It’s the little things that make us happy. Like the sound of children laughing, or the taste of ice cream, or the toppling of grotesque statues of treacherous slaveholders that are then dragged through the streets and thrown into rivers or hammered into oblivion. Things like that.
But while we’re all happy that monuments to Confederate generals are being yanked down across America (just a few decades too late), there remain some dicey issues about who should or should not be honored.
Indeed, it’s fair to ask, “What should be done with statues honoring Spanish conquistadors and missionaries, and what do these statues represent for Latinos—whose ancestry includes this Spanish legacy?”
Yes, depending on our DNA, we Latinos are a mixture of both the oppressed and the oppressor. For example, my family is from El Salvador, but our name originated in Spain. This is a common conundrum. The fancy way to express the twisted nature of our heritage is to state that “Latinx people are both the protagonists in historical justice and the progeny of colonization.”
OK, that all sounds deep—and distressing—but this is largely academic, right? Surely, there is not an undercurrent of bigotry and/or self-loathing within Latino culture when it comes to racial issues. Is there?
Well, the truth is that, historically, many Latinos have “embraced white identity versus mixed identity to avoid further discrimination at the hands of white people.” Personally, I’ve known Hispanics who have happily checked the “white” box on the census and not thought twice about it.
The problem with this attitude is that it frequently becomes a conduit to prejudice against black people. Keep in mind that “anti-blackness has deep and complicated roots throughout Latin America, where fair-skinned people are frequently viewed as the ideal and receive better treatment.”
And if you’re thinking that this mindset is just another one of those silly immigrant traditions—like hating dishwashers—you’re wrong. For many Latino families, antipathy toward darker skin has “often carried over to the United States, where some believe that assimilation is the path to equality.” And for the second generation, “assimilation” often means, “becoming white.”
For proof of this phenomenon, just look at our perpetually tongue-tied, rage-filled president, whose hostility toward Latinos and fear of immigrants are so well-known that only the most delusional or partisan can deny it.
Currently, almost 30% of Latinos plan to vote for the guy who called them “rapists,” and who has spent years building a shoddily constructed wall to keep brown-skinned people out. Yes, more than one out of every four Latinos is a MAGA supporter. That is nearly triple the percentage of his African American support.
You may be tempted to dismiss this as a polling error that sampled far too many right-wing Cuban Americans. But in truth, Latinos for Trump is a very real thing. And his base of Hispanic support has remained fairly consistent for his entire term.
Now, the president’s “relative resilience with Latino voters can be easy to overlook because he is losing these voters by a large margin” (which is certainly good news). However, Trump “is losing them by less than he did in 2016, which is strange at a time when his numbers are otherwise falling.”
It’s beyond strange. It’s fucked upside-down and backward.
So what are the reasons for this embarrassing anomaly?
Well, we’ve heard that many Latinos don’t “know” Joe Biden, which is odd, considering his name came up once or twice during the Obama years. We’ve also heard that many Hispanics were big fans of Bernie Sanders, and if they can’t feel the Bern, they’re fine voting for the lunatic who advises chugging bleach. And of course, there are those aforementioned right-wing Cuban Americans and the fact that Latinos are not a monolithic voting bloc.
But none of those reasons ring fully true.
Because, in truth, many Latinos who support Trump are no different than other conservatives. They are so loath to admit that they were fantastically, astronomically, stupendously wrong that they are willing to burn America down rather than acknowledge reality.
And many other Hispanics see nothing offensive about Trumpism. For them, white supremacy is only a problem for blacks and dark-skinned immigrants. It’s not an issue for those who have successfully “assimilated.” Right?
In essence, Trump is for all those Latinos who look at a statue of a conquistador and think, “Yeah, I’m that guy.”
Featured image: A beheaded marble statue of Christopher Columbus in Boston.