Flipping through late night TV shows recently, my husband and I happened upon a routine by the stand-up comic Gabriel Iglesias. In it, Iglesias told the crowd about the time he was invited to perform in front of a Saudi prince. Above almost everything else, Iglesias was most pleasantly surprised to simply be called “American” in the process. Naturally, Iglesias was used to being referred to as a “Hispanic” or “Latino” wherever he went. Iglesias is clearly proud of his Latino heritage, but hated being boxed in by the confines of an ethnic title.
Labels in and of themselves aren’t bad, per se. They can be simply descriptive; after all, Iglesias is indeed a Latino. Where his frustration rightly lies is with the fact that just because he’s Latino doesn’t mean that his comedy must be restricted to that genre or segment alone. Indeed, rather than a label, that’s a box.
This August 15, 2012 file photo shows young people waiting in line to enter the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) office in California, on the first day of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Rewind a couple of years to a mundane workday not unlike any other - except that day one of my husband’s coworkers arrived frustrated and upset.
Quite annoyed, she explained to her workmates that a bike had been stolen right out of their open garage when their attention was momentarily elsewhere. The co-worker explained that her husband was able to catch a glimpse of the perpetrators as they made off with the bike. It just so happened that it was a couple of African-American kids.
At this point another co-worker angrily interjected: “Why do you have to put labels on them like that? Why can't you just say that it was a ‘couple of kids’? Why do you have to make sure and tell us that they’re black?”
The tirade continued as the newly bike-less co-worker looked on in disbelief.
“Well,” she answered, “because they just so happened to be African-American. So what?”
Not long after, the anti-label co-worker engaged my husband in a couple of political discussions about illegal immigration and the 2012 election cycle, respectively.
First, she asked him what he thought of President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order which would effectively halt the deportation of “young illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children if they meet certain requirements.”
In a fashion typical of my succinct husband, he responded simply: “Nope, I don’t.”
He was quickly met with a blistering retort. In sum, he was shamed for not supporting “his people.”
On a different day, this same individual probed my husband about who he planned to vote for in the upcoming elections. After explaining that his green card status doesn’t permit him to vote just yet, he flatly told her that if given the chance he’d “vote for anyone but Obama.”
“WHAT?” the coworker almost shouted — in utter disbelief. Then it got really good.
“But... but you’re MEXICAN!”
In other words, she couldn’t juxtapose the reality of my husband’s Mexican heritage with his right-leaning political tendencies. Because after all, everyone knows all Hispanics are liberals, right? (Someone should probably tell Chris Salcedo.)
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Did you catch that? The very same person who berated her co-worker for “labeling” (accurate translation: truthfully describing the perpetrators of a theft) the kids who stole her bike then turned around and put my immigrant husband in a far worse box - she made it abundantly clear that by virtue of being Mexican and an immigrant, my husband should be exactly two things:
- A liberal.
- A supporter of illegal immigration.
Comedian Paul Rodriguez got the same treatment from CNN’s Don Lemon recently, when he reacted in shock as Rodriguez explained his position AGAINST illegal immigration.
So - let’s get this straight. It is offensive for one of my husband’s coworkers to accurately describe an incident of theft - but it’s not offensive for another one to insinuate that all Mexicans are left-leaning, and support a Machiavellian “means justify the ends” outlook on life?
One is a factual statement about an actual event, and the other is a false assumption of one’s political association and moral standings based solely on race. And that’s wrong.
This time, the assumptions happen to center on immigration.
But what about the times when it’s been insinuated that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas - an African-American - isn’t “black enough”? This includes last week’s so-called “slip” from Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who referred to “five white men” in the Hobby Lobby decision. The same racial parameters are placed on other conservative African-Americans like Deneen Borelli or Star Parker, and the premise is the same: black = liberal, or else.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
What about us right-leaning gals who face critics who automatically assume that by the accident of our birth, we must be progressive, pro-choice feminists?
Here’s a crazy thought: what say we ditch the boxes and do as Martin Luther King Jr. would have us do? That is, “judge” a person by the content of their character and the ideas they personally hold, rather than by whatever ideological box our highly politicized (and frankly, racially divided) society would have us place them in?
After all, I’d like to think we all have our own minds.
If we don't start looking at individuals as individuals, there's no bringing us back from this nation's growing polarization. And that’s a dangerous place to be.
Mary Ramirez is a full time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com--a political commentary blog, and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show on The Blaze. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree
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