News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Real Face of Racism

For several years now, many in the far right have taken a fancy to branding any advocates for minority causes as racists. The logic of their accusations boils down to this: Prejudice against minorities no longer exists. If you say prejudice exist and want to do something about it, you are a racist.

Of course, this attitude requires us to forget completely that until a few decades ago White Anglo-Saxon Protestant males were the exclusive stewards of power in the United States. That, they assure us, is in the past. Today, the U.S. is a colorblind society.

So it seemed logical for people with this attitude to say Judge Sonia Sotomayor and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates are racists. After all, they had the nerve to say that this was not a colorblind society and prejudice still prevailed in many corners of it.

The absurdity of these smears of Sotomayor and Bates make sense only to people blinded by fear. Ironically, the real face of racism and prejudice in the U.S. is alive and sadly all-too-well.

According to the FBI's 2007 HCSA report:

· Approximately 51 percent of the reported hate crimes were race-based, with 18.4 percent on the basis of religion, 16.6 percent on the basis of sexual orientation, and 13.2 percent on the basis of ethnicity.

· Approximately 69 percent of the reported race-based crimes were directed against blacks, 19 percent of the crimes were directed against whites, and 4.9 percent of the crimes were directed against Asians or Pacific Islanders. The number of hate crimes directed against individuals on the basis of their national origin/ethnicity increased to 1,007 in 2007 from 984 in 2006.

· For the fourth year in a row, the number of reported crimes directed against Hispanics increased — from 576 in 2006 to 595 in 2007.

· Though the overall number of hate crimes decreased slightly, the number of hate crimes directed at gay men and lesbians increased almost six percent — from 1,195 in 2006 to 1,265 in 2007.

· Religion-based crimes decreased, from 1,462 in 2006 to 1,400 in 2007, but the number of reported anti-Jewish crimes increased slightly, from 967 in 2006 to 969 in 2007 — 12.7 percent of all hate crimes reported in 2007 — and 69 percent of the reported hate crimes based on religion.

· Reported crimes against Muslims decreased from 156 to 115, 8.2 percent of the religion-based crimes. This is still more than four times the number of hate crimes reported against Muslims in 2000.2

Fox News, that bastion of liberal bias, recently reported: “The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement agencies that recent news is helping ‘right-wing extremist groups’ recruit new members and could lead to violence.”

In truth, this right wing fascination with hurling accusations of racism against minorities is dangerously disingenuous and turns a blind eye to the dangers posed by the real face of racism and hate.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez


Max Macias said...

Nice post Raul! It is an orwellian world today--I mean the use of language has been so convoluted and misused the good has become the bad and the bad good--remember ole' socrates?

Combine that with a lack of education--I'm talking real education including philosophical anaylsis--NOT TRAINING--and the dangers abound!

Facism requires ignorance and selfishness--we are ripe for fascism if not already there...

Anonymous said...

This is rich, coming from a white Cuban.

It's time for a little truth and reconciliation.

Tell us about the white, Spanish elite who ruled Cuba for centuries. By all accounts these people rival the Anglo-Saxon southerners when it comes to cruelty and oppression.

Tell us about what happened to the Partido Independiente de Color, the descendants of African slaves who wanted only equality, after fighting for Cuba's independence, and were repaid with rape, and pillage, and murder by Cuba's hispanic elite? Were they even allowed to assert themselves and their culture in a place of their own? No.

Tell us about 1884, the year Cuba became one of the last nation's on earth to abolish slavery? Did your family own land? Slaves? Or were they merchants, trading in sugar and rum harvested through exploitation? Tell us about the Indians from the Yucatan and the Chinese imported to the island to be exploited after that?

Now tell me your family's real immigration story. When did they arrive in Cuba? Were they merchants? Did they have a land grant? Your double-barreled surname speaks of deep connections to Spain's elite.

Or did they arrive even earlier, as conquerers? What happened to Cuba's indigenous people by the way? Why do we never hear from them? Is it because your people killed almost all of them? And then turned the rest into "hispanics"? Don't tell me they spoke Spanish when you arrived.

Now let's go back beyond that, to Spain, because there's a pattern here. Did your family benefit when the Spanish expelled the Moriscos and the Jews? Did they seize their property? Did they turn in friends and neighbors to the Inquisition? Did they participate? Goodness knows, these non-Hispanics must be rooted out.

Are you related to the Sanchez, by the way, who burned and pillaged his way up the coast of England in the 14th century? If so, your ancestor's courage and capability is admirable. Was it justicia, however, to hurt everyday people in a feud between monarchs?ánchez_de_Tovar

Now let me stop right here. I love Spanish culture. I love its people, its holy places, its history -- both tragic and triumphant. I find the tough-minded satire of Cervantes bracing. And I love its complex fabric of cultures, Jewish and Islamic and Latin and Gothic. I also love the contemporary, self-critical Latin literary culture that embraces and pushes forward all of these strands.

You should consider reconnecting with it, because it will tell you you can't put the richness of Spain into one or two little boxes. Yet you're determined to divide the story of an entire hemisphere into that of two cultures: Anglo and Hispanic.

In doing so, you sound a lot like many of the old WASP families, stewing in guilt over the wrongs they have done over the centuries, when not grumpily burping up boasts about their culture.

They're desperate to wipe their sins off on a broader society of people who neither benefited or participated in their crimes, You see, the WASP elite do this because they never really noticed, or maybe they'd like to deny, that this country and this culture is no longer about them.

And now I see the old Spanish elite is playing the same game (and, by the way, polarize and conquer was a popular tactic of English colonialists and their Anglo descendants... do you people exchange notes on this stuff or something?).

I want no part of either world. I want a country where my neighbor is Jewish and my friends is Muslim and my African coworker is free to explore, and assert, his African identity -- without being told he's Anglo or Hispanic -- and enrich our culture with what he finds.

I don't want the guilt of the Spaniard or the Saxon poured all over me.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Here's more on the racism practiced by Cuba's Hispanic elite from The Miami Herald, racism that has roots in the country's history that go back far beyond its current Communist regime.

A group of prominent African Americans, traditionally sympathetic to the Cuban revolution, have for the first time condemned Cuba, demanding Havana stop its ``callous disregard'' for black Cubans and declaring that ``racism in Cuba . . . must be confronted.''


The declaration, issued Monday, adds powerful new voices to the chorus pushing for change on the island, where Afro-Cubans make up at least 62 percent of the 11.4 million people yet are only thinly represented in the top leadership, scientific, academic and other ranks.


The growing number of Afro-Cuban activists complaining about racial discrimination and casting their struggle as an issue of ``civil rights,'' rather than ``human rights,'' has helped to draw the attention of African Americans, said Victoria Ruiz-Labrit, Miami spokesperson for the Cuba-based Citizens' Committee for Racial Integration.


Anonymous said...

Oh and the link.