Tag: racial discrimination

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.

email

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.

house_party

 

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.

Cholera_395_1

 

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.

 


And Another Thing…

I recently found out that I have distant in-laws who live in Ferguson. They are my wife’s extended family, and I met them once in passing about a decade ago. That is my only personal connection to the city that has joined the short list of places whose very name signifies tragedy and/or disaster (e.g., Newtown, Chernobyl, etc).

In any case, there is not much I can add to the national debate over police brutality and systemic racism. I have never claimed to speak for all Hispanics, and I certainly can’t claim to speak on behalf of blacks. Maybe Charles Barkley can handle that.

barkely

But I just want to reiterate a couple of points that many people seem to have forgotten during all the chaos in Ferguson and the outrage over Eric Gardner’s death.

First, claiming that Brown, Gardner, et al were no angels is irrelevant. It only implies that you think cops have the right to execute people in public, without a trail or even a charge. You should rethink this position. Really.

Second, changing the subject to black-on-black crime is also irrelevant. There’s also more white-on-white crime than interracial crime. What does any of that have to do with whether cops are out of control or not?

Third, claiming that racism doesn’t exist is just idiotic and/or self-serving. Similarly, claiming that you don’t see color is either a lie or a tremendous delusion. It’s been scientifically proven that you do see color, so just drop the above-it-all attitude.

Fourth, stop insisting that if ethnic minorities just behaved, they would not have issues with cops. This is not only insulting and condescending, but laughably naïve. There is a whole trending item about how the police perceive white people differently. Check it out.

Lastly, go ahead and condemn violence and the looters. But don’t let that distract you from the real issues here. And those issues are legion.

 


A-T-C-G and So On

You have to give credit where it’s due. Not many Americans still have the cojones, the chutzpah, the gall, if you will, to make blatantly racist statements in public settings and think they can get away with it.

But recently, a board member at San Jose State University’s philanthropy board had just enough gumption to blurt out the following: “Latina students do not have the DNA to be successful.”

dna stuff

Now, the woman didn’t dance around or mutter code words or qualify her beliefs. She said this during a meeting with other campus bigwigs, and she made it clear that, in her esteemed opinion, there is a genetic predisposition to failure, something encoded in the chromosomes and immutable, that makes Latinas dumber or lazier or whatever contributes to personal disaster. You have to admire the clarity of thought and confidence in her stand.

Or you could just say that she is a plain old racist with a very highly developed sense of entitlement.

In any case, she was forced to resign (i.e., they fired her ass) when the comments came out. Oh, and a vice president who was at the meeting and didn’t challenge her remarks also got canned.

But you have to forgive the woman. Maybe she has some bad genes that cause her to spew idiotic, bigoted statements in public.

Yes, it’s pretty sad.

 


Keep Talking

For a culture steeped in Catholic fatalism — and with a history that includes everything from racial discrimination to economic injustice to death squads — Hispanics sure are an optimistic bunch. I’ve written before about this weird tendency to be positive in the face of disaster. But now I have scientific proof for it.

A recent study says that people who speak Spanish tend to express themselves in a more positive way than speakers of other languages do. The researchers found that “the selection of positive words was greatest among Spanish-speakers” and that those words tend to be “learned more easily, used more frequently and are considered more meaningful.” In addition, overall communication among Spanish-speakers tended to be more positive, and the emotional content of the Spanish language was the highest among the languages studied.

talking

Basically, a conversation in Spanish is more optimistic and heartfelt than it would be in English, even if the content is exactly the same. And you don’t even want to know how much more upbeat Spanish is in comparison to German or Arabic (the alpha and omega of harsh languages).

But it’s not all good news for Hispanics. And here I am part of the problem. I’ve been honest about my struggles with Spanish, and I consider myself passable at the language, at best.

Well, another study has shown that, sure enough, each successive generation of Latinos is less proficient in Spanish. While 92% of the second generation (children of immigrants, like me) speak English very well, only 82% are even conversational in Spanish. By the third generation, nearly 100% of Latinos speak English very well, but only 17% speak Spanish fluently.

So all that optimism will fade away if we don’t teach kids Spanish. Now that’s a pessimistic thought.

 


The Flip Side

Recently, I wrote about ethnic authenticity, and how Hispanics are more likely these days to stand tall and proud, and not deny their Latino roots.

Well, there are exceptions.

For example, you may have heard about José Zamora, a hard-working guy looking for a permanent gig. He spent months looking for work, often sending out 50 to 100 resumes a day, but he received few responses. Then he dropped one letter on his resume, making his first name “Joe,” and he received multiple offers for interviews.

He landed a job and then paid his employer the ultimate compliment in a colorblind society: “I don’t think they would have hired me as a José — they don’t want a José — they want a Joe.”

Yes, that is heartwarming. All the guy had to do to get a job was change his name, dismiss his ethnicity, and basically lie about who he was. It’s a good thing white privilege is dead.

oreilly_stewart2

Zamora says his decision didn’t bother him, and he viewed it as a marketing ploy and an opportunity to reinvent himself. Well, I guess that’s one way to look at it.

But his little experiment shows that a traditional Latino name is an impediment, even with employers who say, “But we love multiculturalism!”

Zamora says that after his story came out, many Hispanics contacted him to say they were going to follow his example. “One guy, his name is Juan, and he said he’s going to go by John,” Zamora said. “A Pedro said he’s gonna be Pete.…You could work in a lot of places as Pete.”

Yes, I bet you could.

 


Flags of Our Fathers and Mothers

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ethnic authenticity and the struggle for self-identity in a post-multicultural world.

Actually, that not’s true. In reality, I’m more apt to be thinking about taking my car in for a tune-up, or the odds of the Packers winning their division, or what Kate Winslet is doing right now (probably something sexy).

But when stray thoughts about ethnic authenticity and… well, the rest of it, actually do enter my mind, I think about a recent news story that caught my eye.

Here in California, we had a brouhaha, an imbroglio if you will, when a woman posted a video of herself berating people for flying a Mexican flag in their front yard. The woman, who was running for political office, ultimately lost her day job when the video went viral.

The family with the Mexican flag explained that they were simply expressing ethnic pride and meant no disrespect to America.

amer flag

There are several things going on here. First is the fact that a jingoistic bigot thought she would impress people by posting a video of herself being a bully, and maybe win the xenophobic vote in the process. It’s a sign of progress that this backfired horribly.

Second, the incident shows that for many Latinos, maintaining ties to one’s homeland is crucial to the concept of self-identity. And this drive for ethnic authenticity can span generations.

You see, Hispanics aren’t cowering under the boot of assimilation, like they did so often in the past. Back in the day, Latinos hid evidence of their roots, or they outright disowned their ethnicity, or they did anything they could to try to bluff people into thinking they were descended from the swarthier pilgrims on the Mayflower.

But contemporary Latinos are less likely to be ashamed of who they are, and displays of ethnicity are assumed — correctly — to be a right that can’t be subjugated.

Basically, if some nut comes onto your private property and starts lecturing you on how to be a real American, you are well within your rights to tell them to fuck off.

Now that this is settled, let me get back to those thoughts of Kate Winslet…

 


Quick on the Draw

Recently, I wrote how everyone (except for you and me) is prone to furious outbursts of racist invective at the slightest provocation.

That got me thinking about a related issue.

Namely, why are conservatives so quick to defend someone who spews racist, homophobic, or otherwise hateful speech?

After all, it wasn’t liberals who said, “Hey, that’s cool, Mr. Oldman. Tell us more about your sophisticated sociopolitical outlook.”

bram-stokers-dracula-gary-oldman1

Nope, it’s primarily conservatives who say it’s no big deal, or that the First Amendment protects such language, or that it’s time to take a bold stand against the insidious forces of political correctness.

Now, I’ve written entire posts about how pulling out the First Amendment or bashing PC is a loser’s lament, so I’m not going to repeat those points here. And to be clear, there are plenty of conservative libertarians who support the right to free speech. Just as there are plenty of liberals who would like to see Bill O’Reilly legally forced to shut up. However, these perspectives are not so closely aligned with the general philosophy of right wing and left wing.

What I’m talking about here is your basic social conservative, particularly when it comes to hate speech. It is a bit disturbing how swiftly these individuals rush to defend — or even praise — idiotic, racist bullshit.

I would like to think conservatives are earnest lovers of the concept of free expression. However, in many cases, these are the same people who threaten legal action if someone says, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” And remember back during the Iraq War, when up to 40 percent of conservatives believed that protests against the conflict should not be allowed (and that was constitutionally protected free speech, no less).

In fact, there is some evidence that this issue pops up in the ultimate justice-is-blind venue: the US Supreme Court. A recent study found that “liberal justices are (overall) more supportive of free speech claims than conservative justices,” and that “conservatives on the court are far more inclined to bias than their more liberal colleagues.”

Conservatives have historically shown little love for the idea of allowing people to speak their mind, and in truth, live and let live is not traditionally associated with the conservative movement. Whether it is gays getting married, or a mosque being built down the block, or some anarchist burning an American flag, there are usually conservatives there denouncing and demanding and denigrating. Rarely do you hear a Fox news anchor defend such actions.

But if some washed-up action star says that Mexicans are wetbacks, then conservatives abruptly clutch the flag to their chests and say, “It’s his right, damn it.”

But once again, we have to ask, why is this?

Well, maybe it’s because defending morons gives conservatives the perfect opportunity to appear principled and astute. Or maybe it’s because so many of their heroes are actually, well, racists. Or maybe it’s because these comments reveal what so many of them are really thinking.

Damn, I hope it’s not that last one.

 


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.

 


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