Allies can sometimes be more insufferable than adversaries.
I’d almost forgotten how condescending, sanctimonious and judgmental the Latino left can be. Then, recently, I got a reminder.
You may not be familiar with the term, but you probably know the cohort. The Latino left was baptized Democrat, and it hates Republicans. It gives Democrats a pass, even when Democratic leaders pursue policies that harm Latinos — on trade, education, immigration, etc. It’ll condemn Republican Donald Trump for demonizing Latino immigrants as “bad hombres,” but it turned a deaf ear when Democrat Barack Obama called them “gangbangers.” It only got “woke” to the plight of immigrants when Trump took office.
Politically, the Latino left is a cheap date. It voted for Bill Clinton, who militarized the U.S.-Mexico border and signed into law a 1996 immigration bill that made it easier to deport people and harder for them to return. Then it supported Obama, who broke his vow to prioritize immigration reform, separated families, caged children, removed refugees without due process, and deported nearly 3 million illegal immigrants — nearly all of whom were Latino.
But it is not nearly as forgiving of Latinos who support Republicans. It slanders them with terms like vendido (sell out), Tio Taco, coconut, etc.
For the last 25 years, I’ve been called all those names and more — because I think for myself and don’t toe the party line.
But then came the massacre in El Paso, Texas. On Aug. 3, Patrick Crusius allegedly targeted a city on the U.S.-Mexico border that is 60% Latino. Armed with a high-powered rifle, the white male whom Spanish-language corridos call “el monstrúo” (the monster) allegedly murdered 22 people and injured two dozen others. Police say he told them his goal was to kill “as many Mexicans as possible.”
That day, the country’s nearly 30 million Mexican Americans got a wake-up call that — no matter whom we marry, where we go to college, what profession we enter, or where we live — we’ll always just be lowly “Mexicans.”
When I condemned the racism that fueled the attack and scolded those who refused to see it, I expected to be criticized by white folks who insist on having the last word. However, I did not expect to also be criticized by other Latinos.
Soon, I was getting jabbed by the Latino left. Ironically, these folks actually agreed with me on El Paso. And yet — because they see me as a card-carrying Republican due to the many years I’ve spent beating up Democrats — they couldn’t resist telling me how surprised they were that we were at last allies.
I was finally defending Latinos, they said. I was criticizing racism, they marveled. What took me so long? Where had I been?
One reader wrote: “I greatly admire your new awakening.”
Another chimed in: “I was surprised that you wrote the article since you always defended Republican policies.”
Nonsense. Where have I been? Where have they been? I’ve been right here, punching in all directions from roughly the same spot for the last 30 years.
I’ve been criticizing racism and defending Latinos and championing immigrants — and, all the while, taking fire from angry white folks on both the right and the left — since my first op-eds and columns were printed back in 1989.
In 1994, I co-hosted a nightly radio show in Los Angeles. A constant topic of conversation was Proposition 187. I hammered the nativist Republicans pushing the anti-immigrant ballot initiative, including California Gov. Pete Wilson.
For three decades, I’ve beat up on dozens of Republicans at the local, state and federal level. What confuses people is that I’ve also — at the same time — beat up dozens of Democrats at the local, state and federal level.
For years, I’ve been attacked by self-righteous white people on the right. Now I’m being damned with faint praise by self-righteous brown people on the left.
I’ve come full circle. And the trip taught me something about our broken national conversation.
Too many Americans think they know everything — about everything. We’ve figured out everyone’s biases and motives. We never doubt our own position, but we’re skeptical of everyone else’s. We never budge. Why should we? We’re right. And everyone else is wrong.
Whether you’re a conservative, or a liberal, makes no difference. This sort of worldview is the definition of ignorance.