SPECIAL READER FEEDBACK EDITION
Dear Readers: Muchas, muchas responses to my March 8 column asking whether I should keep this column’s gold-toothed, mustachioed, sombrero-wearing fat Mexican logo and what should I name him. The overwhelming majority of ustedes support amnesty for the wab, but a few folks also made articulate arguments in favor of deportation. Following are pro and con letters from gabachos and wabs alike:
I don’t think I’ll ever stop hating that image because it makes me think of the countless times I have to counter ignorance, explain and be the voice of brown gente over and over to people who somehow don’t get it. On the other hand, well, because you keep this image in my face, you’re making me understand that it represents what it actually is: a stereotype of our people made up by people who don’t understand our cultura, our raza. And while I may not like it, it is a reality. So I’ve come to embrace this phony image. It’s true that we give it the power it has over some of us. And because I know that, I can’t let it get to me or have influence on me. I think this logo is more than appropriate for what it’s being used. You have the power to use humor to educate in such an artistic way that few can get away with doing. This logo exemplifies exactly what you’re trying to do: break through to people who are trying to get it. And for this, I thank you. Let ‘em rip.
La Que Sí Sabe
When I lived in San Antonio, I had a T-shirt of Speedy Gonzalez that featured his friendly image. A couple of whacked-out Chicanos told me at an art opening one night, “That shirt is racist.” I replied, “Speedy is kind, helpful, smart, energetic, and he always wins. You guys are right. He ain’t a Mexican at all.” Fortunately, their switchblades jammed as I did an impersonation of Speedy...¡andele andele!
Fag, nigger and wetback have been used in rap and comedy for nearly 20 years. Yet still today, when Ann Coulter uses fag, when Isaiah Washington uses fag, when Michael Richards uses niggerdespite the repetition of these terms, they still sting and are used primarily as insults. What makes us think that using an old stereotype of the drunk, gap-toothed Mexican is going to erase its history and use as a negative? It’s not going to happen. These racist terms and images were made for racists to use as racial slurs. To think we have the power to change one word’s or image’s meaning by using it is unrealistic. WE need to come up with new terms and images that will destroy the old racist one. For example: “wetback” or “illegal alien” should now be “nuevo pioneers.” As Audre Lorde said, “We cannot dismantle the master’s house using their tools.” Let start making some new tools, word and images, ¿simón ese?
Professor of Chicano Studies, Cal State University, Northridge
As for naming the Mexican, the following Denverite put it best:
Whatever we name the Mexican, it won’t matter because everyone will call him Chuy.
Gracias to everyone who offered feedback. More responses, critiques, and suggestions are available online at [put your website url here]. And don’t fret: more spicy questions answered next week!
Got a spicy question about Mexicans? Ask the Mexican, firstname.lastname@example.org. Those of you who do submit questions: they will be edited for clarity, cabrones. And include a hilarious pseudonym, por favor, or we’ll make one up for you!