“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.
“We live in a country where skin color is hazardous to one’s health and mortality is not determined by one’s genetic code but instead by one’s ZIP code. We appeal to you to channel treatment and resources to those areas in our body politic that have suffered the most from this national infection that has allowed this virus to spread disproportionately.”
“So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!”
Still working (with surprisingly little effort) to maintain his role as ASSHOLE-in-Chief, Trump once again uses racist terminology to elicit sympathy from his brainless followers.
To put the concept of lynching back into historical perspective, the above photo was taken shortly before the lynching death of Henry Smith in Paris, Texas, in 1893 that was viewed by a crowd of 10,000 as a public spectacle. An estimated 4,000 people have been lynched in the U.S. since the end of the Civil War, even as late as the 1960s; mostly Black, but also Native American, Hispanic and even some Whites. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
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
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
“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.
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.
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.
“There will never be a nigger in SAE. There will never be a nigger in SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me. There will never be a nigger in SAE.”
The group was on a chartered bus last Saturday night, March 7, headed towards the Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club to celebrate the fraternity’s founding. Another student at the university, a young African-American woman, received links to the videos from someone she refuses to identify (out of concern for that individual’s safety); a person she declares wasn’t one of those who videotaped the incident. As videos are wont to do these days, the thing went viral, and now the reputations of one of the nation’s oldest fraternities and a major institution of higher learning are in jeopardy.
OU President David Boren reacted swiftly and ordered the fraternity to shut down. “You are disgraceful,” he publicly stated. “You have violated all that we stand for. You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves Sooners.” (Sooners is the nickname for OU students).
SAE’s national office stripped the OU chapter of its charter. The massive house where the boys lived has been emptied out; its residents forced to scramble for other living accommodations. In a sign of solidarity, Black and White members of the university’s football team staged a silent march instead of reporting for practice. Two of the guys leading the bus chant have been identified as Levi Pettit, 20, a graduate of Dallas’ Highland Park High School, and Parker Rice, 19, a 2014 graduate of Dallas’ Jesuit College Preparatory School. Both schools are elite entities with hefty tuition tags. Highland Park is actually a section of Dallas that, along with neighboring University Park, is known locally as “The Bubble.” The idea is not so much to keep residents insulated, but rather, to keep those of us who occupy the lower rungs of the social ladder out. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you the area’s own police literally used to stop Black and Hispanic motorists just to ask them what they were doing there.
It’s also befitting that graduates of those two schools would make their way into a fraternity like SAE. It’s a high-priced outfit. When I tried to join that fraternity at the University of North Texas, all of the social Greek-letter organizations would gather their pledges in one arena for an introductory session. The SAE boys all showed up in tuxedos. I called them the “Ken Doll Gang.” They stood against a wall, as if announcing, ‘Look, but don’t touch. I’m too pretty for you.’
I also met two Hispanic guys in the dorm where I first lived who had made attempts to join SAE, but dropped out because of what they perceived to be the frat’s subtle, racist attitude. It wasn’t something overt, they explained, but they could feel it. They really weren’t wanted; no matter how much money they could dish out. I didn’t want to believe it back then. I mean, it was 1984. Hadn’t we moved beyond that shit?
When the Oklahoma fiasco erupted, I returned to that question and realized, quite simply, no. Well…in some circles, no. Pettit and Rice have blamed a convenient scourge: alcohol. In other words, they were too drunk to know what they were doing. Poor kids; they’re too young and naïve to realize that shit doesn’t go over well in the real world.
Listening to that chant, though, I kept thinking it’s not something they composed on the spot. It sounds well-rehearsed. Pettit and Rice claimed they were taught the song while at the frat house and therefore, like toddlers, only repeated what others had uttered. Again, poor kids. Both young men apologized after they were expelled from OU. The Pettit family has hired a top-rated Dallas public relations specialist, and the Rice family has temporarily fled their home. Both OU and SAE are now trying to identify other students on that bus, including two young women who, some claim, are sorority members.
SAE is also now investigating cases where that very song was allegedly performed at other chapters, including here in Texas and elsewhere in Oklahoma, but also in Louisiana. This is just the latest in a long line of incidents where fraternities and sororities have engaged in blatantly racist behavior since 2000 alone. There are too many to mention.
I’m not going to sling every fraternity and sorority member into the same pile of ignorant morons. It’s always the worst elements of any group that get the most attention. I still maintain that social Greek-letter organizations serve no real purpose in higher education. Other people feel they’re vital in fostering camaraderie and unity. That’s fine, if they want to believe that. But, if anyone thinks lynching is something worthy of light-hearted chants, just look at the photos below of actual “niggers” hanging and tell me you see nothing wrong.
Back in the spring of 1985, as I stumbled through life – trying to balance my disintegrating academic regimen and still hoping badly to be a part of that fraternity – a senior-level member gathered everyone in the house one night and self-righteously slammed us for not taking the organization seriously. He condemned the group for “chasing tramps” and going to clubs “listening to your nigger music.” Off to the side, somewhat behind me, stood the only Black man in the group. He said nothing – and neither did I. That was 1985. What year is it now?