This weekend I read this piece by Ruben Navarrette, where he addresses racial litmus tests within ethnic groups. He talks about how people of color often judge each other’s “ethnic authenticity” according to where they stand on certain issues. Navarrette discusses being called a vendido or coconut for taking more conservative positions. Specifically, he writes:
“Sometimes, it’s my appearance and background — light skin, middle class, poor Spanish, etc. — that cause fellow Latinos to view me with suspicion or even hostility. More often, it’s the things I write. The Latino left attacked me when, during the immigration debate, I came out in favor of workplace raids, sped-up deportations and more resources for the Border Patrol. They were no more pleased when, on other fronts, I opposed bilingual education, racial preferences and Latino boycotts.
Curiously, they think I’m wrong even when they agree with me. Case in point: Recently, I went on CNN’s “Newsroom” and criticized Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Liberal bloggers applauded — then turned around and attacked me for also defending, at one point, conservative Latinos Alberto Gonzales and Miguel Estrada.”
Well duh Ruben! You are going to get called out by your those in your ethnic group when you come out in favor of more workplace raids, sped up deportations, etc., especially in light of US citizen Latinos being detained mistakenly by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
I sometimes think that Navarrette hits the nail on the head, and other times, he misses it. But a writer can be applauded or praised when some agree with him or criticized when others don’t. I and others don’t necessarily have to agree with Ruben Navarrette all the time. Yet in this piece, he frames things in a black and white or shall I say brown and white way of absolutes, as an “you are either against me or with me and when you don’t agree with me, I must not be brown enough” way.
What makes Navarrette’s piece all the more interesting to me is that he made his big literary debut with a book titled, A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano, marketing himself with his heritage in the title. Navarrette is sought out by major media outlets precisely because he is brown and can articulate himself on Latino affairs, so he should not be surprised when his words don’t go over well with the Chicanostocracy that the reactions turn into an indictment on his Chicano-ness.
Finally, I don’t think that we achieve anything by calling Navarrette names. It becomes rather childish, and there are better ways to articulate disagreements. I will admit that if he were named Reuben Smith, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion, and it is likely that he wouldn’t even be given a platform to commentate on Latino affairs. But the criticism and continued parading of Ruben Navarrette does point to the lack of Latino voices in the traditional media.