By: Wendy Carrillo
If you permit me a moment to share, I often find myself speaking on issues of race, class, inequalities and social injustices. But most notably, I have come to the understanding and conclusion that the issues that divide our communities, here in Los Angeles and throughout our nation, are not issues that are solely based on race and class, but issues that begin at the core of economics. A child born in an urban or rural city, be it a [insert ethnicity] kid from the projects or a [insert ethnicity] kid from a trailer park, have one thing in common, lack of money.
To this end, I find myself at a question… am I too ethnic?
Hardball’s Chris Matthews might seem to think so. In the 1st post Presidential Debate media overdose, Matthews asked Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson if he was surprised that Barack Obama was so un-ethnic in his discourse and wondered why he never once talked about the poor and the underclass.
MATTHEWS: Gene, did it surprise you that he was so un-ethnic tonight? That he never once talked about the condition of African-Americans in this country, never once talked about poor people, never once mentioned poor people, never once talked about the underclass, the people that don’t get a break generation after generation. Not once admitted where he came from and what he struggled for as a community organizer — ever once.
ROBINSON: No, it didn’t surprise me. You know, I wrote once that if he’s going to become president, Barack Obama has to come across as the least aggrieved black man in America, and I think that’s true. And you know, it’s not a winner for him to, you know, recount America’s racial sins.
ROBINSON: If you want to become president, you know, I mean, that’s just a fact.
Whoa!!! Slavery!?! Let’s not talk about that! I mean, that’s almost like teaching history! Not only has Senator Obama been accused of being too Black, not Black enough, not experienced enough and an elitist with a fancy shmancy education from an Ivy League somewhere in the East Coast, he is now, un-ethnic.
Why am I bothered by this banter? Like many Americans, we see in Barack Obama a reflection of ourselves and a glimpse of the future of this country. Someone once said “that for some, the scariest thing a white person can encounter is an educated woman of color.” As a Salvadorian Chicana reigning from the barrio of East Los Angeles, I wonder if some think I flaunt my multi lingual, multi cultural, multi ethnic personality too much. Does my ability to pronounce chipotle scare you? Is my open admiration of the great Dr. Martin Luther King too much? Should I tone down my consciousness and put down the works of Gloria Anzaldua and Gloria Steinem? Should I declare I can see Mexico from my house?
While it may seem that some make the correlation that “poor people” issues are different than those of the rest of American, let me set the record straight.
To say that Senator Obama is un-ethnic because he didn’t mention poor people or the underclass, is to say that the issues on the tabl;, the economy, foreign policy, Iraq, Afghanistan, our military, etc., are issues that don’t concern the poor or the underclass. To say that he is un-ethnic is to imply that ethnic people cannot be prolific, intelligent, in control or hold their own with a White person. Matthews, and those that follow this ill logic, would be gravely mistaken in thinking you can label the concerns of Americans and classified them as ethnic or un-ethnic.
There are far graver issues at hand than to begin a rhetorical debate on what constitutes “ethnic” behavior. Senator Obama is running to be President of the United States, the leader of the Free World, the Commander in Chief of this great nation, a representation of the collective people of the United States. He is not running to be president of the local chapter of the NAACP.
If the question being asked is whether Senator Obama is ethnic enough, then, Chris Matthews should consider looking in the mirror and asking himself if he understands a little word used in ethnic, gender, class and race studies known as privilege. Maybe then, he can ask if Senator McCain exemplifies any of those qualities.