Marco Rubio Can’t Represent Latinos Because He’s “White”? Really?

By | February 23, 2013 | 19 Comments


Senator Marco Rubio

One of the Los Angeles Times Latino columnists recently penned – all right, keyboarded – the following observation:

Such reductionism allows Washington to hijack “Latinos” for its own purposes. It allows the media to entertain the absurd notion that throngs of mestizo Mexican Americans from California will one day help carry a white Cuban U.S. senator from Florida to the White House, because they’re all Latino. It enables the Republican Party to think that supporting immigration reform is enough of a solution to having become a de facto white race party. [Emphasis added.]

When a leading Latino civil-rights organization calls itself “La Raza,” the usual excuse is that this means “the people.” But that would be el pueblo. La raza means “the race,” as any Spanish dictionary will tell you.

Obsession with race used to be the province of far-right reactionaries, as exemplified by the KKK and the Nazis. Now, however, it is the province of left-wing people who call themselves “progressive,” but who in fact are throwbacks to an earlier age, a time when race was the first consideration in evaluating a person.

To clarify this point, let us analyze the columnist’s words.

First, he declares that Mexican Americans are “mestizo” – that is, of mixed Indian and European heritage. This may be true for most Mexican Americans, but is it also true for Latinos from Central and South America? The columnist is Mexican American, so he tends to ignore other Latinos. But in any case, so what? The term “mestizo” is itself a throwback to the caste system of the Spanish conquerors of Latin America, called Casta:

In the Casta system, Mestizos had fewer rights than European-born persons called Peninsulares and Creoles, who were persons born in the New World of two European-born parents, but more rights than Indios and Negros.

In short, the very word “mestizo” had its origin in the odious caste-system imposed by white European conquerors, but now it is used as a term of pride by some Latinos. This is similar to the hateful “n” word used by some African Americans as a sort of reverse term of endearment. But just as decent people of all races discourage use of the “n” word, we should also discourage use of the word “mestizo” – and all other words that convey a racial stereotype.

The columnist goes on to call Senator Marco Rubio “white.” Both Rubio’s parents were born in Cuba and are native speakers of Spanish. Rubio himself speaks fluent Spanish. But to the crypto-racist columnist, all this doesn’t matter. Rubio is “white.” And to the columnist, a “white” government official cannot represent a “mestizo.” Oh, really?

Look at the photos of the last three presidents of Mexico: Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón, and Enrique Peña Nieto. They all look “white.” Indeed, many of the past presidents of Mexico look “white,” with the notable exception of Benito Juárez. (One of the past presidents was even named Rubio.) Are we to believe that someone who looks “white” is incapable of representing Mexican Americans, but is entirely capable of representing Mexicans themselves? This gives new meaning to the word “absurd.”

And speaking of Cubans, what about Fidel Castro? He has ruled Cuba since 1959, recently assisted by his brother Raúl. But after 54 years of oppressive rule, he remains a liberal icon. Yet Fidel and Raúl look “white.” What’s going on?

What the Los Angeles Times columnist is really objecting to is not how Marco Rubio looks, but how he thinks. The columnist calls Republicans the “white race party.” What does he mean?
Consider Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and leading neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson. When Carson spoke so eloquently at the National Prayer Breakfast, and when Thomas speaks anywhere, they are ridiculed and condemned, or at best ignored. Or consider leading political and social commentator Dr. Thomas Sowell. He is completely ignored by the mainstream media. Why? All three of these gentlemen look black. In fact, they look blacker than noted black spokespersons Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

But, you see, Thomas, Carson, and Sowell don’t “think black.” That is, they are conservative. To be really “black,” you don’t need to have a really black skin – you just need to espouse really liberal ideas. This is a new kind of racism, one which obsesses about political leanings rather than skin color.

Now you see why the columnist declared that the “white” Marco Rubio couldn’t represent Latinos. If Rubio were far left, he could be a blue-eyed blond for all anyone cared. The columnist and his liberal colleagues would gush about Rubio’s virtues and proclaim it was time for a Latino president.

But here is the irony. In the past, because of white racism, it was good to be “white.” Back then, Latinos couldn’t be “white.” Even fair-skinned Latinos like Rubio were never accepted as “white.” The same was true of my father. Though he had pale blue eyes and very fair skin, to bigots he wasn’t “white,” because he was a Jew.

Now things have changed. Now because of liberal racism, it is bad to be white. So now a fair-skinned conservative Latino like Rubio is “white,” and even olive-skinned Jews are “white.” Go figure.

But perhaps things really haven’t changed that much. Prejudiced people still think of themselves as members of the favored “in” group, and all others as inferior. We used to call them racists. Now we call them progressives. But beneath the thin veneer of self-righteousness, they are all much the same – egocentric bigots.

Contrary to the columnist’s prediction, I believe it is possible for a conservative Latino like Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz to receive a major share of Latino votes. Rather than trying to create more dependency on government, as Democrats do, these candidates would appeal to Latinos’ strengths: belief in God, family, and work. That is the Democrats’ fear – and my hope.

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