slurs are increasing
Guillermo I. Martinez |
Florida Sun-Sentinel, August 30, 2007.
The summer of 2007 has become open season
on ethnic slurs and all types of verbal
and written aggressions against Hispanics.
It began as a political issue derived from
heated arguments between advocates pro and
against immigration reform.
Now it comes from all types of communicators.
Some are the usual suspects. But some are
a real surprise.
Take what Andy Rooney, the man with the
crazy eyebrows and the dry wit of 60 Minutes,
the most famous of all political newsmagazines,
In a syndicated column that ran in The
Stamford (Conn.) Times, Rooney said: "(T)oday's
baseball stars are all guys names Rodriguez
to me. They're apparently very good, but
they haven't caught my interest." Granted,
his was not the clearest, meanest or worst
case of blatant ethnic insults in the media.
Still, pause and think, would a similar
comment about the NBA losing interest because
of it is predominantly a sport dominated
by African-Americans be acceptable?
I think not. Rooney apologized.
A short aside to the readers: Please note
that I am not using the word racist in describing
the attacks on Hispanics. We come in all
shapes, sizes and hues. What makes us different
is our ethnic background, or the fact that
we come from Spanish-speaking countries.
Of course there is little to say about
Colorado's Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo,
R-Colo., who uses any crime committed by
an illegal alien to rant and rave against
immigration reform. No argument from me.
If a man illegally in this country rapes
a woman or commits any felonious act, he
should be deported; period.
But, as journalists many years ago we learned
to only use the nationality, the ethnic
origin, the religion, or the race of a person
in a story when it is pertinent to the content
of our report. Thus we should never say
that a 17 year old African-American was
killed in a traffic accident, but we would
highlight that police were looking for a
"young Hispanic" who was driving
the vehicle. In the first case, it is horrible
if any young man, regardless of race, dies
in a traffic accident. The racial adjective
adds nothing to the story. Saying police
were looking for a young Hispanic male,
on the other hand is important because it
describes a wanted person.
In the summer of 2007, however, we are
using ethnic insults in all forms and shapes.
It hurts when it comes from people or institutions
that should know better. The pain is even
greater when nobody raises a voice to object
to the insults.
cartoon published by Pat Oliphant in The
Washington Post on Aug. 22. I would
have thought that The Washington Post, published
in a city that is predominantly African-American,
would be more sensitive against ethnic slurs.
I was wrong. Apparently they are only sensitive
when the insults are about blacks, not Hispanics.
The cartoon in question is Oliphant's take
on Barack Obama's comments on the need to
change U.S. policy limiting the amount of
money Cuban-Americans can send their relatives
on the island and how frequently they may
travel to Cuba.
In the cartoon, Oliphant has Uncle Sam
pushing out of the United States a raft
full of babbling old men and saying: "Mr.
Obama has made the excellent suggestion
that you nuisances be allowed to freely
visit Cuba " and then adds: "which
I think is a dam' fine idea. Bon voyage!"
The old Cuban-American men in the small
boat reply: "Outrageous! We demand
a chance to interfere with the '08 election."
Cartoonists often say some horrible truths
hidden in their humor. I fail to see the
humor of Oliphant's cartoon.
First, he is making fun of a bunch of old
Cuban-American men and calls them nuisances.
To that he adds that the Cuban-Americans
demand the right to "interfere"
in the 2008 presidential elections.
Unfortunately what Oliphant is saying is
what many people are thinking. They find
it outrageous that a small group of immigrants
who have worked hard - some for close to
half a century in this country - vote in
greater numbers than other groups and thus
have more political clout.
Mind you, those of Cuban origin who vote
in U.S. elections are American citizens
and have the same right to vote as anyone
else in this country; and to do so for whomever
I wonder when other racial or ethnic groups
are going to stand up and offer Hispanics
the same courtesies extended to African-American,
women, or gays.
Guillermo I. Martínez is a journalist
living in South Florida. He may be reached
Copyright © 2007, South