By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
Soledad O’Brien says she wants Latino In America to “start a conversation.” Unfortunately for viewers, the series’ message seems to be, what? Woe is us? Abandon ship? What did Brown ever do to you?
Grounded in depressing case studies and missed questions, the series’ first installment was less “Latinos In America” and more like “Latinos For Lou Dobbs’ Audience.” Most of the people featured were not “changing” their communities – they were being victimized in or by them. They were pregnant, suicidal (or pregnant and suicidal), caught in an immigration raid, losing their cultural roots, facing an uphill job struggle or isolated in their churches. The premiere’s first profile, of Univision TV chef Lorena García, was the only one that focused on somebody doing something positive – in her case, building her own brand in spite of skepticism over her “accent.”
Most of the rest of the Garcías profiled – a disparate group “united” by having the 8th most popular surname in the U.S.; take that, Velazcos! – were, to put it mildly, in very bad places in their lives. And more damning from a journalistic perspective, we never got to see O’Brien ask crucial follow-up questions: how responsible does Cindy García’s mother feel for her inability/unwillingness to learn English obstructing Cindy’s studies? How did Cindy (pictured above) figure unprotected sex was a sensible idea in the face of a 70% failure-to-graduate rate and a sister who was also a teen mother? And what in the blue hell was her boyfriend thinking having sex without a condom?
Similar questions came to mind in the feature on Araceli Torres, the young woman facing impending deportation despite living here more than two decades. Was there something preventing her from seeking citizenship once she turned 18 years old, or was her story nothing more than an excuse for CNN to hype the grand-standing Anderson Cooper, who saw fit to follow the show by giving a platform to anti-immigrant sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The feature on Latinos in Hollywood was also clumsy: sure, it’s sad to see Lupe Ontiveros still doing the (NSFW) Hollywood Shuffle after 30 years, but Eva Longoria-Parker’s blithe dismissal of the issue (Latinos need to get behind the camera? Thanks, CNN, for the breaking news) didn’t help the segment as much as, say, asking Screen Actors’ Guild president Ken Howard how he feels about his POC members working in an industry bent on excluding them would have.
O’Brien’s best moment came during the feature on the St. Louis church struggling to integrate an increasingly Spanish-speaking membership into its’ ranks, when she got both the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking factions to admit neither will hang out with the other. That acknowledgement boosted the segment’s finale, with members from each community awkwardly attempting to communicate at a church fundraiser – and made the earlier omissions all the more glaring.
In fact, the most compelling discussion of the “Latino condition” of the evening wasn’t even part of the documentary: on Campbell Brown, John Leguizamo told L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigoza that visiting Los Angeles felt “like traveling into South Africa,” leading to this exchange:
Villarigoza: We have the biggest Latino middle class in America. We have the biggest Black middle class in America.
Leguizamo: Where are they?
Unfortunately, their face-off was cut short. Part 2 of Latino airs tonight, and as it moves to cover the murder of Luis Ramírez, you have to wonder: will it acknowledge not just anti-Latino and anti-immigrant sentiment on American airwaves, but on its’ own network?
Recommended: Brown Is The New Green
About This BlogRacialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable
Keanu ReevesJohn Cho newsflashes.
Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.
Comments on this blog are moderated. Please read our comment moderation policy.
Use the "for:racialicious" tag in del.icio.us to send us tips. See here for detailed instructions.
Interested in writing for us? Check out our submissions guidelines.
Follow Us on Twitter!
- lynn1066 on The Walking Dead Roundtable: 4.8 “Too Far Gone”
- bridgetarlene on The Walking Dead Roundtable: 4.8 “Too Far Gone”
- etoiledamore on The Walking Dead Roundtable: 4.8 “Too Far Gone”
- literatebrit on The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.5.13: Black Twitter, Black Academics, Iran, Chicago and Elan Gale
- Matt Pizzuti on The Walking Dead Roundtable: 4.8 “Too Far Gone”
- The Walking Dead Roundtable: 4.8 “Too Far Gone”
- Voices: Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)
- The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.5.13: Black Twitter, Black Academics, Iran, Chicago and Elan Gale
- On Disability and Cartographies of Difference
- A Muslimah’s Guide to Rocking the World
- Quoted: Dr. David Leonard Pens Open Letter to Marissa Alexander
- The Acclaimed Web Series Black Folks Don’t Returns for a Third Season
- Comedian Aamer Rahman Explains “Reverse Racism”
TagsABC activism advertising african-american asian asian-american barack obama black celebrities comedy diversity fashion feminism film gender glbt HBO hip hop hispanic history hollywood identity interracial relationships Kerry Washington latino media mixed race movies music muslim politics race racial stereotypes racism religion Scandal sex sexism sexual stereotypes stereotypes True Blood tv Uncategorized white youtube