Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chantel Acevedo's Voice

Estimado Señor Romney,

Is that okay?  That I call you Señor Romney? I mean, you did vote no on the DREAM Act, and you did say that Arizona's draconian immigration law, HB 1070, was an example of the direction the country should be taking.  You did try to kill bilingual education during your time as governor of Massachusetts.  Your record isn't exactly friendly to Latinos, so perhaps I'm taking a liberty here. 

Then again, last night, on Univision's "Juntos Con Romney," we heard you throw out that 47% number that has gotten you in trouble, and embrace "100% of America" and insist that you wouldn't just round up people and deport them, which, you know, good for you and all. The reality is you can't round up 12 million people even if you wanted to.

I don't think you mind the salutation, though. Again and again you've told us of your father's time in Mexico, which practically makes you Mexican, as you suggested in your convention speech: "My dad had been born in Mexico and his family had to leave during the Mexican revolution. I grew up with stories of his family being fed by the US Government as war refugees."

Hombre. You dad was fed by the government?  Caramba, you're dad was the 47%!

Coño, I take it all back.  You're one of us, bro. 

But wait.  There's that pesky leaked video.  The 47% thing is standard Republican, Rush Limbaugh-style fare. To tell the truth, it doesn't bug me all that much. Same old, same old, you were preaching to your particular choir, yada, yada.  Or as we like to say, hermano, it was the usual tiki tiki.

What bothered me was this:

"I'd have a better shot at winning this ... I mean I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino."

There it is. This is your tell. It's clear as day.  Like Tío Pepé's little knuckle rapping on the card table when he's playing dominoes--this is how you know he's out.  That statement, Señor Romney, is your tell.  This is what it tells me:

It tells me you've bought into that fear that is particular to a white privileged class, which is to say, that people of color in this country have a leg up.  Affirmative action, the DREAM act, bilingual education--all of these things make you suspicious because you can't engage in them, because you don't understand them, because you believe that people ought to wear boots with straps in them and pull, pull, pull.  Except, you're a son of privilege, and you don't exactly know anything about boots with straps on them, and you don't know that sometimes it isn't easy.

Let me give it to you straight, pipo--in this country, it is NEVER helpful to be Latino. Or Black. Or Asian. Or Native American. 

I'll confess, I didn't always understand this either.  You see, I'm that particular stripe of Latino that is typically on your side. I'm Cuban. I think the Bay of Pigs was a betrayal of epic proportions, the sight of that gun pointed at little Elian Gonzalez still makes me want to vomit, I hate Fidel Castro like poison, and every time I see some hipster kid wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt he bought at Urban Outfitters, I want to clap my hands onto his greasy cheeks and tell him about my cousin's dad, his time in a Cuban gulag for political prisoners, and about the fucking twelve year olds that Che killed with his own hands. 

So, you see, my people tend to like your people.

Except, I see beyond that island I love with my all heart though I have not lived there.  I learned, upon leaving Miami, that to you and your ilk, we Cubans are just your political playthings.  Besides our vote, you don't really care about us, or about the goings-on ninety miles from Florida. We are, dare I say it, the 47% to you.

How did I learn it?  Oh, in so many ways, large and small.  I'll give you the most recent example.  My daughter has a Spanish surname, and for that reason alone, she has to take English competency exams upon entering school. It didn't matter that I argued with the district that "Hey, we failed as bilingual parents. The kid only speaks English." No matter. Off to the test she went.  She is underestimated in school all of the time. She has to prove herself before her teachers recognize her strengths (and my God, she has so many!). So much so, that I am starting to think I shouldn't have listed her ethnicity as Hispanic on the start-of-the-year information cards.  My daughter is fair-skinned, with gorgeous green eyes and straight, mousy brown hair. It doesn't give her a pass, though.  Fear of the other runs deep here in Alabama, which, as everyone knows, is as red as a state can get.  My daughter is an Acevedo, a name that teachers, classmates, dentists mispronounce as Avocado and laugh like it's hilarious.  It isn't.

I have another story. I was asked, early in my career, how it felt to be the only person of color on the faculty of the school I worked at in Connecticut .  When I told my mother (also fair and straight-haired) she thought I must have misheard. "Person of color? You?"

"Sí, mami.  That's why I was hired.  To lead the diversity club and add some sabor to the faculty."  Also, look at me. I'm easy to hire, and I tick the diversity boxes nicely.  Well, fuck me.  This is not the kind of advantage I want.

That's the reality of a Cuban living outside of Miami.  I might as well be Mexican, like you.

Do you really think you'd be better off if you were Matéo Romero instead of Mitt Romney?  You don't really think that.

You wouldn't wish Latino-ness on your worst enemy, Mr. Romney, and you know it.


Chantel Acevedo is the author of  Love and Ghost Letters and the YA novel Song of the Red Cloak.