Encima De Nuestros Espaldas (On Our Backs)

Jose Vilson Jose

Last night, an enclave of us decided to liveblog the last debate between John McCain and Barack Obama at Hofstra University. While so much of the liveblogging was entertaining (while the debate often droned on), we noticed a few things of particular interest to us:

1) John McCain looks like a hard-pressed thumb
2) Both of their educational positions blow (as a teacher, I got particularly fired up about that)
3) There was no mention of Asians, even in passing.
4) The Latino community really got smacked around from both candidates.

The last one was of particular interest to me because of the implications that that carries for the issues most pertinent to Latinos today, including (but not exclusively) immigration, education, health care, and unemployment. The four main bloggers on last night’s debate immediately screamed immigration when we heard Schiffer mention the “last question,” but to no avail.

My girlfriend mentioned something about Barack Obama that has rung in my ears to this day: as liberal as he is, he still hadn’t talked to the Latino community until he needed votes from us. We also don’t really seem to know what he’s going to do for those Latino interests, especially in volatile places like California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida. He bypassed the Latino community throughout much of his campaign, and unfortunately, we see the product of that last night, where he implicitly lambasted countries like Venezuela and Colombia, countries of rich heritage and an even prouder people.

It’s bad enough that just the very image of the word “alien” doesn’t evoke the little green weirdos but a brown-skinned, black-haired man with indigenous features and a Mexican accent, or a dark man with scruffy clothing and a almost-French but more Creole accent. Some people expect Latinos to keep selling oranges on the roadside, to stay behind the hot kitchens of their favorite restaurants, to stay as servants (in some cases locked in the closet so they wouldn’t leave their “master’s” homes). Their language, even when seemingly polite, invites discussion of the foreign, the unfamiliar, the extraterrestrial … something that I for one thought Barack could relate to.

Yet, and contradictorily, they’ll call la migra on them, and people will yell out how these immigrants, whether legal or not, don’t deserve those very jobs that they’re having them do, that they’re scums of the earth when they’re cleaning up your scum, that they shouldn’t have children in this country even as they’re taking care of theirs, and that their language needn’t be so damn pervasive, when all English has ever done for so many of America’s citizens is bar them from really dining in the same table. And of course, if the keymasters in this society say they’re vermin, everyone follows suit, as evidenced by the treatment I’ve seen from people of all colors to our immigrant community.

But here we are in 2008, raids all over the nation, children in classrooms where the teacher hasn’t been trained to teach those who speak more than one language, older folks dismissing those kids listening to reggaeton and neglecting their intelligences, and hipsters appropriating Tex-Mex and calling it as authentic as “El Paso,” whatever that means. I’m struggling with this idea of united Latinos, but I’m struggling even more with the oppressive nature of these politricks. And while I may understand that people in the US may have their beefs with Colombia and Venezuela, but if that’s what any presidential nominee wants to concentrate their efforts on in this time of critical change in this American population, then frankly, fuck it.

Yes, I said it. Fuck that. It’s time for people to rise up.

jose, standing opposite the mainstream thought …