Racism is one of the most outrageous forms of discrimination because it presupposes the superiority of one race or ethnic group over another and assigns an absurd scheme of personal values based on skin color.
Of course, we all know that Hispanics come in all colors and can be of any race, so being Latino really refers to our ethnicity. But beyond any academic definition, almost all of us have been victims of racism or discrimination. The FBI’s annual statistics on hate crimes are irrefutable evidence.
But when that racism is practiced among Latinos themselves, or even more so, among Latino elected officials, it is abhorrent and reprehensible conduct.
A Pew Center study found that four in ten Latino adults confessed to personally experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment from other Latinos, and that having darker skin color or being born outside the United States is associated with an increased probability of experiencing this type of discrimination. Only 25% of Latinos with lighter skin color say the same.
And Latinos born in Puerto Rico, Central America, and South America are more likely to say they experienced discrimination or unfair treatment from someone of Latino descent but born in one of the 50 US states or the District of Columbia, according to Pew.
This has been highlighted because of the recent scandal that four Latinos, including the president of the Los Angeles Council Nury Martínez, council members Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and the union leader Ron Herrera, were recorded in 2021 during a conversation where there was use of hurtful and racist words against Black people and Indigenous Oaxacans.
Martínez compared the Black son of a white council member as “changuito” (monkey) and the Oaxacan Indians who reside in Koreatown as “dark chaparros,”(shorty) according to the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. Martínez apologized and resigned from her leadership, but some call for her resignation altogether. Herrera resigned as leader and De León seemed embarrassed. There was his conscious.
But as the Pew study showed, racism is everywhere and circulates with impunity, not just on the streets, but in our neighborhoods and within our families and homes, when we stigmatize our friends or relatives with derogatory and hurtful words for your ethnicity or skin color.
Those who live in Los Angeles have every right to demand the resignation of any racist representative.
But we are ALL obliged to accept and eradicate –starting with language– our own racist, classist and xenophobic prejudices. Or we will not have moral authority when we are victims of the same discriminatory attitudes that we commit against our own sisters and brothers.