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Op-ed

Celebrities do not 'empower' women and Hispanics are not helpless victims in America

Society's unsung heroes are the ones who push us forward

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Much has been said about Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show starring Jennifer Lopez and Shakira.

“Was it too sexual?”

“Why did Shakira stick her tongue out at the camera like that?”

“Was JLo twirling around a stripper pole or was it the kind that ballerinas use?”

Look, would our cultural landscape be better off if, rather than watching scantily dressed women dance on stage, millions of families had tuned-in to a delectable symphony on Sunday?

Yes, absolutely, but perhaps because I don't have children yet or growing up in Miami desensitized me to the optics of the spectacle, superfluous crotch-grabbing aside, I found the show entertaining.

JLo and Shakira did not empower you

What is ludicrous is the notion that Shakira and JLo's performance was some kind of watershed cultural moment that uplifted millions of women and Hispanics. This is patently absurd, yet within minutes of the pair walking off the stage at Hard Rock Stadium, my social media feeds were flooded with posts describing the show as "empowering." Another said: "I'm so proud to be a Latina today!"

What utter nonsense.

As someone whose heart skips a beat when people learn that my family is Cuban and proceed to share a personal connection they have to the island or South Florida, I can appreciate pride in one's ancestral heritage. However, there's a difference between delighting in the success of people from your community and the absurd contention that a halftime show uplifted anyone except the parties involved with the production. Which "barriers" were broken on Sunday night? It's not like they were the first Latinas to perform at a Super Bowl.

Clearly, the financial windfalls of the show were limited to a handful of people. No one walked in to work Monday morning to find a raise from their boss or greater respect from their colleagues because Shakira and JLo danced at the Super Bowl. So, exactly what kind of "empowerment" are we talking about?

The notion that a single performance empowered Latinos is belittling as it presupposes that Hispanics in America are helpless victims in need of being uplifted. Nothing could be further from the truth.

By any objective measure, there has never been a better time or place to be Hispanic than America in 2020. Hispanic unemployment is at a record low; the poverty rate among Latinos has never been lower; the median U.S. Hispanic household income is the highest on record and surpasses that of any Latin American country; and there have never been fewer Hispanic students dropping out of school or a greater share of Hispanics going to college.

Look to our families, faith, and traditions for empowerment

Truly, these are more promising indicators of empowerment than a halftime show, but too many have bought into the false narratives of some on the political left who aim to instill a sense of victimhood among Hispanics for their electoral gains. This is ultimately a distraction from the admirable qualities and conditions that enabled JLo and Shakira's illustrious careers: Namely, talent refined and developed over years by a strong work ethic combined with American freedom and opportunity (with the luck of good genes, to be sure).

Indeed, we should study the success of elite performers, or as Sen. Bernie Sanders like to call them, "the 1%." However, rather than envying their wealth or resorting to identity politics and celebrities as sources of empowerment, we can find far more nourishing wellsprings of inspiration, spiritual enrichment, and success in faith, our cultural heritage, this country's founding ideals, a sense of duty, and our families.

The women in our own lives are a good starting point. Chances are that millions of people will never tune in to watch your mom or abuelitas sing and dance, but those unsung heroes, and the many like them who labor in anonymity in our communities, are the real superstars who empower us and push us forward. We should honor them by realizing our full potential, seizing the opportunities before us, and thanking them and this country for making it all possible.

By all means, we should also appreciate the countless hours, sleepless nights, exercise regimens, focus, and rehearsals that went into JLo and Shakira's performance and try to apply these lessons in our own lives. The two are also said to be loving mothers and dedicated to their families. If anything, it's these values, combined with their entrepreneurship and discipline, that are empowering — not the 14 minutes on stage.

One last thing…
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