Posted by: Mark Nielsen | March 12, 2008

Aww, …But I don’t WANT to agree with Geraldo!

That right wing tool and well-known moron Geraldo was on The Colbert Report last night, and I’m hopping mad. (See me hopping? Proves that white men actually CAN jump.)

What pisses me off is that Geraldo made some good points about how neo-conservatives have successfully demonized Hispanics in the U.S. And I just hate agreeing with Geraldo. Make no mistake: he’s still an idiot, a fake tv journalist, and a right-wing tool. He just happens to be on-target this month.

As someone who is used to thinking of Geraldo as the embedded “journalist” who stupidly gave away (on CNN!) the movements of some U.S. troops in the early days of the Iraq war, I’m not inclined to actually *read* the book. But if it gets people talking about the reality of Hispanics in today’s political climate, and in the U.S. economy overall, then I’m in favor of him promoting it. It’s just really annoying that it took Geraldo of all people, writing a book, for the rest of us to sit up and take notice. I’d much rather it were Ray Suarez of PBS (the Jim Lehrer News Hour). Or Bill Richardson, the centrist Democrat who just happens to be part Mexican.

But Richardson didn’t do so well in the primaries, nor would he even if Obama and Clinton had *not* been running. Because the gringo majority in America simply is not ready for the “browning” of the American complexion. We’re playing catch-up, and in complete denial about it. The way Geraldo put it last night, conservative and even mainstream rhetoric has blamed just about everything on the influx of illegal immigrants: crime rates, disease, the failing economy, sexual immorality — you name it, it’s mostly the Mexicans’ fault, according to powerful media types like Lou Dobbs, or pandering politicians from Colorado to Pennsylvania.

It’s all “brown vs. white” to middle America, which wouldn’t recognize *classism* (which is what this actually is) if they were hit in the head with it (which they are, regularly) . But they can recognize race at the drop of a hat. And if white’s going to win, then brown has to lose.

Trouble is, who is even “white”? And does it matter anymore? It took 200 years of steady immigration to build this nation, providing hardworking laborers and valuable perspectives — people and views that a bunch of scared citizens suddenly want to throw out now. And the racial/religious aspects of everything that has happened since Sept. 11, 2001 are the real issues here, not the growth of the Latino population within our borders. The economic and security-related stuff about Hispanics is all smokescreen, so that we won’t talk about the changing landscape worldwide. Because that’s too sticky a subject to talk honestly about in America.

The Hispanic community here is not one monolithic entity, either. As I write this, for example, I am sitting in a private, urban school filled with Hispanic kids. In my third grade group: six Latinos, one black, zero whites. It’s a function of the neighborhood, so the distribution is probably pretty close to the same in the area’s public schools. True, these are not the children of lawyers, CPAs, or bankers. But they’re good kids, and there’s a lot of them all over America, and most importantly they were *born* here. They’re Americans, no less than I am.

Way back when, in about 1999, my first web-published article was about the U.S. being a nation of immigrants. It was in a little San Francisco-based e-zine called Tweak, which has not published much new material of late, but still exists and has some fine interviews and humor. My article was about the last big immigration wave, when my Irish and Italian ancestors came over. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, click above and read it for yourself sometime.

Or go read Geraldo’s book instead. It might be okay. Even if it isn’t, can we at least agree not to “panic” about the Hispanics? There are better solutions to our problems than scapegoating one ethnic group.

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