Tag Archives: race

Respect in Motion

It’s finally happening!  The Washington Redskins national football team has decided to change their name by eliminating the term “redskins”.  This is a moment for which the Indigenous American community has been striving for years.  It comes at a time of national soul-searching for the United States – a period nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century where we are at long last coming to terms with a lifetime of racial injustice and inequality.

The alteration didn’t come from a moment of sudden spiritual enlightenment from team owner Dan Snyder who had said many years ago that a name change was out of the question; adding: “NEVER – you can use caps.”

Never say never, Danny boy!

Snyder bowed to social and economic pressures.  Several major corporations that have sponsored a variety of professional sports teams in the U.S. for years had vowed to pull their support if Washington didn’t change its name.  When you grab someone by the financial gonads, they’ll follow you with hearts and minds.

But society is also changing.  Despite the old guard claims that it’s “just a game”, American consciousness has seen that proverbial light in the darkness and gone towards it.  NASCAR, for example, recently banned Confederate flags from its events; a move that has upset many White southerners.  Again, the old guard is losing its grip on cultural relevance.

The word “redskin” is equivalent to slurs like nigger, gook, spic, fag, or politician.  It’s seriously debasing and relegates the Western Hemisphere’s native peoples to a skin tone (which many don’t actually have) as well as to a sub-human category.  In all fairness, some people of Native American ancestry don’t care either way.  They don’t view the term as derogatory or racist.  It’s just a word.  Of course, it is!  So is genocide.

Washington is now at a moniker crossroads.  Obviously, they’ll keep the name Washington.  But what to add to it?  Some have suggested “Warriors” or “Red Tails”; the latter a reference to the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) servicemen during World War II who went disregarded and underappreciated for decades.

I recommend the term “Monuments”.  It’s a direct recognition of the Washington Monument, but it’s also a reference to the structure’s form and size.  You know – a large, tall, long, hard, phallic-shaped emblem.  Since football is such a macho sport, I feel it’s appropriate.

Regardless of whatever name Washington adopts, the time is way past due.  And there’s simply no turning back.  Time doesn’t stop and it doesn’t retract.  It always moves forward.  So should we all.

“A Matter of Respect” (2012)

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Worst Quote of the Week – July 11, 2020

“Some folks are still trying to pretend that all of this mayhem will stop if we just let the Democrats have the White House. Well, we have the Democrats in power in Atlanta, in Chicago, in New York, in Baltimore and beyond and beyond. What’s happened?

“So, this thinking is foolish and naive. The Democrats have shown they’re utterly unwilling to restrain the hard left from seizing property and committing violence. And as for the culture wars, why would the radicals stop when they think they are winning?

“So, ignore the folks who say that it just gets better when we let the Democrats have more power.

“The only way this situation gets better is for Democrats to lose, and lose so often that they are forced to apologize for their relentless slandering of our nation’s history, and by extension, the majority of our citizens who still unapologetically love this country and still believe that it’s worth celebrating.”

Laura Ingraham, FOX News commentator, demanding that Democrats apologize for slandering American history.

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Instagram Moment of the Week – June 26, 2020

White woman becomes hysterical after Black man says something to her.  In decades past, that occasionally would have been a death sentence for the latter.  Now, it’s almost news fodder.  And with the advent of 21st century technology, it becomes a social media event.

According to Karlos Dillard, the woman cut him off on the road then flipped him the bird and called him “nigger” before following him with her car for four blocks.  It was only after she saw he was recording her with his phone that she stopped.

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Worst Quote of the Week – June 12, 2020

“This may be a lot of things, this moment we are living through, but it is definitely not about Black lives – and remember that when they come for you, and at this rate, they will.”

Tucker Carlson, railing against the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Worst Quote of the Week – May 22, 2020

“If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”

Joe Biden, former U.S. Vice President and presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, in an interview on the syndicated radio show “The Breakfast Club”.  Biden later apologized for the statement.

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One Last Angry Clarion Call

Trump looking out in anger.

“It seems clear that [Attorney General William Barr] will do or enable anything to keep Trump in office.  And Trump will do anything to stay there.  Suspension of the election, negation of the results, declaration of martial law are not simply fanciful, alarmist or crazy things to throw out there or to contemplate.  Members of Congress, governors and state legislators, leaders in civil society, lawyers, law enforcement figures and the military need to be thinking now about how they might respond.”

Norm Orenstein, Chair of American Enterprise Institute of Public Policy Research

Donald Trump has joked recently that he might not leave office after a second term, as mandated by the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  This particular amendment was ratified in response to the 12-year tenure of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The original authors of the Constitution had never intended for any elected Chief Executive to hold the position as if it were a divinely-inspired monarchy.  They certainly didn’t anticipate Roosevelt, but they most likely designed the Constitution with concerns about scandalous characters like Trump.  Our 45th Chief Executive made his claim about an extended presidency last month at a conference of the conservative Israeli-American Council in Hollywood, Florida.  I’ve always found it oxymoronic – downright hypocritical, actually – that Trump bears such ardor for Israel and the Jewish people, while openly courting White supremacists.  But that’s a different subject.

The thought of Trump holding just one term in the White House was frightening enough three years ago.  That he could be elected to a second term is deeply unsettling.  That he could somehow forcibly remain in the office even one day longer makes the bloodiest horror films look like Hallmark greeting card commercials.

Yet Trump is delusional enough to believe that’s a real possibility, and he has plenty of supporters who would be comfortable with such a scenario.  Those of us who live in the real world understand this simply could not be allowed per that pesky 22nd Amendment.  Still, even some constitutional experts have surmised Trump might make such an attempt.  That would be reality TV at its worst!  Richard Nixon quietly left the White House, following an impassioned farewell speech to his staff, in August of 1974.  There were no guns blazing or hand grenades exploding.  Nixon and his family weren’t spirited out of the White House through a tunnel to avoid angry mobs of detractors.  The Nixons simply strolled onto the South Lawn, accompanied by newly-appointed President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty, to Marine One.  The helicopter made the loudest sound of anything.  That’s how a peaceful transition of power occurs, even in the most dire and tense of situations.

With Trump, I can almost see him and his wife, Melania, scurrying through that tunnel in a setting reminiscent of Romania’s Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu.  I honestly don’t believe it will ever come to that sanguineous of a climax.  Yet, I wouldn’t put it past the infantile Trump to grip onto the door frame of the master bedroom.

But, while Trump’s behavior can’t be taken too lightly, another aspect of the current American experience that definitely shouldn’t be dismissed is the effect Trump’s presidency has had on his faithful minions and the sentiments that put someone like him into office.  Decades of socially progressive behavior and legislation gave us Barack Obama and others like him; individuals who didn’t meet the traditional standard of those in position of power.  In other words, Obama and others weren’t White males.  Just a half century ago it was inconceivable that someone like Obama could ascend to the highest elected office in the land.  It was unimaginable that Nancy Pelosi would be the one banging the gavel in the House of Representatives.  Only a handful of visionaries thought it possible that Hilary Clinton could be a serious contender for the presidency, or that Pete Buttigieg could live openly gay AND serve in the U.S. military AND talk about having a “husband.”  People born, say, since 1990 have no idea what a vastly different world it is today than in the few years before their time.

Now, it seems the nation has digressed with Donald Trump.  Decades ago, Ronald Reagan aspired for America to return to a time before the 1960s messed up everything.  That was a simpler time for him and others just like him.  But it meant Blacks sat at the back of the bus; women sought nothing but marriage and motherhood; queers remained in the closet; and Native Americans languished as comical figures on TV screens.  The 1960s may have messed up the world for the likes of Reagan and Nixon, but it opened up the universe for everyone else.

As I marched through my junior year in high school, I began receiving phone calls from a man with the local recruiting office of the U.S. Army.  I believe I’d spoken to him at least twice, before my father happened to answer the phone one day; whereupon he politely told the man that I had plans for college and that he and my mother were determined to ensure I get there and graduated.  Just a few years later I’d openly stated I had considered joining either the Navy or the Marines.  And each time my father talked me out of it.  In retrospect, I understand why.

As a naïve high school student in the late 1940s, my father had been convinced NOT to take a drafting course and instead go for something in the blue collar arena.  “Most Spanish boys do this,” is how he quoted the female school counselor telling him.  My father liked to draw and – much like his own father – had the desire and talent for an architectural profession.  But he’d been talked out of it.  Because that was what most “Spanish boys do”.  College was for White guys.  Trade school and the military were for everyone else.

Years of struggle – working twice as hard for half as much – and assertive civil rights action had led America to the early 1980s, when I graduated from high school.  And didn’t have to join the military.  In the spring of 1983, I was sitting in a government class at a local community college, when the instructor asked, “What do we owe minorities in this country?”

Seated in the row in front of me was a young man who had graduated with me from the same high school.  I knew his name, but I didn’t know him personally.  Without missing a beat, he muttered, “Nothing.”

Only the few of us nearby heard him.  He was White, as was most everyone else seated on either side of him.  From my vantage point directly behind him, he looked angry; as if he’d been robbed of something that was rightfully his.

I finally spoke up and informed the class that “this country” owes the same thing to minorities that it does to everyone else: equality and fairness; “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, as prescribed in the Declaration of Independence.  I added, “Nothing more, nothing less.”

That one young man and the others nearby nodded their collective heads and looked at me, as if I’d said something unbelievably profound – which, to them, it may have been.

That level of total fairness and freedom hasn’t been easy.  But nothing so monumental as dramatic cultural changes are.  The Civil War, for example, ended more than 150 years ago.  Yet, some people in the Deep South of the United States still can’t let that go.  They still insist it was a war over states’ rights, not slavery.  They’ve been fighting that conflict all these years and they still haven’t won!

That’s a little of what Donald Trump’s presidency is all about: a bunch of old-guard folks wanting to maintain things as they were way back when.  And it’s just not going to work for them any longer.  The old White Republicans dominating the U.S. Senate disrespected Barack Obama as much as they could without making it too glaringly obvious.  They did everything they could to undermine his presidency and essentially failed at every step.  If anything, they only hurt the country and their reputations.

Social and political conservatives can’t return to an America of the 1940s and 50s any more than liberals can return to an America of the 1990s.  Memories are forever, but time marches onward.  It always has and it always will.  Trump’s presidency may be the final battle cry of the angry White male.

But we can’t go back to whenever.  Time continues.

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Best Quote of the Week – September 13, 2019

“At this point I call the women’s marches ‘parades,’ with white women doing arts and crafts the night before.  This is an event for them.  It wasn’t until white women were personally affected that they came out in the millions.  All of a sudden they knew how to organize.  Women of color have been marching a long time.”

Rachel Cargle, author and activist who has criticized feminist movements around the world as exclusive of non-White women.

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Said Again

I keep having to look at the slew of calendars I have scattered throughout the house – the National Geographic, ASPCA, military veterans and one displaying houses I get every year from my real estate friend.  They all assure me of the same thing: it’s 2019 – not 1919.  Or 1969.  Or even 1999.  Nope!  It’s 2019, my friends.  We’re at the end of the second decade of the 21st century.  Oh wait!  Yes.  I had to check again: 2019 – the two and the zero being the key factors here.

I have to do this because of the recent series of tirades Donald Trump has lavished upon certain members of Congress.  Would somebody get the damn phone away from him?!

As if anyone should be surprised, our Dear Leader hasn’t quieted down verbal attacks against non-Whites who dare to speak their minds against him.  Via his Twitter feed while safely ensconced in the White House, he created quite a stir recently, when he assailed four alphamore U.S. congresswomen, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.  Denouncing them as “The Squad”, he became enraged, after they criticized him for his response to the growing migrant crisis along the southern border – among other issues.

Ocasio-Cortez had already identified herself as a socialist when she won New York’s 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of the Bronx and Queens boroughs – both of which have large non-White populations.  In fact, I think non-Hispanic Whites are so scarce in the Bronx they might qualify for endangered species status.

Trump didn’t hold anything back when he assailed the four congresswomen (an attribute his devotees love) that, if the lawmakers “hate our country,” they can “go back” to the “broken and crime-infested” countries “from which they came”.  For the record, Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib were all born and raised here in the United States; thus making them, well, natural-born Americans.  Omar emigrated to the U.S. with her family as a child; the clan fleeing their Somali homeland, as it sunk further into political and social chaos.  But she is now an American citizen.  Omar has been openly critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, which garners the usual cries of anti-Semitism from all sides.  But a statement about the 09/11 terrorist attacks as “some people did something” makes me think suspiciously of her.  Yet, one has to look at that verbiage within the context of her entire speech.  To her credit, she’s also said: “I do not blame every single white person when we have a white man who massacres children at a school, or moviegoers in a movie theatre.  And I think this really horrendous narrative that says, as a Muslim, I’m supposed to explain, apologize, for the actions of someone who’s also terrorizing me, is absurd.”

Now Trump has gone after Congressman Elijah Cummings who represents Maryland’s 7th District, which includes Baltimore.  Describing the majority-Black area as a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live”, he drew widespread condemnation from Democrats and independents.  I don’t know what incited that particular discourse, but it’s obvious Trump likes to play the proverbial race card when things get rough in the political arena, which is something like, oh…100% of the time.  And I’ve found that, if you go for the jugular by mentioning race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality, you’ve essentially lost the debate.  You’ve run out of legitimate things to say; you’ve exhausted your gallery of facts and logical points, but you want to keep arguing because you just absolutely have to have the last word.

As I’ve stated before, not everything wrong with America is the fault of White males.  But again, I have to look at one of my calendars.  Seriously?!  We’re still dealing with this shit in 2019?!  I heard that “go back” crap when I was in high school!  It was a similar comment from a fellow student that propelled me into my first and only fight in high school – towards the end of my senior year.  During my alphamore year a substitute teacher said my last name is un-Christian.  I took that up with the school principal before I told my parents about it.  I was concerned my proud father would go to the school and want to kick some old White ass.

I heard a little less racist language while in college.  Key words – “a little less”.  Occasionally, some idiot would throw a “you people” in my face, and I was just as quick to slur right back at them.  By the 1990s, ironically, the people slinging racist vitriol at me the most were Black or other Hispanics.

So, how is it that this kind of talk has worked its way back into the mainstream?  Retro may be cool in some nightclub situations, such as retro-70s.  (I try to ignore “Retro 90s” nights!)  But it’s not necessarily cool with a spoken language.  Never mind that Trump’s “go back” comment might be illegal in a workplace setting.  I’m still perplexed that we’ve gone from No-Drama-Obama to Czar Trump in a virtual blink of our collective eyes.

But, after 200 or so years of civil rights progress, it seems we’ve now started rolling backwards.  To we Trump detractors, this is not news.  Trump had pumped fuel into the “Birther” movement: the band of morons who questioned the birthright of President Obama.  He never acknowledged he’d been wrong when he said his “researchers” had learned some odd things about Obama.  Yet, he sat in the Oval Office next to Obama and called him a great man.  Amazing how brave some people get when they’re behind a phone or a computer, isn’t it?  It’s so different in person.

Thinking back to my high school tenure doesn’t bring back many good memories.  I was so shy and introverted I often fell prey to bullies.  So I try NOT to think about that period.  It was so long ago anyway.  Yet, that “go back” shit slammed into my conscious harder than seeing a Windows 3 screen.

My mother used to recount the number of times people had called her “half-breed” because her father was German-American and her mother was Mexican.  My father told me of the day an older White woman at the printing shop where he worked said she saw “a bunch of Mexicans” working on a lawn and thought of him.  He responded by saying something like, “Well, I saw a herd of cows in a field on my way to work and thought of you.”

A friend of mine once asked how is it that, in such a large city as Dallas, our fathers happened to know each other.

“All those old Mexicans knew each other!” I replied.  “They were all crammed into the same neighborhoods and went to the same schools.  They had to stick together.  It was a matter of survival.”

She’s only a few years younger than me, and my answer seemed to surprise her.  But she understood what I was saying.

In high school – and to some extent, even in college – I often felt isolated because I was one of the few Hispanic kids.  But I was as much American as I was then and still am now.  Some of my Spanish ancestors were here in Texas long before the Mayflower pilgrims; my Indian ancestors long before them.  So I always pulled that from the depths of my mind whenever some fool threw a “go back” at me.

I suspect Donald Trump’s presidency is the final battle cry of the “Angry White Male” – the withering group of individuals who still feel they should run everything and should be allowed to say what they want.  But, as a mostly White male myself, I know Trump gives all White men a bad name.  I’ll never criticize people who voted for him in 2016.  They had that right, and it’s not up to anyone else to decide what their selection should be.  I definitely disagree with a recent essay by Pastor John Pavlovitz about Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” comment three years ago.

But still…“go back”?  I’m hearing that again?  From the president of the United States?  Pardon me just a moment.  Yes…still 2019.  Time just won’t stop or roll backwards, no matter how much we beg.

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Spickland

“And why is it that when you’re dining here today to honor me as Hispanic Officer of the Year, I look around the room full of ranking officers, and the only other Hispanics I see are waiters and busboys?  As far as I’m concerned, you can keep your awards.” – René Enriquez, as Lte. Ray Calletano, “Hill Street Blues”, 1983

 

“A part of me wants to kick their ass.  A part of me feels sorry for their stupid ignorant selves.  But if you’ve never been farther south than Nuevo Laredo, how the hell would you know what Mexicans are supposed to look like?

There are green-eyed Mexicans.  The rich blond Mexicans.  The Mexicans with faces of Arab sheiks.  The Jewish Mexicans.  The big-footed-as-a-German Mexicans.  The leftover French-Mexicans.  The chaparrito compact Mexicans.  The Tarahumara tall-as-a-desert-saguaro Mexicans.  The Mediterranean Mexicans.  The Mexicans with Tunisian eyebrows.  The negrito Mexicans of the double coasts.  The Chinese Mexicans.  The curly-haired, freckle-faced, red-headed Mexicans.  The Lebanese Mexicans.  Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about when you say I don’t look Mexican.  I am Mexican.  Even though I was born on the U.S. side of the border.” – Sandra Cisneros, Caramelo, Chapter 72. Copyright 2003, Vintage Books.

 

Recently FX Networks announced the premier of “Mayans MC,” a spinoff of their highly popular, award-winning “Sons of Anarchy.”  Airing from 2008 to 2014, “Sons of Anarchy” followed the lives of an outlaw motorcycle club in the fictional town of Charming, California.  Exploring government corruption, personal loyalty, racism, redemption and the vigilante spirit, it’s sort of what you’d get if the Hells Angels produced a show for the Hallmark Channel.  “Mayans MC” essentially continues the storyline, but with a Latino cultural flair.  While the real Mayans charted the night skies, these “Mayans” are drug runners who immediately encounter another gang, Los Olvidados (The Forgotten Ones).  They might as well have called it ‘Mean Ass Mexicans on Motorcycles.’  I guess not much has changed since 1983.

It’s slightly reminiscent of “Kingpin,” a severely short-lived series that dealt with “the machinations of an ambitious Mexican family . . . displayed in graphic detail as the family faces challenges from both the United States Drug Enforcement Agency and from the dangerous underworld in which they work.”  The show was the brainchild of the late David Mills, a “light-skinned black man whose racial identity was not always evident to those around him” and who “wrote white characters and black characters with equal zeal.”  Okay, great.  He may have placed Black and White folks on equal levels, but he kept Hispanics on the criminal platform.  There are more colors in the rainbow of equality than black and white.

The start of 2005 saw the debut of “Jonny Zero,” a Fox series about an ex-con named Jonny Calvo, played by the underwhelming Frankie G. (Gonzales), who returns to his old neighborhood to begin life anew.  He naturally finds it tough to stay on the right side of the law because his former employer seeks his tough-guy services to engage in new criminal activity, while the FBI wants him to snitch on that same former employer.  Decisions!  Decisions!  Aside from taking place in that most Latino of all American metropolises, New York City, “Jonny Zero” was also filmed there.  I presume that was meant to lend it a sense of gritty urban realism.  Fortunately, like “Kingpin”, “Jonny Zero” lasted all of a nano-second in TV land.

Even now, in this allegedly post-civil rights era America, Hispanics are still portrayed on television as gang bangers, maids and illegal immigrants.

In 2011, Demián Bichir received praise and a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his role in “A Better Life”, the story of a Mexican immigrant father who chooses to remain in the U.S. and work as a gardener in Los Angeles.  His goal is simple: do for his kids what the movie’s title says to do.  It’s supposed to be melodramatic and sweet and, perhaps, make the case for a more sentimental view of illegal immigration.

In an interview last year, actor Benito Martinez lamented, “I had all these images of elegance and range and style, so when I, naively, was trying to build my career, those were my examples,” the soft-spoken Martinez says. “But what I was getting in the ‘80s as a young Latino actor was, ‘You’re going to be a gang member and you’re going to go in and rob the bank.’  I had to then learn about pigeonholing.  I had to learn the power of no.”

Martinez’s latest role?  A migrant laborer on a tomato farm on ABC’s “American Crime”.  The “power of no” often runs hard up against the need to pay bills and beef up a resume.  The show was cancelled last year.

Another ABC program, “Modern Family,” has been heralded as a depiction of America’s ethnic diversity.  But the main female character – portrayed by the immensely untalented Sofia Vergara – is yet another Hispanic trope: the sexpot.

Twenty years ago critics wondered aloud why the highly popular show “Friends” didn’t feature any Black characters, given that it took place in New York City.  Well, it didn’t have any Asian or Hispanic characters either.

Again, not much seems to have changed for Latinos in popular culture since 1983.  The late Lupe Ontiveros once calculated that she’d portrayed maids and housekeepers some 200 times in her 30+ years as a professional actress.  Yes, I’ve seen plenty of Hispanic housekeepers – have even known a few.  But most of the Hispanics I’ve seen and known throughout my life – even those outside my own family – have been well-educated, well-spoken, gainfully-employed, law-abiding, military-serving U.S. citizens.  These are MY people – not the illiterate wetbacks scurrying across the border at midnight or hyper-violent drug cartel leaders.  I’m not familiar with those latter groups.  I can’t identify with them.  Neither can most other Hispanic-Americans.

So why don’t we see more of us on television or in the movies?  I suppose my life as a 50-something freelance technical writer taking care of his elderly mother is too bland for the American entertainment – an industry still dominated by mostly White (usually Jewish) men.  And I won’t start a life of crime just to get attention and maybe a reality TV show!  Hell, that would cut into my writing time!

The ordinariness of the average Hispanic-American is perhaps why I had such a hard time getting my debut novel published.  Traditional publishing houses couldn’t see the reality in a book with Hispanic characters who are well-educated and speak perfect English.  Yes, one publisher actually told me that a little more than a decade ago!  That’s why I’ve resorted to self-publishing, which I’ll get to in a different essay.

The only way I see things changing for the general American perception of Hispanics – aside from letting the ‘Old Guard’ die off – is for Latinos to get angry.  Yes, just flat out pissed off and demand more AND better from the entertainment industry.  To some extent, that’s already happened with the cancellation of shows like “Kingpin” and “Jonny Zero”.  But we have to point out – forcefully – to TV and film producers that they don’t have a true understanding of who we all are.  Who we really are.  Stereotypes are pathetically old school and don’t have a place in 21st century societies.

Years ago some White people at my father’s workplace told him he wasn’t like “other Mexicans”; that he was “different.”  He honestly didn’t know what to make of it, but I did when he mentioned that to my mother and me at dinner one evening.  “They’re stereotyping you, Dad,” I told him.

 

Image: Erik De La Cruz, Latina Lista

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Maids, Beauty Queens and Other Stupidities

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Recently, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump – trying desperately, yet involuntarily to retain his title as “Asshole of the Year” – defended his previous criticisms of 1996 Miss Universe Alicia Machado.  The Venezuelan-born Machado apparently had gained too much weight at the height of her reign for Trump’s taste and subsequently referred to her as “Miss Piggy.”  He later also dubbed her “Miss Housekeeping,” an obvious reference to her ethnic heritage.  While millions of women across the U.S. (and I’m quite certain, across the globe) resent the “Miss Piggy” sleight, I focused on the “Miss Housekeeping” comment and thought, ‘Here we go again with the racial crap.’  Once more, Hispanic women are being dropped into the narrow categories of maid, housekeeper, etc. by (imagine this!) an old White male.

Trump has made racism and misogyny hallmarks of his campaign.  But this latest verbal assault against Machado struck me personally and harder than his previous idiotic statements.  As the son of a German-Mexican mother, I’ve heard more than a few stories of bigotry about the American workplace.  But, as someone who labored in the corporate world for more than a quarter century, I know that Hispanic women fit into more than the standard housekeeper / maid job role.  Regardless of race or ethnicity, women overall comprise roughly 57% of the American workforce; both full-time and part-time.  It’s the first time in U.S. labor history that more women than men are working.  Such a figure would have been incomprehensible a generation ago.

Not long after I was born in 1963, my father demanded that my mother stay home and raise me; thus becoming a traditional mother and housewife.  He was invoking the machismo persona of the average American male.  Few women worked after having a child in those days – or at least that’s what the general philosophy held.  In reality a number of women entered the workforce after having children, long before it became socially acceptable.  Many had no real choice.  My mother may have had a choice, but she refused to bow to pre-defined roles.  She had already gone against tradition by telling a Catholic priest shortly before my parents married that she didn’t plan to have a child every year, as the Holy Roman Empire dictated.  It upset the priest so badly that he told her maternal grandmother, a woman who had raised her and her three siblings after their mother died in 1940.  The grandmother, in turn, expressed her frustration to my mother who stood her ground.  Unless the Church was willing to finance her progeny, my mother absolutely would not have a child every time my father got an erection.  It’s a good thing.  My mother had enough trouble with me.  She had lost two pregnancies before I was born and another afterwards.  Considering some of the financial troubles my parents experienced later, it’s a good thing my mother returned to work in 1965, when I was 18 months old.  She retired in 2003 at age 70.

In reviewing contemporary TV shows, I believe there are about as many Hispanic characters now as there were fifty years ago; meaning they could probably all be counted on one hand.  Among the most popular today is “Modern Family,” featuring Colombian-born former model Sofia Vergara.  (Apparently there weren’t enough Hispanic actresses in Hollywood needing an acting job, so the show’s casting director yanked this nitwit from the gutter of foreign refuse to fill an otherwise blatantly stereotypical role.)

In 2003, NBC presented “Kingpin,” a series about (surprise!) a Mexican drug cartel family caught between the brutal worlds of narcotics trafficking and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.  I guess these conflicts were supposed to induce some sort of dramatic intoxication in the viewer.  Entertainment insiders noted the show presented a number of Hispanic performers; folks who normally wouldn’t find much long-term work in Hollywood apart from character clichés.  Those of us outside of that insulated fantasy factory – that is, those of us with a firm grip on reality – saw it for what it was: yet more Hispanics in formulaic characters.  The cacophony of anger was loud enough for NBC to cancel the series after just six episodes.  They claimed it was actually due to poor ratings.  As far as I can tell, industry outlets such as “Entertainment Tonight” didn’t spend much time highlighting the glaring racism in the series.  But I’m certain if a similar show about Blacks or Jews had come out, protests would be louder than the sound of Donald Trump dropping another wife.  Hell, when “Seinfeld” went off the air in 1998, it made national news!

This past June the USA Network premiered a show titled “Queen of the South.”  Such a name might make viewers assume it focuses on the antics of a cynically witty granddame-type in Georgia or South Carolina; an old gal who sips mint julips, dons “Gone with the Wind” regalia every December 20 and longs for the old days Negroes had to sit at the back of the bus.  That, of course, would be more than enough to get a show bounced of the air.  But “Queen of the South” revolves around a woman named Teresa who grew up poor and loveless in a Mexican slum and falls in love with (wait for it) a Mexican drug cartel leader.  When he’s killed, she flees to South Texas and becomes involved with someone from her past in an attempt to avenge her boyfriend’s murder.  That’s bad enough.  Yet it gets worse, as Teresa realizes the narcotics lifestyle is just too good to pass up and subsequently becomes a drug czarina in her own right.  It’s a quirky spin on the life and murderous legacy of Griselda Blanco, a.k.a. “The Cocaine Godmother.”  In fact, Blanco’s story is currently metamorphosing into a Hollywood biopic starring Jennifer Lopez who – like the late Michael Jackson – is gradually turning Whiter as she gets older.

Once again, though, Hispanics and illegal drugs are linked.  Actually Hispanics are still paired up with almost anything illegal: gang members, prostitutes, immigrants sneaking across the border and the like.  If going from maids and groundskeepers to drug cartel leaders is supposed to be an improvement, I’ll stick with the maid / groundskeeper type.  It’s sort of like this year’s elections: one has to choose between the lesser of two evils.

Looking through production credits for some of these shows, I’ve noticed none had Spanish surnames.  It’s obvious, then, from the initial concept down to the actual filming of the program, people of Northern European extraction are in control.  A good number of them are Jewish.  Therefore, I dare any of them to produce a television show displaying Jews (or any-Hispanic) as crooks.  Let’s see if it even gets past its debut episode.

close-up-of-hispanic-african-american_work

I’m pleased to see plenty of Blacks and Asians (many of them women) in non-traditional roles; business professionals and law enforcement characters who actually speak perfect English.  The same doesn’t hold true for Hispanics, or Native Americans for that matter.  We’re still the drug dealers, maids, groundskeepers and / or illiterate wetbacks who comprise the much-despised “Other” group of degenerates; people who are too lazy or stupid to get a decent education and find a legitimate career.  People Donald Trump wants to wall off and deport.

I don’t want to be around drug dealers or prostitutes either.  But that’s simply because I don’t belong to either of those groups.  Nor does anyone in my family and nor do most Hispanics.

We’re educated and career-driven.  We’re concerned about national security and the economy – just like any other citizen of this country.  Race and ethnicity are wedge issues that some people love to exploit.  We’re fully aware of the myriad stereotypes that plague us as a group; whether it’s on television or in political discourse.  We’re fully aware that Donald Trump is appealing to the traditional Republican base: older White men who watch in dismay as the world they thought only they would inherit slowly slips into the chaos of what the U.S. Constitution promised – freedom and equality for all.

Hispanic and other non-White women (or “women of color” – whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean) are double minorities in this society because of two factors: their gender and their ethnicity.  Non-White women with college degrees, for example, often earn as much (or as little) as a White male with only a high school diploma.

Having grown up with a working mother – and seeing other Hispanic women struggling both to get educated and to maintain their jobs – I understand that the American entertainment machine and people like Donald Trump just can’t (or won’t) accept the truth.  Old prejudicial concepts are tough to eradicate.  But reality is reality.  And the reality I know is that beauty queens and housemaids aren’t the only roles where Hispanic women are allowed to exist.

 

Top image “Sonhos do carnaval” (Carnival dreams, 1955), courtesy Emiliano di Cavalcanti.

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