Tag: racial identity

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.

 


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.

 


Not Quite Halloween

Back in the 1960s, the great essayist Joseph Mitchell wrote about his awe at seeing murals depicting “animated skeletons mimicking living human beings engaged in many kinds of human activities, mimicking them and mocking them… I was astonished by these pictures.”

He was describing, of course, the imagery of Día De Los Muertos. In Mitchell’s era, the Latin American holiday was exotic and largely unknown to US readers, and he was performing his writerly duty of passing along intriguing cultural information to his audience.

Today, we all are familiar with Día De Los Muertos — the white face paint on celebrants, the ubiquitous illustrations of grinning skulls, the small panoramas of skeleton musicians and dancers.

diadelosmertos

However, there is still great confusion in America about what this holiday actually signifies. Although it takes place at the same time of year as Halloween and shares the theme of ghostly visitors, there are fundamental differences.

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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.

 


Parallel Lines

I have not written about the Ferguson situation to this point. It’s not because I am indifferent. It’s because I didn’t think I had much to add on the topic.

ferguson_day_6_picture_44

I mean, so many people have addressed the black-white racial divide, our flawed justice system, the increasing militarization of the police, the obliviousness of white conservatives regarding racial injustice, and the fact that an unarmed minority teenager is more likely to be demonized than a white teen who actually murders people.

That covers a lot of ground.

So let me just point out what few people have mentioned, which is that Latino teens have more in common with Michael Brown than a lot of Hispanic parents would like to admit.

You see, “the deaths of Hispanics at the hands of law enforcement officers literally stretch across the country — from California to Oklahoma to New York City.”

Yes, a majority of Latinos agree “that Brown’s killing raised important racial issues, [but] only 18% of Latinos said that they were following the Ferguson news closely.”

Perhaps Hispanics just find the parallels too disturbing to think about. Or maybe Latinos are exhausted from fighting for basic rights all the time, and want to let our African American brethren handle this issue, under the assumption that it’s more of their problem anyway.

But of course, it’s everyone’s problem.

As we all know, “being Latino in some places is enough to be pulled over under the guise of a minor traffic stop and be asked to prove American citizenship.”

And that should be enough — along with the appeal of basic human decency — to pay more attention to the turmoil in Missouri.


The Big Picture

As I am fond of mentioning, I live in beautiful Southern California, where I frequently soak up the sun, hike in the hills, hit the beach, and hobnob with celebrities.

Well, in truth, I have rarely hobnobbed in general, and even fewer times with anyone who could remotely be called a celebrity. But we LA residents do see A-listers out and about on occasion.

Very few of those stars are Hispanic, as I’ve pointed out before. But now we have statistical evidence that Latinos are not getting their shot at the silver screen.

A new study shows that over the last six years, there has been “no meaningful difference in the representation of characters from underrepresented backgrounds.”

Since 2008, the number of Hispanics onscreen rose from 3.3 percent to 4.9 percent. Latinos are about 17% of the American population, so Hispanic representation in film would have to triple to even be close to reflecting reality.

In fact, another study found that there are actually “fewer Latino lead actors in the entertainment industry today than there were seventy years ago.” Ouch…

Now is a good time to point out that Hispanics (including me) are avid fans of the cinema. In fact, Latinos bought more than one-quarter of the tickets to movies last year. And we don’t even want to get into how much we support certain genres (e.g., horror movies) more than most people.

But there was one positive note in the report. Surprisingly, Hispanic females were more likely to be featured in popular films than were white females or Asian females.

Still, even that comes with a caveat. You see, “Hispanic females were also more likely to be shown either partially or totally nude onscreen than any other race [and] seem to be more hypersexualized than their female counterparts from other groups.”

Yes, when it comes to American movies, Latinas are both underrepresented and underdressed.

Of course, the idea that the entertainment industry would objectify a Latina is ludicrous.

sofia

Yup, just plain crazy.

 


Everybody Does It

Think about the many times a celebrity has been caught muttering — or in some cases, shouting — racist comments.

mad_gibson

Or ponder how often somebody in the public eye has issued a bigoted tweet or did something else that made his or her fans say, “Give them a break. They didn’t mean it. They’re not really prejudiced.”

The list of excuses always the following accusation: People who object to such behavior are hypocrites because, after all, “everybody has used those words.”

But is this even remotely true?

 

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Hard Times

The recession has been over for some time now, and the economy is booming… wait. You say, it’s not booming unless you’re rich?

Well, if you’re still feeling pinched, maybe it’s the fault of individuals heavy on the melanin. The odds are pretty good that you blame them anyway.

pointing

You see, a new study has shown that Americans “become subconsciously more prejudiced against dark-skinned people when times are tight.”

That’s right. On top of devastating the country, wiping out many people’s savings, and increasing the obscene gap between the wealthy and the rest of us, the Great Recession may have had the side effect of increasing racial tension.

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