The Cuban-American community holds conflicting ideas about itself. It’s painful to see it up close. As a community it’s successful and assimilated. Because of the distribution of wealth and opportunity in Cuba before the revolution, it is largely white and passes for white easily in American society. It’s the most wealthy group among Latinos and is politically conservative. Maybe at this point, fifty years after the revolution, it’s just another white ethnic subgroup in the US. It is secretly or not so secretly racist – its members, young and old, spend far too much time discussing skin tone. These discussions aren’t always about how to bring equality, though; they are frequently about how to avoid being classified as “not white.” But the community is full of pride for the Spanish language and its own beautiful Cuban cultural heritage. It’s been successful in preserving that culture for the two generations born in the US since the revolution.
Rick Sanchez recently made comments about Jon Stewart that cost him his job. It’s likely that Sanchez had a tough row to hoe on his way to his job at CNN. Assuming his path to his job was paved with discrimination, his resentments are clear. Yet, Rick Sanchez is wrong about Jon Stewart. Stewart does not pick on him for his Latino characteristics or his Cuban-American ones. His criticisms are about his empty headed commentary and reporting. As much as Sanchez has a right to be wrong, he doesn’t have a right to employment. He is employed at the discretion of CNN, as so many of us are employed at the discretion of our employers.
Should the Cuban-American community rally around Rick Sanchez and protest his firing? The way to do that would be to claim a liberal media bias and to claim a bias against Latinos. Claim number one comes easily to Cuban-Americans, who see all things, always and everywhere, through the lens of the Cuban Revolution. Throw in a little antisemitism for spice. Claim number two is harder to make because of the Cuban-American community’s own conflicted desire to be seen as other than Latino. Or, better yet, to redefine “Latino” in its own image, to carve out the term “Cuban-American” as something else altogether. But then Cuban-Americans need to ignore the obvious cultural similarities with Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic and the immigrants from those places, along with other places with Spanish colonial heritages.
So choose, compay. Do you think Rick Sanchez is just another mediocrity fired from his job? Do you think he is a victim of the so-called liberal media bias? Or do you think he is a victim of racism against Latinos?