Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Hispanics and Barack Obama: Racism without shame
Much has been made about the lack of support for Barack Obama among U.S. Latinos and much has been left unsaid. Among the mainstream media, and the mainstream Hispanic media, the issue is barely debated and simply lumped into a generalized pro-Clinton attitude among Hispanics. This is bullshit and everyone within the Hispanic community knows this. Barack Obama is black. That's the issue. That has been the issue, but no one will say it.
For the uninitiated it may come as a surprise that there is a great amount of racism within the Hispanic community. Not only does it exist, it is rampant, blatant, and without shame. Hispanics are the last bastion of pure unadulterated racism and it is high time we were called out about it.
Let me break it down:
If we are to greatly generalize, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans tend to have better relations with black Americans than do Mexicans and Cubans, and typically the more traditional or oldest members especially if they are recent immigrants tend to hold more anti-black sentiments than others.
That however is a generalization. I know black Dominicans who swear they are of pure European racial stock, or that their skin color is due to their Indian heritage. Many Puerto Ricans suffer from this delusion as well. And I've had friends laugh at me for dating an African American girl.
The issue is not a simple one and not one I expect any of the news channels to tackle in one of their so-in-depth 30 second interviews. In fact it is an issue that most Hispanics turn a blind eye to and go as far as arguing that in Latin America there is no racism.
The reasons for this racism are due to two main factors: 1) the racism practiced in Latin America and 2) the racism practiced in the United States. The message from both societies has been that it is better to be white above all else.
Americans should be aware that in Latin America it is still considered funny for comedians to go on stage with blackface on and that Latin America has never had a movement for black civil rights.
This is due to different sets of circumstances surrounding the histories of both the Anglo-American and Latin American societies. Slavery was never as institutionalized in Latin America as it was in the U.S. and discrimination was also less of an act supported by Latin American governments, unlike what we find in U.S. history. In fact while most Latin American countries had slavery, only Cuba and Brazil could be considered slave societies like the Southern States. And the transition to integrations while slower has also been smoother.
Still, we have a situation where most Latino immigrants to the U.S. come from places where the darker your skin is the less desirable you are and where the local equivalents to the word "nigger" are still in use even if it is not perceived as having the same negative connotation. Even black Latinos are often encourage to marry white or “whiter” Latinos "para mejorar la raza" or "to better the race".
So here is Barack Obama, a perfectly qualified person for the Presidency of the United States and to whose campaign I have donated, and much of the Hispanic population is unable to see him for anything else than a black man. Why?
Because in the Hispanic community the Republican Party for years has been characterizing the Democrats as the "Party of Blacks" and if you vote Democrat you must then be either black or a "nigger-lover". This is discourse that has been unsavory in most white American communities for a couple of decades. But for the throngs of Hispanic immigrants who come every year into the U.S. the message is new and it is a threat.
If someone is trying to start a new life in the U.S. free from discrimination or oppression the last thing they want is to be associated with the racial group considered most undesirable in the US, African Americans.
Due to political considerations, the Hispanic vote is still mostly Democratic, but the socially progressive message of the party is often lost when Republicans scare Hispanics with the message that black candidates will only serve black constituents often at the loss of Hispanic political influence and government services.
Latinos everywhere must enlighten themselves and see the system for what it is and recognize that African Americans and Hispanic Americans sit in the same boat, and if we stop rowing simply because the other is rowing, we'll just go around in circles.
I support Barack Obama, because I do believe in his message, because I believe in his politics, and because we should want to be more than just tokens as we were under the Clinton & Bush administrations and as we would be under McCain. I believe him to be a person of considerate thought, a person of responsibility, and a person who learns from his mistakes, and that's who I want watching over our country and our future, and to deal fairly with our brothers in Latin America and Africa.
And to my Latino brothers and sisters who cannot stand the thought of voting for a black man, I hope you find your shame before it is publicly found for you.