Latino Thursday: Let’s Play Presidential Hardball

Image by mediaite.com
Image by mediaite.com

As the Republican nomination circus rolls through cyberspace, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Yesterday, Donald Trump reposted a tweet with a variety of anti-Latino images featuring rival presidential candidate Jeb Bush posing with his Mexican-born wife and wearing a photo-shopped mariachi outfit. The retweet included the following caption, “ADIOS, JEB aka JOSÉ.”

I love the reference to “José,” the standard Mexican slur. That’s a good one, Mr. Trump. Very original.

Actually, the 2016 presidential race is starting to get interesting for Latinos.

Republicans continue to dismiss the fastest growing voter bloc in the country. To satisfy the Racist Right, new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has already announced that comprehensive immigration reform will never see the light of day. The party doesn’t have the courage to refute Trump’s racist taunts. Same old you know what, different day.

On the other hand, Democrats remain strategically quiet on immigration reform. They appear supportive, but the support is lukewarm at best. None of the candidates for president has made reform a cornerstone of their campaigns. We might be subject to another election cycle when the latte liberal left takes Latinos for granted because the other side is so terrible for us.

There are some interesting developments that may put Latinos in the driver’s seat of the 2016 presidential race.

If the wacky base of the GOP comes to its senses and figures out that someone who has never served in public office would be a disaster for our country, the party’s best chance to win in November just may be a Latino, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The Bush team calls him “the GOP Obama.” It was meant to be an insult, but that could be bad for Democrats. Remember, President Obama is undefeated in presidential elections.

Latinos are a large voting bloc in the states with a bunch of the Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency: California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, and New York. Experts believe that Republicans need to win at least 40% of the Latino vote for a chance to win. President George W. Bush has been the only Republican able to poll those kinds of numbers since Latinos have emerged as a key voting bloc.

Only 18% of Latino registered voters are Republican. That means all registered GOP Latino voters have to cast a vote for their party’s nominee and over 20% of registered Democrats and independents have to crossover for a Republican to win. If Republican Latinos vote against their party for any reason, the GOP has big problems.

However, if the bilingual Sen. Rubio gets the Republican nomination and moderates his stance on immigration reform, the Democrats could be in trouble. He could saturate the Spanish language airwaves in his own voice to woo Latino independents and some conservative Democrats. This could be enough to get to the elusive 40% the GOP needs to secure a home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

So what does this all mean? Latino voters have a shot to decide who will be the next President of the United States.

Let me explain.

Last week, a group of Latino GOP leaders made an ultimatum to the party. Stop disparaging the Latino community or else. The threat was directed to Mr. Trump, but it was clear that the demand could include others. Rosario Marin, the former Republican Treasurer of the United States, said, “Heed our warning, don’t expect us to come to your side during the general election…If you are not with us now, we will not be with you then.” These are tough words, indeed.

A Latino Republican rebellion could cause them to stay home on Election Day or vote Democrat. In both cases, the GOP has no chance to win. Of course, this probably won’t happen if the group of influential Latino Republican leaders gets its way or if Sen. Rubio is the nominee

If the GOP gets its act together and heeds Ms. Marin’s warning, things could get awfully close in the General Election next fall. In that case, Latino Democrats have to come out in big numbers for the Democratic nominee to prevail.

That brings us to the Democrats.

The Democratic Party historically has been favorable to Latino issues, but only as a sideshow. Let’s be honest, the party has taken the Latino vote for granted since the “Viva Kennedy” campaign in 1960. For more than a half century, we’ve been a loyal and automatic yes vote for the Democratic ticket.

President Obama’s 2008 campaign promise for comprehensive immigration reform took a back seat during his administration, yet Latinos voted for him overwhelmingly in 2012. Our community can’t let the Dems slide anymore. This time is different. The Democratic Party needs Latinos.

I tip my cap to former Treasurer Marin and her cohorts for having the courage to tell the GOP the way it’s going to be. If their party listens, it has a chance to win back the White House.

Latino Democratic leaders should take a cue from their Republican counterparts and let the party know that we no longer want to be relegated to the back seat. Comprehensive immigration reform is our issue. It crosses party lines. People need to safely come out of the shadows, families need to stay together. If the Democratic ticket won’t make this issue the centerpiece of its platform, Latinos should consider staying home next November.

Then, as we Latinos like to say, “Let’s see what happens.”

 

 

 

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Monday Meanderings: Donald Trump is the Voice of the Racist Right

Image by Red-carpet.de
Image by Red-carpet.de

I’m taking a page from the Trump playbook. I won’t be politically correct and give in to the PC police. I’ll just tell it like it is. Donald Trump is the voice for the Racist Right in America.

He’s a smart guy. The average person isn’t worth $10 billion. It takes some brainpower to make that happen. So what gives? He really wants to be President of the United States. Who knows what was behind his initial motive for running for the highest office in the land. Now, he thinks he can win.

Trump has sustained his standing in the Republican polls despite comments that are seemingly at odds with conservative icons. At a family conference, he said that he didn’t need God’s forgiveness for his sins. He called war hero Senator John McCain a loser for getting captured in Vietnam and belittled conservative news celebrity Megyn Kelly at the Fox News debate. Not one of these incidents resulted in a slide in his support.

Shrug off God, Mr. Trump. That’s okay according to the religious evangelists on the right. Proclaim that John McCain isn’t a war hero. No problem, say some veterans. Insult the star of a conservative news show. Wagging their fingers, the PC police scold women for being too sensitive.

That’s where the racist thing comes in. Trump revived the racially divisive term “Silent Majority” in a speech at a rally last month in Arizona. That term is not without historical significance. To exploit the civil unrest of 1960s urban America, Richard M. Nixon coined “Silent Majority” to rally the racist Deep South to support his election. Angry and frustrated by civil rights gains, southern voters swept Nixon into the White House in the 1968.

Trump is trying to bring that racist anger and frustration back as a political strategy. He hopes to replicate the Nixon landslide. The thrust of his message is “make America great again.” For the Silent Majority types, this means going back to the days when Blacks knew their place and Mexicans stayed in Mexico. That explains why conservatives give Trump a pass on trivializing Republican stalwarts like God, Senator McCain, and Megyn Kelly.

When he outlined his immigration proposal, Trump solidified his support in Racist America. The lynchpin to his plan is to abolish the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court has cited the amendment to rid our nation of the evils of racial segregation, ensure voting rights to all Americans, and guarantee equal treatment under the law for everyone. Repealing those values has always been the goal of the Racist Right.

Trump wants to take away the birthright of American-born citizens guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. He believes that their parents don’t belong here, so those born in the U.S. don’t have the right to be American citizens. There’s plenty of legal and constitutional precedent that demonstrates that Trump might be drinking too much Southern Comfort. That doesn’t matter though. He just wants to rally the Racist Right to go to the polls and vote for him. It worked for Nixon.

Fortunately, the group of Americans who want to return to a nation that provided equal treatment for just a few white folks is shrinking. These people scream at the tops of their lungs that they want to “take America back.” During a Trump rally in Alabama last weekend, his supporters heard shouts of “white power” coming from the crowd. The Silent Majority is really the vocal minority. They now have a self-proclaimed champion in Donald Trump.

While his poll numbers continue to hold steady with those who yearn for an America of yesteryear, we’ve come a long way since 1968. The rest of the country has moved on. Poll after poll shows that a vast majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. We are part of a reasonable majority that sees the true greatness of America, not in the past, but just on horizon.

Despite the belief shared by most Americans that our nation is better off with cultural diversity, Trump will continue his assault on immigrants, especially those from south of the Rio Grande. With each promise to build the Trump Wall to keep Mexicans out and every proclamation that all undocumented immigrants and their American-born children “have to go,” the vocal minority will cheer with enthusiasm and hope for the return to the racist America they loved.

The Trumpnado, as his followers call his campaign, will soon pass. Sadly, it will leave a trail of destruction and bitterness in its wake. When the winds of primary season calm down, Americans will go the voting booth and elect a president who will govern from the center. For 225 years, Americans have always found a way to elect thoughtful leaders that have kept us on the road to equality and justice.

After Election Day 2016, I’m confident that we’ll continue on our journey to make the United States the “more perfect union” that our Founding Fathers envisioned. I believe in America and I have faith in God that He will lead us down the right path.

East Side Eddie Report.com is 1 Year Old!!

Image by www.bitstrips.com
Image by http://www.bitstrips.com

Dear Readers,

On September 23, 2013, East Side Eddie Report.com posted it’s first blog. To see that first post, click here: https://esereport.com/2013/09/23/welcome-to-esereport-com/

During the past year, I have posted 87 stories and articles and 261 comments. East Side Eddie Report.com’s 2,000+ followers on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and ESEReport.com have viewed the blog over 24,000 times!

I hope you can take a moment to browse East Side Eddie Report.com and check out the regular features:

To read about my perspectives on education, leadership, and a variety of other issues, please feel free to click on one of the TAGS to the right of this page to find a topic that interests you.

None of this could have happened without your support. I can’t begin to express my gratitude to you for checking in on East Side Eddie Report.com every week. As long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing!

All I can say is “thank you, thank you, thank you!!”

Eddie García

San José, California

October 3, 2014

 

Latino Thursday: The Border Crisis, Here We Go Again

Children sleeping in a detention center at the border (photo courtesy of latino.foxnews.com)
Children sleeping in a detention center at the border
(photo courtesy of latino.foxnews.com)

In 2008, President George W. Bush signed a law requiring that unaccompanied immigrant children from Mexico and Canada be screened within 48 hours and sent back home. The law goes on to state that children from countries that don’t border the U.S. must be turned over to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and go through a time-consuming immigration hearing process.

Over 50,000 children from Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Honduras have crossed several international borders to arrive in the U.S. without their parents. According to the law, U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) officials have handed the kids off to the HHS. The sheer number of children has overwhelmed HHS and immigration hearing officers. In the meantime, the kids are here.

Some people want to kick them out of the country immediately. Others want our government to welcome them with open arms. Congress wants to change the law to require these kids to be treated like Mexicans, a 48-hour screening and back to where they came from. President Obama wants more money to secure the borders and care for the children while the HHS processes them.

What a mess!

However this thing turns out, as a nation that wants to continue making progress on our journey to true democracy and freedom, we need to look at the impact of this border crisis from three perspectives: (1) The Humanitarian Crisis, (2) The Public Policy Crisis, and (3) The “Here We Go Again” Crisis.

The Humanitarian Crisis

It’s been all over the news. Children stuck at the border are sleeping in warehouses and prison-like military facilities, and eating less than nutritious meals. The HHS has attempted to provide more humane accommodations and healthier food. This has proven to be challenging as some local communities have expressed their disgusting desire to not welcome the youngsters.

In Murrieta, California, protesters turned them back by blocking federal buses, spitting at them, and spewing racist diatribes. We have to stop paying attention to these heartless people and take care of the children while the mucky-mucks in Washington try to figure it all out. That sounds humane to me.

The Public Policy Crisis

This is a tough one. Take away the political fringes of militarizing the border or opening it up to all comers, and the public policy answer is somewhere in the middle. Comprehensive Immigration Reform is the only way to get that done. If it’s up to our Tea Party conservative friends in Congress, that’s not going to happen in our lifetime.

Resolving the immediate issue is a challenge too. The President and cooler heads in The Capitol want to address the humanitarian issue before doing anything else. Others, including Latino Democrat Congressman Henry Cuellar from Texas, say that we need to change the law to stem the tide from Central America first.

I don’t know the correct answers to these questions. For the sake of those scared and lonely children, I can only pray and hope that our leaders do something soon.

The “Here We Go Again” Crisis

Every time it gets dicey on the border or in poor Latino neighborhoods, the Latino community is painted with one wide degrading brush.  Read my  June 19th blog post to see how this phenomenon started: https://esereport.com/2014/06/19/new-feature-latino-thursdays/.

As images of kids gathering at the border fill the 24-hour news cycles, the anti-Latino crowd starts singing the same old song about drug smugglers, gangsters, and disease-carrying vermin that come along for the ride.

I saw Congresswoman Michelle Bachman and Congressman Rich Nugent on CNN express their “fear that gang members are invading our country” when discussing the current crisis. Here we go again! What a shame.

From Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro to a kid sleeping on a cot in some warehouse tonight, Latinos exemplify what it means to be American.

Can the fear mongers just cut it out already? Negative stereotyping doesn’t do anything to help the kids at the border, nor does it do anything to help America. As my dad used to say, “first things first.” Let’s take care of the children.

NEW FEATURE: Speaking Engagements

Speaking to a group of community leaders
Speaking to a group of community leaders

I’ve written about failing at my first try at college and suffering a health crisis that nearly took my life 25 years later. Both episodes resulted in life-changing transformations. I eventually earned a degree and had a dynamic career in executive management and public service, and after that awful summer in the hospital, I got the gift of time to reflect on my experiences. In the reflection process, I found purpose in life.

Growing up in a working-class family, coaching basketball at my high school alma mater, serving as board president of a large school district, working as a vice president of a major U.S. company, and serving as senior staff to public officials have provided me with a treasure trove of stories and anecdotes. These stories are my inspiration for writing East Side Eddie Report.com.

Along the way, I’ve learned a few life lessons about failure, despair, hope and the power of perseverance. The purpose behind creating East Side Eddie Report.com and writing Summer in the Waiting Room is to share these stories to inspire others to achieve their dreams and aspirations. With that in mind, I’m now available as a motivational speaker at conferences, corporate meetings, school activities, and community events.

For my talks, I draw from a broad set of experiences to engage audiences with inspiring, amusing, and colorful stories. My signature keynote address is called, “From Working-Class Family to Corporate Executive, Life in the ICU, and Beyond.”  In this speech, I share the inspiring story of persevering through failure, a life-threatening illness, and hopelessness to find success and redemption.  I’ve also developed a series of talks on the following topics:

  • How to Navigate the Executive Office and Achieve Success in the Corporate World
  • Creating Educational Equity to Provide Leadership for Diverse School Systems
  • Organizing and Empowering People for the Good of the Community
  • Be Your Own Advocate: Managing Personal Healthcare in the 21st Century

In addition to being an engaging keynote speaker for any breakfast, luncheon, dinner, or fundraising event, I’m available for presentations as a panelist, seminar presenter, or moderator specializing in corporate, non-profit, and education conferences.  My areas of expertise include:

  • Education Policy and Leadership
  • Executive Leadership
  • Healthcare from a Patient Perspective
  •  Coaching Athletics
  • Organizational Development

Speaking fees are reasonable and negotiable in order fit any budget.  I’m also available to speak to middle and high school students at no cost.

To learn more about speaking services and to schedule a speaking engagement for your next event or conference, click on the “Speaking Engagement” tab at the top of the East Side Eddie Report.com page, e-mail eddie.m.garcia@comcast.net, or call 408-426-7698.

Holiday Names, Santa, and Ducks: Can We End This Cultural War Already?

fox-news-kelly

In 1787, the Founding Fathers wrote that the U.S. Constitution was necessary “in Order to form a more perfect Union.” Since they were all white Christian men, many of them slave owners, the perfect union they envisioned was probably meant just for them. For the first 70 years of our country’s existence, that’s exactly how it was. Then President Lincoln threw a wrench in the plan by abolishing slavery and keeping the union together.

For the next hundred years, the path to a more perfect union began to form with the women’s right to vote in the early 20th century and the Civil Rights Movement of mid-century. By the 1980s, the LGBT community started to make its voice heard.  By then, the conservative crowd had had enough. At the 1992 Republican Convention, presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan declared that our nation was engaged in “cultural war…for the soul of America.”

While his speech carefully avoided race issues, he was unabashed about conservative views on “radical feminism” and railed “against the amoral idea that gay and lesbian couples should have the same standing in law as married men and women.” Buchanan’s war came to a boiling point two decades later with conservative charges that President Obama is a foreign-born Muslim and women who use birth control are sluts. The nonsense coming from the Right continues to get more desperate and absurd as their war drones on.

Let’s start with the so-called debate about what we ought to name the holiday season in December. As a practicing Catholic who believes in the Jesus nativity story, I say “Merry Christmas” when greeting fellow Christians. I don’t really give a rat’s behind if retail outlets, progressive politicians and others use “Happy Holidays.” How others greet each other during this season doesn’t impact people’s lives, yet it’s a serious topic for conservative news programs.

Then there’s Santa Claus. While channel surfing the other day, I tripped over a Fox News show that was embroiled in a serious discussion about Santa’s racial background. A Fox News personality reacted to a professor’s essay about a black Santa by saying, on air, “For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white…I wanted to get that straight.” Really? The story actually stayed in the news cycle for another few days, including the obligatory razzing from the nighttime talk shows.

This brings us to ducks. The A&E cable network has a popular show about a duck hunting family business called Duck Dynasty. When the show’s patriarch went on an anti-gay tirade, network executives decided to bench him. Conservatives quickly cried foul claiming that A&E trampled on his 1st Amendment right of free speech. The network big wigs are all about business, not the Bill of Rights, so the complaints were all for naught. A&E put papa duck back on the field as soon as it realized that Duck Dynasty fans aren’t gay.

During the Civil War, maintaining the confederacy’s racist way of life was cloaked as a fight for economic survival. A century later, the same crowd justified legalized segregation in the name of state’s rights. Add another fifty years, the justification to keep same-sex marriage illegal was framed in religious terms. Now the ambitious war plan to maintain “traditional” American values has given way to ridiculous battles about holiday names, Santa Claus, and ducks.

With their entire war effort in peril, the warriors of “traditional” America are no longer armed with the lofty ideals of economic survival, state’s rights, and religious convictions.  They now fight for the soul of America by courageously standing up for holiday names, Santa’s race, and homophobic duck hunters. I have to say though, watching the likes of Jon Stewart pan the conservative news media and its sycophantic audience for trying keep a grip on the not so perfect union of yesteryear is entertaining.

Next summer, on the 22nd anniversary of Pat Buchanan’s vitriolic speech, America’s first Black president will be in his second term, there will be more women in Congress than ever before, and more states will have legalized same-sex marriage. It looks like the conservative Right is losing its own war in a rout. The last major religious war in Europe was called the Thirty Years War, and lasted…well, 30 years. Can we cut Buchanan’s cultural war short by a few years and just end it already?

We’ll never know if the Founding Fathers meant to include everyone. Nonetheless, their words have led to an amazing journey toward a society that is getting ever so close to a place where everyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, can fully participate in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Hopefully, the Right’s cultural war is coming to an end. That way, we can move forward together as a nation of American people toward “a more perfect union”.

Immigration Reform Will Strengthen American Values: The Fausto Peralta Story

Fausto Peralta with his daughters L to R: Shelley, Valerie, Sandra, Kimberley
Fausto Peralta with his daughters L to R: Shelley, Valerie, Sandra, Kimberley

For the past couple of weeks, cable television news coverage has been fixated on the latest in the Republicans’ irrational quest to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.  Their arguments are baseless and filled with the hyperbolic language of fear that only comes from voices on the right.  These ideological zealots have tried to repeal Obamacare over 40 times, filibuster it (kind of), held the federal government hostage with a shutdown, and now are holding congressional hearings about its webpage launch.  It’s almost too silly to take seriously.

On the periphery of this circus, President Obama has announced his renewed effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  Second only to universal healthcare, immigration reform is perhaps the issue that will define the Obama legacy.  The GOP’s ridiculous preoccupation with destroying Obamacare may actually be a good thing for comprehensive immigration reform.  Keeping their focus away from immigration may give our nation a chance to discuss the issue without the typical exaggerated scaremongering from the Tea Party types.

The folks who vow to rid our country of affordable healthcare come from the same crowd that predicts the demise of American values and culture if immigration reform provides a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.  You may remember when their 2012 presidential candidate suggested that government policy should make immigrants’ lives so difficult that they will “self-deport.”  Nice try Mr. Romney.  The reason his argument fell flat is because immigrants embody the very values and culture that make this country great.

Our nation’s values were born during the American Revolution and memorialized in the Declaration of Independence.   From Jefferson’s assertion that all people have a right to pursue happiness to the civil liberties outlined in the Bill of Rights, American values are based on concepts of human dignity and freedom.  Nowhere in those seminal documents do the Founding Fathers proclaim that proficiency in English, a hearty appetite for apple pie, or being descended from western European stock are requirements for American values.

The basis for the American value system is simple – the belief in freedom, hard work, and the opportunity to succeed without regard to one’s station in society.  At best, those who believe otherwise don’t truly understand this concept of American values or may be stuck in the romantic notion that Norman Rockwell’s America defines who we are as a people.  At worst, they are racist xenophobes who won’t accept anyone who doesn’t look or sound like their definition of an American.

To illustrate how they have it wrong, the life of my father-in-law, a man I greatly admire, comes to mind.  Fausto Peralta was born and raised in a small town tucked in the mountains of Sonora, Mexico.  He came to the United States nearly 60 years ago as a teenager.  He settled in California’s central valley where he worked in the fields picking cotton and irrigating crops.  He met my mother-in-law during the late 1950s, married her a year later, and moved to San Jose for a construction job and a piece of the American Dream.

A cement mason who raised four daughters in east San Jose, he worked in construction during Silicon Valley’s biggest building boom.  He beamed with pride when my wife Sandra told him that she took most of her classes at San Jose State University in Sweeney Hall, the education department building he helped build during the 1960s.  His daughters’ lives symbolize the power of the American Dream.  All four are SJSU graduates: Sandra is an elementary school principal, one sister is an engineer, and the other two are a tireless community volunteer and SJSU human resources administrator.

My father-in-law is more comfortable speaking in Spanish than in English.  He would rather have rice and beans instead of a hamburger and fries for dinner.  When watching television, he is more likely to click the remote to Univision instead of CNN or CBS.  Those who fear immigrants and hold the false belief that our nation’s culture is rooted in language, food, and television habits would argue that my father-in-law doesn’t represent America or our national heritage.

Oh, how they’re wrong.  For over 50 years, he has worked hard, paid taxes, financed the education of four children, voted in elections from LBJ to President Obama, and gratefully struggled in his pursuit of happiness.  About eight years ago, on a family vacation in Washington, D.C., I watched this proud American walk into the White House for a tour.  Based on the concepts outlined by the Founding Fathers, my father-in-law exemplifies what it means to be American.

The face of America may be changing, but the soul remains the same.  Some newcomers may choose mariachi over jazz, tortillas over wheat bread, and the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish over English.  Nevertheless, it’s clear that they believe in the values of liberty and justice that the pledge so eloquently brings to life.  They believe in the American Dream that my father-in-law embarked on over a half century ago.

To be sure, there needs to be a healthy debate about immigration.  I hope it happens before the peddler’s of fear divert their attention from trying to destroy Obamacare to alarming those Americans who unrealistically worry about the downfall of American values and culture caused by immigration reform.  The millions of people who, like my father-in-law, left everything behind to come to the United States already understand American values.  Passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform won’t lead to the decline of America; meaningful reform will make our values and culture even stronger.

East Side Eddie Report.com Special: Redskins, Cholos, & George Zimmerman

MSNBC host Martin Bashir
MSNBC host Martin Bashir

Although East Side Eddie Report.com is a weekly blog, every once in a while I feel compelled to post more than once a week.  This is one of those times.

Glossary

redskin – n. Offensive Slang. Used as a disparaging term for a Native American (American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd edition)

cholo – n. East Side Slang. A Mexican or Mexican American gang member; someone who dresses in the style of a gang member (East Side Dictionary)

George Zimmerman – n. A racist who got away with murder (Common Knowledge Dictionary)

Last week, I was watching the Martin Bashir show on MSNBC and the host was talking about how Texas Senator Ted Cruz is a thug who held Congress hostage for 16 days over a futile crusade to rid the country of Obamacare.  I love watching Bashir because he’s a brash critic of the conservative cause.  As I was relishing in his tirade against Cruz, a graphic on the lower left of the screen suddenly caught my attention.  It was a photo of Cruz in dark sunglasses next to a drawing of two clenched fists with the words “Cruz Life” tattooed in Old English font on the fingers.

A tattoo with an Old English font is the stamp of primarily Mexican and Mexican American cholos and “Cruz Life” is clearly a reference to the “thug life” gang culture coined by the late rapper Tupac Shakur.  Bashir obviously meant to portray Cruz as a Latino gangster bullying the United States Congress.  Of course I agree that the senator is a bully, but my first reaction to the interplay between Bashir’s commentary and his drawing was, “here we go again.”  It never fails that non-Latino America, even bleeding heart liberals like Bashir, use negative images to make a point about Latinos.

The old Chicano Studies student in me wanted to complain to MSNBC, call Bashir a racist, and start a protest.  Fortunately, I caught my breath, came to my senses, and gave this issue thoughtful reflection.   Why did Bashir use those tattooed fists?  Why was I disappointed in MSNBC, the bastion of liberal journalism?  Why didn’t America find it offensive?   I explored a variety of answers, and kept coming back to the notion that Bashir’s actions were another manifestation of “inherent bias,” a term I’ve used in other blog posts.

Technically, “inherent bias” is used by statisticians to measure something or other that is way beyond my intellectual abilities to comprehend.  The first time I saw the phrase in a sociological context was in a newspaper article about Santa Clara University students dressed as janitors, maids, and pregnant teens at a Mexican theme party.  Rather than racism, the university president believed the students’ actions were the result of an “inherent bias of Mexicans” due to negative stereotypes in the media.  He concluded that the whole affair was a “teachable moment.”

This brings us to redskins, George Zimmerman, and a teachable moment for Martin Bashir.

There’s a debate brewing about the Washington Redskins NFL team’s mascot.  The word “redskin,” like the “N word,” was used to oppress and humiliate; so Native American groups are calling on the team’s owner to change the name.  Outside of the Native American community, the liberal media has been the biggest advocate for the repeal of the Redskins’ nickname.  Martin Bashir is one of the loudest voices on this issue.  He understands the evil history and devastating effect the word has wrought on Native people.  Like Bashir, I would like to see the word “redskin” buried in the same cemetery as the “N word.”

Bashir was also at the forefront of exposing George Zimmerman for what he really is: a racist who used a badly conceived Florida law to murder Trayvon Martin for being a young black man wearing a hoodie in the wrong neighborhood.  While the right-wing and mainstream media camouflaged the race issues by focusing on the Florida law and who started the fight, Bashir and his liberal cohorts kept the spotlight on the racial biases that led to the “stand your ground” laws and their murderous by-products.  As with the Redskins debate; Bashir recognizes the wickedness of racism against Black Americans.

How could a progressive champion of people of color make such a faux pas with the tattooed “Cruz Life” fists?  If the president of Santa Clara University is correct, Martin Bashir’s experience with Latinos is limited to media portrayals.  Images of tattooed Mexican American gangsters creating mayhem are regular features on cable TV real crime story shows.  So when Bashir wants to make the point that Cruz is a bully, he caricatures the conservative southern senator born to a Cuban father and Irish American mother as a Mexican American gangbanger in dark sunglasses with tattooed fingers.

This is problematic on many levels as it perpetuates the stereotype that Latinos are dangerous Mexican American gang members.  Combined with the conservative obsession to block immigration reform, Latinos are either cholos or “illegals” in the American consciousness.  I’m absolutely sure that this wasn’t Bashir’s intent with the graphic, but it surely was the result.  The only way to overcome these negative images is for leaders in the Latino community to use their influence to educate mainstream America on the dangers of unintentional actions due to inherent bias.

I don’t advocate protesting or publicly flogging Bashir or other progressives who fall into the same trap. He’s one of the good guys.  Rather, affluent Latinos should invest in more projects like “Latinos in America,” the brilliant three-part documentary aired on PBS, so Americans can learn about the Latino experience as we have come to understand the Native American and Black experience.  Influential Latinos in the media and Latino political leaders should take Bashir aside on the cocktail circuit and let him know why using the “Cruz Life” image wasn’t accurate or appropriate.

As a nation, it’s doubtful that we’ll ever be rid of the scourge of individual racism, but I believe that having honest and courageous conversations about race will minimize the negative effects of inherent bias.  This would be a giant step toward erasing negative and demeaning images of people of color.