I suppose I should give credit where it is deserved, and in this case it is to Bethany Jean Clement and the alternative weekly The Stranger, for having the guts to expose the hypocrisy of the “liberal” patronage toward the Latino community (that is in comparison to the Seattle Times, which usually only disseminates negative stereotypes in relation to immigration issues). Not that it is worse than right-wing hate talk, which tends to have at least symbolic extermination (if not in reality), on its mind. The problem with at least some on the left—but certainly not all, and I don’t necessarily mean for the better—is that it seems to share the same stereotypical beliefs as right-wing bigots, except that the left tends to cast them in an “amusing” light, rather than one of contempt.
Now, the above mentioned weekly published a story recently which described a “gringo” version of Cinco de Mayo, something called ¡Fiesta 5K Ole!, which was held on Capitol Hill earlier this month. There seems to have been hardly anyone who was actually “Mexican” at this event, but white folks did their “best” imitation. So what exactly did the 1,200 or so people who participated in this event know about “Mexican” culture? I’ll tell you one thing, I suspect that they never watch Univision. If they did, they’d find that their ignorance is just as great as their mendacity.
I admit that the Spanish-language network’s entertainment is often on the cheesy and politically-incorrect side, but there is very little that wouldn’t be culturally recognizable in this country. This is why most Latinos—especially “mesitizos” who are mixed white and indigenous Indian—usually self-deludingly regard themselves as “white.” That is to say “self-deluding” in the sense that Anglo America remains seemingly completely ignorant of how these people live their lives. Oh sure, maybe during “cultural” festivals they dress-up in “traditional” outfits, but these are no more a reflection of their workaday existence than when whites have their “Medieval Days” festivals.
So how did those fools make fools of themselves? “Some wore sombreros, serapes, and big, bushy fake mustaches for the race around Capitol Hill, which was followed by tacos, beer, and tequila at the 107.7 Taco Truck Challenge in Volunteer Park. It rained, but people gamely did shots, played corn-hole beanbag toss, and did the worm on the wet grass.” Isn’t it “fun” being a “Mexican,” while being made fun of? Well, only if you are not one in this country; just wait until Republicans rev-up their anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric in the next few months, and the hate just rolls in again.
It also seems that left-leaning MSNBC had their Cinco de Mayo: Mexican Heritage Celebration, where “producer Louis Burgdorf walked on- and off-screen wearing a sombrero, drinking from a tequila bottle, and shaking a maraca. Hugo Balta, the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, issued a statement that read, in part, ‘This is simply the worst example I have seen of a discriminatory stereotypical portrayal of any community by any media. The fact that this was done by a news organization is abominable. This wasn't a chance occurrence.’”
Why stop there? Alleged “progressives” like Thom Hartmann frequently made populist attacks on Latino immigrants for “stealing” jobs, lowering wages, and sponging off public services, none of which is true. Before I started this blog I was a frequent contributor to Thom’s listener comment webpage, and near the end I found myself in toe-to-toe verbal combat with his listeners who also shared Thom’s very unliberal attitudes; apparently I was causing such heartburn with my “suggestion” that racism was in evidence that I was blocked from accessing the site altogether.
With “friends” like these, who needs enemies? The problem is not so much the embarrassing minstrel show spectacle, but the fact that nearly all “Mexicans” in this country find this stuff as at best minor side events in their lives, and most—especially native-born citizens—find it as “foreign” as most “real” Americans do. That most of the rest of the country chooses to “define” Latinos in this manner--however innocently" intended--only proves the extent to which their “separateness” is ingrained in the social consciousness of this society.