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Mitt Romney, Mexican-American: Labelism Reaches A New Low

Columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr. is very proud of his Mexican heritage and makes this a central theme in many of his writings. His pride is so great, apparently, that when those of equal or greater Mexican heritage oppose amnesty for illegal aliens, specifically ones entering the United States through its southwestern border, he is nothing short of outraged. Enter former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, whose father was born in a Chihuahua Mormon colony and later emigrated to America. Being “just one generation removed from our ancestral homeland,” Navarrette proclaims, Romney might become our “first Hispanic president.”

Here we go:

“This is ironic given that I’ve spent the last 20 years criticizing politicians who twist the facts, propose simple solutions, and pick on those who don’t have a voice….Romney has spent the last several months doing precisely that,” he continues. It gets better, though: “Listen up, Primo Mitt. You’ve made your bed. You’re persona non grata with Latino voters, and it’s your own fault. You can’t win without them, but they can help make sure you lose. We don’t care where your family’s from. What matters is where your heart is.” There was quite a bit in between these quotes, but, believe me, not a line of it was worth your time.

I will not beat around the bush in stating my opinion about Navarrette. As far as I am concerned, he is no objective analyst or impartial historian, but somebody who makes a profession out of being a perceived sociocultural minority. People like him serve as the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons of the Hispanic realm; nothing more and nothing less. They contribute very little of substance to the national dialogue, but detract a great deal from it. In Navarrette’s tribalist alternate reality, one is bound to look after those sharing his or her ancestry. Whether this is good for the individual in question, or contemporary society as a whole, matters not a whit. If you had Mexican forefathers, then you should be unflinchingly sympathetic to the plight of Mexicans, even if they break the laws of your real homeland; the country of which you are actually a citizen.

This sort of primitive nonsense cannot even be described as ethnicity-based due to the fact that there is no such thing as a Mexican ethnicity. As Navarrette essentially puts it, the issue here is Hispanic solidarity. What does the term Hispanic really mean, though? Many afford it with pseudo-racial, let alone ethnic, significance, but it merely denotes an extremely broad social and historical concept of those descending from Spaniard settlers of present-day Latin America. For Navarrette and his ilk, however, this definition might as well include an actual genetic tie amongst those choosing to identify with it.

I could opt to brand myself as a Hispanic, at least to a certain extent. As I mentioned last year, my father’s family is, by and large, Sephardic Jewish. The surname Cotto was devised by Italian Jews, probably as a variant of Cohen, and can be traced back to 1500s Rome. I am related to many other Sephardic families, but none more prestigious than the Abramils, a Spanish rendition of Abravanel, whose members can track their lineage to King David himself. All were forced to leave southern Europe for Puerto Rico during the Spanish Inquisition’s waning years. Under the threat of death or severe public harassment, those who did not convert to Catholicism practiced Judaism in strict secrecy until nearly the dawn of the twentieth century.

Am I now ethnically Hispanic as opposed to ethnically Sephardic simply because my forefathers, through no choice of their own, lived in a certain region controlled by an imperialist bully? According to Navarrette, who deems Romney as Hispanic despite the latter having only northern European ancestry, the answer would almost definitely be yes. I say that no man or woman of sound mind should consider this rabid collectivism for even an instant. The label syndrome has not only hit politics, as I write about frequently, but the extraordinarily personal subject of one’s own heritage.

About Joseph F. Cotto

  • Clavos

    Ironic that Navarrette uses the term, Hispanic in his diatribes. It’s a meaningless designation, since today’s Latinos (the term most of us prefer) are descendants of ancestors who emigrated from Spain, not Hispaniola (the home of Haiti and the Dominican Republic)’ which is located on the Iberian peninsula.

    Hispanic is an artificial construct perpetrated by the federal government, probably the Census Bureau.

  • Clavos

    Poorly written comment above. Spain is on the Iberian peninsula, not Hispaniola.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Left a couple of comments for you, Joseph, on the ethic thread.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Spoken like someone who lives not too far from Hispaniola, as the crow flies….

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/joseph-cotto/ Joseph Cotto

    Clavos,

    An elderly uncle of mine, who I mentioned a few days ago, told me exactly that about the Hispanic label. It is amazing how people consistently fail to realize that they are so often used as pawns on a chess board by clever politicos. Yet these same individuals wonder why the political process is in such disarray.

  • John Williams

    A Jew denouncing “rabid collectivism” is the height of hypocrisy. Just tell me what happens to those ethnic Jews who decide to convert to Christianity? They automatically stop being Jews, and are ostracized from the “Jewish community”. Yeah, that’s neither rabid nor collectivism.

    But besides Jewish hypocrisy (they get outraged that the crazy Hitler mass-murdered them, but are happy and proud to have mass-murdered Canaanites to rob their land and have massacred other Jews in the first century for believing in Jesus of Nazareth), Romney’s screwed “moral” knows no limits. Mexico gave refugee to his grandfather and citizenship to his sons but Mitt opposes a path to citizenship to those Mexicans who came here for a better life (just what his grandfather was looking for in Mexico). Yeah, let the circus continue!

  • John Williams

    “So the candidate who winds up vilifying Mexico is the same one whose father was born in Mexico? Who can make sense of this?”

    That’s according to Joseph F. Cotto something that is not “worth your time”.

  • REMF(MCH)

    According to Cheech Marin, the correct term is Chicano.

  • Cannonshop

    #8 Only if you’re talking about a Los Angelino, and really, it’s also wrong-they’re Californios out there. :P

    The term “Hispanic” was cooked up by white guys in D.C. who wanted to sound all cultured and civilized and open-minded with their bigotry-in this case, a Bigotry based on dividing people along as many ethnic lines as possible to create new targets for loaded offers of special “affirmative actions”. The term didn’t even exist before the 1970′s.

  • Clavos

    The term “Hispanic” was cooked up by white guys in D.C. who wanted to sound all cultured and civilized and open-minded with their bigotry…

    QFT

  • Clavos

    Chicano only applies to Mexicans; it does not refer to any of the other Latinos.

    Middle and upper class Mexican-Americans reject the Chicano label.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @10

    It’s a political term, Clav, not ethnic, cultural, demographic or sociological, don’t you think?

    I’m well-aware of the level of prejudice, mostly cultural and class-related, between disparate people of the same Spanish origin, and they surely resent this rather crude attempt at grouping all into one, but there are exceptions, no?

    The political usefulness of the term is to employ identity politics. Of course it’s bound to be perceived as suspect by the intended recipient, especially when issued from the mouth of an Anglo.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    … but these are exceptions …

  • Igor

    Perhaps Warren might suggest that it is just a technicality that many Hispanics are not from Hispaniola.

  • Cannonshop

    #12 Roger, “Identity Politics” is one of the bigger evils we have in this society, and really, it’s about creating divisions and distractions, facilitating corruption, graft, and misrule, and furthers the march of tyranny for everyone.

  • zingzing

    cannon: “”Identity Politics” is one of the bigger evils we have in this society…”

    “self-interest,” when white, is right, in all ways. “self-interest,” when not white, is “evil” and “tyranny.” amazing, ain’t it?

    why is that the right wing is the only one allowed to function with self-interest in mind? in a world where someone can claim that thinking about your social group (it’s not just race, “identity politics” could refer to any facet of what makes you you,) is “evil,” even if they play the same game on a much larger scale, you’d be damn smart to think about protecting yourself. the right has a way with wanting to deny people the rights they themselves enjoy.

  • Clavos

    why is that the right wing is the only one allowed to function with self-interest in mind?

    It’s not a question of “allowing.” Virtually all human beings (yes even the “altruistic” ones) function first and foremost with their own self interest in mind.

    Always have. always will.

  • zingzing

    ok, so why is it “evil” when minorities do it?

  • zingzing

    before someone else points it out, what i mean to be doing here is questioning why “self-interest,” when it comes from the mouth of a conservative/right-winger/etc, is considered a high and noble goal, but when “identity politics” is spoken of, even though means almost 100% the same thing (just attributed to a minority of some sort), it is deemed “evil” and “tyrannical.”

    one could take it far enough that i think using politics to protect your race or your cultural subset is a good thing, but i wouldn’t go that far. at least not to the exclusion of all other factors and ideas.

    but i’m just wondering why the double-speak, and why does it not seem to bother the right? (and i guess you could take it the other way and aim that question right back at the left, although i think it would be a little bit more difficult to make it stick.)

  • Clavos

    Since I never said it’s evil, I’m assuming your questions are not directed at me.

    Of course the downtrodden will look after their self interests (to the extent for which they have resources), as will those of us who aren’t downtrodden.

    It’s human nature, and only evil to the extent humanity is evil. Oh, wait…

  • Zingzing

    no, you didn’t say it was evil, although I’ve heard plenty of negative things about “identity politics” from the right and it’s a bit baffling. so, no, that wasn’t aimed directly at you, clavos, although I do wonder if you think it’s as strange as I do…

  • Cannonshop

    #19 Interesting, Zing… You think I, Clavos, and Baronius are leftists, then…

    Fascinating.

    Heads up, Zing-the only racist in the room, is on your side of the aisle. He’s the guy who thinks Minorities are too fucking stupid to handle their own affairs without Uncle Sam’s clear-headed and consistent guidance.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    Cannonshop, if you think there’s only racists on one side of the aisle, you disqualify yourself from speaking on the matter because it’s clear you don’t know wtf you are talking about

  • zingzing

    “You think I, Clavos, and Baronius are leftists, then…”

    tell me how you reached that conclusion. because i don’t quite follow. i think you, at least, show signs of some hypocrisy, although i don’t think you do so consciously… i just don’t think you’ve quite thought it through. unless you think “identity politics” means something totally different than “self-interest.”

    why is that self-interest is good when expressed as “self-interest,” and bad when expressed as “identity politics”? i’d really like to know. this isn’t a “gotcha” thing… i’m just wondering what your getting out of “self-interest” and “identity politics” that i’m not.

    “Heads up, Zing-the only racist in the room, is on your side of the aisle. He’s the guy who thinks Minorities are too fucking stupid to handle their own affairs without Uncle Sam’s clear-headed and consistent guidance.”

    and on the other side of the room is the side that thinks minorities are too fucking stupid to vote for someone that might actually do them some good. great. everyone thinks the minorities are stupid. this is our world.

    (and “the only racist in the room”? come on, man…)

  • zingzing

    ugh. you’re. fu, clavos… a typo’s a typo sometimes.

  • zingzing

    “You think I, Clavos, and Baronius are leftists, then…”

    maybe i misused the term “doublespeak” a bit. i guess that “self-interest” and “identity politics” mean the same thing, but using one phrase denotes a wondrous american spirit and the other “evil tyranny.” so that’s not “doublespeak” exactly. maybe that’s where you went off. my mistake.

  • zingzing

    let’s say you’re against affirmative action. you can say you’re against it on principle, but the overall effect of it ending would be to the benefit of white people over minorities (hence, the need). whether you’re against it in principle or because you’re white, it doesn’t really matter in reality. it’s easy to ground yourself in principle when the effect of that principle would be to your benefit. so that’s identity politics. unless you’re a minority and against affirmative action, and then you’re just a right wing idiot who believes in the principle of “self-interest” to your own detriment, or you’re a self-hater or something. it’s a confusing mindset.

    if you’re against further taxation of the rich, and you’re rich, that’s identity politics. if you’re middle class and against further taxation of the rich, you aren’t very good at math, i suppose. (i mean, if you’re middle class, you’ve got a job, so “self-interest” should say, “hey, i’ve got a job, and if taxation on the rich decreases the amount of jobs like the right wing says, fuck those who don’t have a job anyway… i’m cool.”)

    if you’re against equal rights for homosexuals, and you’re straight, well… actually, that’s NOT identity politics, because it doesn’t affect you negatively in any way. it’s just bigotry.

  • http://www.RosesSpanishBoots.com Christopher Rose

    Re #22, Personally I think most people are too stupid to handle their own affairs. Stupidity is an equal opportunity employer!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    zing – I think you’re confusing them. Take what you said, blenderize it to baby-food consistency, tell them it’s actually Texas Angus beef from all-white cattle that wore U.S. flag lapel pins and carried fully-automatic M-16′s to guard against godless liberals (who were supposedly trying to save the cattle as they stampeded their way to the processing plants but were actually trying to destroy the cattle’s Constitutional right to be slaughtered) and you’ll have a better chance of the BC conservatives believing you.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Uncharacteristic of you to say that, Chris, though I think I understand why you might.

    Don’t you think the problem rather is that for many people it has become something like a bad habit (perhaps they don’t see the way out of the box or have simply given up)? And how can you maintain even a modicum of belief that things will get better if that’s your premise?

    Do we have to wait two hundred years or more for the next stage of our evolutionary development to kick in before they might?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger, your reply to Chris is giving his retort much more credit for intelligent discourse than it deserves, almost like Spock (were he real) giving credence to something said by, say, Ann Coulter. I read his comment as a simple off-the-cuff retort, and certainly not containing any of the deeper meaning you’re asking about.

    For example,

    kid #1: “That guy’s an idiot!”
    kid #2: “What is your premise for calling him an idiot? I can understand why you might think so, but do you think this is due to a pause in our evolutionary development?”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You’re setting yourself up, Glenn, for another fight. You know you shouldn’t do that.

  • Igor

    27-zing, good comment.

  • Cannonshop

    #23 El B. I’m just building off Zing’s consistent and insistent generalizations.

    Sometimes, it’s fun to watch the extremist foam.

    #24 First question answered first…

    Identity Politics subverts the rational self-interest, Zing. It places the welfare of a specific demographic group above the welfare of individual members, and above the welfare of the whole of the country. Skinheads practice Identity Politics, ethno-religious extremists practice it. Your lot ENDORSES it, while pretending they aren’t feeding the violent nutjobs in the process. Perhaps this is due to a logical disconnect in which your thinking accepts a front without a back, light without shadows, etc.

    Identity Politics is inherently about blaming others, conspiracy theories, and sacrificing your own potential to further a faction with which you share only cosmetic similarity. It’s also about bigotry, Zing. Grouping people by cosmetics then using it to divide them, or to avoid addressing common problems in a common fashion while creating the ILLUSION of “Doing something”.

    When a White politician talks about reaching out to the Black Community for instance, or when a straight talks about gays, or they use codewords like “Hispanic” what they’re really saying, is that some people aren’t good enough to address as equals. When they say these groups need special protections, they’re really saying that (in their opinion) these groups aren’t good enough to be treated like real people, and it’s too much work to bend their mind around the idea that they’re dealing with real people instead of convenient packages of demographic numbers.

    Do you get it?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    A fight with whom? I would think my reference to you was complimentary, so I don’t think the fight would be with you. And as far as Chris goes, well, when he gives thoughtful comments that are worthy of being referred to as intelligent discourse – as he has done so before – then I’ll treat them as such.

    But what he gave was an off-the-cuff retort, and all of us including myself are guilty of sometimes doing the same thing. All I was doing was pointing out the difference between the level of his comment and the level of your reply.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    Y’know, it’s nice to be able to sit back and think that as soon as the Civil Rights Act passed, that all of a sudden we were all equal and no more consideration need be made for those who weren’t born white.

    Unfortunately, it ain’t that way. There’s still a great deal of racial prejudice out there…and as is always the case, the prejudice by the dominant race is the most egregious manifestation of that prejudice.

    Think about that last sentence, Cannonshop. The reason why prejudice by the dominant race is the most egregious is that the dominant race is the most powerful race…and so the prejudice by that race has much more of a deleterious effect than does prejudice by the other races. What you think should be the case really doesn’t matter, because the prejudice by the dominant race IS the most egregious, and IS the reality. You cannot find any instance in all of human history where this has not been the case.

    THAT, Cannonshop, is why the idea that “we’re all equal now, so nobody should get any special protections”, though it may sound quite reasonable, doesn’t really hold true in the real world. Those who are not of the dominant group – be it race, religion, ethnicity, or whatever – will face prejudice by those of the dominant group even though such prejudice may not always be intentional. If you really need illustration of unintentional prejudice, there’s all too many documented examples of how a group of whites will react with greater suspicion to a black man who has entered their store/social setting…and I’m sure you’ve seen or heard of this before.

    This kind of prejudice – this kind of obstacle to success – is rarely (if ever) faced by those of the dominant group. That’s why those not of the dominant race really do need protections that those in the dominant race don’t normally have. That’s why racists such as Ron Paul (and DON”T tell me he’s not) are so quick to decry the Civil Rights Act – and that’s why those fine people over at stormfront.org endorsed him – because they want to maintain their superior position.

  • zingzing

    “Identity Politics subverts the rational self-interest, Zing.”

    except you can’t get legislation that addresses your needs and your needs only. unfortunately, we don’t live with a set of laws tailored specifically to our individual needs.

    it does put the welfare of the group above the individual, but so does self-interest on a legislative level. you may want to lower taxes because it does good things for your wallet, but it doesn’t just affect you, it affects most people in the same economic class as you. so you’re banding together with those in that class, whether your initial thought was with that group or not.

    “Identity Politics is inherently about blaming others, conspiracy theories, and sacrificing your own potential to further a faction with which you share only cosmetic similarity.”

    i dunno. if hispanics or latinos or whatever want to band together to get immigration and labor laws changed, that’s more than a cosmetic similarity. it may not benefit them personally, but it could benefit a member of their family, or a friend.

    “When a White politician talks about reaching out to the Black Community for instance, or when a straight talks about gays, or they use codewords like “Hispanic” what they’re really saying, is that some people aren’t good enough to address as equals… Do you get it?”

    i don’t think you quite get it. it’s not a black or white (no pun) situation. you’re so negative on it. if a white politician reaches out to minorities, or a straight person to gay people, it’s because he doesn’t think they’re human beings? come on, cannonshop. is there no nuance? perhaps this is due to a logical disconnect in which your thinking accepts a front without a back, light without shadows, indeed.

    as to “Your lot ENDORSES it, while pretending they aren’t feeding the violent nutjobs in the process,” i have no idea why you’d bring up skinheads and religious fanatics and then say that. and you’ll note i’ve qualified my support of this kind of stuff. the question wasn’t “what’s wrong with identity politics,” it was “why is identity politics wrong when self-interest is right?” you’re trying to say they’re different things, i suppose, but i dunno… if you thought about it for a moment, you might see how much overlap there is between the two.

    “Sometimes, it’s fun to watch the extremist foam.”

    you think i’m an extremist? wow. i certainly am not. but that you think i am says much about your mindset. i tend to think of “extremist” as a rather small bit of the population, a fringe. you must define a lot of people as being in that fringe…

  • zingzing

    cannonshop… are you for or against equal rights for homosexuals? do you think they have equal rights now? if not, do you think it silly of them to fight for them?

  • zingzing

    or say you are a latino/hispanic person in arizona. the gestapo immigration law there subjects you to “papers please” and a rather unfriendly relationship with the authorities. it would be in your self-interest AND in the interest of “identity politics” to work with fellow hispanic/latinos to get that law changed or removed. think about all the other times self-interest and “identity politics” intersect. it happens a lot. maybe it’s because of the way our system of law is set up. it’s not a perfect system, but you can either ignore the system or work within it. can’t blame someone if they want to better their lot in life.

  • http://www.RosesSpanishBoots.com Christopher Rose

    Roger, although it was a throwaway remark, like most of my throwaway remarks there is a serious kernel at its core.

    Stupidity and its ugly twin, hostility to intelligence, are two of the biggest memes of our times.

    Fortunately, I do think evolution is at work and moving faster than some might think. The next 20 or 30 years are going to be fascinating and I deeply hope I live long enough to enjoy the spectacle, which is going to be radical.

    Glenn, you [personal attack deleted] have merely swapped one set of various group thinks for another set. Until you can set yourself free of dogma, secular and spiritual, (which is where we are all going whether we like it or not), you can never be free or smart.

    I’ll let you know when you actually manage to make a thoughtful comment. It will be a first…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Sure, Chris. Whatever. FYI, if you’ll look back and really considered what I said concerning you, there was no insult – instead, it was rather complimentary. Your response, I suppose, is what I deserve for trying to be considerate towards you.

  • http://www.RosesSpanishBoots.com Christopher Rose

    Glenn, being complimented by you is like being complimented by a sheep; it means nothing to me at all as I find you dull and robotic whilst you posture as fair minded but are actually anything but. I find you intellectually dishonest.

    If you think you were being considerate towards me, as far as I am concerned that just shows the depth of your delusional condition.

  • Zingzing

    You two should just get a room and fuck it out.

  • http://www.RosesSpanishBoots.com Christopher Rose

    Thanks for that helpful and insightful suggestion, zingzing, but I don’t have sex with men or sheep!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Not even if the sheep is wearing a pair of those Spanish boots?

  • http://www.RosesSpanishBoots.com Christopher Rose

    You sure know how to tempt a boy but, no, I’m not going there!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    You’re a natural conservative, Chris, because ‘intellectual dishonesty’ line is something I’ve seen conservatives use time and time again in their accusations against the 98% of climatologists about anthropological global warming. See? No need at all to provide any substantiation for your argument – all you need do is accuse somebody of ‘intellectual dishonesty’ and it’s just like you waved a magic wand and showed all the world just how bad the other guy was! Now don’t you feel all better now?

  • http://www.RosesSpanishBoots.com Christopher Rose

    You’re a natural nitwit, Glenn.

    With your style of magical thinking you can create an entire profile of somebody out of just two words.

    Puke!

  • Cannonshop

    #38: Yes. I also think the State has no legitimate right to address who may marry, or how many times, beyond a rational age-limitation since persons below a certain age tend not to have the maturity to make rational decisions, or even lasting emotional decisions of a positive nature.

    EVERYONE is oppressed in this, EQUALLY-Equal does not mean desirable, get it?

    I also tend to think that Gays don’t practice SELF-defense enough, or exercise their second amendment rights NEARLY enough-that’s their choice. It’s one of their rights, and it would probably cut down far more on ‘bashing’ incidents than trying to get the police to do it-the police generally can’t protect ANYBODY very well, ask Gabby Giffords if her state-trooper escorts stopped the pistol-weilding nutjob that was trying to kill her, and DID kill the people around her.

    The direction to go, and this is where Identity Politics fails, is “Liberty and Justice for ALL”, not just a few, not just x demographic because they were oppressed in the past…EVERYONE.

    Might say I favour the idea of a “National association for the advancement of ALL people”, not just people with bad histories.