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CHAT: American Racism

From:Brian Betty <bbetty@...>
Date:Friday, May 28, 1999, 13:52
Carlos Th. wrote: "What I know about myself: my grandfather was from
Trinidad and Tobago and he was black (I don't know how pure he was), the
rest of my family is from that Colombian (Andean) mainstream that combines
some _pure_ whites, a lot of mestizos and a few _pure_ native-american.  My
Spanish ancestors would have arabian, basque, visigoth, latin, iberic (and
who knows howmany other) blood.  My Native-Americna anscestors... who
knows, probably Chibcha...  I remember once that I entered at the US and I
have to fill a card.  There was no _Latino_ box and the closer was
_Chicano_... of course I'm not Chicano but I could find a relationship with
the word _Latino_, not as a race but as a culture (which is a very broad
culture, I should say)."

Hah! You know, Chicano means a native Spanish-speaking American ... like,
for example, indigenous Spanish-speaking communities of Texas. Point is,
they're not "Latino," as they have lived within North America since their
were Western-style nations and states in this hemisphere. It underlines the
fact they they are *not* immigrants from a Latin American state. I think
it's hairsplitting, but I also agree it is nice to be able to counter the
rampant anti-Spanish racism of the US. It is awful in the Southwest to be
Chicano, you get constant harassment from the police and racism is rampant.

I remember after I graduated from Harvard, I went down to Arizona to stay
with a Chicano friend of mine whose family had lived in the US since before
it was the US, whose father was a chief of a Phoenix fire department, and
who had generations of law enforcement officers and rescue personnel in
their family. My friend Chano [no, I have no idea why Feliciano was
shortened to Chano as if it were Italian!] and I went, dressed well, with
his 10yo sister and 15yo brother to Disneyland in California.

While we were there, the police tried to arrest us for smoking marijuana.
Chano was so angry I thought he was going to hit the officers - it was
blatantly obvious that a bunch of white punks were the ones responsible,
but because he was the only brown person in view, they went after him. A
Harvard graduate, well-dressed, with his well-dressed and well-behaved
siblings at Disneyland was the one who was accosted for smoking marijuana
in public! I though Chano was going to have a stroke, he was so angry. He
kept asking how they could think he would smoke illegal drugs in public in
front of his siblings. He wanted to know what kind of asshole they thought
he was to do such a thing. He also kept saying how in a crowd of white
people, it was the Chicanos who got harassed for this when a bunch of white
punks were causing trouble in this area all day.

I was seeing red myself, I couldn't believe how obviously bigoted the
officers were. Yay LAPD! They let us go after Chano started to make a big
scene (I wonder why!), but they refused to give us their badge numbers or
names, which is patently illegal, nor would the presiding officer on duty
at Disneyland.

After that, I understood why people would want to be able to clearly mark
themselves as equal Americans, not immigrants, although I'm not sure that I
like the tone of it. After all, all citizens are equally American, whether
they were naturalised or from 7th generation whatever.


Tomboy: "a wench that skippeth as a boy."
- Richard Verstegen, 1605

"Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo."
- H.G. Wells