Tag: racial profiling

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.


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.

 

 


Let Us Count the Ways

OK, we all know Donald Trump is about as popular with Latinos as the Zika virus.

After all, we have fun little statistics like this one, which reveal that about 90 percent of Hispanics have an unfavorable impression of Trump.

But we’re missing specifics. We don’t know exactly why Latinos are more likely to vote for a dead mongoose than Trump for president. We don’t know which of the myriad offensive, boneheaded, antagonistic behaviors that Trump has engaged in have pissed off Latinos the most.

Until now, that is.

You see, the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP) recently polled Hispanic leaders nationwide to find out precisely why Trump has made himself as loveable to Latinos as a vigorous round of chemotherapy.

The NiLP says 304 Latino opinion leaders participated in their poll, and in the interest of creating a fuller picture of the Hispanic community, participants were broken down by ancestry (i.e., Mexican, Puerto Rican, Other Latino). The survey’s goal was to stimulate “discussion and debate on critical issues facing the Latino community by providing some insights into the thinking of a broad range of engaged Latino leaders.”

Well, let the discussion and debate begin. And we can start with this intriguing nugget from the poll: Trump does best with participants who identify themselves as Other Latinos. A full 10.4 percent of this group intends to vote for the GOP nominee.

No, that doesn’t seem very impressive, until you see that 0 percent (zero!) of the Mexican American opinion leaders plan to vote for Trump. Yes, it looks like Trump has just a little bit of ground to make up there.

 

zero-percent-loan

So how did Trump manage to alienate the largest ethnic minority in America? Well, the poll revealed that every group of Latino opinion leaders was most offended at Trump’s implication that Mexican immigrants are rapists, which as you recall, was how he kicked off his campaign.

The survey pointed out that “although directed specifically at Mexican immigrants, the group that found [the comment] most offensive were the Puerto Rican opinion leaders.”

Basically, every Latino — regardless of specific ancestry — pretty much dismissed Trump’s candidacy from day one.

Not that there isn’t much more to choose from when cataloguing Trump’s disastrous outreach to Hispanics.

Mexican American opinion leaders were also incensed at Trump’s criticism of a Mexican American judge. But while Puerto Ricans and Other Latinos agreed that this episode was bad, they were more likely to pinpoint Trump’s condescending insistence that “Hispanics love me” as even worse. And of course, Trump’s boasting of the wall that he’s going to build on the Mexican border was not exactly a hit with Hispanic opinion leaders.

Oddly, the poll’s researchers looked at all this data and concluded that there was “some variation in how specific Latino national-origin groups viewed these comments.”

But actually, there was no variation in how Hispanics viewed these comments. They pretty much found all of them — and many more of Trump’s comments — to be reprehensible, vulgar, and idiotic. The only variation was in identifying which one of the man’s reprehensible, vulgar, and idiotic comments was the worst.

It’s sort of a socio-political version of debating whether Bryce Harper is a better player than Clayton Kershaw. We all know Harper and Kershaw are great. But which one is the best?

Author’s note: it’s Kershaw.

In any case, what this survey confirmed is not just that Latino voters dislike Trump. The poll shows that Hispanics just about trip over themselves pinpointing all the many ways in which they despise Trump.

As such, it is quite possible that we are seeing the nadir of the Republican Party with Latinos, and that no major candidate for office will ever again be so openly disrespectful to Hispanics or so hated by an entire American ethnic group.

Really, it is hard to imagine someone in 2020 doing much worse.

 


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.

 


Quack Quack

Among the stranger aspects of this bizarre election season is the tendency of Donald Trump supporters to insist that their candidate is not racist. The hyper-defensiveness goes something like this:

When he referred to Mexicans as rapists, he didn’t specifically say, “all Mexicans,” so it’s ok. Right?

And building that wall isn’t xenophobic. It’s a practical way to keep out all those immigrants… I mean, illegal immigrants… wait, I mean, undocumented people… he’s got nothing against immigrants. And neither do I. Ha ha ha.

Banning Muslims would just be temporary. That’s key. And not bigoted at all. Nope.

OK, he wasn’t the quickest about disavowing the KKK, but we’ve all been there… I mean, he said they were bad guys… eventually… after being criticized for days… but yeah, he did it.

And all those unfortunate cracks about “the blacks”… well, he meant, um… Hey, you’re just being PC!

And so it goes. La la la la, not listening to you.

hands-on-ears

 

Oddly enough, liberals seem to have no problem identifying Trump’s many prejudiced remarks. And Latinos, Asians, and African Americans are pretty clear on the fact that the guy is a racist.

On the other end of the spectrum, white supremacists and neo-Nazis are lining up to endorse the GOP nominee. They also appear to have no illusions about where Trump stands on race relations.

Only two groups of people seem baffled about this issue. First, there are moderate conservatives who are struggling to maintain their fiction that racism is dead in America (and who are also striving to justify their votes for a blatant bigot). And there are stray ethnic minorities who explain away or ignore the obvious for reasons that I can’t quite comprehend (although I presume some self-loathing is involved).

Let’s be clear about this. The truth is that if you support Trump, you are aware on some level that the guy has tremendous hostility toward anyone who isn’t a white straight man. And as you stand in that voting booth, sweating through your rationalizations, you will be saying that you are fine with that.

Remember, if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a megalomaniacal billionaire pushing a racist agenda.

 


The End of All the Horribleness?

If there is one thing that the candidacy of Donald Trump has taught us, it is to never count him — or his followers — out.

The man emerged as a joke candidate last summer, who was supposed to have collapsed into his own hubris by August… or October… or Christmas at the latest… but certainly no later than spring 2016… right?

Well, despite recent troubled times for his campaign, Trump is still the unquestioned frontrunner for the GOP nomination.

Therefore, we must be skeptical of the latest analysis that “without an extraordinary reversal — or the total collapse of whoever becomes his general-election opponent — Mr. Trump could be hard-pressed to win more than 200 of the 270 electoral votes required to win.”

However, let’s assume that sanity will finally grip the American people, and they will decline to elect a megalomaniacal racist with misogynistic tendencies who has no idea of how the government actually works.

Whew — that was a close one!

But then we will have to confront another issue, which is “where will all that anger, which has been slowly building among America’s white working class for half a century, go once it is left without a viable political outlet?”

It’s a valid question, and one that has led some commentators to theorize that “we may already be getting a chilling preview of a possible post-Trump future in the spasms of seemingly random gun violence” and that we may be forced to endure “a flood of white violence and anger” starting in 2017.

skinheads

OK, that doesn’t sound so good.

Unfortunately, it’s also quite possible. As we know, Trump rallies are to violence what Taco Bell is to college students with late-night munchies.

And when it comes to guns, studies show that “racial prejudice influences white opinion regarding gun regulation,” implying that bigoted people are more likely to be carrying.

So will we see hordes of angry racists strolling around cities, taking shots at ethnic minorities?

Maybe, but probably not.

You see, another possibility — the far more optimistic one — is that we are witnessing the final pathetic spasms of overt bigotry in American life, or at least prejudice on a grand scale.

Yes, racism will always be with us. Trump losing isn’t going to make it magically disappear.

But I’m talking about the death of right-wing demagoguery that baldly appeals to Americans’ worst natures. After Trump’s expected flameout, will any other candidate seize upon the man’s failed ploy to inflame racial tensions? More likely, the GOP will finally listen to the advice of political experts who point out that the infamous Southern Strategy has reached the end of its obnoxious lifespan.

With the GOP of 2020 playing nice, right-wingers may finally realize that the game is over, and that all their efforts to “take America back” are futile.

Once they see they are outnumbered and cannot win elections against moderates and those damn liberals, they may finally give up and accept a changed America, albeit with an angry and sullen fury that makes teenage girls seem like calm and rational debaters. Reduced to a dwindling demographic of cranky elderly people who miss the good old days, they will, with each passing year and each fresh batch of multiethnic babies, become less relevant, to the point of political and cultural impotence.

It bears repeating, of course, that most of Trump’s supporters aren’t racists. But the man’s appeal to white supremacists is undeniable, as is his connection to Americans who have issues with blacks… and Latinos… and Muslims… and a few others.

It is those individuals, the proudly prejudiced and the so-called politically incorrect, who will pack up their Make America Great Again signs and whimper off into oblivion.

Well, that’s the hope, anyway.

 


Help Is (Not) on the Way

I’ve never been in therapy. I don’t say this as a boast, just as a simple acknowledgement of luck.

You see, I’m fortunate in that I’ve haven’t been afflicted with depression or addiction or any of the myriad issues that arise when brain chemicals go all kabloowy. Nor have any of my personal traumas been so severe that I had to address the PTSD of it all.

But as we all know, many people aren’t so lucky. It’s estimated that around one in five Americans suffers from mental illness at some point in their lives.

And now comes news that for Latino youth, the numbers are on the rise. A recent study showed that “an alarming rise in the psychiatric hospitalizations of Latino children and young adults in California, even compared to the youth of other ethnicities.”

Between 2007 and 2014, the rate of mental health hospitalizations of young Latinos (age 21 and younger) jumped 86 percent.

upward-graph

Why is this?

Well, researchers believe that “a number of social issues play a part in the trend, including the recession, separation and disintegration of families, and the trauma of escaping the violence in their home countries.”

In addition, a “lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate psychiatric services available” means that young Hispanics often don’t get help addressing their festering problems, with the result that they eventually blossom into full-fledged crises that require hospitalization.

Also, one has to wonder if being constantly demonized gets under the skin of young Latinos. But this very fact — that so much of America despises Hispanics — provides another reason why this issue is unlikely to get better any time soon.

It’s a vicious, and rather sick, circle.


Sexual Tension

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of PostSecret. However, my interest isn’t based on the admirable quality of PostSecret’s mission, which is that by revealing hidden fears and dark thoughts, we bond and embrace our common humanity.

No, I just like scrolling though the site to see how many freaks are out there (and there tons of them).

In any case, last week’s PostSecret included the following:

them

This explains a lot.

First, we’ll ignore the fact that the card includes the slur “illegals.” Although I must point out that when revealing your sexual fantasies in a public forum, you should employ proper terms (e.g., “the undocumented”).

We’ll also overlook that the card writer specifies “illegal Latinos,” which implies that he or she doesn’t hate “illegal” Brits or Nigerians or Koreans. Nope, it’s just the Latinos, thank you very much.

The essence of the card is that the writer is simultaneously attracted to, and repulsed by, undocumented Latinos. Yes, it all makes sense now.

All those right-wing blowhards who scream about “illegals” taking over America? All those Minutemen at the border with rifles aimed at Mexico? All those suburban dads who spew racist epitaphs at Hispanics?

Yeah, they really just want to fuck us.

It’s sort of a more vulgar, sociopolitical version of a Hollywood romantic comedy in which the heroine and hero despise one another for 80 minutes before falling into each other’s arms at the end. Yes, someday the whole immigration debate will look as quaint as a repeated viewing of When Harry Met Sally.

So the next time some Fox News commentator rails against “illegals” or uses the term “brown invasion,” just nod and smile, knowing full well that this is his or her awkward attempt at flirting.

They just can’t help it.

 

 


Perception or Reality?

In the wake of last week’s horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, many U.S. presidential candidates are lining up to say how uber-tough, how mega-manly they are and how they would wipe out Isis in a weekend (three days tops) if given the role of commander in chief. It’s quite a display of fortitude.

Close up of man's arm showing biceps

Forgive me if I’m a bit incredulous.

But let’s leave questions about homicidal religious nuts and complex military strategies aside for now.

Instead, let me bring up a related topic, which is the GOP’s continuing image problem. And I’m not just talking about the Republicans’ struggles to connect with Latino voters.

You see, many Republicans come across as hostile to the poor, fearful of immigrants, and paranoid about the world. In addition, many conservatives are hypocrites about their ardent pro-life stance, in that they seem obsessed with fetuses but indifferent to children once they are actually born.

Fortunately, GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie has the solution to the Republican Party’s branding crisis. Christie doesn’t buy that he and his fellow conservatives are irrational, cold-hearted xenophobes who hate kids.

And that’s why he wants to prevent five-year-old Syrian war orphans from getting into this country and blowing us all up.

Hey, thanks for the perspective, Governor Christie.


Maybe He Had It Coming

So if I haven’t mentioned it lately, I’ve published a mystery novel featuring a Latino detective.

Although there are plenty of book series with Hispanic sleuths, none of them have really broken through to the mainstream (so you gotta love my odds of being the first).

In any case, I read a lot of mystery novels, the better to study and learn about the genre.

detective-150

Recently, I was reading a bestseller from a few years ago, by an author I don’t want to mention, because I might, you know, need a blurb someday. The detective in the book is white, of course, and oh so very angsty and tortured.

About halfway through the novel, the detective is doing something shady and illegal, but as is often the case with flawed anti-heroes, it is in the service of uncovering a sinister truth, so as readers, we let it slide.

However, in the process of committing this ethically dubious act, the hero is stopped by a Latino (the first one to appear in the book). So what happens?

Well, our main character insults and threatens the Hispanic guy, demanding that he get the hell out of the way. Then threats are made to call immigration and get him deported. When this fails to dissuade the Latino character — who, it is important to remember, is actually trying to do the right, legal thing — the hero pistol-whips him.

I’m not kidding. The sole Hispanic in the book… trying to be good and pure… gets degraded and physically assaulted by the white hero.

It’s not hard to read the subtext in this one.

I’ll also mention that in the next chapter, the hero narrates how that illegal action saved the life of a pretty white girl and how this proves the detective isn’t such a bad person after all.

No mention of the Latino who got his meddling ass pistol-whipped.

 


  • Barrio Imbroglio (An Abraxas Hernandez Mystery Book 1)
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