Latino Peoples’ Resistance to Language Silencing

Research Joe Feagin and I conducted revealed that when silencing attempts are directed at Latino peoples they frequently do not accept them meekly but are likely to respond against the perpetrators’ command in strong terms. Here is an example: A Cuban-American executive and his wife, though fluent in English, spoke in Spanish to their son so that he would learn the language. They were at Disneyworld and after he spoke in Spanish to their son an unsavory silencing episode occurred that could have turned into a tragedy. He described it as follows:

I had a really bad experience at Disneyworld . . . . My son at the time was three . . . . He jumped the line and went straight to where there was Pluto or Mickey Mouse or something and I said “[Son’s name], come back,” in Spanish and . . . ran after him. And I heard behind me somebody say, “It would be a fucking spic that would cut the line.” Now my wife saw who said it, and I said ”Who said that?” in English and nobody said a word. And I said [to my wife], “Point him out, I want to know who said that,” and she refused. I was like, “Who was the motherfucker who said that?” I said, “Be brave enough to say it to my face because I’m going to kill you.” You can see me, I’m 6’3’’, 275 [pounds]. Nobody volunteered . . . . [Interviewer:] So nobody stepped up? No, no and there was a bunch of guys there, and I would have thrown down two or three of them; I wouldn’t have had a problem (pp. 49-50).

The executive was willing to confront the perpetrator physically. Fortunately, the situation did not reach that point, but he stated in unequivocal terms his opposition to the treatment received by his child from a white bigot.

A recent silencing episode resulted in a surprising and delightful case of resistance. The victim of the silencing attempt relates the episode as follows:

This man just asked me to “please stop speaking Spanish” on this plane to NYC (in his defense it’s very early and he’s racist) so the man next to him STARTED SPEAKING SPANISH and then the flight attendant [started speaking Spanish as well].

The silencer did not anticipate that there we other Spanish speakers nearby. One can only imagine his reaction when confronted with a joint resistance response. As the number of Spanish speakers in the US is augmented with the immigration from Latin America, and since there are no indications that tolerance of Spanish will increase among whites and others, one can expect episodes of the silencing-resistance dialectic to become more frequent.

Since it would be absurd to expect a people to become crypto-speakers of their own language, it seems as if an increase in tolerance for Spanish among those who blindly oppose it is the only solution to defuse a potentially dangerous situation. We can start by electing politicians who hold a pro-Latino platform and display an interest in speaking Spanish in public and thus will promote its legitimacy.

Silencing Spanish Speakers

CNN reports an act of silencing Spanish that took place at a Burger King restaurant in Eustis, Florida on July 6.

Two white customers became upset because a manager had a brief conversation in Spanish with one of his employees. After the employee left, the customers told the manager they wanted to complain. Thinking they were dissatisfied with their meal, he offered to give them credit or a free desert. One of the customers explained that their complaint was about the manager’s speaking Spanish. They said that he shouldn’t be speaking Spanish but “American English” instead because “we’re in America.” The manager said, “No ma’am, I don’t,” and one the protagonists told the manager to go back to Mexico. The manager responded “”Guess what ma’am, I’m not Mexican [he is of Puerto Rican descent] but you’re being very prejudiced and I want you out of my restaurant, right now.” The customers responded that what they meant was that the manager should speak Spanish at home, not in public places like the restaurant and added they would leave after they finished their meals but left soon thereafter left after the manager threatened to call the police.

This was an episode in silencing. Joe Feagin and I discussed silencing in our book, where we point out that silencing is related to beliefs in the White Racial Frame that define vernacular Spanish as not having legitimacy in the United States and others have the authority to interfere in conversations in Spanish and demand that the speakers stop and switch to English.

As we said in the book and have repeated elsewhere, silencing is on the surface absurd since it demands that people abandon their language, the one they feel comfortable speaking, and switch to English, a foreign language. It is in fact an extreme act of denigration against Latinos, a rooted people in the US, and their language, which is equally rooted. On the surface it is white elite racism in its purest form: claiming white supremacy over vernacular Spanish on utterly racist, xenophobic, and irrational grounds.

Spanish as Old Respected Language: Why Not Now?

The Spanish language has followed two paths in the history of the United States: early on as a respected language and more recently as the derided vernacular of a racialized people. The majority of the sociological literature has focused on the racialization of Spanish and skipped over the “acceptable” roots of the language in this country. But both coexist today and the former’s status cannot be properly understood without consideration of the status of the latter.

The respectability of Spanish can be traced to early colonial days. Both Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson stated that the study of Spanish would be beneficial to young men interested in commerce and Jefferson included Spanish in the curriculum that he designed for the College of William and Mary. By the nineteenth century Spanish-language instruction was adopted by many institutions of higher education, including Harvard University and other Ivy League schools and Spanish-language newspapers were published in New Mexico, Louisiana, and other areas of the United States.

Spanish remains “respectable” in academic and artistic areas, but since the end of the war between the US and Mexico in the 1840s there has been a significant white racialization of Spanish as the language of conquered Latino peoples. Even as millions of former Mexican citizens, most of whom spoke Spanish as their native tongue, were incorporated into the United States, the dominant White Racial Frame declared vernacular Spanish as foreign and not belonging in the United States.

Such assertions are simplistic and inaccurate. They represent justifications of the subjugation of Latino peoples and lack a factual basis. Historian Rosina Lozano explains the complex history of Spanish in the US and its legitimacy (pp. 4-5):

After the passage of centuries, Spanish became the native language of Spanish settlements in Louisiana, parts of the future U.S. Midwest, and the future Southwest, and the lingua franca for many American Indians who lived among these Spanish-speaking settlements. Over the course of the twentieth century, migration to the United States from Latin American countries has replenished Spanish’s place in the country and bolstered perceptions of Spanish as an immigrant language, distracting most from its earlier manifestations. This long exposure to the Spanish language makes it part of the nation’s fabric.

Although I have not conducted a systematic study, it seems to me that recently the racialization of Spanish has been fused with the xenophobia that has made “Latino” and vernacular Spanish coterminous with “illegal” and the rejection of immigrants entails the rejection of their everyday language.

Research that Joe Feagin and I have conducted shows that Spanish speakers “caught” conversing in their own language are admonished to “speak English, this is America.” In other words, Spanish does not belong in the United States as a vernacular and neither do you as a Latino. This situation approaches lunacy. The deep rootedness of vernacular Spanish in North and South America is undeniable and its rejection as a legitimate everyday language in the US defies its importance in areas such as politics, business, and the media in North and South America. These are positions incongruent with the facts but consonant with a White Racial Frame that provides an ideology that supports the exploitation of a vulnerable proletariat.

I would venture a guess that, in the eyes of the white elite, the Spanish language as an academic and literate language that does not challenge their interests, will remain respectable while vernacular Spanish, the language of the oppressed, will continue to be a handy tool to deride Latinos/”illegals” for a long time. That is, the treatment of Spanish in the US by whites is about a log more than language. Try white racism.

“Stop Speaking Chinese!: This is America”

Members of the Biostatistics Department at Duke University had complained in the past about Chinese graduate students speaking in their language instead of English in the Biostatistics area. Recently the Director of Graduate Studies in the department, Assistant Professor Megan Neely, received a new complaint from two faculty members about Chinese graduate students speaking their language “very loudly” in the student lounge and other student areas. According to a New York Times article, the faculty members’ objections went beyond the volume of the conversations:

They were disappointed that these students were not taking the opportunity to improve their English and were being so impolite as to have a conversation that not everyone on the floor could understand.

So upset were they that they looked for identifying information about the “offenders” to exclude them from future projects:The faculty members wanted to identify the students and write down their names, in case the students sought to work with them in the future.

Given her administrative position, Professor Neely felt obligated to contact the Chinese graduate students to make them aware of the faculty members’ displeasure and warn them about possible consequences they could face if they persisted in speaking Chinese in the buildings that house the Department of Biostatistics. She sent them an email that included the following request on behalf of other Duke faculty members:

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE keep these unintended consequences in mind when you choose to speak in Chinese in the building . . . . I have no idea how hard it has been and still is for you to come to the US and have to learn in a non-native language. As such, I have the upmost respect for what you are doing. That being said, I encourage you to commit to using English 100% of the time when you are in . . . professional [settings].

Chinese is one of just a few racialized languages in the United States, and complaints about speakers supposedly being rude and missing opportunities to learn English just for sticking to their own language are often pretexts to silence them. Silencing aims at the suppression of racialized languages (often via the now famous command “Speak English, You are in America”) and the preservation of English as the dominant language. Elsewhere Joe Feagin and I have discussed silencing as part of the linguistic oppression of Spanish in the US (See “Language Oppression and Resistance: The Case of Middle Class Latinos in the United States,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 31(2008):390-410).

The Duke professor’s memo created a great deal of controversy. Ken Lee, chief executive of OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates, complained that

Forcing Students to repress their heritage language further perpetuates a wrongful fear toward Asian and Asian-American students.

A Chinese foreign ministry representative stated in a briefing that

If a Chinese university required that American students not use English to communicate, I think this would not be normal.

Mary E. Klotman, the Dean of the School of Medicine, where Biostatistics is housed, apologized to the Chinese students in a letter and said that she had asked the university’s Office for Institutional Equity to do a “thorough review of the program” in order to “improve the learning environment for students from all background.” Then she added:

I understand that many of you felt hurt and angered by this [Professor Neely’s] message . . . To be clear: There is absolutely no restriction or limitation on the language you use to converse and communicate with each other. Your career opportunities and recommendations will not in any way be influenced by the language you use outside the classroom.

Professor Neely asked to step down from her position. I feel bad for her: She is an untenured Assistant Professor caught up in a major controversy not mainly of her making. Although she may not suffer adverse consequences, she is likely to be upset. I would be. It is inevitable to wonder where the two complaining faculty members stand at the conclusion of the language denigration controversy. Their request to silence the students of color runs counter to Dean Klotman’s categorical position of no linguistic restrictions outside the classroom. Their stated intention to exclude graduate students from future research projects for speaking their own home language openly seems vindictive and unprofessional. Will the Duke Medical School investigate them?

José A. Cobas, Ph.D. is emeritus professor of sociology, Arizona State University.

Counteracting Sexist Spanish, While Respecting the Language

It’s important to distinguish sexo (English “sex”) from género gramatical (English “gender”) in Spanish. Although both have the same two categories, masculino and femenino, sexo pertains to differences in human reproduction while género is a linguistic property that has no necessary connection with biological sex. Sexist Spanish has three forms:

a) The first occurs when the género masculino of a noun or adjective has a positive meaning but the género femenino of the same word has a negative meaning. When a man is a called a zorro (fox, género masculino) it means that he is “crafty and astute,” but when a woman called a zorra (fox, género femenino) it means that she is a prostitute.

b) The second form consists of the metaphorical use of adjectives based on male and female genitalia to signify, respectively, good and bad qualities. Cojonudo (from cojones, testicles) can be used in the sense of “stupendous, magnificent, brave,” while Coñazo (from coño, akin to “cunt“) may be employed to signify “annoying, tiresome, unbearable.”

c) The third and most discussed form is the use of the género masculino as unmarked or “generic” which can represent just one of the géneros (masculino) or both (masculino and femenino). For example, Los empleados deben venir (Employees must come) may refer to male employees (empleados) only or to both male and female employees (empleadas). Empleadas are not mentioned explicitly.

The Real Academia Española, traditionally the highest linguistic authority on Spanish, rejects the idea that the generic is sexist because it includes both genders, but its opponents rightly point out that languages are dynamic and reflect changes in society, which also must be factored into this discussion.

US scholars focus on this form of sexist Spanish, and to avoid it they use neologisms such as the slash (barra in Spanish) as in Latinos/as, Latino/a students, Latino/a Studies Center. There are, however, ways to avoid Sexist Spanish while staying within the bounds of respecting Standard Spanish and we as academics should follow them as much as possible. An excellent guide was issued by Spain’s Comisión de Mujeres y Ciencia (Commission of Women and Science). One of its important observations is that “The use of words . . . regardless of grammatical género, which designate human beings collectively or individually but don’t specify sexo (male or female) is not sexist.” [My translation.]

Examples are pueblo and persona, as in “pueblo Chicano” or “persona Latina.” The words puebla and persono don’t exist. We follow this guideline in the title of our book, Latino Peoples in the United States instead of Latinos in the United States. Finally, names such as Latino/a Studies Center are not necessary, because sexist language applies only to people, not things.

It is important to keep in mind that these methods are not perfect. Sometimes appropriate “collective” nouns don’t exist and individuals who insist on avoiding sexist Spanish may have to resort to other approaches, such as “doubling” (as in Latino and Latina immigrants) that are less than ideal. Doubling is considered “too wordy” by some.

Scholars who insist on the use of both genders for inanimate objects may follow this usage: Choose the form that agrees with the género of the noun in Spanish. For example, Latino Studies (from estudios, género masculino), Latina Library (from biblioteca, género femenino), Latino data (from datos, género masculino), Latina statistics (from estadísticas, género femenino). Too much of a hassle? Perhaps, but it certainly beats artificial neologisms pulled out of the air in the United States.

These neologisms are usually another example of US hegemony at work. I don’t expect that US scholars are going to drop practices that they have been following for years after they read my post. But I’d like to get the message out there and, who knows, maybe some people will start thinking seriously about it.

The Spanish language has been kicked around long enough in this country. White school authorities tried to suppress (including violently punishing) the use of Spanish among Spanish-speaking children at different points in US history. Then there is the white racialized “humor” of “Mock Spanish,” (No problemo, Hasty banana [for hasta mañana]) and the common white harassment of Spanish speakers in public. The Trump Administration early on hastened to remove the Spanish portion of the White House website.

I’d like to emphasize that I’m not a snob and my main concern is not so much with how scholars or students choose to refer to themselves as with how universities are following these rules in the names of curricula, departments, centers and libraries, and therefore giving them legitimacy. Universities are institutions of higher learning and should respect the linguistic integrity of academic Spanish.

Denying In-State Tuition For DACA Students: AZ Follow-Up

In a previous post I discussed the predicament of DACA college students in Arizona. In 2006, Proposition 300 passed with the approval of a substantial 71.4 percent of the voters. Its goal was unequivocal: the denial of in-state tuition in Arizona public community colleges and universities to DACA students. As the State’s Attorney General explained it, Proposition 300 requires the

verification of immigration status of persons who are applying for state-funded services . . . [which include] in-state tuition and financial aid for college students.

In 2015, DACA students in Arizona were allowed to pay in-state tuition following a judge’s ruling that

DACA recipients were considered legally present in the U.S. and therefore qualify for state benefits.

However, Arizona’s State Attorney General appealed the decision and this month an appeals court ruled that the state had the right to enforce Proposition 300, thus depriving DACA students of access to in-state tuition. This court decision, in turn, was appealed and the Arizona Board of Regents voted to allow in-state tuition to remain in effect while the appeal is resolved. It was an encouraging development.

But a series of recent events augur rough times ahead for DACA students in Arizona and elsewhere in the US. The attorneys general of Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia as well as the Governor of Idaho asked the Trump administration to “phase out” the DACA program. Speaking for the group, arch-conservative Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton stated in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the DACA program

confers lawful presence and work permits for nearly one million unlawfully present aliens in the U.S.

He added the following:

[T]he multi-state coalition that made the request . . . [is] prepared to pull a lawsuit challenging the deferred action program currently pending in district courts if the program is ended by Sept. 5. If not, he said the suit would expand to include DACA and remaining expanded DACA permits.

Recently members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to discuss the DACA program. Luis V. Gutierrez, the U.S. Representative for Illinois’s 4th congressional district, was at the meeting and evaluates its outcome as follows:

Secretary Kelly said . . . that the future of DACA is up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, America’s leading advocate against immigration, so Kelly was basically telling us DACA is facing a death sentence. . . I fear for anybody currently with DACA.

Gutierrez’s closing comments are sobering:

Trump, Sessions and Kelly want to take 800,000 DREAMers with DACA . . . who are registered with the government and in compliance with the law and make them into criminals, felons, and deportees in the next few months. Anyone with a conscience who thinks legal immigration is an integral part of who we are as a country just got called to action.

I prefer to close my posts on a hopeful note. I can’t do it today. Congressman Gutierrez said,

I think we have to prepare for the worst and get ready to fight mass deportation.

I believe that he is right.

Denying In-State Tuition for Arizona’s DACA Students

On December 7, 2006, Proposition 300 passed in Arizona with the approval of 71.4 percent of the voters. According to the state’s Attorney General,

The enacted measure requires verification of immigration status of persons who are applying for state-funded services . . . [which include] in-state tuition and financial aid for college students.

From the point of view of an Arizona state representative, the measure was necessary because “illegal” immigration was having catastrophic effects:

Arizona has been overwhelmed with illegal immigration and all the negative things that follow — crime, increased public service costs, especially education, and depression of our wages — and the federal government seems barely capable of doing much. . . . Denying the in-state tuition . . . deters illegal immigrants from coming here.

In 2015, recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in Arizona were allowed to pay in-state tuition following a judge’s ruling that

DACA recipients were considered legally present in the U.S. and therefore qualify for state benefits.

Arizona’s Attorney General appealed the decision and this month a federal appeals court ruled that

federal immigration law allows each state to decide on optional benefits for DACA recipients [and] Arizona law [i.e., Proposition 300] bars in-state tuition for anyone who doesn’t have a legal status.

The consequences for the education of Arizona’s DACA youth are substantial. For example, at the Maricopa Community Colleges that operate in the larger Phoenix area, the cost per credit hour is $86 for Arizona residents and $241 for non-residents. At Arizona State University the current undergraduate basic tuition is $10,792 for residents and $27,372 for non-residents.

Some students intend to persist. Belen Sisa a junior at Arizona State University who came from Argentina when she was six-years old, said “I can’t let this stop me. I’m so close to give up now.” Oscar Hernandez was brought from Mexico when he was 9-years old and has lived in Arizona ever since. He has one year left to get his degree but it may take him three years to finish if he has to pay out-of-state tuition but said that “he is determined to finish.” Their resolve is admirable, because they will unjustly confront new obstacles in the pursuit of their education.

Karina Ruiz, board president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a group that advocates for undocumented young children brought to the U.S. as children, criticized the state for taking away in-state tuition from DACA recipients. “This is all hate,” Ruiz said.

There is nothing else. There is no reason for the state to be fighting students that want to get educated. This is wrong.

It is difficult to disagree with her. What rational purpose would it serve to deprive the DACA students who have been in Arizona since they were very young of in-state tuition? How just is it? Doesn’t a state benefit from an educated citizenry? How will it discourage undocumented migration?

Arizona has a long history of white racism. In recent times the undocumented have become the target. This is the state where Sheriff Joe Arpaio, according to the U.S. Department of Justice,

Oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history.

Arpaio is currently on trial for allegedly

defying a federal judge’s orders that barred [him] from enforcing federal immigration law.

I wish I could be optimistic and hope for a quick solution. But with Donald Trump in the White House, racists in Arizona and elsewhere will find fertile ground for their odious plans.

More Hostility to Spanish: An Arizona Mayor

Fort Huachuca City is a small community in Arizona (pop. 1900) located approximately 20 miles from the Mexican Border. Mayor Ken Taylor was upset when he received an invitation to a meeting of U.S. and Mexican border city mayors because it was written in both English and Spanish, or “Spanish/Mexican,” as he put it in an email to John Cook, executive director of the U.S.-Mexico Border Mayors Association in El Paso:

I will NOT attend a function that is sent to me in Spanish/Mexican. One nation means one language and I am insulted by the division caused by language.

Cook’s reply to Taylor’s email was sharp:

I will certainly remove you from our email list. The purpose of the Border Mayors Association is to speak with one voice in Washington, D.C., and Mexico City about issues that impact our communities, not to speak in one language. My humble apologies if I ruffled your feathers.

Taylor, in turn, responded in a manner reminiscent of developer-candidate Donald Trump:

America is going ‘Down Hill’ fast because we spend more time catering to others that are concerned with their own self interests. It is far past time to remember that we should be ‘America First’ … there is NOTHING wrong with that. My feathers are ruffled anytime I see anything American putting other countries First. If I was receiving correspondence from Mexican interests, I would expect to see them listed First. Likewise, when I see things produced from America, I EXPECT to see America First.

Mr. Taylor’s reaction is rooted in a portion of the White Racial Frame that vilifies Latinos and their culture and language. It was early developed by Southern slaveholders and other white elites to justify the US seizure of sovereign Mexican territory in the mid 1800’s. This segment of the White Racial Frame received a “shot in the arm” as a result of the spread of Trump’s blatant anti-Latino rhetoric.

Mr. Taylor should be aware of two things:

First, to call Spanish “foreign” is ignorant of history. The presence of Spanish in what is known today as “the Southwest” precedes the arrival of the Mayflower at Plymouth Colony in 1620.

Second, with the growth of the Latino population, Spanish has become indispensable for businesses and government, maybe not in Fort Huachuca City but definitely everywhere else. Spanish is here to stay.

NBC Executive Screws Up in Meeting With Latino Leaders

Despite his unending fascistoid comments, NBC invited Donald Trump to host a Saturday Night Live show on November 7. When Latino personages protested against this astonishing decision, NBC stuck to its guns. Recently a group of Latino legislators, hoping to iron out any animus resulting from Trump’s appearance, met with NBC executives to discuss the issue.

(Image source: Wikipedia)

The meeting began on a bad note. NBC News President Deborah Turness’s comments about a young Latina girl were intended to show compassion. Instead, they were racially insensitive and a California legislator reacted negatively and made his views known:

Near the start of the meeting, Turness was describing a story her network had covered about Pope Francis’ interaction with a young girl who said she feared her parents would be deported. Turness referred to the girl’s parents as “illegals.” This statement did not sit well with the attendees. California Democrat Rep. Juan Vargas protested: “I’m going to stop you right there. We use the term undocumented immigrants.”

Turness apologized and attempted to mollify members of the audience by stating that “We love the Hispanic community…Yo hablo español.”

Ms. Turness’s statements were patronizing and reminded me of the old racist saying “Some of my best friends are . . .” The Latino legislators came to the meeting to discuss issues that concerned them, including Trump’s Saturday Night Live performance, and Ms. Turness’ response says “I like you and your language.” This interaction makes perfect sense when we view it in light of the dominant white racial frame, with its white arrogance and stereotyping of Latinos. It’s not necessary to reason with Latinos about grievances as long they know you like them. The belief is that Latinos’ minds are like children’s minds.

One would expect major NBC executives to address Trump’s appearance, which had created such a furor in the Latino community. But this would not be the case. Incredibly, these top executives stated that Trump’s appearance just “was a matter for NBC Entertainment, whereas only representatives from the news division were present” at the meeting with Latino legislators.

As Rep Tony Cárdenas (D-Cal) put it:

You know that [Trump is] an issue on all of our minds and as soon as you start talking about it, you say none of the executives for the entertainment (division) are here. It was a cop out. It was disingenuous.

In all likelihood NBC’s decision was based on their expectation that a program featuring Trump would receive high ratings, and they were right, for that SNL had a whopping 6.6 household rating on Saturday night. It was a question of priorities: the folks that support Trump (mostly white) count more than Latinos who don’t deserve to receive even the most basic respect and courtesy.

~ José A. Cobas, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Arizona State University

Trump-adas

Note to readers: This post is written by Rubén Blades and is translated from Spanish. This title, Trump-ada, is a play on the Spanish word “trompada,“ which means “punch” or “blow with the fist” and the suffix “ada” which can indicate “series” or “collection,” as in series or collection of Trump’s statements. 

 

TheDonalds - Trump and Duck

(The Donalds, Trump and Duck – image source)

Many decades ago Walt Disney created a character that initially attracted more hostility than affection: Donald Duck. Irascibility was his dominant trait; When things did not go his way, Donald blew up in a paroxysm yelling at the top of his lungs in a language that normal people could not understand.

Donald Duck reminds me of Donald Trump. They share much beyond a common first name, with one exception: While Donald Duck has never worn pants (clothing), the human Donald boasts of his pants’ (masculinity’s) prowess and as proof he rants against anyone who has the audacity to contradict his opinions, that are just that, opinions instead of governmental programs or concrete proposals aimed at dealing responsibly with the complexities of public leadership. I have some knowledge about these matters. I ran in a national election as a candidate for Panama’s presidency, and served for five years in an official capacity, where I was exposed to public scrutiny from all sides. I believe that such experience qualifies me to offer my opinion on the views of Mr. Trump, a very rich bragger whose ego surpasses his country’s GNP. His latest shenanigan was to have journalist Jorge Ramos removed from one of his soliloquies that he disguises as a press conferences.

Like his namesake, Donald (Duck), Mr. Trump reacted irritably to Mr. Ramos’s questions and Mr. Ramos’s position within Univisión, which was one of the first members of the media to respond to Mr. Trump’s racist insults. Although some believe that Mr. Ramos provoked the incident by asking questions out of turn or to attract attention I believe that he wanted Trump to face what Trump does so frequently: bullying. In other words, Trump faced some of his own music and reacted with his habitual arrogance.

Later he allowed Jorge Ramos to return to the press conference, as if it were a safe-conduct or dispensation so that Jorge could do his job. Of course, that didn’t alter Mr. Trump’s ugly political image. Today the United States has one of the most intelligent and well-meaning Presidents in the last forty years. It bears mentioning that many of Mr. Obama’s programs,, what he wanted or attempted to bring to fruition, have been destroyed by the Republican Party and its exponents such as Mr. Trump. I don’t believe that these problems faced by Mr. Obama are the exclusive products of racism, which, by the way exists not only in the United States but in Latin America as well. This is something we all need to be aware of.

The obstacle to Mr. Obama’s plans is the opposition of certain sectors to changes that would bring a better and fairer society. Mr. Trump’s contrary approach to politics, “Speak whatever comes to mind and worry about a reason later,” attracts a growing number of followers which is scary The struggle in the United States, not quite a war yet, is not only over money but also over ideas. What he slyly discusses is the kind of society he wants the United States to be in twenty years. Trump’s attitude, wild generalizations and a paternalism that conveys a false message of solidarity constitute some of the worst that this noble nation has to offer.

The followers who put up with his nonsense are not just Anglos. He has some Latino backers who are captivated by Trump’s material accomplishments and conclude falsely that he is rich and therefore does not have to “steal.”

To criticize Trump makes as much sense as striking a drunkard because of the idiotic things he says. Let us just deny him the credibility he is after. He is satisfying his ego with his actions. I don’t see him as a dedicated, serious candidate. When the time comes for him to change his furor and vague generalities into serious and concise arguments, his manifest incompetence will end his campaign. He will blame others but he will not be able to get out of his predicament.

In the meantime he is having fun and gaining the fame he obsesses about and that makes him think that his pronouncements or actions actually matter. More upsetting than Trump himself is to see how many people find hope in his political stand without realizing that their hope is tantamount to expecting a well-thought out, rational and productive dialogue. Donald Duck was created to make us laugh. The other Donald is programmed to cause harm. This is nothing to laugh about.

 

Rubén Blades is a Panamanian actor and singer who has won several Grammy awards. He holds a Master’s degree in International Law from Harvard University. In 1998 he ran for Panama’s presidency and won 18% of the vote. Here he gives us in the United States a view of how the world sees us and our racialized politics, especially in regard to Latinos and Latino issues. The original appeared, in Spanish, on Rubén Blades’ website, and it has been translated and reposted here with permission of the author, by José Cobas, with the assistance of Stephania Myers Irizarry. There were only minor changes from the original.