Monday, August 20, 2012

Confronting White America's Prejudice and Racism Against Latinos

Davy V.
(Photo Credit: Goodknews Photography)
By Davy V.

Let's be honest... America is a racist country. It always has been, and it always will be. Racism and prejudice are embedded into it's DNA, woven into it's fabric. America has had a long history of racism, it has infiltrated every aspect of American society and shows no sign of decreasing.

It used to be that the the face of racism was largely black and white. Alot of times when we hear the word "racist", or "racism", we associate it with disturbing images of race riots in the 60's, and African-Americans being doused with fire hoses, as racist pigs sicked their police dogs on them. We also remember images such as signs in establishments reading "No Blacks Allowed" and even water fountains labeled "Whites Only".

Nowadays, racism exists the same as ever, it's just not "in your face" as it once was... but it's there. It may not be an all out declaration of "White Power", but it's still there. It's in our children's schools, our colleges, in our police forces, even in the work world. We call it institutional racism.

As a Latino, I have had my share of encounters with racism. Perhaps I am more sensitized and aware of this issue than other Latinos. But what disgusts me, is not only the racism and hatred that White America has against Latinos, but the fact that many Latino, so called "leaders", "politicians", etc., get so "big headed" with their successes and achievements in life that they take on the mentality of "Oh well, that has nothing to do with me.", and simply choose to look the other way. Never once realizing that despite their accomplishments or level of success, to White America, they are still a Spic, Wetback or Beaner.

Other Latinos have simply learned to accept White America's racism and have become complacent. Again, taking on a belief that if it doesn't affect them personally, then they really don't care. It seems that no one wants to talk about, confront or address words like Spic, Wetback and Beaner, all racial slurs commonly used by White America to describe Latino people. The funny thing is that as Latinos, we have all at one point in time or another, either been discriminated against or called a racial slur, or we at least know someone who has... So it does affect us all!

It's almost as if White America has a complex when it comes to Latinos, sort of like a sick love/hate relationship. From white women who are attracted to Latino men, in some cases for their naturally tanned skin and darker features, their romanticism and passionate sex, or for what Latino men represent to many of their everyday, boring lives...excitement! Yet at the same time alot of these white women are quick to come out of their mouths with the nastiest, racial slurs against Latinos. Take for example, my daughter's mother, who called me a "Spic Cuban Motherfucker", I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, since her father, (my daughter's grandfather) called me a "Wetback". But it shows people's ignorance. My daughter's mother is of Irish/American Indian and Dutch descent. You would think she would know her own history, being that the Irish and Dutch, much like Latinos and many other nationalities were also immigrants who came to the United States. Also you would think that having a beautiful baby girl, who is half Latina, she would not be so ignorant as to call her daughter's father, a Spic!... I mean if I'm a Spic... Does that make our daughter half Spic?

As for white men, they are in a constant state of hypervigilance because they know that white women are attracted to Latino men, and therefore because they are insecure, they feel intimidated by just the thought of a Latino man even coming close to their women! If it's one thing white men can't stand other than to see a white woman with a Black man, it's to see a white woman with a Latino man!

And just like the phenomenon where hip hop's documenting of minorities' inner city life struggles was adopted by white suburbanite kids from well to do homes as a form of rebelling against their own frustrations of not "fitting in"... in a sick and twisted way, alot of these white teens, the same ones who will bump some Cypress Hill or Lil' Wayne, are in many cases the same ones who are quick to call a minority a Spic or Nigger!

Also, take for example, Hollywood's portrayal of Latinos in film. Back in the early through mid 1900's African-Americans were actually played by whites who dressed up in "blackface", coloring their faces black. Eventually, when African-Americans did appear in films, the only roles they were portrayed in were as butlers, maids, baggage handlers, etc. It seems that while these stereotypical roles of African-Americans in films, for the most part are gone, Hollywood still seems to get a kick out of using Latinos in such stereotypical roles, such as nannies, maids, gangbangers, etc. Just recently, in the box office hit Paranormal Activity 2, who do you think played the nanny? Of course, a Latina. And while there are many Latino actors and actresses who have made a name for themselves in Hollywood, alot of them had to change their name in order to do so! Most people don't realize that Rita Hayworth, who rose to fame during the 1940's, and is listed in America Film Institute's Greatest Stars of All Time, was actually born Margarita Carmen Cansino, yes... Latina. And Martin Sheen, was actually born Ramon Gerardo Antonio Estevez, yes... Latino. When asked about his decision to change his name, he said "Whenever I would call for an appointment, whether it was for a job or an apartment, and I would give my name, there was always that hesitation and when I'd get there, the job or apartment was gone. So I thought, I got enough problems trying to get an acting job, so I invented Martin Sheen." And Martin Sheen's son, Charlie Sheen, was actually born Carlos Irwin Estevez.

Most of White America never stops to realize what an important role Latinos and Latino culture has played in molding and shaping America. I mean if nothing else, just look at the names of some U.S.cities: Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, Santa Barabara, Santa Cruz, El Paso, all Spanish names!... and I could go on and on. And as far as the constant criticism and hatred that White America exhibits against migrant workers: Migrants do the job that Americans are too lazy to do! Point blank.

I want to be clear that "Spic", "Wetback" and "Beaner" are not just words. It is very important that we see and truly understand what these words represent. And that is a sick hatred against Latinos. FBI statistics show a dramatic increase in anti-Hispanic hate crimes. And sadly, hate groups are increasing due to anti-illegal immigration concerns.

In January 2004, in Dateland, Arizona, Pedro Corzo, a Cuban-born regional manager for Del Monte Fresh Produce, was gunned down by two Missouri residents, 16-year-old Joshua Aston and his 24-year-old cousin Justin Harrison, who traveled with Aston's younger brother, 15-year-old Nicholas Aston, to a remote section of southern Arizona with the specific intent of randomly killing Mexicans. The brothers shaved their heads before embarking on their odyssey. Corzo was ambushed after he stopped at a roadblock the group constructed from boulders. Joshua Aston, the ringleader, was later tried as an adult and received two life sentences for the murder. Harrison was also sentenced to life. Charges were eventually dropped against the younger Aston brother.

Anti-Latino hate crimes have emerged as such a trend in recent years that ABC's "What Would You Do?" aired a segment titled "Mexican-hunting," as these crimes are commonly called. Unfortunately, the program found that many people would actually walk by and do nothing if they saw an anti-Latino hate crime beating in progress. It was disgraceful to see. But also disgraceful is how White America engages in the immigration debate. Whether or not you support undocumented immigrants, you have a responsibility to discuss these immigrants as if they're actual people who deserve respect rather than hatred and brutality.

White America's ignorance and lack of education when it comes to Latino culture is clear. In many instances White America loves to assume that anyone of Latino decent must be Mexican, as the racist skinheads in Dateland, Arizona did when they brutally murdered Pedro Corzo, who was Cuban. Latinos are the most varied ethnicity group. We come in all shades and colors, from light skinned complexion to dark , from blonde hair to black, from light blue eyes to dark eyes. Spain is the "motherland" of all Spanish speaking countries, much like England is the "motherland" of all English speaking countries, including the United States. Whether Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican, etc., we are all beautiful Latino people who although we may share some similiarities, we are also different and unique in our own special ways.

Most White Americans never even stop to realize or educate themselves on the many different Latino cultures. Instead they wrongly assume that just because a person is Latino, then they must be the same as any other Latino person. The result? A continuation and perpetuation of false stereotypes when it comes to Latinos. And it is this ignorance and lack of education, combined with White America's racist history, and prejudice that encourages and fuels Anti-Latino hate crimes, which as evidenced by FBI statistics, are at an all time high.

I can see my critics now, especially those who for years have criticized my work as a Filmmaker exposing Police Brutality and Misconduct. After this piece they will probably label me a racist. Which is what White America is very good at: Refusing to take accountability, avoiding responsibility, ignoring facts, and flipping things around.

I'm not a racist. America is. History does not lie. And what's sad is that some of the critics will be Latinos themselves. Yes, the ones who have become so comfortable with their "status", that they simply choose to look the other way. The same ones who forget who they are. The same ones who in White America's eyes, are a Spic, Wetback or Beaner.

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For the past 15 years I have dedicated myself and my passion to exposing police misconduct and corruption. Whether it's exposing injustices such as police executing a mentally ill person, or police coming to someone's home and shooting their innocent family dog, I am always working to put these stories out there, which usually are ignored by mainstream media.

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