I could have sought out Blackface Geordi or the Alexandra Jolson Walking Dead Trio. I could have explained to them how blackface has been used to lock black entertainers out of the entertainment business. I could have talked about how blackface has been used to dehumanize black people, which in turns makes it easier to think of them as being different and weird and so on. I could talk to them about the utter savagery that America, and the colonies before it, and Europe in general has forced upon the black race, whether African or American or some combo of the two. I could do that in my sleep at this point.
But why does it fall to me to do that? Why does the butt of the joke, the guy who looks at someone “having some innocent fun” that is explicitly something that has been used to destroy and degrade people who look like me? “Listen, maybe if you just told this guy punching you in your guts that it hurts, he’d stop? Maybe he doesn’t know?”
“Boy, if only someone told those colonists that maybe they shouldn’t slaughter native peoples…”
Nah, son. People are going to do what they want to do. Somebody should tell them what’s up. But that ain’t on me. It’s their mess, and I’m expected to clean it up? No. They’ve got parents. They’ve got teachers. They’ve got friends. They’ve got people who love them. Somebody should have told ‘em, but expecting me to do it? To always be on call? That requires a retainer, and you can’t afford me.
If you’ll recall, this new network is being billed as a 24 hour news and entertainment channel for English speaking Latinos in the United States. En efecto it will be one more channel in the pool of hundreds of other selections already out there that will attempt to pull in US Latinos by offering more Hispanic-infused content in English rather than Spanish. It’s the first such venture for both ABC and Univision, pero as some experts are already pointing out in order for it to be successful Fusion will need to pull in more than only a US Latino audience.
“This audience identifies as Americans first,” said Larry Lubin, co-founder and president of Lubin Lawrence Inc., a brand consultancy that advised both companies, to the New York Times. He also stressed that the venture needed to broaden its appeal. “The brand will be a failure if it only appeals to Latinos.”
The legions of teens swinging bats and diving for ground balls each year on Dominican fields must negotiate a system with little in the way of support or a safety net. Whereas Major League Baseball requires all 189 minor league teams in the United States to have certified athletic trainers and “all reasonable medical supplies,” no such requirement exists at the Dominican academies. Nearly two years after Guillén’s death, Mother Jones found that 21 of MLB’s 30 teams lack certified trainers in the Dominican Republic, including the Nationals.
Rafael Pérez, head of Dominican operations for Major League Baseball, said his office’s role is to provide services to the clubs, not wag a regulatory finger at them: “Sometimes people have a negative reaction when things are imposed,” he said. That’s why the Nationals faced no sanctions, even though one of their players died of an entirely treatable illness. They had followed the rules, but those rules don’t require the teams to do very much. Pérez insisted that the league has aimed to improve facilities and standards in recent years, albeit on a voluntary basis: “Some clubs are having a harder time than others. But they all have great intentions.”
The reality is that a stark double standard persists, said Arturo Marcano, a Venezuelan-born lawyer who a decade ago coauthored a book on corruption and youth exploitation in MLB’s Dominican operations. League officials recognize that the system is flawed and that it should be improved, he said. “They always say, ‘We’re working on it,’ or, ‘Things are getting better.’ But in the end, it’s the same response they’ve been giving since 2002.”
When I hit puberty, my homosexuality was something I could not let slip. I did not want to disappoint my traditional Filipino parents, and in that vein, I grew angry toward them and thought that they would never understand my feelings and what I was going through.
So I basically rejected them. I ignored anything that had to do with being Filipino. I loathed family get-togethers, Filipino events and anything that had to deal with the community, because I thought that like my parents, Filipinos — whom I constantly heard mocking gay people, calling them “bakla,” which can be interpreted as “f-ggot” — couldn’t possibly fathom what it actually means to be gay.
I spent about 10 years, from around age 13 to when I came out to my parents at 22, discovering and cultivating my gay pride. That became my priority, and my culture was put on the back burner. Although I wasn’t out and proud, I was internally out and proud, and that’s all I needed and all that mattered. I read every gay news outlet out there, which made me feel that I was not alone and that I was part of the greater LGBT community. I especially cherished all the coming-out stories that resulted in acceptance and love. I’d well up, let go and cry, and ultimately I’d ponder whether I too could have the strength to tell my parents that I’m gay. I’d fantasize that my story could one day be told.
Last month the actor Forest Whitaker was stopped in a Manhattan delicatessen by an employee. Whitaker is one of the pre-eminent actors of his generation, with a diverse and celebrated catalog ranging from “The Great Debaters” to “The Crying Game” to “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.” By now it is likely that he has adjusted to random strangers who can’t get his turn as Idi Amin out of their heads. But the man who approached the Oscar winner at the deli last month was in no mood for autographs. The employee stopped Whitaker, accused him of shoplifting and then promptly frisked him. The act of self-deputization was futile. Whitaker had stolen nothing. On the contrary, he’d been robbed.
The deli where Whitaker was harassed happens to be in my neighborhood. Columbia University is up the street. Broadway, the main drag, is dotted with nice restaurants and classy bars that cater to beautiful people. I like my neighborhood. And I’ve patronized the deli with some regularity, often several times in a single day. I’ve sent my son in my stead. My wife would often trade small talk with whoever was working checkout. Last year when my beautiful niece visited, she loved the deli so much that I felt myself a sideshow. But it’s understandable. It’s a good deli.
Since the Whitaker affair, I’ve read and listened to interviews with the owner of the establishment. He is apologetic to a fault and is sincerely mortified. He says that it was a “sincere mistake” made by a “decent man” who was “just doing his job.” I believe him. And yet for weeks now I have walked up Broadway, glancing through its windows with a mood somewhere between Marvin Gaye’s “Distant Lover” and Al Green’s “For the Good Times.”
In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs. We believe this even when we are actually being racist. In 1957, neighbors in Levittown, Pa., uniting under the flag of segregation, wrote: “As moral, religious and law-abiding citizens, we feel that we are unprejudiced and undiscriminating in our wish to keep our community a closed community.”
One of the characters on the CBS show “Mike & Molly” joked about drunken Indians in Arizona, a state that is home to 21 federally recognized American Indian tribes. Although drinking and selling alcohol largely is banned on reservations, it can easily be found in border towns, brought in by bootleggers or sneaked past authorities.
No one disputes that public intoxication is a problem on and off the reservations, but tribal members say alcoholism often is linked to poverty, hopelessness and a history of trauma within American Indian families that is hard to overcome. American Indians and Alaska Natives die at a higher rate from alcoholism than other Americans, according to federal data, and authorities say alcohol fuels a majority of violent crimes on reservations.
“You can see somebody who is drunk and tripping over themselves and it’s easy to make fun of them,” said Erny Zah, a spokesman for the Navajo Nation, which extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. “But the disease itself isn’t funny, the coming home late at night, possibly beating on family members, the absence of family members, the fear it instills in a lot of children.”
The Native American Journalists Association called on CBS to apologize, saying it’s inexplicable for a highly entertaining show to resort to humor at the expense of Arizona tribes. The group urged screenwriters to think twice about what might offend minority groups and to work to overcome stereotypes.