In 2008, a black conservative columnist with The Detroit Free Press published a horribly offensive column dedicated to proving that Barack Obama wasn’t authentically black. Here are some of the worst parts of the column, which led to his firing:
- “Y’all know how to make a black man feel welcome.” — Barack Obama in Detroit. Don’t let the golfing enthusiast fool you.
- I’m one of you, Obama was saying, but we know better, don’t we?
- Real blacks don’t hide roots to gain acceptance of the mainstream. You can’t sound like an Uncle Tom, a denier of your heritage, and get a rousing welcome.
- Obama doesn’t speak in a black vernacular, not even the mangled version the younger generation barrels through out of love for heritage. When a reporter asked Obama if he wanted to say something in Ebonics, he walked away. We’re proud of our chocolate city — and we give points to visitors who make an effort to recognize our language abilities.
I’m lying of course: all these odious statements would never actually be published in a major U.S. newspaper… in that form. These excerpts, with names and ethnicity changed, are all from a Miami Herald column published this morning. Turns out allegations of race treachery are perfectly okay when applied to Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
Yes, according to Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago, Cruz and Rubio aren’t actually Cuban, but are both “cubano arrepentido… denier of your heritage.” Their “denial of their heritage” amounts essentially to their holding conservative political views: Rubio is “a climate-change denier” who doesn’t support Obamacare, Cruz “has no empathy for undocumented immigrants” and likes guns.
This idiotic for several reasons, but mostly because anyone familiar with Cuban-American politics knows they are easily the most conservative Hispanic subgroup in the United States. Of the eight Cuban-Americans in Congress, six are Republicans. George W. Bush earned over 70% of the Cuban vote both times he ran. Turns out that when you’re driven from your home by a communist tyrant, you tend to embrace the free market and support a strong U.S. foreign policy against said tyrant.
So right from the start, using liberal policies as a prerequisite for “Cubanness” is more far-fetched than the usual “Cruz and Rubio aren’t Hispanic!” nonsense we get from the media. If climate change skepticism, support for guns, and opposition to Obamacare are all “anti-Cuban,” that hasn’t kept Cubans from voting and running on these ideas for decades.
Santiago readily admits this, saying that Cubans are conservative but “on social issues they resemble their Democratic counterparts” and they support “helping the less fortunate and fought for Medicaid expansion.” Setting aside the fact Rubio in particular actually talks a great deal about alleviating poverty, she presents no polling data indicating this is the case. How do we know Cubans are so different from other Republican-voting blocs? Well, she can just feel it, kinda like how she can just feel that they aren’t real Cubans.
The pinnacle of this stupidity is when she claims both men aren’t authentically Cuban because they oppose President Obama’s warming of relations with Cuba, which she chalks up to blind hatred of Obama. Yep, the sons of Cuban exiles are now betraying their roots when they question cozying up to the Castros.
Santiago doesn’t stick to just politics. Oh no, she also frets that “Cruz doesn’t speak Spanish, not even the mangled version the younger generation barrels through out of love for heritage and elders. When a reporter asked Cruz if he wanted to say something in Spanish, he walked away.”
On this point, she’s simply wrong. Cruz absolutely speaks Spanish, even if it is closer to the mangled version she describes (it’s “lousy,” by his own admission). As a political columnist, you’d think she would have seen that during the debate last month when it was on full display. But I guess even Googling “does Ted Cruz speak Spanish” is too much research when you’ve got an ox to gore.
We’ve been through this before, when Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin demanded Cruz speak Spanish for him (which he later apologized for). The notion that learning and exclusively using English makes one no longer Hispanic is patently offensive. All other immigrants that have come to America have assimilated over time, with each generation speaking less of their native language and more English. Today, no right-thinking person believes that Italian-Americans or Asian-Americans or Indian-Americans or Arab-Americans have betrayed their heritage when they don’t speak their home tongues fluently.
There’s no need to drudge up some psychoanalysis about whether Cruz hates his own culture when by his own admission, he doesn’t speak Spanish on the trail because he sounds like Peggy Hill. No one has demanded that Bernie Sanders speak Hebrew, Donald Trump speak German, or John Kasich speak Mailman on the campaign trail in order to prove that their backgrounds are legitimate. Only Hispanics are regularly asked to “prove” their heritage by reciting a foreign language before a judging committee. It’s a terribly bigoted double standard, and it’s a shame to see a Hispanic in a major newspaper uncritically forwarding it.
I can’t believe we have to say this in the 21st century, but erasing someone’s heritage because you disagree with them politically is backwards, anti-intellectual, and demeaning even to those you do agree with. What Santiago demands of Cubans is nothing short of unadulterated loyalty to liberal ideals. If you dare to think outside the box, well you can’t be a Cuban, because apparently all “real” Cubans are all slavish idiots who think and act the same way.
It really isn’t too far afield from the sort of nonsense pushed by white supremacists, or the crackpots who complained when Jeb Bush spoke Spanish on the trail. Demanding that someone think and act a certain way because of the color of their skin or who their parents were goes against everything that drew immigrants to this country in the first place. I’m just disappointed that some at The Miami Herald seem to have forgotten that.
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This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.