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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Palabra Final > Diversity > Pennsylvania Primary Provides New Litmus Test for Racism

Pennsylvania Primary Provides New Litmus Test for Racism

LatinaLista — A common denial heard a lot these days is I’m not racist!
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Whether it’s CNN’s Lou Dobbs or Arizona’s Sheriff Arpaio or every other supporter of punitive measures targeting undocumented immigrants, the denial is the first argument used to provide credibility to an already weak justification — the rule of law.
Yes, it’s true that the law should be obeyed but it’s also true that no law is infallible or perfect. Laws are as imperfect as the men and women who create them. It’s been seen time and time again throughout history.
Why can it not be seen now?
Have we reached the point in our society where racism is so institutionalized that it can’t be recognized?


The short answer is “Yes.”
There are signs of it everywhere, if we’re willing to open our eyes.
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines racism as

1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2 : racial prejudice or discrimination

The first part of the definition is what many people automatically deny and truly believe that they don’t feel themselves superior to others. Yet, it’s the second part of the definition that counters the first part and the denial that racism exists in this country.
Every day, there are new litmus tests for racism.
The most obvious one deals with the presidential campaign between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. There is no clearer evidence than in the results of Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary.
Latina Lista colleague, Richard Prince, on his site “Journal-isms,” did an excellent job of detailing how racism is being underplayed as a factor in the election.

“Sixteen percent of white voters said race mattered in deciding who they voted for, and just 54 percent of those voters said they would support Mr. Obama in a general election; 27 percent of them said they would vote for Mr. McCain if Mr. Obama was the Democratic nominee, and 16 percent said they would not vote at all.”

Of course, people will say that they will not vote for Obama because they don’t feel he’s qualified enough, and that may be true. But it could also be true that they don’t want to vote for a black man.

A California reader to the Politico Web site wrote this a few days ago:
“I have a theory that the reason pollsters are finding so many ‘undecideds’ this late in the game in PA is that they are people who don’t feel comfortable saying to a presumed liberal PC pollster that they plan to vote for Hillary (instead of the black candidate) and so they say they are ‘undecided.’ Then when Hillary wins by a bigger margin than the polls predicted, pundits will say the undecideds ‘broke for Hillary’ on the day of the election. But the truth is they were for her all along, but not willing to say so to pollsters for fear of being looked down upon. You might call it the ‘”undecided” Bradley effect.'”
The reader was commenting on a piece by Roger Simon that noted, “An AP-Yahoo poll conducted April 2-14 found that ‘about 8 percent of whites would be uncomfortable voting for a black for president.'” That’s the percentage who actually said that to the pollster.

Another sign that racism, particularly against Latinos, is on the rise is the latest crazy news coming from Arizona. It seems state Rep. Russell Pearce wants to prohibit students at the state’s universities to form any groups based on race.
In other words, any Hispanic, black, Asian or Native American fraternities, sororities or student groups would be prohibited from campus.
According to Pearce, such student groups are used to “indoctrinate” students with “anti-American or seditious thinking.”
I wonder what he thinks of the Skull & Bones Society.
If Pearce had done his homework, he would know that all of these fraternities and sororities, regardless of the ethnicity of the name, admit anyone who wants to join. Far from being groups that indoctrinate students with anti-American sentiments, they indoctrinate their members with the belief that they can achieve their dreams, succeed in school and attain the American Dream.
Pearce’s intention is clearly racist. There is no justification for what he proposes and it’s frightening that he holds elected office.
However, we know too well that he is not the only one in an elected capacity to hold such views.
This week, Colorado State Rep. Douglas Bruce was ordered to leave the podium of the state House of Representatives after he said:

“I would like to have the opportunity to state at the microphone why I don’t think we need 5,000 more illiterate peasants in Colorado,”

Bruce made the comment during debate on a bill that would allow the state to help immigrant workers get temporary federal visas. The measure is intended to ease a shortage of farm workers in the state.
Thankfully, the Chairwoman of the debate had the good sense to immediately “unrecognize” him as a speaker.
The latest example of how racism has infiltrated our thinking is the story out of Edgerton, Wisconsin.
Every day, as in every high school in America, the Pledge of Allegiance is broadcast over the school intercom. The school’s Spanish Club went to the Principal and asked if they could recite the Pledge in Spanish.
The Principal saw nothing wrong with the request. After all, he said, President Bush had the Pledge of Allegiance recited in Spanish at his inauguration and it was a way for the students to practice what they had been learning — trying to speak Spanish.
Unbelievably, the incident for what it was — an innocent attempt to practice a club goal — struck a nerve with some students, parents and community members.
Former Vietnam vet, Al Decker, plans to bring several of his veteran friends to next Monday’s school board meeting to protest the incident.
According to Decker, “It’s disrespectful and it’s unpatriotic. The pledge was designed here in the United States, and it was designed in English, and I believe that’s the way it should be.”
Parent Todd Dix, a veteran and father of an Edgerton High School senior, told the local newspaper that the action made him “sick to his stomach.”
Dix protested so much over the incident that he and the Principal came to an understanding:

If the school says the pledge in Spanish in the future, it will make sure to include an English version before or after.

But Decker isn’t so easy to placate.

“(Saying the pledge in Spanish) kind of goes against those who have supported their country and have fought for their country and things like that, especially those who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” Decker said.

Decker obviously doesn’t know the history of Latinos in the military. It sounds as if he thinks all Latinos are recently arrived immigrants.
It’s another sad case of how deeply “indoctrinated” racism has become in our country. The mention of Spanish or talk of Hispanic immigrants evokes immediate unreasonable reactions.
Is it unreasonable to want our laws obeyed? No. But it is unreasonable to target Latinos with legislation and public insults that denigrate Latino presence and contributions to this country.
For the most part, these examples are blatant examples of racism but there are subtle examples that don’t immediately catch our attention unless we’re aware of what different groups have suffered throughout history and in present times.
By now, everyone has heard the story about the polygamist compound in Texas and how the state has removed over 437 children from the compound for reasons of sexual and physical abuse.
What strikes me odd about this situation is the following:

Children’s homes and shelters across Texas prepared to welcome 437 youngsters from a polygamist sect by turning off TVs, serving a lot of bland chicken and vegetable dishes, setting up home schools and accommodating twice-daily devotionals.
State officials and foster agency leaders said Wednesday they’ll try not to fling the youths from the barrens of Schleicher County into a pulsating pop culture – one they have been taught is the devil’s handiwork.
…Now that the children are in state care, though, foster care providers are being told: Please cushion the shock. If you can.
“This is a unique population that has already been through quite a bit,” said Ed Knight, president of Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services, which expects 14 of the children at its Waxahachie campus. He said the agency will “bend and stretch” its policies and usual practices.
“We are not planning to integrate these children into our normal population,” Mr. Knight said. “They will in fact be isolated.”

We’ve either come a long way from the times when Native American children were forced to live in orphanages and punished in forgetting their native tongues and Mexican children were punished for speaking Spanish on the playground or it’s easy to accommodate children who are white and look like the majority population.
I would like to think we’ve come a long way but when we detain children with their parents in immigration detention centers and will only “accommodate” their needs when a public protest forces the issue then it’s hard to say how far we’ve come as a tolerant society.
What’s certain is that we have a long, long way to go.

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Comment(14)

  • Avatar
    laura
    April 24, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    Marisa, you are 100% on target. Thank you for this clear-eyed piece.

  • Avatar
    EYES OF TEXAS
    April 25, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Another example of racially driven voting is the fact that 97% of the black male voters in the Pennsylvania primary voted for Obama. Perhaps they thought Obama is the better candidate, but I think it was all racially driven.

  • Avatar
    Frank
    April 25, 2008 at 9:06 am

    There is nothing racist about our immigration laws. While there is nothing wrong with seeking change to them in the meantime they are what they are. I don’t believe our immigration laws are unfair or racist they just haven’t been enforced but because I hold the above belief the ones who want them changed, call me and those who hold my views, racists. What’s up with that?

  • Avatar
    Daniel
    April 25, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    LL, I agree completely.
    I think multi-culturalism works when the gringos are on top we serve them.
    Unfortunately, we come up and some whites stay behind. This has to stop. At least from the gringo perspective.
    It’s unfortunate for us as well as them because it creates unfortunate reactions from the gringos.
    I cannot even begin to tell you how offended whites get when they find out I’m the boss. And how they grimace when they see white guys working for me.
    I enjoy making a game out of it sometimes. Ive even come to enjoy it as an extra added perk for my efforts.
    I made one guy choke on his beer in Bakersfiled, CA.
    The minute he took a swig I told him I owned the company.
    lol
    I saw all that Budweiser come out his nostrils.
    CLASSIC!
    I’ve had white customers refuse to talk to me and instead go to white employees that havent been with me for more than just a couple weeks.
    Even when I tell them theyre not getting anything until they talk to me. They’d rather not get it. I mean things like extra air filters, bullets (fuses), t-stat instructions etc etc.
    We need our own place. We need our own home.
    Not where we can be as mean to them as theyve been to us or our people.
    But where we can deliver on REAL equality for everyone – where their system/ constitution has failed.
    Actually, it hasnt failed (them). It was made for them (white males), by them.
    We need to restructure.
    multi-ethnic/cultural peoples need to remake all the rules.
    A system made by a TRUE plurality.
    I honestly think this can be done because the real racists will self-deport (white flight).
    We need to start from the ground up and make it clear that this place is multi-ethnic, multi-cultural
    and not a utopia (or harem) for white males or any other ONE group for that matter.
    IMO.

  • Avatar
    Daniel
    April 25, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    There is nothing racist about our immigration laws.
    Not so. The U.S. immigration laws are BASED on RACISM.
    Ref: The National Origins Act
    NO MEXICANS ALLOWED.
    Fortunately, white Euros have compassion and are reasonable. Still, these whites are up against stiff resistance.

  • Avatar
    Frank
    April 25, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    Excuse me but this country has been majority white since it’s founding. What gives latinos or any other ethnic group the right to change that? Latinos are the majority in 22 countries on the Western Hemisphere. Is it ok for whites to remain the majority in one country that they were always the majority in and built from the ground up?
    The examples you have given I am sure are incidental. They don’t represent the views of most white Americans. However, we do have the right to retain our majority here just like Latinos do in their latino countries. I particularly object to losing our country by illegal immigration of mostly one ethnic group and any country would feel the same way.
    Let’s see whites are racist for not wanting to accept their own genocide in their own country but the invaders and their enablers are not????

  • Avatar
    Daniel
    April 26, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Frank: we do have the right to retain our majority here
    No where in your constitution or in you Bill of Rights are you granted this IMAGINED right.
    Frank: this country has been majority white since it’s founding.
    Not necessarily. Throughout this country’s history there are many cases where the Native American Indian, Mexican-American and African American peoples have made up the majorities in many states.

  • Avatar
    JM Brodie
    April 26, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Will you please stop with the Black racism nonsense? How many of you were inssulting the Black a year ago when Clinton had those votes? How many disparaged those votes when Bill Clinton got them? The truth is that Blacks were perfectly willing to support Clinton until Bill’s insulting remarks in South Carolina. I dunno, maybe you think it is OK to give your vote to someone who insults you. I don’t sgare that view, and truly, anyone who plays that card again will not get my support. We fought a long time for our citizenship, only to be second guessed and ridiculed every time we try to exercise those rights. Enough already. Read your history.

  • Avatar
    laura
    April 26, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Daniel: “We need to start from the ground up and make it clear that this place is multi-ethnic, multi-cultural
    and not a utopia (or harem) for white males or any other ONE group for that matter.”
    Gracias Daniel !
    This is actually already happening. Where I live, Latina/os from different countries enjoy each other’s food, dance to each other’s music, and hear from each other about their respective countries. It is amazing and beautiful!
    Brazilians whom I meet may not know a lot of English yet – though they work hard to learn – but they can carry a basic conversation in Spanish, because they learn it from their colleagues at work and from their neighbors. Where I like to go dancing, a Brazilian lady is a regular with her boyfriend, both in their 50s I would guess, and he is from El Salvador. I don’t know what language they speak together, but they seem to get along pretty well!
    The culture that will emerge out of these amazingly rich inputs, and that includes the huge influence (not where I live, but nationwide) of the vibrant Mexican culture of beauty and delicious food, will be something the whole world will envy. As long as it doesn’t get corrupted by the usual American corrosion of McDonalds, Walmart, and crystal meth …
    I personally believe that there will also be a strong connection and exchange with black American culture, because there are many black Latina/os, because black and Latino people put up with the same kind of hardship and discrimination, and because I already see this fusion happening for example in reggaeton.
    Today young people around the world admire and imitate not white American culture, but black American culture like hip hop and basketball. Once the Latino-American culture emerges more visibly, it will be a magnet for young people all over the planet.
    I am hopeful that it will also bring more justice and peace to this country. A lot of death and destruction has been wreaked on this soil and around the world by the white males you cite, Daniel. I am hopeful our emerging culture will express what the old song by Chilean Violeta Parra sings: Gracias a la vida, que me ha dado tanto.

  • Avatar
    Frank
    April 27, 2008 at 7:35 am

    Daniel, the right for Whites to retain their majority in this country has nothing to do with our Constitution. It is about asking Latinos why they feel the need to become the majority in this country when they are already the majority in 22 countries in the Western Hemisphere. It is occuring through illegal immigration by their own ethnic kind and that isn’t a natural phenomenum.
    The overall majority population in this country has always been White. Just because in some small areas they are not doesn’t change that.
    Why is it always ok for miniorities including Latinos to maintain their majority in their countries without being deemed racists but Whites are?
    We have no other homelands to return to. Most of us were born here and have known no other homeland. We are suppposed to roll over now and not be able to continue to live in a country on the Western Hemisphere we can identify with culturally because of illegal immigration and overbreeding by one ethnic group that already has 22 countries they are the majority in?

  • Avatar
    Texano78704
    April 28, 2008 at 11:28 am

    “…this country has been majority white since it’s founding.
    What I think he meant to say is, “if you did not count any of the black slaves and the indigenous peoples that also inhabited the land (because we know that they did not count then and they certainly still do not count now), this country has been majority white since it’s founding.”
    Which, of course, is the current rationale for white [cultural] supremacy… as twisted as that it.

  • Avatar
    Frank
    April 28, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Whites wanting to remain the majority in this country along with their Anglo culture does not equate to cultural supremacy anymore than Latinos wanting to remain the majority in their Latino countries along with their Hispanic culture. No country wants to lose it’s core identity, expecially through illegal immigration.

  • Avatar
    Challis
    April 30, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    “whites are racist for not wanting to accept their own genocide in their own country”
    Are you friggin’ kidding me? I cannot even wrap my head around how this comment is supposed to have any basis in reality.
    AND THEN, you go on to say this, which actually makes sense and is a vaild point.
    “No country wants to lose it’s core identity, expecially through illegal immigration.”
    (sigh)
    I guess it’s a testament to how schizophrenic people are becoming over this issue of illegal immigration?

  • Avatar
    Frank
    May 1, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Do the math, Challis. That is all it takes.

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