“His”-Panic…

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You were warned, people! You were all warned….. In a recent post regarding Halloween, we gave a detailed explanation for why impersonating other cultures/ethnicities (ESPECIALLY on social media) could lead to outrage and controversy. But instead, people chose to ignore this sentiment and exercise their first amendment rights.

What we’re referring to, more specifically here, is the chatter surrounding University of Louisville’s president James Ramsey, who has been under fire for taking (and POSTING) a photo of himself alongside other U of L faculty members in “silly sombreros, mustaches, maracas and serapes.” Think we’re overexaggerating here? Just take a look for yourself:

So, here’s the dilemma. On one end, we have the obvious disgust over this situation from the Mexican and even larger Latino community. And then there are individuals out there who feel James Ramsey and company were just having a little fun. Take Fox host Bill O’Reilly for example. In a segment of his show The O’Reilly Factor, on November 10th, O’Reilly voiced his opinion about college campuses being too politically correct. He claimed that the U of L picture was not racist, and stated “If you go to any Mexican restaurant in the world, they come out and they’re singing ‘Guantanamera’ with the sombreros on.” And so we have our counterattack, given by one of television’s most controversial figures. Do you think his point is valid?

Let’s break things down here, for a sec. First, just because one sees people showcasing a cultural custom, does that give one the right to mimic it (ahem….the N-word, for example)?  Second, according to the university’s weekly independent school newspaper, The Louisville Cardinal, U of L supposedly “prides itself in diversity.” So, can one exercise diversity without including the actual people being celebrated? Were there any Mexicans in James Ramsey’s “diversity” photo? And finally, as a nation that has a history of mistreating Mexicans and other members of the Latino/Hispanic community, it may be wise to respect the viewpoints of those individuals belonging to this group. Mexicans have every right to be upset with this picture involving President Ramsey and his mostly white staff members. Why did we explicitly point out the race of Ramsey’s staff, you ask? For starters, the U of L Halloween photo arguably resembles a theme seen here in America. That theme is “Us vs. Them”. The “Us” we are referring to, here, are the Anglos  (ethnic majority of the United States). Must we explain who the Anglos of this country are? This “Us vs. Them” mentality is seen in GOP (a mostly white political group) talk about Mexican immigration. And who is the front-man for this? Mr. Donald Trump.

In early July of this year, Trump asserted,

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Now obviously, this statement isn’t true. A range of studies show that first generation immigrants, Mexicans included, are said to have lower crime rates than people born in the United States. In fact, crime rates tend to increase as generations of immigrants assimilate into America. Makes ya’ wonder, doesn’t it?

So where are these stereotypes coming from exactly? In a national study highlighted by a New York Times article, it was shown that a large number of Americans are influenced by negative portrayals of Hispanics in the media. Another 2012 study by the National Hispanic Coalition also found that at least one-third of non-Hispanic Americans (i.e. whites, blacks, and Asians) believe that half or more than half of the Hispanics living in this country are undocumented immigtants with large families, having little to no education. These perceptions, in turn, may have an effect on this country’s social and political decisions.

In that same New York Times article, Jose I. Jimenez, a Miami entrepreneur and Republican Libertarian, was quoted as saying, “Most Americans’ perception of Latinos is based on the Mexican stereotype because Mexicans make up 60 percent of the Latino population in the United States.” Jimenez furthermore remarks, “My first question is why do we lump Latinos into a group? Brazilians and Chileans couldn’t be more different. Puerto Ricans and Mexicans are very different.” While it may be difficult to individually focus on every ethnic group within the Latino/Hispanic population  (could you imagine that checklist on a Census report?), Jimenez makes a great point. We should be focusing more on understanding these groups of people. For example,  Dovidio et al. (2010) state Black-White relations have been the traditional focus of psychopharmacology research on prejudice and discrimination, while research on Latinos, who also experience a great deal of discrimination, has been surprisingly rare. Furthermore, current models of white attitudes towards Latinos and Latino immigrants is based off models of Black-White relations.

It is important that we pay attention to Latino/Hispanic communities since they have surpassed blacks as the largest group of color in the United States. This population, despite its growth and influence, also struggles with regards to wage earnings “and educational attainment for those over 25 years old” (Dovidio et al., 2010, p. 60). This fact is even more surprising seeing that according to Dovidio et al. (2010) other studies have revealed whites consider Latinos to have exceptional performance in the work force.

To close, James Ramsey made a mistake. Should he be crucified? No. Should he be enlightened? What do you this we’re trying to do here? As a sidenote, in Ramsey’s apology for the photo one of his key solutions to prevent a future occurrence of this seemed to involve hiring more Latino/Hispanic staff members. Oh boy… Maybe we should write another post on personal responsibility for race relations in the future. In other words, hiring people who resemble the group you harm doesn’t always result in that group’s liberation.

**This post was quite a doozy. Please let us know what you thought. Feel free to comment and share with others. Thank you!!!

References

Dovidio, J. F., Gluszek, A., John, M. S., Ditlmann, R., & Lagunes, P. (2010). Understanding bias toward Latinos: Discrimination, dimensions of difference, and experience of exclusion. Journal of Social Issues, 66(1), 59-78.

 

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