by Christine Stoddard
Donald Trump somehow became the President-elect of the United States, despite saying some truly horrific things about Latinos and Hispanics during election season. Because I don’t care to repeat any of that garbage language, I invite you to revisit a few articles on the matter, such as this Huffington Post roundup. (Be careful your jaw doesn’t hit the ground.)
As the daughter of a Salvadoran immigrant mother and a pro-immigration American father, I’m revolted. As a woman, I’m revolted. As a human being, I’m revolted. If I had the chance to talk to The Donald, here are five things I’d want him to know about Latinx folks:
1. We are a diverse group of people.
Mr. Trump, for the record, we are not “Latinos Hispanics.” That’s not actually a term. We are Latinos and Hispanics, so please get it right. Though the identities “Latinos” and “Hispanics” are often used in conjunction, the only person who squeezes the terms together into a compound word is you. The words have different political and historical connotations, and it’s important for you to know the distinction. After all, there are more than 56 million of us in the United States — you know, the country you somehow thought yourself capable of serving as president. Generally speaking, Hispanics are people who can trace their roots back to the Iberian Peninsula, while Latinos are people who can trace their roots to Latin America. You can be Hispanic and Latino, but Hispanics aren’t necessary Latinos and Latinos aren’t necessarily Hispanics.
On that note, because the Colonial histories of Spain and Latin America involved people from Europe, the Americas, and Africa, we span various races — white, black, and brown — and one-third of us identify as mixed-race. Another important point? The majority of U.S.-based Latinos and Hispanics are U.S. born. We may be the children or grandchildren of immigrants, but many of us are not immigrants. Make no mistake — we are pro-immigration and we are not going to let you build a wall between the United States and Mexico.
In other words, we’re not a monolithic group, so stop thinking of us that way.
2. We are community leaders.
Hey, guess what? The vast majority of us are not rapists or other types of criminals. But you know who does have a history of sexually assaulting women and conducting unethical business? You, Mr. Trump.
We are leaders in our communities. Just look to The Latino Leaders Network, the Latino Leadership Council, the Association for Latino Professionals of America and other leadership organizations to see how many of us are getting an education, starting businesses and improving our neighborhoods and cities.
As for the Latinos who have arrest records, well, let’s consider the impact of discrimination and poverty, shall we? It’s in large part because of white, wealthy men like you that so many young men of color end up in jail. Most of us just want to provide good lives for ourselves and our families, and we work damn hard to make that happen. No wonder CNBC called Latinos “the force behind small-business growth in America!”
3. We are a multilingual people.
We don’t speak “Mexican,” as you criticized Jeb Bush’s wife, Columba, who is Mexican-American, for doing. We, our relatives, and our ancestors speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Basque and any number of indigenous American languages. Many of us have studied a language outside of our heritage while in high school or college, too. So it’s not exactly surprising that six in ten U.S. Hispanics are bilingual (and young Latinos are, as a whole, English-dominant.) Congratulations to your wife, Melania, for speaking five languages, but it appears that you, Mr. Trump, know only one language — and that’s not too impressive for a head of state. President Obama speaks basic Indonesian and former President George W. Bush speaks conversational Spanish. We don’t recall either one emphatically saying the United States should be an English-only country. Maybe because they both apparently understand that speaking more than one language is an asset, not a cause for shame.
4. We won’t let you pander to us.
Hey, remember when you tweeted a photo of yourself digging into a taco bowl last spring? In case your memory’s failing you (it conveniently seems to do that sometimes), this is how you captioned the pic: “Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!” Really? How desperate were you to get our vote? Unfortunately, somewhere between 18 and 29 percent of Latinos who voted in this election did vote for you, but that was far from all of us. The rest of us are paying close attention and we are going to fight your bigotry, misogyny and general inability to lead our country based on the traditional value that matters most: kindness.
5. We Latinas are twice as furious at you.
It’s called intersectionality, Mr. Trump — read up. Those of us who are Latinx and women feel doubly assaulted by your very offensive and very public comments over the past year and a half. My associate, Leslie C. Sotomayor, a Latina artist and mother in central Pennsylvania, puts it very well:
“Absolutely as a woman I feel that his sexist, misogynistic comments about women — and specifically people of color and Latinas — are disgusting. They reminded me of how so many men have historically treated our bodies in this country, and he completely reinforced it in his statements. Our bodies are exotic, [they’re] pieces of meat to men like him.”
And as I explained in this recent essay, the word “exotic” is never a compliment; it’s a Colonialist descriptor with racist undertones. How pathetic that you, Mr. Trump, canceled your interview with the New York Times because of their “nasty tone” (your words) when you have one of the nastiest tones in recent American memory.
Christine Stoddard is a Salvadoran-Scottish-American writer, artist, and the founding editor of Quail Bell Magazine. She also is the author of Ova (Dancing Girl Press, 2017) and Hispanic and Latino Heritage in Virginia (The History Press, 2016).