Who are the real racists?

Published 11:59 pm Friday, July 17, 2009

One of the things many pundits said about Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court was that the Republican Party would be foolish to oppose it because they could lose the “Hispanic” vote.

Now, I may not be the greatest geographer in the world, but I’m pretty sure there’s no country whose people are called “Hispanic.” There are, however, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans, El Salvadorans, the Spanish, Cubans and many more. Each of these nationalities has their own distinct Spanish dialect and culture. To collectively pigeon-hole these different ethnic groups into a single voting bloc is an insult.

Now, I may not be any member of a “minority” group, but I still have experienced the negative sting of stereotyping.

There have been several times in my life when I have been talking to someone, and the subject gets to gambling. The moment I mention that I enjoy taking the occasional trip to Las Vegas or Biloxi, I can just sense that person’s impression of me taking a nosedive.

Yes, there are compulsive gamblers who lose everything they own. But there are also a lot of people like me, who gamble because it is entertaining and only wager money that we know we can afford to lose (That doesn’t mean I like to lose, though!). But because I occasionally put money in a slot machine, I know a large number of people will see me as nothing more but a sinner.

There have also been times when I’m talking to someone and mention that I’m from Alabama. For those who have met me, I do not have much of a Southern accent at all, so unless I mention my home state it’s pretty hard for someone to get a bearing on where I live.

Again, after mentioning that I’m from the South, you can just sense that person’s attitude start to become condescending. Their image of Alabama is probably one of a racist, back-water world still trapped in the 19th century — the image that this state usually gets when in the media or on TV.

Just as it is wrong to make general assumptions about all gamblers and all people from Alabama, it is just as wrong to assume that most “Hispanics” are in favor of Sotomayor simply because she is “one of them.” Many citizens of Latin American descent are ardent social conservatives and churchgoers who oppose Sotomayor on ideological grounds. In fact, one third of the “Hispanic” vote in the country voted for John McCain over Obama, and a good portion of those voters likely oppose Sotomayor.

Many pundits and Washington insiders will say that any one who opposes Sotomayor is racist. I say the real racists are those who paint a group of individuals with the broad brush of a stereotype, and suggest they should all think the same on an issue.