Tag: racial identity

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:

makewhiteagasinss

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.

math2f

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.

woman-with-shocked-expression-gesturing-with-hands

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

Damn.

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.

 

milwakee-riots

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.

relaxed-woman

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.

 


Proving the Theorem

Well, everything is all official and shit, and America has finally gotten the cage match that it has long been clamoring for: a former senator, secretary of state, and first female nominee of a major party versus a short-tempered, short-fingered billionaire who despises everyone who isn’t a white male and who casually utters treasonous asides in public.

Yes, it should be a quite entertaining few months.

But before we go into the pros and cons of the respective candidates, let me refer back to my most recent post, in which I pointed out that the Republican Party has a strong pillar of racism propping it up, and that moderate GOPers are in denial about this.

Denial

I could point out that the RNC featured any number of speakers making veiled bigoted comments. Or I could mention that one Trump delegate proudly tweeted what the GOP later called a “racially insensitive” term (i.e., the N-word) and that this is fresh proof not only of bigotry but denial.

Note #1: The N-word is not “racially insensitive” or anti-PC. It is as flat-out obscenely racist as it gets. And why do I have to point that out to people?

No, instead I would like to refer to this article, in which a well-known conservative intellectual, Avik Roy, says that as bad as Trump is, the GOP suffers from “a much bigger conservative delusion: They cannot admit that their party’s voters are motivated far more by white identity politics than by conservative ideals.”

So the guy agrees with me.

Roy goes on to say that the lament of liberals that many conservatives are racist is “an observation that a lot of us on the right genuinely believed wasn’t true — which is that conservatism has become, and has been for some time, much more about white identity politics than it has been about conservative political philosophy. I think today, even now, a lot of conservatives have not come to terms with that problem.”

No, they have not.

We see it not just in the outright insistence of many conservatives that racism doesn’t exist in the GOP — or indeed, in America. We see it in the strange reaction that Trump has provoked in those conservatives who have refused to support him.

I would like to think that many Republicans are taking a stand against bigotry by refusing to vote for Trump, and indeed many of them are. But a disturbing number of Republicans say they are against Trump not because he’s a misogynist or hates Muslims or sees every Latino as a potential rapist.

No, they say it’s because he is not sufficiently conservative. By this, they mean Trump doesn’t despise gays as much as they do, and he once said a few nice words about Planned Parenthood, and he has issues with free trade.

This is so backward and bizarre, so perplexing, that it defies belief. It’s sort of like saying you hated Limp Bizket not because their music sucked, but because you didn’t care for red baseball caps.

Note #2: Limp Bizket really sucked.

To ignore Trump’s racism, in favor of focusing on his conservative bone fides, is yet another example of GOP denial. Maybe these Republicans are happier with the vice presidential nominee, Mike Pence, whose views are just as bigoted but more reliably in the GOP mainstream.

Yeah, that’s the direction they should go in. It will all work out great.

 

 


It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over (Yeah, It’s Over)

This week, there were few images sadder or more pathetic than the sight of moderate Republicans desperately clinging to the hope that they could somehow, against all odds, stop Donald Trump and not have him be the GOP nominee.

Moderate Republicans refused to accept the reality that this is what happens when you associate yourself with bigots for decades on end. Yes, eventually the bigot becomes your flag bearer.

trump-supporters-guns-08

Of course, refusing to accept reality has been a hallmark of the GOP for a while now. In the conservative mind, Iraq did have WMDs, climate change is a hoax, and Obama was born in Kenya.

So Marco Rubio riding to the rescue and winning the nomination at the last second was another naive fantasy, the latest in a long line of truthiness. It was Republicans yet again insisting that reality would bend to their wishes, and the world would be the way they wanted it to be, rather than the way it actually is.

And this brings us to the biggest truthiness of them all, which is the Republican insistence that their party is not attractive to racists.

“No,” they shriek. “That is a liberal lie.”

Well, somebody better tell all those white supremacists and neo-Nazis who are celebrating Trump’s victory that they are mistaken. Clearly, the Democratic Party is the place for them.

Now, let’s be clear about this, because it always bears repeating. The vast majority of Republicans are not racists. In fact, the vast majority of Republicans want nothing to do with racists.

However, to deny that there is a virulent strain of bigotry in the GOP is to once again deny reality. And as Exhibit A, I give you their presidential nominee, a man so prejudiced that members of his own party regularly call him out on it.

And we’re not even getting into the infamous Southern Strategy and the dog-whistles that have helped the GOP build a base of white resentment, all while moderate conservatives held their noses and rationalized it.

Strangely, it is now — when all doubt has been removed about the bigotry in their ranks— that conservatives have indulged in the most far-fetched of all scenarios, which is that racism is not only nonexistent in their party, but in America as a whole.

Cops aren’t killing unarmed black men, and Latinos aren’t the targets of hate crimes, and Muslims are absolutely beloved, and on and on.

Hey, I’m trying to be sympathetic. It’s psychologically disturbing to say that America has a racism problem, and that if you’re conservative, you’re enabling it.

But let’s not kid ourselves. There is a very strong practical and political reason for this denial. Basically, if the Republican Party continues to insist racism is not a serious problem, then they don’t have to do anything about it. After all, why would you solve a problem that was already taken care back in 1968?

It is this mindset that has given us the modern Republican Party. I have to wonder if the GOP will do anything about it, or if conservatives will just insist that everything is fine.

Just fine.

 


Don’t Feed the Animals

As many of you know, I am the father of the most awesomeness, coolest, greatest multiethnic little boy ever (and no, I’m not biased in the least).

And as many of you parents out there also know, being a toddler’s dad means that you spend a lot of time at the zoo. I’m talking yearly membership and don’t make any other plans for Saturday mornings — that kind of thing.

Now, many people have issues with zoos, based on animal rights and other noble ideas that I really don’t want to debate right now. But suffice to say, I’ve encountered a few protesters on occasion when I’ve taken my son to the zoo. They have all been polite and reasonable, by the way.

So I was unsurprised when I approached the zoo gates this past weekend (chasing after my turbocharged kid, of course) and saw a man with a bullhorn.

bullhorn_full

 

I figured he was a PETA supporter or was angry about Billy the elephant or something like that. But no, he was yelling about racial discrimination and the evil bigotry that went on at the zoo.

This naturally got my attention.

He was a gangly white guy, clearly on his own, with no protest signs or marching compatriots or petitions to sign. He was just screaming about Mexicans (and by this, I assumed he meant Latinos in general) and their supposedly shoddy treatment at that most nefarious of places: the zoo gift shop.

Yes, he insisted that the zoo gift shop discriminated against Mexicans. To be honest, I’m not sure how they supposedly discriminated, because his ranting was a bit hard to follow. Apparently, the zoo gift shop was refusing to hire Mexicans, or refusing to sell items to them or exploiting their labor or some combination that I didn’t quite understand.

In any case, I was mildly impressed that this white guy would take time out of his day to stand up for his Hispanic brethren.

This era of good feelings lasted about twenty seconds.

Because then the guy shouted, “And do you know who the gift shop helps? All those filthy horrible Muslims!”

Yikes…

I’m still trying to figure out this man’s rather precise prejudice. After all, he apparently liked Hispanics. But in accordance with the new pyramid of bigotry prevalent in America, he despised Muslims — completely abhorred them, in fact, because he went on yelling some pretty grotesque things about Islam and Mohammed and sharia law and on and on and on.

Let’s be clear: this is the kind of support we Latinos most definitely don’t need.

My son did the wise thing and ignored the bigot at the front gate, and we went in to see the gorillas because they’re his favorite.

When we came out, the nutjob protester was gone. But I couldn’t help but think of him on the drive home.

More specifically, I couldn’t help but think of my favorite Lou Reed lyric: “Well I know one thing that really is true / This here’s a zoo / And the keeper ain’t you!”

Tell ‘em, Lou.

 


A Sort of Madness

You can imagine my alarm when I first heard the term “immigrant psychosis.”

Evidently, this was a very real issue back when Ellis Island was booming, and lots of Italians and Irish people were coming off the boats and making everything in America all weird and strange and different.

Psychologists of the time identified a malady common to the recent arrivals, and these professionals dubbed it “immigrant psychosis.”

Today, we know it by a more common name: Homesickness

Yes, most of the American doctors were generations removed from their immigrant roots, and they had no experience living someplace new and exotic. As such, the concept of homesickness was unknown to them.

headmirror

So when immigrants displayed odd behaviors such as depression and anxiety — combined with the bizarre new emotion of nostalgia — the psychologists gave it a name and insisted it was confined to the Irish and Italians (and maybe those Chinese people too).

Of course, we now recognize homesickness as a common complaint of everyone from college students to people on long overseas trips. It’s hardly a psychosis.

But unfortunately, today’s immigrants often have more to deal with than a bout of sad sentimentality. A recent study found that “the stress and hardship faced by immigrants setting up in a new country could be contributing to an increased risk of psychosis” among new arrivals.

Basically, more immigrants are having issues adjusting to their new lives. And when they do encounter these problems, they have more difficulty getting the mental health assistance that they require.

The study added that “racism and discrimination are certainly one of many things that are contributing” to the increasing mental distress of immigrants.

So this is fresh proof that the whole nativist attitude is psychotic (or at least contributes to it forming).

It’s almost enough to make one yearn for a simpler time… which is ironic because excessive yearning is a sign of homesickness, which is how all this started in the first place. Damn.

 


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