At a recent show in Phoenix, Arizona, George Lopez made the following joke: “There are only two rules in the Latino family: Don’t marry somebody Black, and don’t park in front of our house”. When a woman in the audience objected to the joke, Lopez lost his shit and called her a bitch. An expletive ridden tirade followed culminating in the woman and her friends being thrown out of the venue.
My first thought when I heard about this was “what type of Latino family is he talking about?”. I’ve never had this experience with my Latino family or friends. Relationships, marriage, and co-parenting between white Latinos and black folks is quite common. I may just be out of the loop on this one but I have legit never heard a non-black Latino say that marrying a black person is not okay. In fact, the tendency for marriage between black and Latino people and the closeness of our communities is potentially where some of the racial issues between our cultures originate from.
The issue around racism in the Latino community is not about interracial marriage. It’s more subtle than that. It’s casual racism. Sometimes white Latinos think that because the black and Latino communities are intertwined that we share the same struggles including racism. I’ve written about this before when I talked about the tendency for white Latinos to use the N word. The ethnocentrism that non-black Latinos face is different than the racism that black people have faced. I am not ranking the two because ranking the oppression of marginalized groups gets us nowhere. I am pointing out that there is a difference between how our respective cultures have been oppressed. And not all non-black Latinos can see that.
Take the comments from my article, linked above, about white Latinos using the the N word. I pointed out in that article that white Latinos have no ownership over that word. It’s not our history. It’s not our place to reclaim that word. I’ve had to delete many a comment on that article from white Latinos who were so furious that I would say that they can’t say “nigger” that their comments were thoroughly offensive and full of hate speech. This topic brings out an ugly side of people. Many non-black Latinos unfortunately have the feeling that they’re from the hood, too, and therefore we all have the same struggle. I would bet that George Lopez finds nothing wrong with making a racist joke about black people because he’s a brown person. Well, it doesn’t work that way.
Here’s a comment from my previous article to illustrate my point:
This gotta be the stupidest article I ever read. I’m Puerto Rican and have lived in a urban setting all my life where the word was used freely by blacks and latinos. Puerto Rican’s have a 27% poverty ratio which is higher then [SIC] the us average. We can’t help that we are being born and raised in ghettos and impoverished locations. The word is used as a sign of endearment and if u or anyone has a problem with it. You are the one that is keeping racism alive!
Yes, I am being accused of being a racist because I told white Latinos that maybe we shouldn’t be using the word “nigger”. And when a woman pointed out to George Lopez that maybe he shouldn’t be making a joke about black people, he became so enraged that he threw her out of the venue. The common denominator here is that some Latinos cannot tolerate being questioned on racial issues. And that’s fucked up. Just because you’re not really white doesn’t mean that you can’t be part of the dialogue on race and it doesn’t mean that you’re exempt from any sort of responsibility to do better.
The other part of this incident that should be recognized is George Lopez’s sexist comments towards this woman. Women can call each other bitches if they want but men don’t get to do that because it’s our word to reclaim, much like the N word is for black folks. George Lopez seems to have an issue around entitlement. He thinks he can just say whatever the fuck he wants if it’s for the sake of a joke. Well, you can be on the right or the wrong side of the joke and you can be humble when you’re called out. He did neither. Sexism is, of course, no stranger to the Latino community with machismo very much alive. I must say that the machismo thing is the thing I dislike the most about a culture that I love so much. It’s a large part of the reason that gender roles are even more clearly defined among Latinos than whites and it’s the reason that patriarchy will take longer to be dismantled in the Latino community than within other communities. This sort of toxic masculinity is cultural, historical, and generally excused and explained away by most Latinos because it’s just how things are. I’m sure it’s the reason that George Lopez’s sexist ranting has barely been a newstory.
It’s time for Latinos to be open to a real conversation about race and gender and not immediately try to shut down anyone who dares to raise a question about it. When a Latino as prominent as George Lopez is making racist jokes and responding to criticism by turning into a raging sexist, it should make you wonder what’s going on. And believe me, that audience member is not alone. Those of us who have tried to start this conversation have experienced the roadblocks, most commonly the “we’re from the hood, too!” defense. Well, I’m here to tell you that being from the hood isn’t a defense for your racist behavior. Moreover, machismo isn’t a defense for being a sexist asshole. It’s time to get real about race and gender in the Latino community.