Tag: racial discrimination

Nice Try

So for two years in a row, the top individual prize in the entertainment pantheon — the Oscar for best director — has gone to a Latino.


That’s great. And Mexican auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu took time in his speech to give a shout out to immigrants, which was classy.

But of course, much of González Iñárritu’s triumph was overshadowed by a truly tone-deaf chiste from that master of humor, Sean Penn (as an aside, is there any artist who is more respected but less liked than this guy?).

Now, González Iñárritu has pointed out that Penn’s comment was an inside joke between friends. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, then, and say that Penn isn’t a straight-up racist.

But perhaps inside jokes aren’t a very good idea when millions of people across the planet are watching. And maybe tossing racial jabs isn’t very bright when you’re representing an organization that is hypersensitive about its horrible record on diversity.

All Penn’s joke did was make every white liberal in the audience uncomfortable, confirm the bias that many ethnic minorities believe lurks within the system, and “underscore the problem the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences has been trying desperately to disprove.” Namely, that the Academy has a racial issue.

The stunning lack of diversity in the entertainment industry is a well-known facet of American culture, and I’ve written about it more than once.

And it is not, as many right-wingers seem to think, just blacks and Latinos clamoring for jobs they haven’t earned. It’s about equal access and opportunity. One could argue this is all that any fight over civil rights is, at its core.

But when it comes to the entertainment industry, specifically, it is about something more. As González Iñárritu has proved, different perspectives lead to new ideas and new stories. It is essential for any art form that, to remain relevant, it continue to grow.

And to be blunt, there are only so many more movies that we can take about an upper-class white family gathering together for a funeral/wedding, or a white guy’s attempt to bond with his elderly and uncommunicative dad, or the adventures of white prep-school kids coming of age.

We want something else.


Different, Not the Same, Totally Unalike

If I haven’t mentioned it in the last twenty minutes, I love living in California.

It’s not just the sunshine and great food and vibrant nightlife and pop-culture happenings and B-list celebrity sightings (although those are all entertaining). It’s that California is one of the most laidback and liberal states, and that tends to align with my personal philosophy — or at least those components of my personal philosophy that are not cribbed from a mishmash of Yoda quotes and baseball-as-life metaphors.

Now, through a weird and comical accident of geography, California shares a border with Arizona, which is not liberal or laidback or anything remotely West Coast cool. It is, of course, home to more than its fair share of right-wing nutjobs and xenophobic lunatics.

Both states have large Hispanic populations. And one recent development illustrates how different these neighboring states really are, and how they view their respective Latinos.

In California, a new law allows undocumented immigrants to apply for special driver’s licenses. Some Californians have griped about it, but for the most part, the law’s implementation has gone smoothly. And in a sign of forward thinking, car dealers are actively marketing to the new license holders. Many dealers report increased foot traffic on their lots, and they’re hoping for a sales boom due to the new law.



But in Arizona, a similar law hasn’t been as, shall we say, well received. In fact, it took a US Supreme Court decision to force Arizona to offer driver’s licenses to young immigrants, the Dreamers, who entered the country illegally as children. And while many Dreamers are happy to have the option, many others remain nervous about applying. Some Dreamers have seen family members deported after getting pulled over for routine traffic stops, and they’re having trouble letting go of their fear.

So in California, a law that passed with little controversy is poised to make a positive economic impact and make life easier for many people. Meanwhile, in Arizona, a similar law had to be argued all the way to the highest court in the land, at taxpayer expense, before going forward, only to encounter resistance from the people it was designed to help because they are terrorfied of the place they live in.

Yes, I think I chose my state wisely.



The New Standard Response

When I started this blog, this website, this little outpost of sanity in the vast crazy wilderness of the internet, I posted articles about the latest slurs and offenses aimed at Latinos. I still do that, of course, but for the most part it has to be something truly egregious, preferably by someone in a position of authority and/or cultural power (eg., a senator, a high-profile CEO, the winner of Celebrity Apprentice, etc).

So when our friends at Latino Rebels posted this story, I was initially intrigued. Apparently, a bored rich woman has tried her hand at satire by populating a website with images of something she calls, “Illegal Immigrant Barbie,” which I’m not even going to show here. Instead, just gaze upon a standard-issue Barbie, and use your imagination.




Now, it’s undeniably racist. Worse, it’s lazy and unfunny.

But we already know the woman’s excuses. We’ve heard them all before. Pick one of the following:

1. “I’m not prejudiced. I’m just telling the truth.”

2. “Well, excuse me for not being politically correct. Clearly, you can’t handle it.”

3. “Hey, I have Latino friends, and they thought it was hilarious. OK, my maid gave me a nervous laugh, but close enough.”

So I’m skipping the anger and substituting a sad shaking of the head and a lugubrious eye-roll. This woman’s pathetic affront deserves no more.

In fact, I only mention it at all because I intend to cut/paste my reaction to future instances of bored rich people mocking poor people, which never seems to go out of style with them.

On to the next outrage.


Um… thanks?

On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much of a Latino connection to the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Oh of course, civilized people everywhere — regardless of color, creed, ethnicity or religion — are horrified and outraged.

And as a writer who has received hate mail (but thankfully no death threats), I’m in solidarity with those who were targeted for expressing their opinions, even if those opinions were occasionally loathsome.

But again, I didn’t see a clear relationship to Hispanics — at least until I caught this nugget on an internet message board from a commentator who inexplicably wished to remain anonymous:

“I never thought I would be grateful for our illegal immigrants. But at least the Mexicans sneaking across our border are Catholics, not Muslims. And they only steal jobs and welfare. They don’t blow shit up.”

That’s high praise indeed. I’m sure we can look forward to more thoughtful analysis like this in the future.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to helping Mexicans steal jobs and welfare. But remember, we don’t blow shit up.


Safe at Last

As you recall, the town of Murrieta, California, became the symbol of intolerance last year when throngs of protestors greeted a busload of undocumented people (many of them children).

The protestors unleashed a frenzied jingoistic display that prevented the immigrants from being processed in the town, and the bus had to turn around. Yes, it was a proud time to be an American, especially if you’re a believer in mobocracy.

mobruleIn any case, many of the protestors claimed that the recent influx of Latino immigrants had caused crime to skyrocket, and they weren’t going to take it anymore.

Well, I think we can all agree with their concern about crime, considering that recent statistics point out that Murrieta is the second-safest city in the country.

What’s that?

Apparently, all those recent Hispanic arrivals going around terrorizing everyone hasn’t had much of an effect on the place, because Murrieta has the lowest rate of assaults in the nation. The city also has the lowest rate of violent crimes among all large cities in the country. In 2013, there was a total of one murder in the city (no word on whether a Latino did it). Put it all together, and Murrieta is second only to another California city (Irvine) as the epitome of peace and tranquility.

But of course, a busload of undocumented women and children was going to turn Murrieta into Mogadishu overnight.

That was a close one.


I’ve Seen All Good People

This is a response, of sorts, to Brit Bennett’s article “I Don’t Know What to do with Good White People.”

But it will not be a full-fledged attack of the type that made the internet infamous. That’s because in her article, Bennett makes some insightful points about white privilege.

She explains that “sometimes I think I’d prefer racist trolling to this grade of self-aggrandizement,” adding that there are many “good white people [who] expect to be rewarded for their decency.”

Yes, she pissed off a few readers, and made others uncomfortable, with her mocking of liberal condescension. Bennett points out that many white people practically shout, “See how enlightened and aware we are? See how we are good?”



That’s all true of course. And the comfort level of white liberals is not high on the list of national priorities.

Despite this, however, we need good white people. For starters, every social movement needs as much assistance — as much cultural firepower — as it can get.

But more important is the fact that white privilege will continue to be a problem as long as people (primarily whites) deny it even exists. So we need white people to criticize their own privilege, and many will not do this if their efforts get thrown back into their faces.

For example, the recent CrimingWhileWhite hashtag came under fire for co-opting the pain and rage of the black community and redirecting it toward the white perspective. It’s a fair criticism.

Still, it seems to me that the point of the Ferguson/Gardner/ et al protests was to indict systematic racism in our nation’s police force. An effective way to do this is to draw contrasts with how white people interact with the cops. CrimingWhileWhite nailed this.

In essence, to dismiss good white people is to alienate one’s allies. And it’s clear that blacks and Latinos need all the help we can get.


Pissed off All the Time

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Still, it’s always a good idea to reflect, and to pinpoint areas for personal growth and good stuff like that. So in 2015, I will try to be more patient and less quick to anger.

Of course, we Latinos are known for our fiery tempers. We’re also known for being excellent lovers, great artists, and unemployed… well, some stereotypes are more positive than others.

The point is that I know my temper is not the best. But it apparently pales in comparison to some of my fellow Latinos. And that is part of a larger problem.
You see, ethnic minorities in general are often portrayed as overly emotional and aggressive. Just look at the stereotype of the angry black woman.

Now, if we are angrier, it may be because we have more to be hostile about. Just look at the economic data, or the quality-of-life statistics, or, I don’t know, the trend of us getting shot more often.

But there’s something more going on here, besides justified anger. It is in the best interest of the establishment to portray minorities as angry, unreasonable, and illogical. After all, it is a lot easier to dismiss someone’s grievances if that person is always flying into rages over every little thing, or if she/he perceives every minor slight as a major injustice.

anger green

And being dismissive is a most effective tactic. Think of how many issues have been erased with the offhand remark that it was all just so much misplaced fury and political correctness.

By the way, I’ve written before, nothing has been PC since the 1990s, and this lazy rebuttal no longer means anything. I mean, some people believe that being against torture is PC — and how crazy is that?

But I digress. The point is that whenever Latinos, or any minority, complain about an injustice or societal problem, there will be plenty of people who offer a smirk and the calm, apparently reasonable explanation that we are just being angry because we’re, you know, prone to volatility and irrational behavior.
Earlier this year, when President Obama declined to address immigration reform before the midterms, we heard how many Latinos were in an eye-popping rage. It was an easy concept to Google.

Or to present a less politically charged issue, consider the case of Banditos, a San Francisco restaurant. When Hispanic leaders pointed out — calmly and respectfully no less — that the name was a negative stereotype, the owners agreed and changed the name.

But message boards decried the apparent appeasement to angry Latinos, and many people vowed never to eat there unless it changed its name back. The irony, of course, is that the angriest, most threatening people in the whole situation were the ones screaming that Latinos are unreasonable and demanding. But the label will not stick to them like it does to us.

So what can we do to avoid appearing perpetually hostile?

Well, if I knew that, I wouldn’t be so annoyed nonstop.

The Critics Rave Again

For my last post of the year, I thought I would share some of my recent fan mail. In general, the people who comment on my articles here, or on the Huffington Post, are either supportive or respectfully disagree. But this is the internet, people. And as such, it is a motherlode of, shall we say, more spirited correspondence as well.


Recently, I have received emails telling me to go back to Mexico. My family is from El Salvador, actually, and I’ve been to Mexico just once (about thirty years ago, when I was a kid). But still, if those commentators are so insistent that I go, I am willing to accept their invitation, so long as they pay for the plane ticket to Cancun.

Also, I have been called a traitor to my race. I presume these comments are from my fellow Latinos who don’t like something I wrote, but because the offending passages are never referenced, I have no idea what constitutes the treasonous act. For all I know, it’s because I mentioned that I prefer Foo Fighters over Tito Puente, or admitted that I don’t like guacamole (“Treason!”)

But two commentators went above and beyond. First, there was Jose M., who I’m guessing was using an ironic screen name, because he informed me that “I’m outraged by the blatant bigotry and prejudice endemic within your race. My race is fed up with it.”

Jose M. went on to explain that “My race lives in peaceful communities where you can walk down the street at night without worry that some Latino racist thug is gonna jump out of the bushes and do what comes natural to Hispanics.” I’m not sure what comes natural to Hispanics. Perhaps he meant salsa dancing. In that case, I certainly understand that it would be alarming to be walking in your neighborhood — where crime is absolutely nonexistent — and have a Latino jump out of the bushes and start shaking to the beat. Yeah, pretty scary.

In any case, Jose M. reminded me that “illegal alien sex offenders, rapists, drug dealers, and murderers (mi rasa) are flooding this country,” and closed with a simple “Viva Caucasians! My Race!”

Then there was Pete G., who wrote to kindly inform me that “Hispanics are without a doubt the most exclusionary and racist bunch of bigots living on this planet.” To prove that he himself was neither a racist nor a bigot — nope, not him — Pete G. then pointed out that “Hispanics are running like hell from their own kind to live with Whites” because they are trying to “find a civilized culture.”

He then said I should “own up to the ​racist drivel you vomit,” and asked, “Why is America being overrun with Hispanic gringos?”

Of course, “Hispanic gringo” is contradictory, and I’m unaware of America being overrun by this mythical, oxymoronic animal. But maybe I missed the report on Fox News.

In any case, keep those comments and emails coming, and thanks for reading!


A Revealing Anecdote

I recently wrote about the Ferguson/Gardner cases, and I mentioned that cops often treat ethnic minorities differently than they treat white people.

Well, I thought I would add my own personal observation to the #CrimingWhileWhite trend, but mine is in the third-person because, well, I’m Latino.

Anyway, years ago, when I still went to raucous house parties, the cops were called out to break up a fiesta I was attending. Yes, we were a little loud, and the neighbors were within their rights to call the police.



In any case, the cops showed up and knocked on the door. My group of friends and I decided now was a good time to leave, so we exited out the back. My girlfriend at the time, who happened to be white, opened the door. A cop was waving a flashlight around the darkened backyard, and he shined it directly into her face.

She was understandably pissed. And all of us were flummoxed about why a cop would be prowling around in the dark with a flashlight. What was he trying to find?

Regardless, when the light hit my girlfriend’s eyes, she shouted, “Get that fucking light out of my face, you asshole.”

The cop complied, and we all left, without further incident.

Now, if I had shouted this statement — or a tall, black male had yelled it — I’m pretty sure there would have been a very different outcome.


Pinpoint Accuracy

I’ve been asked by many white people if I have ever experienced discrimination. Their amazement when I say, “Yes,” is matched by my own surprise that they would even ask the question. Hey, ask just about any ethnic minority, and he will supply a time and place when he was slurred, dissed, or eyeballed funny because of his race and/or ethnicity.

The fact that so many white people believe this never happens is a constant stunner to me. But perhaps it shouldn’t be, because we have so many pundits proclaiming that bigotry is dead, and that there is more cholera in America than there is racism.



Well, if you don’t believe my personal experiences, just look at the results of a recent survey of Hispanics, who were asked if they had ever suffered discrimination. A full 99% said yes, and “most respondents were able to name a location where discrimination occurred.” Personally, I’m curious about the 1% of Latinos who said “there was no discrimination against them.” They either live very charmed lives or are unbelievably dense.

In any case, the number-one choice for racist acts was disturbingly specific: “Arizona was the top answer for Latino discrimination with 21%.” To put that into perspective, “a collection of other U.S. states garnered 8%.” Yes, our friends in Arizona apparently discriminate at almost triple the rate of all the other states combined. Now that’s impressive.

By the way, 18% of Hispanics said they had been discriminated against at work. And 5% of Latinos are in a dystopian hell, in that they believe “discrimination has occurred everywhere.”

So from now on, whenever I am asked this naïve question, I will simply quote the results of this survey. That should end the discussion quickly.


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