Tag Archives: latino

Because Blatant Slurs Aren’t Good Enough

by Latoya Peterson

An interesting article made its way to me last week. “Coded Prejudice is a Cloaked Dagger,” from the Chicago Tribune:

Tomeika Broussard thought it was so absurd when she overheard her supervisor refer to her as a “reggin” that she just laughed. Then she realized it was the n-word spelled backward.

The only African-American in the small medical clinic in Los Gatos, Calif., Broussard said she was subjected to racial slurs almost daily. They were not the overt ones that most people would immediately recognize, but rather subtle, surreptitious code words that sometimes take a while to figure out.

“When ‘reggin’ came up, I’d never heard that word but I knew it was negative. So I had this kind of nervous, shocked laugh,” said Broussard, 31, who was awarded $44,000 in damages last year in a racial harassment lawsuit filed after she was fired from her job as a file clerk. “I didn’t know whether it was illegal, but I knew it was not OK. It was humiliating.”

Federal officials say they have seen an increase in harassment complaints involving coded words and images in the workplace. Whether it is geared toward racial groups, religious affiliations, sex or sexual orientation, code words have proliferated in recent years through the Internet, where Web sites provide forums for creating, discussing and spreading new words promoting intolerance.

I find it fascinating that most of the racism that the majority of people can identify as racist must be (1) blatantly obvious like carving “KKK” into someone’s yard and (2) must have a widely held history of being offensive, like the word nigger. However, even those appear to be up for debate these days.

In the meantime, racism has migrated into this weird “gotcha!” strategy where people use slurs and epithets either (1) openly, by claiming they are ironic, or (2) covertly, subbing an innocuous word for what they really want to say. Like Canadian.

And, unlike the last few code word stories that have been reported, it isn’t just white people in on this one:

As the country becomes more diverse, cases also have resulted from culture clashes between African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians, according to the EEOC.

For example, an assembly technician in San Jose, Calif., sued the company he worked for last year, claiming he was harassed by a Vietnamese co-worker who repeatedly played loud rap music with anti-black racial epithets. The lawsuit charged the co-worker also sang the lyrics within earshot of him.

In another case, a black employee was repeatedly called “Cornelius” in a reference to the ape character from the movie “Planet of the Apes.” Another case involved a man of Chinese and Italian ancestry who was taunted daily by his foreman, who referred to him as ” Bruce Lee.”

The article also gives an interesting overview of court cases based on code words:

Boss’ comments: In May 2006, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settled a hostile work environment case against a Florida furniture store chain where a manager allegedly made racially and sexually offensive remarks to a black employee, referred to the African-Americans as “you people” and interracial couples as “Oreos” or “Zebras,” and disparaged the worker for marrying a Caucasian man.

American Indians targeted: In November 2004, the EEOC settled a case against an upstate New York computer parts manufacturer where American Indians employees were subjected to frequent name-calling, war whoops and other derogatory statements referring to being “on the warpath” and to scalping, alcohol abuse and living in tepees.

Insults, denied opportunities: In March 2007, MBNA America agreed to pay $147,000 to settle a Title VII lawsuit alleging discrimination and harassment based on race and national origin. According to the lawsuit, an Asian Indian employee was subjected to ethnic taunts, such as being called “dot-head” and “Osama bin Laden,” was assaulted by a co-worker with a learning disability who believed he was bin Laden’s brother, and was denied training and promotional opportunities afforded his white co-workers.

Marriage attacked: On April 1, 2008, the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in New York ruled in favor of a white basketball coach at Iona College who said he was criticized by a college vice president for marrying a black woman whom he called an “Aunt Jemima.”

Application labeled: On June 10, 2008, a Steeleville, Ill., home health-care agency settled an EEOC lawsuit charging that the agency denied an African-American woman a job and wrote “Black” across the top of her application.

(Thanks Aaminah!)

(Image Credit: CNN)

Our Genes Don’t Match with “BrownPride” Clothing

by Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez, originally published on Guanabee

One thing that’s kind of irked us about the term “Latino” over the years is, beyond how its used to encompass such a wide range of people, is that it’s often used in mainstream media as a synonym for “Chicano,” specifically the cholo and chola subculture, which is a very insular, unique group. We find all the most superficial trappings of that group: Chola style, lowriders, art, literature slang like “firme” interesting enough and we definitely think Chicano culture has been an asset to the Latino community at large but, you know. It’s just not who all of us are.

So when “BrownPride.com” declares itself a site for “Firme Clothing and Latino Fashion,” we’re both all “This is awesome!” and “So we guess we’re not… Latina?” If we, like their model, were to ever step out wearing a tank top that said “Firme” and our hair in cornrows, we would systematically get punched in the face. Hell, we’d punch ourselves in the face. It’s both not what we’re comfortable with or a subculture that’s for us. We’re not allowed to participate, almost. We’re not much good at it, either. If we tried to make this model’s “Attitude Face,” we’d probably be advised to eat more roughage to clear that problem right up. Arugula, at that.

So while we love Chicano culture and chola style, we don’t love umbrella terms or being misrepresented. Not by mainstream media and certainly not by one another. Because, if you allow us to get a little Hallmarkesque on you for a quick second, being Latina is in our genes. Not our jeans.

New Study Shows that Latino Teens Are Pregnant Suicidal Junkies

by Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez, originally published on Guanabee

A new study
shows that Hispanic high schoolers are shooting up, getting drunk, having sex and offing themselves at a higher rate than their Black or White classmates. Because, again, Hispanics cannot be Black, White or Asian:

The study is the latest in a series of surveys of U.S. high school students every two years. The new report noted black and white students are reporting less sexual activity that in years past, but there was no decline among Hispanics. Experts have not been able to find a clear explanation for that.

High five! Oh, wait. That’s bad:

In addition, Hispanic students were more likely that either blacks or whites to attempt suicide, ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, or use cocaine, heroin or ecstasy.

Hispanics also most often drank alcohol on school property, were offered or sold illegal drugs, and occasionally skipped school because they feared for their safety.

The school environments many Hispanics face may differ considerably from what many blacks or whites encounter, noted Wechsler, director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health.

“There’s tremendous segregation in our schools,” Wechsler said, in an interview with The Associated Press.

This news is all very troubling, to be sure, but we’re just so distracted by the question of who, exactly, these Hispanic teens are.

If they’re not Black and not White are they…. Mulattos? Mestizos? Do they not identify with a racial group as well as an ethnic group? Or did the survey just not allow for that? Where would a, for example, Black teenager of Dominican ancestry fall? Are her problems Black or Hispanic? Which interest groups will help her, which will decide she’s not their problem? Why is this just a “Hispanic” problem?

When to Confront a Stranger: A Question of Authority

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

The odd thing about the word “nigger” for me is that as much debate as I’ve heard about the term, my exposure to it in adulthood is fairly limited. I grew up in the Chicago area in a mostly African American family, but a few of my black relatives, all transplants from the South, insisted on complaining about “no-good niggers” and such, despite the fact that I took issue with their use of the word.

Now, as a grown woman who lives far from family and far from the inner-city (the other place where I’ve often heard the word spoken), I’m most likely to hear “nigger” in a rap song or a film than I am in person. That’s why during a recent visit to a Target in an L.A. neighborhood where the upwardly mobile clientele likely dub the store “Tar-zhay,” I froze when I heard a voice cry out, “It’s over there, nigger!”

After stopping in my tracks, two things struck me: the voice belonged to a female and the female in question was probably not black. Continue reading

Meet “La Prieta Faya”

by Laura Martinez, originally published at Mi Blog Es Tu Blog

In a recent interview with People magazine, retroacculturated Latina actress Eva Longoria recalled how, as the darkest of four sisters, she was constantly referred to as “La prieta faya” [sic], which then the magazine translates as “the ugly dark one.”

Either Mrs. Longoria’s family flunked Spanish in junior high (faya is not a real word; I want to believe she meant “fea”) or she actually said “fea” but People’s editors didn’t bother to have sister mag People en Español help with the spell check.

Either way, the whole thing looks very “faya” to me. And don’t get me started on the “dark ugly one” part. I will let that one for you to munch on.

Ay, ay, ay!

You Got Some ‘Splaining To Do: Interracial And Interethnic Relationships, As Seen On TV. And Heard On The Radio. And Read On Cereal Boxes.

by Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez

Interracial and interethnic dating has as much, if not more, to do with “Family Matters” as my own family. So, in order to try to describe the experience of being in an interethnic relationship, I have to first evaluate the culture popping up all around me. Grab some Cheez Puffs or chicharrones, put aside your distaste for cheesy, alliterative snack food references, and let’s get to this.

Should you ever feel inclined to Google “Interracial Dating,” as I do not do often on a Tuesday night, you’ll find a lot of dating sites aimed at hooking you up with someone of another race. Not information about interracial dating, not tirades against it, not advice, not thoughtful writing on the subject, but, rather, dating sites with names like “Salt and Pepper.” Discovering this made a little light blink on and off in my mind’s eye reading “Fetish! Fetish! Fetish!” I’ll admit to feeling conflicted about interracial dating as it relates to the fetishization of a group. Who am I to make the distinction between preference and prejudice? That concern always takes the form of a certain cringe I’m never without when thinking about the subject, but when I see evidence of people actively going out and searching for someone of another, specific race or ethnicity, well. That action toes the very fine line between personal preference and …and what, exactly?

This isn’t racism in the traditional sense of hating or fearing a group of people, but there does seem to be the impression that the fetishized group is somehow either aesthetically or sexually superior to other groups or that, taking that a step further, they are somehow subhuman, objectified, interchangeable receptacles for sex and attention. I don’t want to advocate the idea that there are different levels of racism, but this particular brand is so hurtful because it occurs so subtly and, for the most part, disguised as a compliment. When a man who is darker than me compliments me on the paleness of my skin, as I often encounter with Latino men, it insults and devalues both of us. I’m reduced to my body parts, and he buys into the idea that white skin is inherently beautiful. Continue reading

Body Language: How Nicknames Objectify Minority Women And Why I Don’t Care “How You Meant It”

by Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez, originally posted on Guanabee

Associate Editor Alex Alvarez takes a look at how nicknames among minorities work to keep a good gordita down and why you, shorty, shouldn’t take it anymore.

Words, in and of themselves, are without power. Their potency comes from the relationship between the speaker and the listener. As any woman who has walked by a construction site will tell you, “Hello beautiful” is different coming from a strange man whispering in your ear than from your mother. It’s through these relationships that words can becomes tools, bridges, weapons or any other sort of melodramatic metaphor you want to use. If relationships are defined by power —who has it, who doesn’t, who wants it and who is in the position to bestow it—language, then, is a means of both establishing power in relationships and also of demolishing and subverting it. A “thanks, beautiful” aimed right back at a strange man is surprisingly effective.

While writing my response a few weeks ago to an article in “San Francisco Weekly” that “roughly” and incorrectly translates the Spanish word “negro” to the English word “nigger,” I realized most of the Guanabee readership already understands the nuances that appear in, yes derogatory, but complicated Spanish-language labels. And the same could be said for other ethnic minorities, (or at least the pockets of them that are represented in popular culture and media), who use certain pet names and phrases wrought with prejudice, but excuse them with a flippant, “This is how we are. And, besides, we don’t mean any harm by it.”

But “this is how we are” is not an excuse. Why? Well. It’s not how I am. So it’s not how we are. Adaptation is possible. It just takes effort and exposure to different ways of thinking, even if I have to drill it into you during family holiday get-togethers. It is not enough for us to merely explain — and thus, on some level, excuse — the differences between Anglo and Latino, or Black and White, or any other minority versus majority as they relate to potentially hateful speech. Instead, let’s take a look at why these differences exist and what, exactly, they result in accomplishing, based on history and cultural context. What does a language say about the people who speak it? And vice-versa? Let’s find out! Hokay? Hokay.

But, um, first: A preface of sorts. It’s important I make it known that I don’t feel I’m qualified to write about slang and language as it pertains to anyone who is not Latino or Anglo. As I alluded to above, anything I would have to say about the experience of any other group would be merely observational and the result of a sort of clinical detachment. It’s not my experience. I can’t offer anything except, “Well, from what I observe… this seems to mean this. And isn’t that interesting?” But it is interesting. And it is important to discuss these observations. So, that said, do let’s continue:

Such A Colorful People, No?: Nicknames Based On Appearance

Many terms of endearment in Spanish are based on appearance. “Cute” little nicknames like morenita, negrita and güerita abound. The diminutive “ita,” as it’s used here, translates to “little,” therefore effectively rendering it’s object to be both small and, presumbably, a possession belonging to the speaker. Continue reading

No Más, Por Favor: Stereotypes of Latina Muslims

by Guest Contributor Melinda, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

There’s a trend in the Americas. Latina* women are getting tired of Catholicism. They’re sick of being called “mamacita” in the streets. They don’t want to deal anymore with the chauvinistic pigs otherwise known as Latino men. So they’re throwing away their tank tops and their statues of the Virgin Mary and pulling on the hijab and ‘abaya instead.

Or so the media would have you believe. I’ve seen a stream of articles about Latina women converting to Islam, and they overwhelmingly rely on stereotyped images of Latino cultures as well as Muslims. The topic has been covered by MSNBC, NPR, the Christian Science Monitor, the Houston Chronicle, and more.

Here’s the standard lead:

Latina woman is walking down the street. It’s a hot day, and she’s dressed in a full-length skirt (dress, coat, etc.) and a hijab. She passes some Latino men. They look towards her and don’t scream at her. She sighs thankfully and reflects on the days of the past, of catcalls and shouts of “Hey, mami” as she walked by in her skimpy outfit.

The article then explains that in Latino culture, men are macho jerks and women are sex objects. In Islam, they are covered up and immediately respected. The author retells the woman’s decision to leave Catholicism for Islam, her experience putting on hijab, and the sad reactions of her family. If the journalist tries to dig a little deeper, there may be some theological reasons for choosing Islam, but they’re usually an afterthought. Some articles will note that Latina women like the strict gender roles of Islam because that’s what they’re used to.

Of course, not every article follows this mold precisely, but none stray from it completely. They paint monolithic pictures of both Latinos/Latinas and Muslims. It’s especially unfortunate in a time when both groups are often vilified and misunderstood in the United States. Continue reading