NonProfit Opinion Center
Let's Talk Mexican: The False Narrative of Donald Trump and the Danger That Lies Ahead for All Latinos-OPINION
Post by Enrique Buelna on Monday, 09 May 2016
The attempt by Donald Trump to appease Latinos with his obnoxious Cinco de Mayo tweet should be viewed as a harbinger of bad things to come.
“Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!” Donald Trump Tweet
The fact that he would think that the tweet, along with his contemptuous image, was somehow an appropriate outreach to Latinos, is further evidence of his deep-seated cynicism and disconnect with Latinos altogether. But for Mexican Americans, his words are especially disturbing.
The litany of hatred expressed against Latinos is nothing new. Our history is replete with cyclical episodes of vicious attacks on individuals and whole communities, especially during episodes of economic downturn. Since the crisis of 2008, that nastiness has reared its ugly head and has targeted Latinos as scapegoats once again. Despite the long presence of Latinos, and Mexicans in particular, in the region, this population continues to be viewed as foreigners in the eyes of many. Eleven year-old Sebastien de la Cruz got a taste of that in 2013 when he was invited to sing the national anthem at the NBA finals in San Antonio, Texas. His performance was immediately attacked on twitter. The tweets referred to him as “wetback,” “beaner,” “illegal,” and “foreigner.” The posts expressed hostile indignation that the Spurs would allow a “Mexican” to sing the national anthem. No one bothered to ask if he was American; this apparently was not important. Sadly, this was not Sebastien's first encounter with racism. When he gained fame in 2012 on NBC's "America's Got Talent" for singing his mariachi ballads, he was forced to confront the ugliness. And this is the crux of the problem.
The presidential campaign of 2016 has brought the anti-Latino vitriol back. The “shrieking white-hot sphere of pure rage” that the satirical news magazine The Onion predicted (back in 2012) would arise from the bowels of the Republican Party has come to pass with the surge of the Donald. Trump has wasted no time in targeting “illegals”--especially Mexicans--for causing the nation's economic woes. He makes no bones about his dislike of this population and promises that he will deport them all once he is president. His bravado has taken him to new heights as when he brazenly removed renowned journalist Jorge Ramos from a press conference and then told him to “Go back to Univision.” For Mexican Americans, the code speak was clear: this was a hateful reference to the derogatory “Go back to Mexico” so familiar to many Latinos, regardless of whether you are Mexican or not. Indeed, Trump was telling Ramos--and the Latino community by default--to stay in his place.
And no one is spared from his vitriol. Jeb Bush got a taste of that, and probably never recovered from it, when Trump questioned his commitment to immigration reform while married to a Mexican-born wife. And worse yet, according to Trump, was the fact that Bush had the audacity to speak “Mexican”--the language of the enemy. (Mexican is not a language).
In Trumps world, the storyline has Latinos as the source of all that is bad in America. Indeed, Latinos as well as African Americans are the source of all crime and violence in the country: they are the usurpers of good American jobs, they are the gang members, the rapists, and the killers. How does he know this? Because he considered himself really, really smart. But this narrative is very dangerous. Trump’s talk of a crack down on Mexicans is finding receptive ears in a population that is increasingly looking for scapegoats. When he vows to “make America great again,” Latinos are not front and center of that vision. When he talks of love for the good old days, the code speak appears to be for a time when white men dominated politics and the economy. The Great Recession and the rise of Barack Obama have given credence to a growing fear among some white Americans that their majority status is threatened. The census news that the growing minority population might soon overtake the population of white Americans might also be contributing to this growing angst. In this narrative, white Americans are losing their country.
Latinos have much to lose from this corrosive perspective. And when Trump becomes the nominee for the Republican Party, the war of words will commence in earnest. According to Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, Trump is well aware of his negative standing among Latinos. But odds are, he doesn't care. He is going to play a scorched earth game after the convention and no one will be spared. And here, the lessons of Cinco de Mayo are prescient. In 1861, France invaded Mexico and proceeded to impose empire upon the land. Mexico fought back, but it was ill-equipped to fight against the most powerful army at the time. Nevertheless, by the following year, a Mexican force of 2,000 decisively crushed a French force of 6,000. The battle didn't end the French occupation, but it proved to the Mexican people that they could beat the great Goliath. The French were racist, arrogant, and they greatly underestimated the ferocity and will of a people to be free.
Latinos must be ready to respond to the duplicity and fraud of the real estate mogul. The shrieking white-hot sphere of pure rage is coming at us full speed ahead and it will stop at nothing to get its way. So when Trump comes knocking at our doors purporting to speak Mexican to us, we’ll greet him with a Happy Cinco de Mayo.
Enrique M. Buelna, PhD is a professor in the History Department at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz, California. Buelna earned his doctorate from UC Irvine in history, earned a master's degree in Public Administration from the University of Washington and was an undergraduate student at UC Santa Barbara.