Posts Tagged ‘discrimination

13
Mar
10

Called out on Strikes

First, let me acknowledge Henna, Cold Spaghetti, Island Meri, and Steven for their recent comments. I appreciate your thoughts.

Second, let me segue from thanks to apologies. Specifically, I may owe one to Sammy Sosa.

In a recent post, I wrote about Sosa’s apparent use of a skin product designed to make him appear whiter. I wondered if the baseball great’s light skin was a capitulation to the colonizer mentality. This mindset holds that anything white is superior, and it has caused many black people to go to absurd lengths to seem whiter (both culturally and literally).

As we know, Hispanics can be of any race. Sosa, a Dominican, is obviously a dark-skinned Latino. Many people have wondered if he is trying to renounce his Hispanic and/or black status.

As it turns out, maybe Sosa isn’t to blame if he wants to be white. Apparently, some of the man’s fellow players think that he is not really black in the first place.

Specifically, Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, a great player and multiple All-Star, believes that black players from Latin America are “imposters.” Hunter said that he and his fellow African American players “have a theory that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us. It’s like they had to get some kind of dark faces, so they go to the Dominican or Venezuela because you can get them cheaper. You can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips.”

I must admit that I didn’t know the rates for Dominicans were so reasonable. Perhaps we should all get one.

Hunter goes on to pose the ultimate rhetorical question about a former MVP. Hunter asks, “Hey, what color is Vladimir Guerrero? Is he a black player? Come on, he’s Dominican. He’s not black.”

I have no idea if Guerrero considers himself black. Perhaps he answers, “Hispanic” or “Dominican” or “human” or “right-handed slugger” when asked about his status. But he’s certainly within his rights to say, “black” or “black Latino.”

In the picture below, Hunter is on the left. Guerrero is on the right. One of them is positively not black.

Perhaps Hunter meant that Guerrero and other players from Latin America are not African American. That’s a noncontroversial point. However, Hunter comes across as a cultural jingoist, reminiscent of people who said President Obama is not really black.

His comments bring up the whole messy topic of how we categorize race and ethnicity, and why. I’ve written before about this, and several readers have chastised me for (among other offenses) saying that Chicanos are Hispanic and Spaniards are not. I’d like to think, however, that I was a bit more diplomatic than Hunter.

Perhaps we are indeed all too hung up on race and who is one category and who is not. But to deny that these constructs – artificial as they are – actually exist is to deny their power. And that’s why, despite the earnest pleas of many Americans, we will go on talking about race and racial matters.

As for Hunter, he has claimed that his comments were taken out of context. If so, it lessens the creepiness of their content, but not the stupidity of their mere existence.

Hunter ended his racial-conspiracy rant by saying, “I’m telling you, it’s sad.”

Oh, it’s sad, alright. But not in the way that Hunter thinks. It’s sad that he said, “They’re not us” when referring to teammates like Guerrero.

As the baseball writer Craig Calcaterra points out, “the fact that more and more of baseball’s black players happen to come from a couple hundred miles south of an artificial political border doesn’t mean that there is no one around to receive the torch passed down from Jackie Robinson.”

In fact, many of those players who thrive under Robinson’s legacy are Hispanic. And yes, they may even be black too.

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19
Jan
10

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Once again, I’ve been far too lax about thanking people for commenting on my recent posts. So let me give a shout out to Stephanie, Louis, Emma, and Pipil for their contributions to the site. Now that my rudeness has been addressed, let’s take a look at my cynicism.

Despite my frequently cynical viewpoint and occasional outbursts of rage (always justified, I assure you), I consider myself a fairly optimistic person. But I’ve just found out that my positive attitude has made me a psychological minority within an ethnic minority.

This is because my fellow Latinos are a little down on the world right now, especially regarding how well we all get along with each other. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that “one year after the election of President Barack Obama, black optimism about America has surged, while Hispanics have become more skeptical about race relations.”

Basically, African Americans are still feeling pretty good about their place in society, while Latinos are, as the headline to the story puts it, “wary” about our status in this country. It doesn’t appear to just be self-loathing or paranoia, either.

Among the interesting tidbits in the poll is the finding that “Hispanics, not blacks, now are seen as the ethnic group facing the most discrimination. Twenty-three percent of all respondents say Hispanics are discriminated against ‘a lot,’ compared with eighteen percent for blacks, ten percent for whites and eight percent for Asians.”

So what do we take away from this finding, besides the facts that black Americans are on the upswing and that everybody loves Asians? Well, it would appear that the unwanted title of most feared ethnic group in America – long held by blacks – is being passed to Latinos.

Clearly, the relentless media attacks – and occasional overt violence – directed toward immigrants has taken a toll, even upon perceptions of Hispanics who are legal residents. Indeed, the article states that “there have been a number of recent attacks on Latinos that advocates say are hate crimes fueled by anti-immigration rhetoric.”

So it’s not just that blacks are feeling better about their status. They’re also perceived better by the majority culture.

It may be that whites are more likely these days to scowl at Latinos than to clutch their purses when an African American walks by. As a result, according to the poll, “Hispanics are less optimistic than other groups about interracial relations. When whites and blacks were asked how well their group gets along with Hispanics, more than seventy percent say ‘very’ or ‘pretty’ well. In contrast, only about fifty percent of Hispanics feel the same way.”

Of course, another reason for the current depression among Latinos is our sky-high unemployment rate. While the overall percentage of Americans without jobs stands at 10 percent, for Hispanics it’s an even more impressive 12.9 percent. That doesn’t lead to cheery feelings.

In essence, we Latinos have backslid. We are now more likely both to be out of work and to be discriminated against than just a few years ago. As such, cartwheels may not exactly be called for.

In the face of this dismal pessimism, however, I remain optimistic. Things will get better for both Latinos and for all Americans. I can’t give you a concrete reason for my feelings. I guess I’m just audacious about hope… or has someone used that phrase already?

07
Oct
09

No Wonder They Cancelled That Show

First off, let me thank Carola for her comment on my last post.

As for the latest around here, I finally got around to reading “Freakonomics,” the bestseller from a few years ago. Like everyone else who read the book, I’m amazed at the bizarre factoids and surprising conclusions that it supplies. And it’s also convinced me never to buy a swimming pool for my backyard…

In any case, one of the sections in “Freakonomics” looks at a study done on that forgotten game show “The Weakest Link,” which is best known for supplying a short-lived catchphrase that I will refrain from repeating.

The “Freakonomics” authors were curious if data would uncover hidden racial prejudice or sexism among the contestants on the show. Their conclusion was that blacks and women were not discriminated against. They write, in a burst of set-you-up optimism, that “perhaps… discrimination was practically eradicated during the twentieth century, like polio.”

Wouldn’t that be most cool? Racism eradicated – with game shows like “The Weakest Link” serving as a mass-media, pop-culture Salk vaccine! How nifty keen is that?

Well, as you may have predicted, the story doesn’t end there. The authors point out that “the ‘Weakest Link’ voting data do indicate two kinds of contestants who are consistently discriminated against: the elderly and Hispanics.”

Somehow I knew this case study would end badly for us.

What the authors are saying is that my grandmother would have been eliminated from the show before the announcer finished his intro.

So why are Latinos and the elderly picked on? Well, the authors conclude that “all but the most insensitive people take pains to at least appear fair-minded, at least in public,” and that discrimination still pops up when aimed at “other groups that society doesn’t protect as well.”

In other words, white people will go out of their way to avoid looking like they’re picking on black people. But when it comes to, say, Hispanics, all bets are off.

The authors even pinpoint the form of bigotry aimed at Latinos. They say that “Hispanics suffer information-based discrimination,” which is when someone “believes that another type of person has poor skills, and acts accordingly.” The authors note that “other contestants seem to view the Hispanics as poor players, even when they are not.”

The prejudice against the elderly, in contrast, is “taste-based discrimination,” which is when someone “prefers to not interact with a particular type of other person.”

So the good news is that many Americans don’t get skived out at Hispanics the same way they do at, for example, old people. It’s just that they automatically think that we’re really, really stupid.

Well, that makes me feel better.

Regardless, the “Freakonomics” study creates a conundrum. It assumes that Latinos are a group that “society doesn’t protect as well.” This confuses me this because I have been told, repeatedly, that we live in a post-race society. Ergo, even the slightest suggestion that people are treated differently – or that some groups receive more societal protection or favoritism than others – is a roundhouse left to the legacy of MLK. At least, this is what I’ve heard from my conservative friends.

Another issue that the study raises is whether the parsing of bigotry is even possible or relevant. If we categorize prejudice, can we combat it more effectively? Or is it all just shop talk for academics?

Assuming that discrimination comes in different flavors, can we tackle it with more education? After all, the majority culture is not creeped out by Latinos (as opposed to the universal disgust aimed at those icky old people), which implies that this type of prejudice is more analytical than emotional. As such, can we convince others that we’re not total morons, or is it a doomed enterprise, because minds are already made up? And isn’t the very attempt to persuade the majority culture of our worth a degrading endeavor?

Obviously, I don’t know the answer to these questions. Maybe I’m not smart enough. But I do know that, henceforth, I’ll do my best to avoid verifying the majority culture’s perceptions of Latinos. I will take great pains to not appear like a total ignoramus.

From now on, I vow to be all, like, intellectual… and stuff… yup.

25
Mar
08

But What If They’re Ordering Burritos?

Often, people will stop me on the street and ask, “Hey, Hispanic Fanatic, what is the role of government regulation when it comes to preventing racial discrimination versus abridging an individual’s First Amendment rights?”

I can’t tell you how many times this has come up.

Fortunately, we now have a precedent to clarify matters. To recap, a restaurant in Philadelphia recently posted a sign inside that read, “This is America: When ordering, please speak English.”

Well, at least they said please.

The city’s Commission on Human Relations ruled that the restaurant’s sign did not intimidate or discriminate against people who didn’t speak English.

What should we make of this? The sign is clearly a response to the restaurant owner’s irritation with the recent influx of Hispanic and Asian immigrants into his neighborhood. There is no doubt that he is being, to put it mildly, a jerk for demanding that people conform to his comfort level.

At first glance, this seems as straightforward as the infamous Wetback Wednesday incident that I blogged about recently.

There are some differences, however. The restaurant’s sign is not an overt insult like the one at the bar in Pittsburgh (by the way, what is it with Pennsylvania?). Also, this case has the government getting involved, while the Pittsburgh dust-up had no such factor.

So as much as I think the restaurant is vile for attempting to bully its customers, I have to admit that they have a right to do so. As long as they are not refusing service or actively threatening people (and there is no evidence that the management ever did), they can proclaim whatever preference or agenda on their own property that they like. Having bureaucrats tell people what they can and can’t post in their own business is beyond chilling, and I would even support those jerks in Pittsburgh if the government intervened.

So the First Amendment wins again. Although it would be nice if people, especially business owners in a position of power, realized that having the legal right to state something doesn’t give you a pass on decency or common sense. In essence, it doesn’t mean that it’s ok to be a dick. And that’s true in any language.




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