A few weeks ago San Jose Inside’s “The Fly” wrote this Freudian slip following sneer about “bogus racism claims” by former Santa Clara City Manager Julio Fuentes.
“Just look at this guy’s picture; he looks like he just tied someone to the train tracks,” wrote The Fly.
This linked (tinyurl.com/j4ydann) to a picture of Fuentes. For any readers who didn’t get the racist gibe, the very first comment from “Vacancy Vanquero” illuminated the subtext: “The Fly might’ve gone further and said the guy resembles the Frito Bandito.”
Two more commenters picked up on the racist subtext and, to their credit, called out The Fly – speculated to be Josh Koehn by sources close enough to the Metro’s operations to hear editorial quills scratching from 500 yards away – on it.
Remarks like the Fly’s pass under the radar. It’s not racism with a white sheet label in a Dixiecrat zipcode. This racism lives in San Francisco’s Mission District, wears oversize black-rimmed glasses and watches “Modern Family.” It’s “hipster racism.”
Ijeoma Oluo in the British newspaper The Guardian defined hipster racism as, “That whole I’m so not racist that I can say anything racist because we’ve totally moved past that attitude.”
Further elucidation comes from Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic’s thewire.com: “That’s where this vein of hipster racism starts. It tests the idea that anything wrapped with enough irony can be transformed into something else.”
In other words, The Fly is so cool that something that what seems to be a racist slur – a Latino face is per say a villainous face – is just clever sarcasm because it comes from a left-leaning self-proclaimed “alternative” publication.
Anti-Latino prejudice remains alive and real in California politics. Last month, at a public meeting, Calaveras County Planning Commissioner Kelly Wooster “referred to people from Mexico as an invasive species. The remark was met with laughter from people in attendance,” according to a March 17 story in Sonora’s Union Democrat.
Fuentes himself has experienced open racism in his career as a public official. In 1990, he and another Pomona city official were described by Pomona City Councilman Clay Bryant in “racially offensive terms,” according to the April 5, 1990 LA Times.
“Accused by Councilman Tomas Ursua of calling Urusa a ‘Chicano gang member’ and City Administrator Julio Fuentes a ‘beaner,’ Bryant admitted using the terms but said he has no apologies to make.
“‘The use of the word ‘beaner,’ he said, may be offensive, but it’s not racist. He said he called Ursua a gang member because Ursua is allied with a political “gang” that is trying to recall Bryant from office.”
These aren’t just excuses for the inexcusable from bottom-feeding politicians. That they felt comfortable saying these things in public speaks volumes about casual acceptance of anti-Latino prejudice in the U.S.
A 2008 study by University of Cincinnati sociologists about public attitudes towards immigrants found that public perception of Latinos was the lowest (tinyurl.com/latino-study). Latinos were also the most likely to be stereotyped by their ethnicity.
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists reported in 2003 that although Latino-related stories made up less than 1 percent of network news stories, 66 percent of those stories were about crime, terrorism, poverty, welfare, and illegal immigration (tinyurl.com/nahj2003rpt).
That picture was the one reflected in MSNBC’s 2014 Cinco de Mayo clip on Way Too Early featuring a sombrero-hatted, tequila-guzzling “Mexican” careening around the set.
San Jose Inside is still drinking from that tequila bottle.