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'Ask A Mexican' columnist: Cinco de Mayo is "pointless"
May 5th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

'Ask A Mexican' columnist: Cinco de Mayo is "pointless"

By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN

(CNN) - Gustavo Arellano is not politically correct in his "Ask a Mexican" column.  He calls Cinco de Mayo "Gringo de Mayo" and regularly plays on stereotypes Americans have of Mexicans.

But he answers readers' questions with enough gusto and satiric flare that many might forget they are being educated on Mexican customs, immigration and labor issues.  What began as a spoof in 2004, is now one of OC Weekly’s most popular columns, appearing in 39 cities across the U.S., with a weekly circulation of over 2 million.

In addition, Arellano is now regarded as “perhaps the greatest (and only) living scholar of Mexican-American fast-food." He shares that knowledge in his new book, "Taco USA:How Mexican Food Conquered America." It tells the story of how Mexican food transformed the way Americans eat as it has entered popular culture, unlike any other "ethnic" food.

Gustavo Arellano spoke to CNN about Mexican food in the United States, what Mexican dish he hopes Americans co-opt next, and why he thinks celebrating Cinco de Mayo is silly.  FULL POST

Opinion: After 9/11, reaction to Muslim Americans more nuanced
April 24th, 2013
05:24 PM ET

Opinion: After 9/11, reaction to Muslim Americans more nuanced

Editor's Note: Hussein Rashid is a native New York Muslim. He teaches at Hofstra University in the department of religion. He is an associate editor at Religion Dispatches, a term member on the Council on Foreign Relations, and fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

(CNN) - After the tragic Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, a dramatic firefight in Watertown and the final capture of one of the two suspects, there are two names tied to this tragedy: Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, two brothers believed to be behind the attack.

We are learning quite a bit about them: where they grew up, what the older brother may have believed and how friends and family remember them.

However, whatever we learn about them does not tell us why they did what they did – only parts of who they are. It is easy, in the initial aftermath of the bombings, to make careless associations between identity and motive, similar to post 9/11 reaction.

But this time, there is a change in rhetoric of how  potential suspects are identified, particularly if they are Muslim. It is because of this change we are learning to move past paralyzing fear and maturing in how we think of what it means to be American. FULL POST

March 21st, 2013
09:30 AM ET

White women on black magazine covers?

(CNN) - CNN's Don Lemon and a panel discuss actress Jada Pinkett Smith's Facebook post on race, women and magazine covers that asked in part: "Will there ever be a day in which women will be able to see each other beyond race, class, and culture?"


Filed under: Black in America • How we look • Who we are • Women
The Latino List
March 20th, 2013
04:50 PM ET

More than Mexican: Study highlights diversity of Latinos

By Michael Martinez and Mariano Castillo, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) - Jonathan Larios hears it all the time: Someone walks into his Honduran restaurant and they think it's a Mexican place.

"Oh, I hate that. That bothers me a lot," said Larios, 21, general manager of two Los Angeles-area restaurants called Honduras Kitchen. "They always ask, 'How's the Mexican food?' It gets frustrating over time.

"It's like the most race that people always see is black, Mexican and American. They don't see anything else," said Larios, whose mother is Honduran and father Salvadoran.

His first-hand experience shows that some Americans confuse all Hispanics as being Mexicans.  While it's true that Mexicans make up the largest segment of the Hispanic population in the United States,  a new Brown University study that shows Latinos are hardly a monolithic group.

The demographic has wide differences in nationalities that are becoming more salient, the study said.

"When studies are done of Hispanics, the results mostly reflect the experience of Mexicans, who are more than 60% of the total," the study says. "But observers would be mistaken if they thought they knew Hispanics in the U.S. by looking only at Mexicans."

FULL POST

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Filed under: History • How we live • How we look • Latino in America
March 15th, 2013
04:50 PM ET

Is the new pope Latino?

By Cindy Y. Rodriguez and Alicia W. Stewart, CNN

(CNN) – The Catholic Church has elected its first pope from South America, a historic milestone that has some wondering whether he should be considered the first “Latino” pope.

"I'm not quite sure how he is being considered the first Latino pope?" wrote Jeremy Marsh in CNN comments. "I guess the real question is, what is the definition of 'Latino'?"

For Julieta Vitullo, 37, a teacher and filmmaker from Argentina, the thought of calling Pope Francis “Latino” never crossed her mind.  To her, he is undoubtedly Argentine.

“In South America, we either use our country of origin or use 'Latin Americans.' We don’t define ourselves as Latino. That’s more of an American term, ” she said.

But, that hasn't stopped many Hispanics from using the word.

“As a Latina and Catholic, I can't explain how excited and happy I am for Pope Francis I – the first Latino Pope! #latism” tweeted Sasha Monik Moreno.

CNN contributor Ruben Navarrette wrote a CNN piece about the long wait for the "first Latino pope":

"...[T]he news of a Latino papa has sent a jolt of euphoria through Argentina and throughout Latin America. Imagine winning the World Cup Championship times 10. There also will be a lot of excitement among Latinos in the United States, perhaps enough to reignite their passion for the church and bring them back to Mass.”

But to understand the range of who is Latino, and if the new pontiff qualifies, one has to first the understand the  history of Argentina. FULL POST

March 1st, 2013
11:00 AM ET

Magazine sorry for model in blackface

(CNN) -- A French magazine apologizes for using a white model in black face for an editorial called "African Queen."


Filed under: Black in America • History • How we look • Pop culture • Race
Opinion: When U.S.A! U.S.A! chant is not patriotic
February 26th, 2013
05:50 PM ET

Opinion: When U.S.A! U.S.A! chant is not patriotic

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.

By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor

San Diego (CNN) - It never occurred to me that the chant "U.S.A, U.S.A!" - something you might hear from enthusiastic sports fans at the World Cup or the Olympics - could be used as an insult. That is, until I saw (and heard) it for myself.

Before I tell that story, let's be clear. Chanting "U.S.A, U.S.A!" is fine; what matters is the context, the intent behind the chant. And that isn't always easy to discern.

It's great if the people chanting are just trying to celebrate a magnificent country. Part of what makes the United States so special in the first place is that we're also an extremely diverse country. The national motto may be "e pluribus unum" (of many, one), but Americans should always strive to cherish and celebrate those cultural differences that make us unique. This means respecting one another as equals.

So it's not so great if the idea of raising one's voice in a group display is to try to put another group of Americans in its place by implying - solely because of race, ethnicity, heritage or skin color - that they're not real Americans or "not American enough." Whatever that means.

That is when the chanting can become really offensive. Patriotism is one thing, racial or ethnic putdowns are another. In recent years, we've seen far too many examples of the latter.

In fact, recently, a group of students at Camarillo High School, northwest of Los Angeles, were ejected after leading a rally at a basketball game against a rival school. The students first showed up at the game wearing American flag bandanas, but school officials asked that they remove them. When they refused, they were told to leave the auditorium. They did, but defiantly returned soon after still wearing the bandanas. Then they whipped the crowd into a frenzy by chanting "U.S.A, U.S.A!" That's when they were asked to leave the premises, and report to the principal the next day.

Read Ruben Navarrette's full column
February 26th, 2013
08:00 AM ET

Opinion: What we can learn from Trayvon Martin shooting

Editor’s Note: Eric Deggans serves as TV/media critic for the Tampa Bay Times, and is the author of "Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation," a look at how prejudice, racism and sexism fuels some elements of modern media.

By Eric Deggans, Special to CNN

(CNN) - One year after an explosion of press attention made it one of the most-covered news stories in the first half of 2012, the question seems obvious:

Has the news media learned anything about covering race issues in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting?

Considering how little attention the case garners today, it is tough to remember just 12 months ago how much journalists obsessed on this story, when unarmed, African-American teen Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in a Sanford, Florida, subdivision on Feb. 26, 2012.

For a time, it was second in coverage only to the presidential election, as Martin’s family pressed a reluctant Sanford police department and Florida prosecutors to arrest Zimmerman for fatally shooting a teenager armed only with a bag of candy and a bottle of iced tea. As condemnation of Zimmerman grew, a cadre of supporters, often in conservative media outlets, arose to decry a rush to judgment while challenging the family’s depiction of Martin as an innocent child.

Too often, news audiences seemed caught in the middle, ill-served by coverage which often seemed focused on serving the news outlet’s own priorities as much as informing the public.

Twelve months later, it may seem as if little has changed. But there are subtle lessons to be learned about the shape of modern media from the impact of the Trayvon Martin case, some that are shared in "Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation:" FULL POST

February 25th, 2013
07:39 AM ET

5 things you may have missed about the George Zimmerman saga

By Michael Pearson and Greg Botelho, CNN

(CNN) - February 26, 2012.

That was the day two strangers - Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager walking back with Skittles and an iced tea he'd picked up at 7-Eleven, and George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida - met for the first and only time.

It's been nearly a year since Zimmerman shot Martin to death. The incident generated huge outrage across the country for months and led to a wide-ranging conversation about the state of U.S. race relations.

Zimmerman acknowledged shooting Martin but said it was in self-defense. Attorneys for Martin's family have accused Zimmerman of racially profiling Martin and shooting him "in cold blood."

Attention to the case has died down substantially in recent months, and you may have been focused on other things. Here are a few things you might not know about the case, which is scheduled for a June 10 trial.

FULL STORY
Opinion: Asian-American men can be sexy, too
Writer Michael Hung says that media portrayals like William Hung (no relation) on American Idol limit images of Asian-American men.
February 20th, 2013
12:30 PM ET

Opinion: Asian-American men can be sexy, too

Editor's note: Michael Hung is a chef and writer living in San Francisco.

By Michael Hung , Special to CNN

(CNN) - I've had three long-term relationships in my life, all with Asian-American women.

It was never a conscious decision to date solely within my race. In most ways, those relationships were serendipitous. I'd met intelligent, loving, beautiful girls who happened to look like me. But this idea of happy coincidence, in retrospect, was only partially true.

While I never sought to date within my race exclusively, it was, admittedly, easier.

Easier in that she automatically removed her shoes at the door. Easier in that I could slurp noodles and gnaw at chicken feet unabashed. And easier on my ego, because when I asked an Asian-American girl for her phone number, she would give it. I would not be dismissed, or snickered at, or overhear, "But he's Asian," from a friend on the wing.

I attributed the difficulties of dating outside my race to external factors, social forces I'd learned about in college classes. I was subject to the model minority myth: How sexy can a calculator toting conformist be? I was castrated by the Chinese Exclusion Acts,  where my own government once declared it illegal for my ancestors to enter the country I call home.

Those laws, in existence until 1943, surely pervaded public consciousness, and as such affected my love life, didn't they?

Mainstream media portrayals of Asian males –Mr. Yunioshi in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," William Hung on "American Idol," Hiro Nakamura, the Japanese computer engineer turned supermutant on "Heroes" - consistently cast me as a socially deficient, sexless jester.

Even the Korean pop music phenom, PSY, is known for his clownish giddy-up dance rather than his ability to croon to the ladies like Frank Sinatra.

Under these influences, how can the American public see a young Asian-American man as an object of desire? How can a young Asian-American man see himself as a sexual creature? FULL POST

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