Category Archives: latin@

Why Sebastien de la Cruz Should Be Respected and Protected

By Guest Contributor Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez; originally published at Feminist Wire

To be in proximity to any NBA franchise during a championship run, for lots of kids in our sports obsessed culture, is a dream come true, especially if you are from the city of San Antonio. That could be said for mini-Mariachi phenom Sebastien de la Cruz, who sang the national anthem yesterday for game 3 of the NBA finals. A former participant in the show America’s Got Talent, de la Cruz, in many ways, represents the city of San Antonio most perfectly. Of the 1.3 million people who call the city home, 27% are people under the age of 18 and 63.2% are Hispanic or Latino/a (2010). The Spurs or Los Spurs, as they are often affectionately referred to by their Hispanic fan base, are keenly aware of the diversity that makes up the city of San Antonio, the other major ethnic groups in the city non-Hispanic whites at 26.6% and African Americans at 6.9%. They have been successful at cultivating a fierce loyalty to the franchise that is mindful of these demographics. San Antonio is a huge Hispanic market hub that brokers commerce between the U.S. and Latin America, and the Spurs franchise intimately understands this, and goes to great lengths to have the city’s diversity and economic interested reflected in the city’s NBA team.

rs_293x473-130612175626-634._Sebastian_De_La_Cruz.6.12.13.JMDSo why are people outraged that 10-year old Sebastien de la Cruz sang the National Anthem in a Mariachi outfit? Simply put, because the figure of the Latino/a child citizen subject bounds with possibility, represents a position of vulnerability, and thus is a potential threat to the nation. Never mind that the city of San Antonio was part of the Spanish American empire until 1821, or that it was part of Mexico until the founding of the Republic of Texas in 1836, or that many of the individuals who fought for Texas Independence were Mexican. As hundreds of tweets referred to him as “the little Mexican kid” or the kid that “snuck in the country like 4 hours ago and now he singing the anthem” we see the vitriol and hatred that have become a response to the shifting demographics in this nation. Not surprisingly, many of the twitter haters were minorities or individuals with Spanish surnames, showing that there is a clear divide about immigration politics and minority communities. If people knew the history of San Antonio, and of Texas, they would know that Sebastien represents both the past and future of the state, one that is simultaneously American and basketball loving and yet tinged with a very real Hispanic past. This young man representing his multiple cultures and experiences were cultivated in U.S. schools, reinforced every time he says the pledge of allegiance, and takes the standardized tests required of school-aged children in Texas. So why is he any different? As the tweets suggest, he is brown, young, a threat, a potential criminal, and not worthy of protection. Instead, these rants against a Latino/a child represent the gendered and racialization of how moral discourses about childhood are not universal. Instead they are predicated on phenotypically ideas of belonging, whiteness, and gender. He is different, a child, and thus a vulnerable and easy target for hate speech.

As political scientist Andrew Rhenfield has argued, the UN Convention on the rights of Children demonstrated a need for “participatory institutions [to be] designed to further the interests of children, cultivate their political maturity, and mitigate the harm that giving power to the politically immature might cause.”[1] So while the UN policy is designed to protect the rights of all children, and hopefully foster their entry into planetary society as politically responsible and mature, one must state, that child citizen subject, Sebastien de la Cruz, as a brown Latino/a male child in the United States is not viewed as worthy of the same respect and protection because he, like other Latino/a children are viewed with suspicion. They are the focal point for all sorts of discourses about citizenship, be they the figure of the Anchor Baby, potential illegal immigrant, or undocumented children.

So while Sebastian sang his heart out on Tuesday night as a display of pride and the complex history in the making of San Antonio, others saw this as an assault on American values. Instead, I would urge the public to understand the social, political, and cultural factors that beautifully produced a moment like this at the Spurs game. They should also be reminded that the Harvard educated Mayor of San Antonio, Julián Castro spoke at the Democratic National Convention and has turned the city’s economy around. He, Sebastian, San Antonio, and the Spurs deserve our respect, even if we don’t agree with it, for they too represent some of the best things this country has to offer, past, present, and future.

 


[1] “The Child as Democratic Citizen,” 142

 

Quoted: The problem with “Devious Maids” goes far beyond Hollywood

The cast of Devious Maids via Lifetime

 

Six years ago, I had a deal with Lifetime Television to develop my bestselling novel, The Dirty Girls Social Club, as a TV series. It soon became clear that the relationship wasn’t going to work, when two executives insisted that my pilot outline “wasn’t Latin enough,” because it told of middle class, educated American women who happened to be Latina.

“This reads as if it were about me and my friends,” complained one executive in disgust.

I didn’t know how to respond, so I asked her what she’d prefer.

“Why don’t we make the girls debating whether or not to date men in prison? I know that’s what Latinas talk about, just like it’s what black women talk about.”

Right. Because all middle class, college-educated professional women talk about dating prisoners.

In her dreams.

I got out of that deal because of this idiocy, and never looked back.

It is not wrong to be a maid, or even a Latina maid, but there is something very wrong with an American entertainment industry that continually tells Latinas that this is all they are or can ever be.

My grandmother was a maid in Cuba; my biological grandfather was her employer. My father, never claimed by his bio-dad, was a janitor when he first began working in the United States, as a teen immigrant. My father went on to get his PhD, sort of a real-life Good Will Hunting, and became a leading sociologist. He raised me to believe in myself and my voice; I went to Columbia, and I’m a bestselling author Tom Wolfe called one of the most important social critics of our time.

We don’t see stories about people like me or my dad. Indeed, network executives say to my face that I don’t exist. That’s the problem.

Ten years ago, Mexican American actress Lupe Ontiveros lamented to the New York Times that she had been cast as a maid 150 times in her career. The astounding number of times this one (outstanding) Latina actress has been cast as a maid destroys Longoria’s defense of Devious Maids as “Latina maids deserving to have their stories told, too.” According to academic research on Latino roles in mainstream US film and TV, the maid is pretty much the only Latina story being told, other than seductress, whore, dying immigrant and gang member.

There is more to stereotyping of Latinas than laziness or lack of information.

– Alisa Valdes, “The problem with “Devious Maids” goes far beyond Hollywood” via NBCLatino, June 7, 2013

Why Can’t Black Women Claim Sluttiness, Again?

By Guest Contributor Laura K. Warrell

Black woman orgasm

In the June issue of Glamour magazine, spunky rock chick Pink declares herself a “reformed slut,” describing her brush with whorishness as an “unsophisticated” attempt at taking back her sexual power from men.

“I’ve always had an issue with [the idea that]: ‘Okay, we’ve both decided to do this,’” she says.  “‘Why am I a slut and you’re the player?  You didn’t get anything from me that I didn’t get from you.”

This “anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better” attitude has been key to the burgeoning cultural narrative around slutdom, and it’s an attitude I’m mostly down with.  Still, I found myself bristling when I read Pink’s interview.  At first I thought my politics were offended: is Pink suggesting that sexual experimentation for women is a moral crime that ultimately requires “reform?”  But then I realized, as a black woman, what I was really feeling was resentment, even envy–what a luxury is has to be able to publicly declare her sexual independence without having to worry how the declaration might affect her credibility, career, or romantic prospects.

In recent years, scads of books and other commercial works of art have been tossed onto the pop-culture landscape by white women reminiscing about their “phases” of sexual promiscuity, often told from the comfort of their fulfilled, easy-peasy lives as wives and mothers.  In March, comedienne and NPR host Ophira Eisenberg published Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy about banging everything in Manhattan with a bulge before settling down with her handsome, comic book-writing husband.  In 2010, Jillian Lauren published Some Girls: My Life in a Harem about kicking it with the Sultan of Brunei before marrying a rock star and adopting a cute kid.  And since 2005’s My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands, Chelsea Handler and many of her sassy gal pals have built thriving careers around being drunk and easy.  Then of course, we have the fictionalized slut phase Hannah braves through on Girls in order to bring her creator, Lena Dunham, cultural relevance and Emmy awards.

So why aren’t these stories by or about Black women?

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Friday WTF?: Whole Foods Says Speaking Spanish Is “Unsafe” For Its Working Environment

By Andrea Plaid

Whole Foods

Whole Foods, the grocery-store signifier of the “personal is political” and social responsibility, has been busted for some sketchy business practices antithetical to its progressive hype, like union-busting as well as maintaining low wages and failing to support farmworkers.

Let’s add language surveillance to that list. From NBC Latino:

Two employees at a Whole Foods Market store in Albuquerque say they were suspended last month after complaining about being told they couldn’t speak Spanish to each other while on the job.

Bryan Baldizan told The Associated Press he and a female employee were suspended for a day after they wrote a letter following a meeting with a manager who told them Spanish was not allowed during work hours.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Baldizan, who works in the store’s food preparation department. “All we did was say we didn’t believe the policy was fair. We only talk Spanish to each other about personal stuff, not work.”

He said Whole Foods officials told them about company policy and issued the suspensions.

Ben Friedland, Whole Foods Market Rocky Mountain Region Executive Marketing Coordinator, said the Austin, Texas-based company believes in “having a uniform form of communication” for a safe working environment.

“Therefore, our policy states that all English speaking Team Members must speak English to customers and other Team Members while on the clock,” Friedland said in a statement. “Team Members are free to speak any language they would like during their breaks, meal periods and before and after work.”

Friedland said the policy doesn’t prevent employees from speaking Spanish to customers who don’t speak English nor does it prevent them from speaking Spanish if all “parties present agree that a different language is their preferred form of communication.”

Whole Foods Market spokeswoman Libba Letton told the AP that in addition to safety reasons, the policy is in place so employees who don’t speak Spanish don’t feel uncomfortable.

Friday Foolishness: Selena Gomez Is Wearing A Bindi?

By Andrea Plaid

Image via The Aerogram

Image via The Aerogram.

Usually, this space at this time is reserved for the Racialicious Crush Of The Week. But sometimes we gotta keep our Fridays light by giving some side-eye to some face-palming foolishness.

This week’s features some old-school kyriarchy from former Disney star Selena Gomez, who’s been styling out with bindis since the MTV Video Awards in mid-April. Before folks jump in the comments and talk about how that’s impossible for a woman of color to appropriate from another culture of color…as we say around these parts, “If you’re not part of the group, then you’re more than likely appropriating.” And Gomez, who is the child of a Mexican-American dad and a white mom, wears the bindi with the privileges of a non-South Asian woman born and reared in the US.

The Aerogram’s Jaya Bedi wrote a great post eloquently summing up what’s all wrong with Gomez putting on a bindi:

 It is a problem when religious symbols become widespread and therefore lose their religious significance. But the fear of dilution isn’t really an issue here — the bindi has lost whatever religious significance it once had to Hindus some time ago, and is now used mostly for decoration. Madonna and Gwen Stefani didn’t turn the bindi into a fashion statement when they adopted it in the 90s — we desi women already did so years before that.

What makes the non-South Asian person’s use of the bindi problematic is the fact that a  pop star like Selena Gomez wearing one is guaranteed to be better received than I would if I were  to step out of the house rocking a dot on my forehead. On her, it’s a bold new look; on me, it’s a symbol of my failure to assimilate. On her, it’s unquestionably cool; on me, it’s yet another marker of my Otherness, another thing that makes me different from other American girls. If the use of the bindi by mainstream pop stars made it easier for South Asian women to wear it, I’d be all for its proliferation — but it doesn’t. They lend the bindi an aura of cool that a desi woman simply can’t compete with, often with the privilege of automatic acceptance in a society when many non-white women must fight for it.

I understand being a little flummoxed at the rage that the bindi issue inspires in our community. The anger always seems disproportionate to the crime. But will I celebrate the “mainstreaming” of a South Asian fashion item? Nope. Not when the mainstream doesn’t accept the people who created it.

Related posts:

Cultural Appropriation: Homage Or Insult

Indigenous Feminism And Cultural Appropriation

On Cultural Appropriation: Halloween And Beyond

Miss(ed) Representations, Part One: “I’m A Culture, Not A Costume” Campaign

Open Letter To the PocaHotties And Indian Warriors This Halloween

 

The New York Times Refuses To Drop The I-Word (VIDEO)

By Andrea Plaid

You would think that 70,000 people asking for the exact same thing would change someone’s mind, right?

Not if you’re the New York Times.

On April 23, members of Applied Research Center’s Drop The I-Word (DTIW) Campaign (in full disclosure: I work as the campaign’s new manager), its partners, and its supporters gathered at the newspaper’s headquarters in Times Square with the 70,000-strong petition asking the Grey Lady to get with the times and eliminate using the word “illegals” and “illegal immigrant(s)” in its reporting of undocumented immigrants. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, co-founder of partnering organization Define American, and Fernando Chavez, son of the late Cesar Chavez, delivered the petition that was started by Chavez’s widow, Helen, at MoveOn.org (another DTIW partner). The petition’s delivery took place on the 20th anniversary of the social-justice activist’s death.

Video activist Jay Smooth captured the action and explains the context of the campaign:

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Open Thread: Central Park Five

Watch Central Park Five Trailer on PBS. See more from Central Park Five.

We’ll have a review of Ken and Sarah Burns’ documentary Central Park Five up soon, but if you caught it last night on PBS, feel free to leave your thoughts in this thread. If you missed it, it’s available for rent or purchase at Amazon.

The New York Times will also host an interview on Wednesday with the filmmakers, as well as the five men–Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray and Korey Wise–ultimately exonerated in the case, starting at 6:30 p.m. EST.

Update, 8:37 a.m. EST: PBS has made the film available online. Trigger Warning should be in effect.

Watch The Central Park Five on PBS. See more from Central Park Five.