dressing trashy — she asked, “I don’t understand how that is all one holiday, and what do pumpkins have to do with anything?” She’s right. This is one seriously schizophrenic party.

And I didn’t even get into the roots of the holiday, which are in the pagan celebration of Samhain. And of course, I was remiss in not mentioning the Latin American custom of Dia de los Muertos, which has established more of a presence in the United States over the last few years, largely because of the booming Hispanic population (you’re welcome).

But regardless of how you celebrate today, be sure to maintain the spirit of the holiday. You know, like the kids do.

skeleton mom


Back in My Day

As I’ve mentioned before, I recently became a father. My wife and I were having one of those most natural of conversations, which was discussing what kind of person our son will grow up to be.

Somehow, we got into a “those kids today” rant about how cushy the Millennials have it. After all, my wife and I are Gen X, so we didn’t have the internet, iPods, and bike helmets. We didn’t have parents chauffeuring us around to special events geared just for our age group, nor did we have culturally enriching programs that told us how special we were. And of course, there was never the option of living with mom and dad indefinitely.

Yes, after talking about our childhoods, my wife and I were feeling pretty good about our toughness and resiliency. Look how cool we are!

gen_x_logo

Then we remembered our parents.

My mother grew up in a third-world Latin American country where she literally walked miles barefoot to school each day. Then she came to America, where she knew nobody and barely spoke the language. As for my wife’s father, he was a child during the Great Depression, and he went to sleep hungry most nights.

Yeah, that shut us up pretty damn quickly.

 


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.

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Nanny State

If you’ve ever driven around my current hometown of Los Angeles, you know that Latinas pushing strollers of white, blue-eyed children is a common sight. These women are usually nannies, and they get paid to raise the kids of movie stars, TV executives, and Beverly Hills trust fund millionaires.

Well, ok, not everyone who hires a nanny is a pampered one-percenter. In fact, my wife and I, who are laughably far from being rich, are looking for part-time help with our infant son. So we’ve been interviewing potential caregivers.

By the way, if you would have told me a decade ago that I would be enthusiastic about baby spit-up and diaper changes, I would have gulped my beer, waved off the tattoo artist working on my shoulder, and told you to crank up the System of a Down and stop talking nonsense. But that was another life.

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Click

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.

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Sez Who?

We all know about Martin Luther King Jr.’s resistance to the unjust laws of the Jim Crow South. King believed that achieving justice sometimes necessitated breaking the arbitrary rules that flawed humans had devised.

Similarly, in Latin America, where many of our families originated, priests often took a stand against the repressive authority of the oligarchies. Sometimes, as with Archbishop Oscar Romero, they paid with their lives.

So it’s clear that religious leaders should urge their followers to disobey laws that are unjust or run counter to the principles of their faith…right?

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Just Hanging on the Hacienda

As we all know, Hispanic culture has contributed much to the United States. A quick glance at the artistic, political, and social makeup of the nation confirms that Latinos are prime instigators when it comes to plotting the direction of the country.

Many of our new values have their roots in Latin America. However, there is one concept from the old world that should not be welcome here. Ironically, it is U.S. powerbrokers — people unlikely to be Latino — who are most clamoring for it to gain a foothold in this country.

I’m talking about the encomienda system, which hasn’t formally existed for hundreds of years, but which has never really gone away. Briefly, the encomienda system was set up by the Spanish Conquistadors, who divided Latin America among themselves. An encomienda was a land grant that gave a Spaniard property rights over Indian labor. Basically, the conquistador got a hacienda and indentured servants to make him rich.

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