This week I saw a clip of you discussing Donald Trump's recent statement that he was "leading in the Hispanic vote," and cringed when you — in what I think was an attempted defense for the Latino community — said, "If you kick every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet, Donald Trump?"
I could see the realization of your comment flash in your eyes. You immediately went into defense mode and tried to make sense of the nonsensical, hurtful thing you'd just said. In one sentence, you reduced an entire community of people down to lavatory laborers.
Shortly after the clip of your comment went viral, you issued an apology that minimized the impact of what you said down to a "poor choice of words," where you claimed you'd "fucked up," and "ALWAYS take responsibility for your actions." You also stated that you would "not apologize for being a racist," because, you claimed, you are not one.
I, for one, am calling bullshit.
You didn't say, "who is going to be your surgeon?" Or "who is going to be your lawyer?" Or even "who is going to manage your hotel if all the Latinos were kicked out of the United States?" No. You only asked who would clean his toilets, and you and I both know exactly why you said that.
You, like a lot of entitled, privileged people, have enjoyed the fruits of cheap immigrant labor. I remember reading the story of your family's former maid, Juana Zavala, who allegedly stole from you and was arrested. You said "toilet bowls" because when you think of Latinos, you think of your servants, people like Juana, who are here to cater to your needs, your messes.
Have you ever heard of everyday racism? It's racism that is more subtle in context, often used by people in positions of authority or who have dominance over others, such as officers of the law, teachers, non-minorities, and even celebrities. It is sly; so innocuous that it can often be denied as racism at all by the offending party.
You didn't say any position of significance when referring to Latinos, because in a Freudian slip, you revealed exactly how you see the Latino community: as the ones who wipe the bowls in which you defecate. Well, we are not just that, and we do not raise our children to live with such a limited mentality for their futures, either. My sons allowed me to take these photos of them to remind you.
Photograph by Bryanne Salazar
Have you ever heard of everyday racism? It's racism that is more subtle in context, often used by people in positions of authority or who have dominance over others, such as officers of the law, teachers, non-minorities, and even celebrities like yourself. It is sly; so innocuous that it can often be denied as racism at all by the offending party.
Everyday racism is pervasive in our country. It isn't burning crosses on people's front yards or institutionalized segregation. It can be backhanded comments, like the one Giuliana Rancic made about Zendaya's dreadlocks smelling like "patchouli oil, or weed." It's the way my sons' teachers have purposefully mispronounced their Spanish first and last names in class while laughing, claiming they were "too hard to say." It's the way cashiers or security guards often follow my sons in stores because they believe they will steal.
It can manifest in any situation, like when my Mexican-American husband (who is an active duty United States Marine) was recently targeted and profiled by a local police officer while fishing off the local pier. The officer, who stared at my husband for 10 minutes, even took the time to ask my husband if he was illiterate and knew how to read. Would he have asked a white man the same question?
Everyday racism is the thinking that prevents minorities from getting a job interview just because of their last name. It gives a salesperson in the mall the permission to ignore people of color who walk by because he or she may think, "they can't afford what I'm selling anyway."
Everyday racism is ugly, and the message it sends is that there is a definable difference between people based solely on their cultural and ethnic identities.
Photograph by Bryanne Salazar
It's ugly, and the message it sends is that there is a definable difference between people based solely on their cultural and ethnic identities.
This kind of racism is often brushed aside by those who perpetuate it. The employer can say the applicant wasn't qualified for an interview. The salesperson can claim to not have seen the non-white customers walk by. The officer who targeted my husband could easily claim he was just watching my husband fish. The security guards and cashiers who follow my sons at stores can say they were just walking around the store and happened to be in the same aisles. The teachers who intentionally screw up their names can say they were only being funny. You can say you just had a poor choice of words.
Like them, you managed to dismiss away the real problem: that you don't view Latinos as equals. We're "others" to you. We're more than the people who clean your toilet bowls, more than the maids and housekeepers who work ridiculously long hours for scant wages that are often paid under the table. We are authors, doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers, entertainers, business owners, and more.
You probably think you know that already, but if you did — if you truly understood that we aren't so different from you — you never would have made that comment to begin with.
Maybe if you come to my home and clean a few of our toilets, we can talk. Until then, I'm officially out of your fan club.