A “woe is me” piece by Ruben Navarrette

October 26th, 2009 · 19 Comments

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.

Tags: Alberto Gonzales · diversity · Immigration · Media · racism · Ruben Navarrette

19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jaango // Oct 27, 2009 at 9:32 am

    In my being from Arizona, I generally disagree with him on almost all issues political. And not because he sees himself as a Vendido, for that is his view. Long story short, I see him inherently ‘wrong’ on the issue in question, given that our Spanish-speaking community is inherently progressive and he refuses to face this reality.

    Hell, going on CNN to ‘critique’ our Infamous Sheriff of the Pink Skivvies, is of a non-importance. And if he had the “issue” in context and content, Navarette would have exclaimed his displeasure, given his conservative cred, with Arizon’a Republican-led Legislature for funding directly from state coffers to county coffers-for the Sheriff’s racial profiling. And he didn’t do that and wouldn’t given his penchant behavior for superficiality.

    And said sadly on my part, Navarette could not bring himself to critique this “institutional” racism and bigotry and done with taxpayer dollars. And that’s why his intellectual laziness satisfies his political posturing.


  • 2 Wendy Carrillo // Oct 27, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    great post! great analysis as always. I am interested in reading Navarrete’s book. simply because i am fascinated by identity within Chicano culture. I dont always agree with Navarrete, but I am often surprised when i do.

  • 3 Jaango // Oct 28, 2009 at 4:20 am


    The politics of “identity” in ChicanoLandia, can be more correctly observed from the standpoint of employment. In the European Mindset, a “Smith” comes to us from the BlackSmith.

    In contrast, if you look at Arizona, it’s employment for geographics. Take, for example, open-ground mining comes to us from Miama or Globe. And if you look at military veterans, you need only to look to the American Legion. And taken together, they were the formation and continue to be the backbone of the “progressive” perspective.

    And our former Governor, Raul Castro, has his book out and is taking a signing tour. And what’s important about him, and which has never made the journals, political or historical, or otherwise, is that between Jimmy Carter and Coretta Scot King, all three crafted and implemented our federal Human Rights Agenda, starting back in 1975, and one outcome of this is the Camp David Peace Accords. And here in my neck of the woods, it’s called Pinata One after Castro’s airplane in which Carter, King and Castro campaigned with Carter.

    In our amorphous Hall of Statuary in which FDR and LBJ reside, Carter will soon arrive and rest next to these Political Behemoths of Importance for America’s “participatory” Democratcy. And it’s this “participatory” that is often neglected and conveniently dismissed as the Iconic Standard when our participation in politics, is being measured or assessed.


  • 4 Jaango // Oct 28, 2009 at 6:18 am

    As an afterthought to my post above, permit me to add, the following:

    The Chicano, Native American and the African Communities are respectively and inherently “progressive”. To wit, this speaks volumes relative to “identity”.

    In the Chicano Community, there are over 10,000 Elected and Appointed Officials. In the Native American Community, there are over 5,000 Elected and Appointed Officials. And in the African American Community, there are over 10,000 Elected and Appointed Officials.

    And with respect to each progressive community, it will be a ‘hard’ search for you to find two dozen of the EAO’s, that are affiliated with the GOP.

    Now, I am not attempting to ‘dump’ on Navarette, but he is consistent and constant in his inattention to this reality.


  • 5 Anna // Oct 28, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    He needs to espouse some conservative views if he wants to get on TV.

  • 6 webmaster // Oct 29, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    “He needs to espouse some conservative views if he wants to get on TV.”

    I don’t think that is the case. Navarrette is moderate to conservative overall. I don’t think that he’s espousing conservative views just to get on the dummy box. He is invited to some of the same platforms as Gustavo Arellano, and I don’t hear Gustavo espousing conservative views just to get on the tube.

  • 7 The O Man // Oct 29, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    I clicked on the link of Chicanostocracy and nothing but a busted sight came up!!!

  • 8 Anna // Oct 31, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    When has Gustavo been on TV, besides on a comedy show?

  • 9 webmaster // Oct 31, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Anna: “When has Gustavo been on TV, besides on a comedy show?”

    Gustavo has been on the Today Show, Nightline, The Situation with Tucker Carlson, etc.

    Since I don’t really watch TV, I don’t know if the Today Show and Nightline have evolved into comedy shows, but that may be the case given the current state of media in America.

    I would consider Gustavo to be more liberal than Ruben Navarrette. For instance, I don’t see Gustavo Arellano writing a piece that beats the war drums like this:

  • 10 FormerStaffer // Nov 1, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Ruben Navarrette a liberal? I don’t think Ruben Navarrette knows politically where his printed whining often lines up.

  • 11 Anna // Nov 1, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Oh, I forgot, Gustavo went on CBS and told the nation that Hispanic women would vote Villaraigosa out of office because of his affair. Political prognostication at its best.

  • 12 Gustavo Arellano // Nov 1, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Anna: Geez, I haven’t slammed your idiotic remarks in months, yet you still have opinions on me? Sorry, honey but I don’t swing that way–dumb!

    Adriana: I’m a Marxist of the Groucho variety in my political worldview. I like Ruben–antagonizes people as a columnist should–and I frequently appear with him on the Barbershop segment of NPR’s Tell me More program. However, if Ruben has “light skin,” then I’m a Joe Arpaio supporter.

  • 13 webmaster // Nov 1, 2009 at 5:55 pm


    I don’t dislike Ruben (haven’t engaged with him personally to say whether I like him)… I agree that he antagonizes people, but he is doing this “light skin, middle class” woe is me bit in this piece.

    That being said, I don’t think that Ruben decides to say something conservative to get on the tube as Anna asserts. I know that she once commented on this blog that Ruben should get into politics or something to that effect. The “Harvard Chicano” makes a good living off of his writing, why would he want to subject himself and his family to the circus? He gets paid for his ideas and gets to write in his pajamas, the nude, whatever…

  • 14 Anna // Nov 1, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    That article of his you linked is stale, and reads like something from the 70s or 80s. He has too much of a race obsession. With all of that education he should be writing something more insightful. He won’t move to the next level, until he works out his issues.

  • 15 webmaster // Nov 1, 2009 at 8:44 pm


    That piece Ruben Navarrette wrote was published last week.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have many Latino voices beyond the usual suspects who make it to the traditional media, so we get stuck with this, which is why blogging is so important.

    For what it’s worth, Gustavo graces this blog with his presence and encourages other writers. I don’t think I have ever seen Navarrette participate in any blog banter or avail him self to the public like Gustavo does. I don’t even think that Navarrette tweets or engages in social media to share ideas.

  • 16 irma // Apr 18, 2010 at 9:24 am

    ” They were no more pleased when, on other fronts, I opposed bilingual education, racial preferences and Latino boycotts.”

    I am no Ruben Navarette fan, but I must say that I was surprised to learn how misguided and naive. I happen to know quite a bit about Harvard picks its undergraduate students.
    I spent some time on the Cambridge campus years ago and was briefly involved in graduate admissions. At the undergraduate level, Harvard will bend over backwards and throw out conventional standards to make the incoming freshman class diverse. Racial
    preferences are used at Harvard and I am certain that they were a factor in Mr. Navarette’s admission. The reason I say this is because, Harvard gets so many applicants, it could easily fill its class with people who
    by a number of standards (not just grades)
    were more “qualified” than Ruben Navarette.
    He was attractive to Harvard precisely because of his ethnicity and social background. Harvard probably had very few applicants with a background similar to Mr. Navarette. Put it another way, his competition for his spot in the
    freshman class was other Mexicans or minorities .

    Mr. Navarette is incredibly naive, if he actually believes that his college application to Harvard was stronger than that of most of the majority applicants.

  • 17 kevin // Apr 29, 2010 at 9:50 am

    alot of talk about “possible” racial profileing, fear of it is not good enough to keep laws from being written.there must actually be racial profileing to have a case. America is not built with diversity of cultures,but of a diversity of peoples. America has its own culture and just as my ancestors left theirs behind to become Americans so must all who come here .America cannot stand united while everyone is insisting on their own culture and language. if you come here ,then come legally and come to be American or you are part of the problem.

  • 18 Rosey // Jan 23, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Duh.. I agree with Irma. of course he got in because of his race. My nephew was interviewed by Harvard. He wasn’t accepted, I think, because he ‘looked too white”. He also carried a non-Hispanic last name, although his father is from Mexico.
    Navarette puts too much emphasis on the fact that he graduated from Harvard. So what? It’s who you are and what you do with said degree that’s important.
    So for, all I’ve seen is a man who doesn’t know what side of the fence he want’s to stand on. And shame on him if he is not fluent in Spanish. Maybe he should have taken some initiative and learned it himself.

  • 19 irma // May 28, 2012 at 9:18 am

    In the last 2 years, Mr. Navarette seems to
    be moving more toward the center politically.
    The fact that he can’t speak Spanish, is a shame especially since Harvard has an excellent language department.

    What he fails to understand about affirmative action, is that it ends with the admissions letter.
    It doesn’t matter whether his application credentials were equivalent to the majority of the applicants who were accepted. He had to earn his degree like everyone else. Sadly, at lot of
    minorities are insecure about whether they
    earned their spot in the class. They should focus instead, on the fact that they met the standard for graduation.

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