Wednesday
Feb282018

This Is Why I Don’t Watch TV

At this point, my television exists to play DVDs, stream Netflix documentaries, and blare Foo Fighters videos for my five-year-old son (hey, the kid has good taste).

I rarely turn on the TV just to channel surf. As such, I almost never see commercials, which has improved my quality of life substantially.

For this reason, I have missed one of the key advertising trends of recent years. I’m talking about the steady flow of heavy-handed, crass, xenophobic, ignorant race-baiting political ads that demonize Latinos for the sole purpose of terrifying old people into voting for Republicans.

I consider myself lucky on this count.

Yes, these ads convince people that unless they pull the lever for the GOP, hordes of deranged Hispanics will knife them in the street and violate their dead bodies, before executing their families just for kicks.

Now, you might think these ads appeal primarily to those bigots who already harbor anti-Latino sentiment, functioning as a wake-up call to drive them to the polls. That’s true, of course.

But what’s even more disturbing is that these ads are not just tapping into anti-Hispanic hatred. They are creating it.

Yes, a recent study has found that “ads and inflammatory language are actually ‘activating’ voters’ latent stereotypes about Latinos and immigrants, and those sentiments in turn are influencing how voters feel about immigration policies.”

Yikes — it’s not enough that Latinos have to fight the president, his legions of like-minded lunatics, institutionalized racism, Hollywood stereotyping, and the cultural baggage of centuries of anti-Hispanic hysteria. Now, we have Madison Avenue converting people into fear-based, irrational, racist voters.

It’s almost as if advertising agencies have some experience convincing Americans to buy something that’s horrible for them.

But I digress.

In any case, the researchers found that “misleading messaging tying immigrants to criminal gangs, such as MS-13, triggers fears among people, which in turns drives strong sentiments against immigrants and sanctuary city policies.” Furthermore, these fearful attitudes “are not in response to crime, but about stereotypes regarding Latinos and immigration.”

It gets worse.

The study also shows that “Republican ads using negative imagery about Latino immigrants and crime activates latent bias and contributes to support of anti-immigrant policies.”

Just how “activated” are these biases? Well, the researchers found, for example, that there is no correlation between crime rates and support for banning sanctuary city laws. As we know, sanctuary cities tend to have lower crime rates than other cities. But the perception that they are nests of rapist immigrants is strong, and this perception gets jacked up with every ad that depicts these areas as dangerous.

So we end up with a situation where people are not “evaluating their support for ending sanctuary cities on the basis of crime in the area. Instead … support for ending sanctuary cities correlated with a higher rate of Latino population growth.”

In fact, the researchers found that “residing in a high-Latino-growth area is predictive of support for Trump,” but this has only been the case since Trump arrived on the scene with “his utterance of inflammatory and bellicose comments about Mexican immigrants.”

Basically, Trump not only whipped up hatred against Latinos and made it ok to be overt about it. He actually helped create more racism. Yes, it’s yet another thing we can thank the current occupant of the White House for.

The bottom line is that, for the GOP, it’s “an effective strategy to first paint immigrants as dangerous, and then base your campaign on addressing that as a problem,” creating an issue where there wasn’t one before, and thereby conjuring up a whole new batch of hate-filled racists in its wake, all for the sake of scoring a few more votes.

The study concludes that, unfortunately, the GOP continues to “double down on this message,” meaning that “anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment will continue to grow, and it is on Republican elites for driving this.”

Of that, there can be no doubt. It is indeed on all on them.

 

Wednesday
Feb212018

Maybe This Time?

I’ve written before about gun control and our nation’s status as the shoot-em’-up capital of the industrialized world. 

Seventeen people in Florida are dead because one angry man believed the AR-15 was the solution to all this problems. This uniquely American mindset apparently never manifests itself in the youth of, say, Belgium or Australia or Japan. 

It’s a mystery — right?

Now, I’m certainly not going to get into all the defenses of the Second Amendment that we hear from conservatives every time there’s a mass shooting. These arguments range from the semi-principled to the clearly illogical to the completely bat-shit insane. So why put ourselves through it again? 

I also don’t want to discuss the shooter. There are conflicting reports about whether he is a Latino, or a white supremacist, or some oddball combination of both. But ultimately, let’s skip it, because the less said about this pathetic loser, the better.

Instead, I want to dwell on the tiniest shred, the thinnest shard, of hope that this latest mass shooting might be a catalyst toward sanity.

Many of us feel that way, primarily because of the activism of teens and young people who are fed up with being viewed as target practice and/or acceptable losses in the fight for “freedom” or battle against “tyranny” or whatever vague, paranoid rationale gets tossed around as justification for allowing bloodbaths to occur with regularity on American soil.

Yes, there is already rumbling that “Hey, these kids aren’t as anti-gun as you think.” And even if every millennial demanded more gun control tomorrow, the political and cultural barriers to real, lasting change are daunting.

But we do know that one of the leaders of this youth drive is Emma Gonzalez, whose powerful speech has become both viral sensation and rallying cry.

This once again proves that if you want something done, turn to a Latina.

So maybe, possibly, we have turned a corner on this madness? Do we dare hope?

 

Wednesday
Feb142018

Big Guns

No doubt, you’ve heard about Trump’s proposed budget, which includes things like billions for a border wall that will never be constructed and, presumably, a million or two for hush money to porn stars and/or Russian operatives.

But setting aside the minor facts that this budget would completely fuck over poor people and, maybe, destroy the planet, there is something else that caught my attention.

Defense spending would rise by 10 percent.

This is not a huge surprise, of course, as Republicans have a bizarre fascination with warfare, and members of the GOP are constantly threatening to invade one country or another, even while distancing themselves from the last disastrous war (a campaign that was, of course, all their idea in the first place). Hell, Republicans are happy to spend $30 million on a damn parade just to show off our super-awesome military hardware.

But a fair question is whether all this military spending is making us any safer. 

After all, we already spend more cash on the military than any other nation on Earth — by far, actually. In fact, we spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.

So when we will it be enough? Should we spend more than the next ten nations combined, or the next twenty? Should we spend more than the rest of the planet put together?

Because if it’s true — as Republicans have often said — that our military is in disrepair and needs to be rebuilt, I would ask, “Why can’t we get something decent for the 16 percent of our budget that we spend on defense?”

I mean, if the US military still sucks after all the hundreds of billions that have been thrown at it, maybe we should call off this whole defense idea and go the way of Costa Rica, a country that has no army. Incidentally, Costa Rica is never the target of terrorist cells and doesn’t get threatened by nutjobs with nuclear weapons.

Of course, that’s a bit of apples to oranges. But stay with me on this point.

You see, it appears that the more we spend on defense, the more likely we are to go to war. All those tanks and bombers and missiles apparently will themselves to be used.

Perhaps it is the same principle behind the fact that the states with the most firearms have the highest gun-death rates.

Just as having a gun in your house makes you more likely to get shot, maybe having more soldiers makes it more likely for a country to get into a war.

I don’t know whether than is true or not. But I do know this: We are the most fearful and paranoid nation in the industrialized world. No matter how much we spend on bombs and bullets, it will never make us feel safer.

 

Friday
Feb092018

Going Incognito

In the good old days, you could always tell who was what.

For example, just a few decades ago, every Latino in America — at least according to pop culture — was Mexican with dark brown skin, and probably worked as a gardener. I mean, it was pretty simple for Americans to get out their handy bucket of clichés and then start stuffing Latinos into them. 

Life was simple.

But then things got messy. Hispanics started coming in different shades, with terms like “second generation” banded about, and not all of them spoke Spanish, and some even went to college when nobody was looking. And don’t even get us started on “Latinx.”

Yes, it’s gotten so complex that very real questions about identity and culture are cartwheeling through the Latino community, with the result that voices get raised, metaphysical quandaries turn into quagmires, and your basic simple-minded racist can’t even keep straight whom he is supposed to hate now.

Because the truth is that “Hispanic identity is fluid to begin with,” and “the gray area that Latinos inhabit in this country’s historical black/white binary inevitably leads to shifts in identification.”

Basically, who or what is Latino has always been a question, and it has never been more open to debate. Even age-old signifiers of culture are fading away.

For example, even in my generation, just about every Hispanic person was also Catholic. Being a member of La Raza and displaying an almost fanatical devotion to the pope was a natural combo.

But leave it to those wild, trend-setting, selfie-lovin’ youngsters — the millennials — to mess with that 

You see, “Latino millennials, overall, are becoming less religious the more they assimilate to American culture.”

Yes, we could point out that this might not be Latinos assimilating to America, as much as the other way around, but let’s save that debate for another time. 

The basic truth is that “the longer Latinos are in the United States and the more Americanized they become, the more secularized they become.” In fact, “the fastest growing [religious] group among millennials is the nones” (i.e., those who align with no specific religion). 

Of course, many of these Latinos are still spiritual, in their own individualistic kind of way, but many others are becoming straight-up atheists, a trend that is also true for America overall. 

I guess many Hispanics are finally asking exactly what, other than eat up a lot of their Sundays, has the Catholic Church ever done for them. Personally, I believe this is a very fair question. 

However, for now, let’s turn our attention to another sign that it is getting more and more difficult to pinpoint those Latinos among us.

A recent study has found that “although recent immigrants identify as Hispanic at a rate of almost 90 percent, this number drops to around 50 percent after the fourth generation.” 

The reasons for this are complex. One motivator is simple self-loathing, as many Latinos who can pass for white sometimes prefer to do so. Another variable is fear, because slipping below the radar of Trump supporters is “a strong motivation for avoiding identification as Hispanic.” 

Some commentators theorize that the lessening of ethnic pride “in later generations can be due to increased assimilation.”

Finally, there is the fact that the longer Latinos live in America, the more likely they are to intermarry with other groups and produce multiethnic children, and this can lead to “U.S.-born Hispanics who sometimes find their identities challenged by natives of their home countries who don’t think they’re Hispanic enough, and come off as too American.”

Regardless of the specific reason, at present, “11 percent of adults with Hispanic ancestry do not identify as such, and 23 percent of Hispanics most often refer to themselves as ‘American.’”

So what does it all mean? Well, it could indicate that in the near future, Latinos will be considered white Americans, whether they want to be or not.

Indeed, many people have pointed out the historical parallels to the Irish, the Italians, and the Jews — all of whom were considered non-white until the intensity of cultural change and the force of societal pressure suddenly made each of them, more or less, white. 

Or maybe white people just got together for a secret vote and decided to let the O’Reillys and the Rizzos and the Goldsteins in — I don’t know for sure.

Regardless, it is undeniable that it is a time of great change for Latinos, and this shift can be difficult to notice when Hispanics have more concrete issues on their minds — like surviving three more years of a xenophobic toddler who would gladly depart everyone with a Z in their last name.

But it is happening.

Life is no longer so simple.

Wednesday
Jan312018

Don’t Ask Me Why

I haven’t shared my correspondence in a while, mostly because the hate mail has simmered down for some reason. I can only assume that my most virulent detractors have grown weary of repeatedly emailing me vague threats and hyperbolic insults.

I mean, really, there are only so many times that you can call someone a spic racist idiot communist before you move on to harassing women or trolling Muslims or screaming at gay people. Hey, I understand.

Instead of my usual hate email, I’ve been receiving questions more along the lines of “Hey, I thought this site was about Latino issues. Why the preoccupation with Trump?”

Well, it’s a fair question, although to be blunt, it’s also a bit of a naïve one.

You see, the focus of this site has shifted in the last year from chronicling the highs and lows of Hispanic culture to discussing the lows and lows (and lows and lows and lows) of the current occupant of the White House.

And this is because America has never had a president who hated Latinos more.

And yes, I’m including James K. Polk, who provoked the Mexican-American War solely so the United States could grab the West Coast (it’s true). And I’m also including Eisenhower, who instigated a massive deportation campaign called Operation Wetback (also true).

I’m sure those guys disliked Latinos, and some of our presidents were more racist — like Trump’s hero, Andrew Jackson, who wasn’t terribly fond of Native Americans, and just about every Founding Father who thought black people were good for nothing other than forced labor. 

But none loathed Hispanics as much as Trump. Remember, the very first group he attacked, as he announced his candidacy, was Mexicans. And how much of his limited mental energy has been taken up with daydreams about massive walls and kicking out Latin Americans immigrants? The man really is obsessed with us.

Furthermore, no president has ever been as transparently bigoted as Trump, at least within the context of his culture. By that I mean we can all agree that Woodrow Wilson was a virulent racist, but a hundred years ago, when he lived, most white Americans were overtly prejudiced. Wilson was just worse.

Trump, in contrast, is living in enlightened time, when racism has been defeated, and people aren't discriminated against, and… I’m sorry, I couldn’t finish typing that line without gagging.

The point is that our culture no longer defaults to bigotry, our government no longer enforces laws that are blatantly racist, and being a loudmouthed supremacist is frowned upon.

Within that context, Trump is egregiously racist.

Of course, you could argue that our culture does indeed default to bigotry, our government is once again enforcing laws that are racist, and being a loudmouthed supremacist is no longer frowned upon. But if that is true, we’ve regressed only since Trump was elected, which just reinforces the point that this guy has made racism acceptable again and moved our nation backward.

I mean, his prejudice is so well-known, so widely acknowledged, that even his supporters are acknowledging it now.

So when you’re dealing with the most anti-Latino president of all time, it’s difficult to focus on other topics. Believe me, I would love to get back to discussing the differences between Dia de Los Muertos and Halloween. And no doubt, I will soon. 

But for now, it’s all I can do to keep up with this administration’s constant assaults on democracy, common sense, and basic decency. 

And that’s why I keep writing about it.

 

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