Tag: racial profiling

Full Count

We’re at the All-Star break, and my team is currently in first place. This is a major deal to me.

Yes, like a lot of Gen X Latinos, I’m a huge baseball fan. In fact, I recently achieved a fatherhood milestone when I took my 4-year-old son to see his first big-league game (he enjoyed it, even if he kept yelling, “safe!” and “out!” — usually at random).

I’m also a fan of science, which is one reason I’m not a Republican. Ha, just having fun there, my GOP friends… anyway…

Among my favorite science writers was the late Stephen Jay Gould. He wrote an intriguing essay titled, Why No One Hits .400 Anymore, in which he argued that while .400 hitters were fairly common in the early days of baseball, it’s become nearly impossible to reach that milestone today.

 

 

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Karma, Baby, Karma

So as I have mentioned before, my mom is my personal hero.

This is not just because she’s my mom, or even because she’s triumphed over serious adversity multiple times. While those are major factors, there are many other reasons why I admire her.

Among them it is this: The woman doesn’t take anybody’s shit.

You see, in the city where I grew up, my mom is (as the kids say) kind of a big deal. Until her recent retirement, she helped run the town.

During her closing days of wrestling with municipal politics, she interviewed candidates for key city positions. And she was commuting to City Hall one morning when she encountered that most American of moments: road rage.

 

A young white man took offense at her driving and — as young white men often do — decided he had every right to let everybody know exactly what he thought. So the guy pulled up next to my mom’s car and made several obscene gestures, punctuated with the shouted comment, “You fucking Mexican!” Then he drove off at an unsafe speed.

By the way, my mom is from El Salvador, not Mexico. But I digress.

In any case, my mom brushed off the guy’s idiocy (she’s very Zen about such things), and drove on to work. Later that morning, she joined the rest of her team in a conference room for a group interview with a finalist for a job.

You probably saw this coming, but yes, the person being interviewed was the asshole who cut her off in traffic and yelled racial slurs at her.

Now, he didn’t recognize her. Guys like him never notice any details about the people they harangue. They just move on to the next person to castigate.

But of course, my mom recognized him. She was perfectly polite during the interview. She’s a professional, after all. However, when it was time for final questions, she asked the following of the young man:

“Would you say you are respectful of other people’s cultures?”

The man smiled at such an HR softball of a question. He gave a practiced, interview-safe answer that just about anyone in a corporate setting would offer. It was all very, “Yes, I have the utmost respect for every creed, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, vegetarian or carnivore, smoking or non-smoking, tall, short, fat, and skinny example of god’s creatures, blah blah blah.”

That was all fine and good. But my mom had a follow-up question:

“If that’s true, then why did you call me a fucking Mexican this morning?”

I think we can all agree, this is not your standard interview question.

The man blanched and gasped. My mom’s co-workers were intrigued. But my mom just waited for his answer.

The guy denied it was him, said it was mistaken identity, then doubled back and gave conflicting, incriminating statements that proved it was indeed him after all. Then he tried to justify his road-rage outburst, backpedal on his previous comments, and wound up floundering so hard it’s amazing the mayor himself didn’t walk into the room to just shoot the guy and put him out of his misery.

But of course, it was all useless. Because let’s face it, there is no good answer to the question, “Why did you call me a fucking Mexican?”

The interview was over.

The guy didn’t get the job.

And my mom got back to work.

 


We’re All in This Together… Aren’t We?

Well, this is depressing as hell.

You see, with all the debates over authenticity and intersectionality and mutual struggle, one idea is largely unstated but heavily implied. And that is the concept that all ethnic minorities share a bond. After all, we are united against the bigotry and xenophobia of Trump’s America.

But like myriad other political and cultural assumptions, this one may not be true.

One only has to point at George Zimmerman to see that some Latinos are just as terrified of black males as your most racist white person. And even if we dismiss Zimmerman as an anomaly —to the point of insisting that he’s not really Hispanic — what do we make of Jeronimo Yanez?

You know him. He’s the cop who shot Philando Castile, an African American motorist, for the crime of… well, for basically doing nothing wrong. Yanez just opened fire because (and this is the cop excuse for just about everything) “he feared for his life.”

Yanez — who is positively, one hundred percent Latino — had the same reaction that so many white cops have when they encounter a black man: fear. And this fear has provoked many cops to do some very bad things to African Americans.

Clearly, this reaction of pure terror — based on racist assumptions — afflicts many Latinos as well. It’s obvious, then, that we are not always there for our African American compatriots.

Another societal ill, Islamophobia, has also leaked into the consciousness of some Hispanics. We all know about Nabra Hassanen, a Muslim teenage girl, whose alleged killer is a Latino man. The crime is being portrayed as extreme road rage.

But come on.

Does anybody think the girl’s headscarf had nothing to do with provoking this guy’s fury? Furthermore, does anyone believe that all the hatred aimed at Muslims hasn’t infiltrated the minds of at least a few Latinos?

We cannot assume that the simple fact we are often the targets of bigotry somehow means that we ourselves cannot be bigoted.

It just doesn’t work that way.

 


Bang and Blame

So I just got back from a conference in amazing New Orleans (always one of my favorite cities). The conference featured lots of breakout sessions where the presenters encouraged us to seize the day and live our passions and grab the bull by both horns while seizing your passion every day and so on and so on.

In any case, I noticed something odd about the breakout sessions. For the most part, during the short Q&A portion at the end of each presentation, the women would raise their hands and ask questions. In contrast, the men pretended that they were asking questions, but most of them just made statements.

During session after session, the women seemed more interested in having an expert answer their inquiries and/or engage in a conversation. The men seemed more interested in asserting their expertise, contradicting the moderator, and in general just declaring how super fucking awesome they were to a room full of captive strangers.

 

On the penultimate day of the conference, some lunatic shot at several congressmen in Washington D.C. Much has been made of the fact that the shooter wasn’t a right-wing nut job. He was ardently anti-Trump.

Sadly, I wasn’t too surprised at this. You see, a pro-Trump man with anger issues has less reason to open up on Congress, because his guy is in charge right now. Oh, he might consider taking a shot at a leading Democrat or a pesky journalist, but ultimately, he will likely decide that it’s not worth it. After all, Trump will have all those traitors thrown in jail soon enough, right?

Now, if Hilary Clinton had won… well, let’s just say that one of the few pluses of Trump’s appalling victory is that we may have been spared from even more violence than we see now, most prevalent in the form of surging hate crimes. Yes, it could have been even worse if Trump’s fans felt robbed and ignored, rather than smug and empowered.

This brings us back to the loser who opened fire on people playing softball. You see, he was a guy who felt victimized, and like many men, he decided that violence was the obvious solution.

The only difference between him and many of his peers is that he correctly identified the people who were fucking with him. He knew it wasn’t immigrants or gays. It was the rich guys who rigged the game.

But other than this insight, he had the exact same reaction as do so many other old guys with access to firearms. He didn’t believe in looking at his own life decisions, or working to improve the system, or helping out his community. No, he believed in punishment and fear and hatred and searing rage. He insisted that, as a white man in America, people were going to listen to him, damn it. He was going to make people pay, and everyone would know how great he was.

That’s what he was thinking. That’s what many men are thinking.

And the objects of their scorn may vary, but their solution is consistent. And that is fucking terrifying.

 


Don’t Say the R Word

By now, you’ve seen the research that implies Trump voters were more motivated by racism than… well, by anything else when it came to casting their ballots.

We can certainly debate the root causes of Trumpism, and it’s unlikely that historians will ever agree on one concrete reason for the election of man who sounds more like an intelligible dementia sufferer than a sitting president.

Think of all the variables — from the Comey letter to Russian hacking to misogyny to American’s perpetual hero worship of celebrity. All are plausible reasons why destitute people in small towns looked at a smug billionaire with no governing experience and thought, “Hey, why not?”

But two factors seem most salient. The first is a love of authoritarianism, which many studies have pinpointed as the single most common trait of the Trump voter. People with this trait “have little tolerance for deviance. They’re highly obedient to strong leaders. They scapegoat outsiders and demand conformity to traditional norms.”

Other experts have subdivided this trait into populism, which “is a type of political rhetoric that casts a virtuous people against nefarious elites.” Populists also have a “deep mistrust of any group that claims expertise.”

However you want to define or dissect it, this all sounds like a hardcore Trump voter. Indeed, I still believe the authoritarian/populism vibe is the primary reason why we have the Orange Menace in the White House. It is also the main reason why his base continues to support him, despite the glaring lack of accomplishment in his first 100 days. They are, after all, “highly obedient to strong leaders” and don’t believe anything that experts (i.e., the mainstream media) tell them about their Great Leader’s failures.

But what about that racial thing?

Well, this recent study made the bold claim that “racial attitudes made a bigger difference in electing Trump than authoritarianism.” The study’s authors state that “we’ve never seen such a clear correspondence between vote choice and racial perceptions.”

Of course, this goes against the common refrain that Trump voters are all salt-of-the-earth types under such economic stress that they tragically fell for a con man’s bluster.

Just don’t say bigotry had anything to do with it.

 

Conservatives embrace this idea because it allows them to believe there is no racism in their movement (and more important, no prejudice within themselves). It also helps them in their quest to dismiss progressives as a bunch of hypersensitive whiners who play the race card nonstop.

And many liberals agree with this because they don’t want to appear to be a bunch of hypersensitive whiners who play the race card nonstop. Also, some liberals foolishly believe they can somehow win over extremists if they are just nice enough. Plus, liberals are often just wimps who don’t want to be, you know, all rude and shit by calling someone a racist.

However, a significant chunk of Trump’s supporters are indeed overt bigots. After all, those Nazis aren’t cheering for Elizabeth Warren. And our common sense tells us that many more Trump fans are, at the very least, a bit leery of ethnic minorities.

And as these studies show, the prevalence of bigotry within the Trump movement is not just anecdotal. We have statistics and everything.

“Wait a minute, you lying Latino,” says the fervent Trump supporter. “How could America have elected a black president if we’re so racist? Huh?”

I’m glad you asked. In my next post, I’ll discuss this apparent contradiction.

For now, you’ll just have to trust me when I say that there are some very good reasons.

 


Bursting

Because we’re all fond of metaphors, let’s conjure up an image of America as if it were a person.

In this scenario, we see that — like everyone — America has her virtues and her flaws, her good days and her bad days. Lately, America has nursed the nagging suspicion that she’s past her prime, but she’s not giving up just yet.

All she has to do is lose ten pounds, give up smoking, and… what was that last thing? Oh yeah, end widespread and systematic racism that disenfranchises millions of ethnic minorities.

But what happens when America — or any person — tries to change a bad habit?

Well, contrary to popular belief, negative behaviors usually don’t fade away. They put up a fight, and then they either die out forever or (more likely) come roaring back with a vengeance.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to give up devouring that daily tub of ice cream. You might go weeks without so much as a spoonful of Chunky Monkey. But then you allow yourself a taste of Cherry Garcia. Bam — your “diet ends in a catastrophic binge, and you look at the empty containers and ask, ‘What the hell. How did my smooth transition from comfort food to human dumpster happen?’”

That’s an extinction burst, which is “a predictable and common blast of defiance from the recesses of a brain denied familiar rewards.”

Basically, an extinction burst is your brain’s last-ditch effort to return you to your old ways. It happens, weirdly enough, when you are closest to your goal.

Your mind is saying, “Shit, this behavior might actually take root. Time to panic.” And you pig out, or smoke three packs one after another, or binge watch nine hours of porn, or indulge in whatever behavior you are trying to banish.

And you were so close… and doing so well… sigh.

Well, you can see how this relates to our metaphor of America, the person.

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No, We Don’t All Need to Get Along

Good intentions abound. That’s the only reason people still embrace misguided ideas like “colorblind society,” despite the powerfully negative connotations that such phrases conjure up.

The latest nicey-nicey concept I’ve encountered (and no doubt you have as well) is the absurd notion that, for America to succeed, we need to put aside our differences. In essence, we all need to get along.

Where in the hell did this strange idea come from?

For the overwhelming majority of American history, we have not all gotten along.

For example, Hamilton and Jefferson didn’t say, “let’s be pals” when they were hashing out what kind of government we should have. They had more important things to do.

Even during the so-called Era of Good Feelings, America’s many slaves weren’t feeling the love and joining in group hugs.

Speaking of slavery, America didn’t even reach its centennial before we started shooting at each other over that touchy topic. And it was another century of violence and antagonism before the government said, “Maybe we should be nicer to ethnic minorities.” At no point in that process did we all get along.

Yes, one could argue that the country was united during World War II, but even in that case, all it took to bind us together was a global conflagration where millions of people died and the very survival of democracy was in question. In other words… good times.

More recently, we’ve come to blows over Vietnam and Iraq, over abortion and affirmative action, over gay rights and healthcare.

So when was this mythical time when Americans were of one mind? And why does anyone think this is a necessary condition in order for the country to thrive? Obviously, we’ve found a way to work around our internecine loathing.

The truth is that a nation as vast as ours — with its myriad subcultures, each enjoying a large degree of freedom — is never going to be truly united. To believe otherwise is to embrace the thinking of a child.

However, this Kumbaya concept is more than a pathetic pipe dream. It features an insidious aspect snaking below the surface.

We see this in the earnest pleas, even demands, for liberals to shut up and support Trump. Of course, conservatives would like nothing better than for progressives to give Trump a chance (which many liberals, inexplicably, are quite willing to do).

But why would leftists agree to a right-wing agenda that goes against every principle we have, and that could lead America into chaos? Apparently, we should do so out of blind patriotism and for the sake of the vague, abstract concept of “unity.”

According to this idea, striving to be friends supersedes the threat of decimating the country.

“Yes, thousands of people are dead now because Obamacare was repealed, but at least we’re all getting along, and that’s the most important thing. Yup.”

This is clearly insane.

And aside from the specifics of the current era — where a wannabe fascist seeks to make the nation great again for white supremacists — the fact remains that striving for unity at all costs is spectacularly naïve, even destructive.

The US Constitution is the result of Founding Fathers threatening to duel each other to the death. Slavery was abolished through warfare. Civil rights came only after decades of people refusing to back down, and not settling for getting along.

One of the virtues/flaws of American culture is our hyper-competitiveness. As such, one idea or principle usually emerges triumphant. Sometimes it’s a good idea… and sometimes it’s not. Still, as we know, the moral arc is long but bends toward justice (at least we hope it does).

However, progress is delayed even more when we smile and act polite in the face of idiocy or fanaticism or demagoguery. And there is no need to do so.

Because we have never all gotten along.

And we never will.

 

 


So Far, So Horrific

We are now approximately 1% of the way through the Trump presidency. That means, mathematically, it will only get 100 times worse.

To be fair, things are actually going great… for white nationalists and people who think immigrants are plotting to kill them in their sleep.

For the rest of us, not so much.

You see, the start of the Trump era is, by many accounts, “the most alarming in the history of the American presidency.”

 

The rate of Trump’s grotesque actions outpaces our ability to react to them. Are we really supposed to call our congressional representatives and organize protest marches and boycott companies and sign petitions every single day?

Hell, we barely have time to unboggle our eyes and force our slackened jaws shut before another monstrous executive order comes washing over the American landscape. The best we can manage most days is to force down our vomit.

But here’s one thought that will keep us focused. One inescapable truism that we should keep in mind at all times.

And it is simply this: Trump means everything he says.

All the talk about whether we should take him literally but not seriously, or vice versa, was overcomplicated nonsense from the start. It should have been apparent long ago that when a wannabe dictator says he’s going to do something, he fully intends to do it.

Trump is not capable of metaphor. I doubt the man even knows that word means. I’m serious — the guy boasts about never reading books.

You see, our tiny-fingered, small-minded president does not engage in subtlety, and the only time that he backs off on some of his more egregious pronouncements is when he no longer has any interest in them and/or because they no longer serve a purpose (e.g., prosecuting Hillary Clinton).

Otherwise, he is remarkably consistent.

This does not mean that he will succeed in his endeavors. For example, that fabled wall with Mexico is never going to be built. But this is only because reality will intrude. This barrier might take the form of logistical issues or— it’s possible — political resistance.

But he will not stop of his own free will. He will not moderate his views. He will not listen to reason or decency.

I have never understood why any sane person would think otherwise.

For example, some conservative Latinos voted for Trump under the bizarre assumption that he would be more respectful to Hispanics or even compromise on immigration. That idea doesn’t look so bright now.

Of course, that’s not as bizarre as Middle Eastern immigrants who just assumed his talk of banning them was, I don’t know, some oddball banter from a kooky billionaire.

Heed their regret. And please remember this for the next four years. He means everything that he says.

That makes it even scarier, doesn’t it?

 


Snowflakes

For the moment, let’s avoid dwelling on all the hate crimes that have erupted across the nation since our small-fingered president-elect nabbed his 270th electoral vote.

But let’s just acknowledge that there have been a lot of racist attacks, many of which have been spectacular in their brutality and lunacy.

However, as horrific as these public displays of xenophobia are, I’m more interested in our reaction to these fascistic assaults.

You see, many people are writing off those losers painting swastikas or some thug grabbing a woman’s hijab as stray nutjobs, a tiny percentage of freaks that’s inevitable in a nation of 300 million people. Yes, it stretches the boundaries of plausibility to say the surge in hatred has absolutely nothing to do with Trump, but let’s go with that scenario for now.

What is far more problematic, far more onerous, is the response of social conservatives whenever an ethnic minority has the chutzpah to point out such acts of bigotry.

We get that laziest of insults, which is that we are pampered snowflakes.

snowflakes

The message is that shit happens and we need to toughen up and we have to stop whining and so on and so on.

Of course, the real reason for this dismissal is that acknowledging racism is psychologically distressing for many people — particularly white conservatives who really want to sidestep the obvious truth that a significant chunk of their peers are bigots, and in some cases, actual damn Nazis.

So snapping that a liberal is just a snowflake is a way to jettison the discomfort. It denies that the problem is widespread or even that odious. It says that, basically, it’s just a few jerks, so get over your hypersensitive self.

One recent example of the snowflake phenomena caught my eye. Perhaps you heard about the school in Michigan where white students formed a human wall to block minority students from getting to their destinations. A 12-year-old Latina “was stopped from going to her locker by a group of boys who told her to go back to her country and that they were going to ‘make America great again.’”

I read a few accounts of the story, and (against my better judgment) many reader comments. It was easy to spot the opinion pattern that “boys were just being boys” and outraged adults were simply a bunch of —you guessed it — snowflakes.

But I’m just wondering, at what point did a 12-year-old facing a gauntlet of racists become so much political correctness? When did we collectively decide to dismiss these incidents and treat them as a normal part of growing up? When did we latch onto the term “snowflake” as mindless shorthand and mocking derision?

To be honest, right now in America, the only snowflakes I see are middle-aged guys who are pissed off that life didn’t work out perfectly for them. I see horribly insecure men lashing out at children who are having threats literally shouted into their faces. I see hypocritical conservatives who most likely have never endured a moment of mob hatred, never been the object of abuse, who now sit smugly back and tell kids that they’re just being wimps.

This is beyond blaming the victim. It is even beyond simple prejudice and petty hatred.

It is a sociopathic disdain for humanity.

I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings. I guess you’ll just have to fucking get over it.

 


Don’t Say a Word

Americans have received more than a fair amount of post-mortem analysis and 20/20 hindsight into how the country got stuck with that malignant clown for president. Despite this, it remains astonishing to note how the media tries to avoid stating the obvious.

For example, CNN recently unveiled its 24 theories why Trump won. Here are a full two dozen rationales — some astute, some questionable — in which the word “bigotry” does not appear.

Yes, a couple of CNN’s theories allude to it in euphemistic terms (e.g., “white male resentment”). But the nearest any of its reasons comes to acknowledging real prejudice among Trump supporters is to discount the very idea. In fact, theory #22 clearly states, “Not because of racism.”

By the way, the words “misogyny” and “sexism” do not appear on CNN’s list at all. So apparently, “Trump that bitch” was just a catchy slogan.

In any case, here we have a major news outlet listing dozens of reasons why Trump emerged victorious, and heaven forbid they acknowledge the well-documented fact that a significant number of Trump supporters are white supremacists. Or perhaps I just imagined that whole thing about the KKK throwing a victory parade.

klannn

Now, racism certainly wasn’t the only reason for Trump’s ascendency, and it probably wasn’t even the main reason. But to imply that it was no reason at all, and to sidestep this most unpleasant of factors, is disingenuous at best and cowardly at worst.

Another CNN piece states “this election was for the forgotten among the American people…. When Donald Trump came on the scene, for the first time, they had a voice.

Yes, thank god someone is finally speaking up for white men!

However, it is not just CNN that is embracing this soothing narrative that bigotry is miniscule among Trump supporters.

For example, a professor at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin — Madison, recently published a book based on her months of talking to rural voters of that swing state. In a Washington Post interview about Trump’s popularity in the heartland, the professor acknowledged that many of her interview subjects expressed bigoted sentiments, but she quickly dismissed this by stating, “it’s not just resentment toward people of color. It’s resentment toward elites, city people.”

Ah, I see. So to the professor, whenever a Midwestern farmer snapped that blacks are lazy criminals, it was justifiable irritation with all those fancy urban types.

Good thing it wasn’t racism.

By the way, I am from Wisconsin and have spent more time in small towns and on dairy farms than the vast majority of “coastal elites.” The people there are overwhelmingly polite and hardworking. But yes, I’ve been slurred a few times. And I assure you that it wasn’t because I was too cosmopolitan.

Again, all this dancing around and justifying and flat-out ignoring is jarring to both our knowledge of the world and our sense of decency.

For some delusional reason, we remain deathly afraid of calling out racism in a large swath of people, as if doing so might acknowledge that bigotry still lingers in our “post-racial” society. And we can’t have that.

Or maybe we just can’t offend white people.

After all, as some writers have noted, “to call out voters for falling for damagingly racist and sexist messages is viewed [as] dangerously snobby by the media, as though working-class people are precious toddlers who must be humored and can’t possibly be held responsible for any flawed thinking.” We should also be aware that “only the white working classes are accorded this handwringing and insistent media empathy.”

It’s all about white fragility, which often mixes with a toxic helping of male insecurity. When that happens, we get the idea that “if white men are not living the American Dream the system must be broken. For everyone else, failure is a sign of individual failure, cultural failure, and communal shortcomings, but if white men ain’t winning, the game is rigged.”

So we remain highly sensitive about making any accusations of prejudice. And we embrace the lie that blatant xenophobia had little to do with Trump winning — anything but that.

By the way, hate crimes against ethnic minorities surged after the election. But I’m sure it was just a coincidence.

To summarize my point on this topic, please allow me to share an email I received the morning after the election. It was from a Trump supporter, identified only as Nmslr1. He had read my articles and was rather displeased with my conclusions.

I have edited his email for length because, quite frankly, it went on and on. But I have not corrected any of the grammatical errors (yes, I’m aware of the irony that this person has a horrific grasp of English).

In any case, here is my fan mail from Nmslr1:

Well, it seems White People have seen and heard about all they are gonna take from the ingrates called hispanics.

Did you really think we were just going to turn the other cheek while you all pilfer our resources and hard work? Did you?

Well you all are going to get whats coming, thats for sure.

The joy! The absolute joy to think we banded together and finally said “enough”. The only solution left is to round them up and send them back where the hell they came from.

Oh, and don’t forget little ole abuela, poor thing.

Now its our turn to gloat.

Get this straight: your raping, thieving shit cultures will respect our culture when you’re on the next bus to the living hell holes you all created and where you all ran from.

Oh, are you an anchor baby? Just to make clear when that insane and abused statute is voided out there will be an amendment to make it retroactive.

Gone. Gone. All gone.


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