Archive for the 'Politics' Category

07
Apr
10

Stand Up and Be Counted… Or Not

I am not an overly paranoid person.

Why, have you heard otherwise? And who told you?

Never mind, I’ll just move on to my main point, which is that I have never understood the deep mistrust of the U.S. Census. I’ve written about this before.

Apparently, a noticeable segment of the population is terrified that filing out this form will allow the government to stick them in internment camps, Christopher Lambert style (and yes, displaying a clip from “Fortress” is officially the most obscure pop culture reference to date on this site):

In any case, it seems that right-wing nuts aren’t the only ones who believe the Census is all a plot… a slow-moving, bureaucratic, cumbersome, and tedious plot, but a dastardly scheme nonetheless.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, just 57 percent of native-born Latinos believe that census participation is good for their community. This means a large number of Hispanics distrust, or at least dislike, the Constitutionally mandated exercise.

Strangely enough, it is foreign-born Latinos, many of whom may not even be citizens, who are more accepting of the process. The Pew Hispanic Center says 80 percent of them believe the Census is a good idea, adding that “the foreign born are also more likely to correctly say that the census cannot be used to determine who is in the country legally [and] more likely to trust the Census Bureau to keep their personal information confidential” than Latinos born in America.

Once again, this proves that assimilation is definitely taking place. Just as foreign-born Latinos tend to get obese and unhealthy the longer they live in the United States, so are their offspring more likely to turn into government-hating paranoids who can’t be bothered with facts. So to everyone who says Hispanics can’t assimilate – in your face!

But aside from the inherent hatred that the Census provokes, there is also the messy racial element on the form itself. As many people have pointed out, the form does not list Hispanics as a race. Instead, we are an ethnicity.

This is because, as I’ve stated before, Hispanics may be of any race. We can be light-skinned, brown-hued, or as dark as any African American (although Torii Hunter might say such individuals are imposters).

However, to say that we are not a separate race has adverse consequences. It’s very easy to find a Latino who is annoyed that he’s being forced to pick “white” or “black” for his race. This irritation is not unjustified.

Furthermore, with distrust of the Census so high, an unnecessary racial jab is not the way to increase Hispanic participation. It’s also an ineffective sidestep. For example, Time magazine reports that “more than 40 percent of Hispanics, when asked on the Census form in 2000 to register white or black as their race, wrote in ‘Other’ — and they represented 95 percent of the 15.3 million people in the U.S. who did so.”

I can personally back up this fact. Last week, when I filled out the Census for our household, I checked Hispanic for my ethnicity. But I was stumped over what to mark for race. Strictly speaking, white is my closest option. But I checked “Other” and then wrote in “Hispanic” in the space provided to explain this otherness. This wasn’t a political act. It just seemed to make the most sense at the time.

However, in retrospect, my answer was, at the very least, redundant. Why write in “Hispanic” when I had already checked it off on the ethnicity box? More interestingly, I was now insisting that “Hispanic” is a race and not just an ethnicity. Did I really mean to do that? Perhaps I should have thought it out better. But images of “Fortress” were playing through my head, and I panicked.

So maybe critics are right to say that we should do away with the whole sloppy system of assessing the racial makeup of this country. Even President Obama had to make a stand when confronted with the Census’ limited options. Witness all the tittering and twittering that accompanied his decision to checkmark the box that says “Black, African Am., or Negro.”

It’s clearly not so easy anymore to stick people into fixed racial categories. And it’s only going to get crazier as each generation becomes increasingly mixed and mingled.

I have to wonder what the options will be for the 2100 Census. Regardless, I’m sure plenty of Americans will fear and hate it.

27
Mar
10

A Trio of Sensitive Topics

Every now and then, I have to undertake a quick roundup on contemporary issues that befuddle, perplex, or amuse me. Considering that I have been in a nonproductive haze for the last week or so (it’s a long story, and you don’t want to hear it), this is a good time for me to tackle these mini controversies, these bite-sized morsels of interest that might not warrant a full, in-depth post but that should be addressed.

First, as befitting its status, we will start with the female breast. I think we’re all big fans, but this week, the news about breasts took a decidedly Hispanic turn.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Latina moms are more likely than any other group to breastfeed their babies. The study gave no reason for this, but I have to presume that the strong Hispanic emphasis on family (and therefore, upon babies and children) is one reason that Latina mothers are more willing to put up with sore nipples and occasional social awkwardness.

The researchers said that “breast-feeding benefits both mothers and their babies” but add that “the longer Hispanic immigrants are in the U.S., the more accepting they are of using baby formula. They also tend to adopt worse eating habits and lifestyles for themselves.” One researcher said, “Their health actually begins to decline.”

So for all those who say that Hispanic immigrants don’t assimilate, here is further proof that you’re wrong. Given enough time, Latinos from other countries quickly grow obese and sickly, just like the rest of us. God bless America!

Speaking of the American Dream, the favorite immigrant of Republicans, Arnold Schwarzenegger, issued yet another idiotic faux pas this week. My state’s governor said that Hispanics are naturally temperamental and “are all very hot. They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it.”

It’s an interesting theory of eugenics, but then again, it does come from a man who knows a thing or two about mixing races – or mingling circuitry with human flesh, same thing.

I’m not a huge fan of Schwarzenegger’s politics. For that matter, I’m not too crazy about a lot of his movies. So it’s not bias toward the governor when I say that his comments sound more like a moronic attempt to be funny than an outright slur. The target of his joke, a Latina state official, said as much. Therefore, I think we can let the guy off the hook, especially because he quickly apologized. But let’s watch it, Mr. Governator.

This brings me to my final item. It seems that I have fresh competition in the Latino blogosphere. This week, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced that he’s starting his own blog. Chavez said, “I am going to dig my own trench on the Internet,” with the intention of spreading his revolution through cyberspace. I, for one, look forward to reading the insights of a touchy head of state who is, quite frankly, a bit of a lunatic. I’m sure it will not be boring.

In addition to these brief updates, let me thank, as always, everyone who has commented on my recent posts. Yes, I’m talking to you, Niall, Clairela, Pete, and Mary Lynn. And here’s a special shout out to Ankhesen, who posted a treasure trove of Hispanic humor in the comments section for my post “A Priest, a Rabbi…”

Take a look.

03
Feb
10

Business Time

Not too long ago, I wrote about the Empowerment Experiment. This social movement was started by African Americans who want to help black-owned business thrive. I asked whether Latinos should consider undertaking a similar project, or if it was all just racial politics.

Regardless, in that post, I wrote about how Latinos’ economic power lags behind that of African Americans. It’s not just that blacks do better than Hispanics statistically. It’s that black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs seem commonplace, while identifying Latinos in positions of authority is a little trickier.

For example, what is the largest Hispanic-owned business in the United States? Unless you work for it (or took a few minutes to google the question) you probably don’t know that, according to Hispanic Business.com, the biggest Latino-run organization is the Brightstar Corporation.

In addition to holding a spiffy, optimistic name, this company “is a solution provider and value-added distribution and manufacturing services company.” No, I don’t know what that Dilbert-inspired corporate doublespeak means either.

I was going to suggest that we all buy Brightstar products or employ Brightstar consultants or use Brightstar for all our networking/culinary/communications/porn-access/whatever needs. But like I said, I can’t tell what the company actually does. I just know that it’s big. For all I know, they manufacture toilet seats.

But isn’t it great to see that Latinos can create a mystifying corporate identity and spew business jargon that is just as vague and uninspiring as white America can? Yes, it’s a brand new day.

31
Oct
09

I Bet They’re Hiding Under the Bed

One of the wonders of modern society is how even minor controversies can snowball into intense political and sociological debates where, apparently, the future of the country hangs in the balance. Really, even Halloween costumes are enough to create verbal fisticuffs.

That’s why I’m not surprised that the 2010 census has people tossing around accusations of nefarious intentions, with counteraccusations of idiocy flying back. The fear and hatred of this tedious government exercise has a long history.  And with the loathing of the current administration so potent among right-wingers, it’s no wonder that the tinfoil-hat crowd insists that filing out the form will somehow end up with you in a government-run gulag.

But I expected the neocons to get upset over the census. What surprised me is that some Latino groups have joined people like noted nutjob Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in calling for a boycott.

The thinking among some Hispanic organizations is that skipping the census is a great way to protest the lack of immigration reform. The Rev. Miguel Rivera, head of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, says that his group has talked 2.5 million Hispanics into refusing to be counted. Rivera hopes that some states will lose representation in Congress due to the undercounting. He believes that “If politicians don’t see the need for immigration reform, then we don’t need those politicians anyway.”

I can’t be the only one who sees the ineffectiveness of this take-my-ball-and-go-home approach. The census only reapportions congressional delegation. It doesn’t add or eliminate anything. So I don’t see how giving, say, Kansas more votes at the expense of California is going to speed up immigration reform. If anything, this strategy increases the odds of a spectacular backfire.

census raceQ8

Then there are those who don’t necessarily want to boycott the census, just alter it beyond recognition. A Republican-sponsored proposal calls for a freeze on Census Bureau funds if it doesn’t reprint its forms to ask respondents if they are citizens. I, for one, can’t imagine who they are targeting or attempting to intimidate with such a question.

We’ll ignore the fact that the party of fiscal responsibility is demanding that the government throw away the 400 million forms that have already been printed and start over, at no small expense. Instead, let me point out that presidential administrations of both parties have repeatedly agreed to count everybody, not just citizens. It’s pretty much settled law.

I’m also wondering about those conservatives who supposedly want government off our collective backs, and think it’s unconstitutional for the census to ask how many bathrooms you have. But it is ok for the bureau to throw in a last-second intrusive question designed specifically to frighten people. I see; it all makes sense now.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me admit that I was once one of those dreaded Census workers (it was a temp job on my summer break from college). I spent three months going door to door in the most wretched parts of my hometown, asking bored or annoyed residents how many people lived in their crumbling shanty of an apartment.

It was a pretty miserable experience, but it paid better than fast food. At no point did I swell with pride that I was helping continue the vital work of Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, etc. Neither did I worry if I was assisting the government with its final preparations for the mass arrest of citizens. It was all rather dull.

I miss those days.

08
Aug
09

One Less Thing to Argue About

Ultimately, it was pretty anticlimactic. As we all know, Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed this week as the latest Supreme Court Justice. She took the oath of office today.

sotooath

She is the first Latina on the court, of course, and her success can’t help but be an inspiration to Hispanics, even to surly bloggers who think they’re above it all (ahem…).

Sotomayor was confirmed by a 68-31 vote, with all the Democrats and nine Republicans voting for her. That means about three-quarters of the GOP Senators said, “Never mind the uplifting story and impressive qualifications, I’m terrified she’s going to rule that we all have to speak Spanish.”

The newest justice will have plenty of time to prove whether she’s an intellectual jurist who exercises solid judgment, or if she’s a crazed left-wing agitator who empathizes all over the place.

Sane people should have little trouble guessing where she’ll land on that continuum.

27
Jun
09

Winning Hearts and Minds

In a recent post, I advised the Republican Party to tread lightly when challenging the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. As we know, the initial reaction of many conservatives had less to do with her judicial philosophy (which is a legitimate topic for debate) and more to do with her reputation as a fiery Latina.

Well, many conservatives heeded my advice (you’re welcome!). But to my surprise, a few continue to attack the woman for her unapologetic acknowledgement that she’s Hispanic. It seems as if several Republicans have their Latino-bashing setting on autopilot and can’t shut it off.

For example, Daily Kos points out that Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, brought up Sotomayor’s association with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. Sessions claimed that the organization does not share an “American approach to matters” and has “taken some very shocking positions with respect to terrorism.”

I’m no expert on the PRLDEF. However, the organization apparently devotes its energy to voting and employment rights, education, housing, and other social issues that have a disproportionate impact on Latinos. I doubt that they’re chockablock with terrorists or have turned Sotomayor into a dynamite-wielding nut in judicial robes. Call it a wild guess.

And someone needs to inform Sessions that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and, as such, indeed share that fabled American approach to matters.

One would think that a political party on the ropes would recognize that it desperately needs to avoid alienating the fastest-growing demographic of voters (i.e., Latinos). Furthermore, one would assume that Republicans would look at their abysmal favorability rating among Hispanics – down to single digits, according to some polls – and say, “Let’s try not to look like xenophobes for once.”

But let’s be fair. Not all Republicans are tripping over themselves to proclaim hostility toward Hispanics. For example, this week, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina held a press conference to announce that he was positively bonkers over a Latina. Unfortunately for him, it turned out that the woman was not his wife, turning him into, as Jon Stewart pointed out, “just another politician with a conservative mind and a liberal penis.”

But should we let Sanford off the hook? After all, he may very well have been the powerless victim of the unstoppable, unquenchable Latin Lover. As I’ve written before, this archetype can take the form of an exotic beauty who beguiles the morally upright white male, who then comes to his senses and returns to his proper role as upstanding member of the nuclear family and majority culture.

At least that’s what Sanford is trying to do. In actuality, he just comes across as a guy so desperate for sex that he’s willing to skip work, ditch his family, and fly to another continent for it.

I sense that’s not the way for Republicans to win over Hispanics.

30
May
09

Some Friendly Advice

I’m not in the habit of giving advice to the Republican Party, which is just as well, because they’re not in the habit of accepting it. But in the spirit of bipartisanship, I offer the following: Drop the lame attacks on Sonia Sotomayor, because they’re not going to work.

obama_sotomayor_052609

I say this as a member of the Hispanic demographic, which as you know, is one of the 13,000 groups that Republicans are supposedly trying to win back. I also say it as an American citizen with common sense, which is one of the groups the GOP lost a long time ago.

Yes, we know that the Supreme Court nominee has one controversial ruling (the “reverse-discrimination” firefighter case) and that she mouthed off about Latinas making better decisions than white men. But Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh’s claims that she’s a closet bigot are simply not resonating. And unless pictures emerge of Sotomayor wearing a t-shirt saying, “I hate white people,” that isn’t going to change.

To my Republican friends, I say back off while you can. The first reason you can’t stop her is a factual one.

Sotomayor is a well-qualified judge with years of experience. The anonymous allegations that she is dim simply don’t add up (the woman was summa cum laude from Princeton… sounds like a moron to me).

In addition, she also offers a compelling story (The Bronx, diabetes, “Perry Mason,” and so on). Sotomayor had to earn her way into the Ivy League, where she excelled. She wasn’t some rich kid who got in because of family connections and then barely squeaked by with mediocre grades (ahem… where was I?).

This is a chance for Republicans to stop rebuking their own philosophy. You know the one I’m talking about: “Anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and not let their circumstances keep them back.”

Yet whenever someone actually does that – like President Clinton, President Obama, and Sotomayor – they wind up despised in conservative circles. Then the GOP goes with the son of a president or the son of an admiral to carry their standard. In truth, the last Republican I recall who actually came from dirt was Alberto Gonzalez, and we all (especially mortified Latinos) know how that one turned out.

Republicans should be thrilled. Here is a woman who actually did what they claim everyone can do: Raise up to greatness from lower-class origins. Weirdly enough, they don’t seem pleased see her.

Mike Huckabee couldn’t even be bothered to know her name.

In any case, the second reason for Republicans to cool it is a purely political one.

Do they really want to piss off the fastest-growing block of voters, who by the way, just rejected their presidential candidate by a factor of two to one? Is telling the first Latina ever nominated for the Supreme Court that she’s not good enough truly the message they want to send to Hispanics like me?

And I’m not even talking about the many women who would be furious, all of whom would rightly ask, “So Clarence Thomas is ok up there, but not another woman?”

Speaking of Thomas, I find it interesting that Republicans talk a great game about picking only the best and ignoring racial considerations. Eighteen years ago, Thomas was considered by many to be a lightweight who only got in because Thurgood Marshall was leaving, and Republicans wanted credit for appointing an African American to replace him. They denied this, of course, and said Thomas would go on to greatness. Two decades later, we’re still waiting for the guy to ask a question, author a memorable opinion, or be anything other than Antonin Scalia’s sidekick.

In any case, people like George Will come across as oblivious when they denounce “identity politics,” as if John Roberts’ upbringing as a straight white male has had no impact on his tendency to vote for the establishment.

Still, if all these reasons aren’t enough, let’s look at the basic math.

Democrats have 59 votes, and may even have a filibuster-proof 60 if the Minnesota mess ever gets figured out. Many of the 40 Republican Senators are moderates who are not terrified of a left-center Latina. So what chance do the 20 to 30 hard-right conservatives have to stop her confirmation? The numbers just aren’t there.

But let’s just say that Republicans derail the Sotomayor nomination. Then what happens?

Well, Obama just picks someone else they despise. And eventually, this person gets confirmed, giving us the same court we have today. If anything, such a court might be even more liberal than Sotomayor would have made it. Oh, and there’s also a whole lot of angry Hispanic and female voters now.

But go ahead, Republicans, don’t listen to me. You never have before.




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