Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tony's Take on Racism in the Kansas City Area [Guest Post]

Holy cripes, people! I was so busy laying around reading and eating leftover pumpkin cheesecake yesterday that I totally forgot it was Friday and I was supposed to post my guest blog from Tony. Whoops! Here it is...

Let's start with a definition of terms.

I'm a Chicano.

I'm also a blogger and the combination of these two conditions is probably why May has asked me to write a guest post on her blog . . . (Even though I'd like to believe that she is secretly in love lust with my sexy online persona. Natch.)

The term Chicano doesn't have much significance anymore because it's more political than anything else. The world fell out of favor because of more genteel government language was used in its place. Chicanos are known as Hispanics or the more politically correct "Latino" nowadays despite the fact that the word Chicano once elicited a sense of solidarity among U.S. citizens of Mexican descent. The idea behind the word "Chicano" has almost been effectively driven out of existence. However, Cheech & Chong are back on tour now so "the movement" epitomized by a single word has not yet perished from the face of the earth.

But let's not get hung up on definitions when the most important aspect of any discussion on the topic of racism starts with people and perceptions.

Here are some of the most common misconceptions regarding Hispanics, Latinos, Chicanos and/or Mexicans in Kansas City (I'm fairly certain the names keep switching simply to confuse white people):

  • We just got here i.e. we're all illegal immigrants.

  • We're all only qualified to do lawn work or merrily perform some task related to harvesting produce.

  • Creating problems for this nation's largest minority group is an essential part of the "War on Terror" not only because it involves securing the borders but also because it resists the inevitable change that's taking place in American culture.

  • There are logical, data-driven and historical arguements to all of these ill-informed perceptions that are usually ignored. For anyone who wants a greater understanding of Latino history and culture in the Midwest, a great place to start is "Mexicans in the Midwest (1900 - 1932)" by Juan R. Garcia.

    But so little of any real debate regarding racism is about facts or hard data (no homo) . . . It's about hysteria and fear and who can move the crowd the most by using it in their argument.

    So, for a second, let's pretend that all of the chicken little fear tactics of anti-Latino reactionaries and racists are true. Let's ignore the fact that the legacy of Mexican immigration is deeply interwoven and an integral part of Kansas City's history.

    For a second, simply consider that IF all of the scare tactics related to an increasing number of Latinos in this nation (illegal or otherwise) are true THEN we're still left with the annoying problem that . . . THE SKY HAS YET TO FALL!!!

    Ironically, at their very essence - racism and fear regarding growing Latino numbers and influence represents an inherent distrust in the very ideals that have defined the progress of the United States thus far. Even worse, my little hypothetical scenario ignores the long history of racism and bigotry that the people of Kansas City have committed against Latinos.

    Let's not dwell on it but the following facts are the first to come to mind when we talk about racism against Latinos in Kansas City:

  • My parents (baby boomers) were both forced to eat at segregated restaurants and were educated at segregated schools during their formative years . . . That is when they weren't swimming on "Colored Days" at the old Fairyland Park.

  • The neighborhoods that Latinos now occupy were basically devised in the era of racially restrictive covenants championed by the people who built this town like J.C. Nichols and almost singularly responsible for the current segregated state of modern day Kansas City.

  • My Grandma tells me this story: Post-WWII Kansas City hosted a policy of reporting suspected illegal immigrants of Mexican decent at a reward of $30 a head. These people were often rounded up and shipped off on trains without a trial . . . And whenever I lament the current anti-immigrant climate I always try to remember that things have been far worse and yet the only real result has been even more people who look like my Grandma in Kansas City. A close study of history will show that anything short of direct violence has been unable to stop a mass migration of people . . . Getting angry at the weather would prove more productive.

  • And I'm not listing these facts because they have impacted me personally . . . I've always tried to avoid "Transgenerational transmission" which is kind of a funny phenomenon and allows the ethnic (but still white) friends of TKC to claim persecution . . . I'm simply offering a bit of historical perspective regarding Kansas City's troubled relationship with the Latino Community. On a personal level, I've always thought that invoking racism, discrimination or bigotry was only really effective in either winning barroom arguements or in hitting on liberal white chicks. In his writings on guerrilla warfare, Che Guevara noted that (when outmatched) a principle for success in a conflict is to turn every liability into an asset and leverage the opposition into a confused state in which all of their power is turned against themselves . . . I've only tried this out on really hot chicks but it's surprising how often it works.

    Anyhoo . . . The point here is that (IMHO) racism, discrimination and bigotry are political constructs most often used to attain or reinforce power and they rarely serve to define the people they are used against or the folks who benefit from their employment. Still, the fact remains that we live in a city that has been realized and built on racism and the story of Latinos in this town is merely one part of the intricate tapestry which has created a metropolis with an inordinately high murder rate, crumbling infrastructure and an unpopular mayor whose wife used racial slurs like "Mammy" at City Hall. Things haven't changed as much as people would like to believe but the debate regarding racism has not only become so much more nuanced but also proven to be an "entry way" into starting conversations with hot white chicks which elicit mutual understanding and provocative talk much more so than buzzkill chats related to feminism.

    Related posts:
    Racism in the Kansas City Area, 1900 - Present
    Racism in the Kansas City Area, Western Expansion - 1800s
    Racism in the Kansas City Area (My POV)

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    m.v. said...

    I don't know about the past but at this time the legit issue of illegal immigration is effectively equated with racism, so if anyone wants to talk about it he immediately gets labeled a racist. However it's a real issue measured in real dollars. It's not unique to this country either, i.e. in Russia lots of people from the former republics of the Soviet Union who took over menial low-paying jobs are met with similar resentment and discrimination. I recently saw a movie "Visitor" where an illegal immigrant from Middle East was arrested for minor reason but obviously for his looks, detained at the immigration center for unspecified time and then sent back without a notice to his family.

    JOCOeveryman said...

    I was inspired to write my own take on my blog from the JOCO white guys perspective....check it out. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Like your blog May.

    Viagra Online said...

    It is incredible that we still live with racism in this world, amazing how people keeps killing people on the streets just because of the color of their skin.