Althouse | category: ethnicity



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"For a long time, the dominant thinking about Latinos was that they complicated the Black-white binary that has defined race in the United States."

"Recently, though, some Afro-Latinos have argued that Latinos have reinforced it. There are Black Latinos and white Latinos, who each experience the world differently. [Nancy López, an Afro-Dominican sociologist at the University of New Mexico] has argued that Latinos’ different experiences stem from their 'street race,' meaning how they are perceived when they walk down the street.... 'Now we’re just gonna mix race, ethnicity, and origin, everything,' she told me. 'It’s all the same. We’re all the same color. No, that’s not the reality. And to say otherwise is to eradicate our ability to document inequities based on what you look like.'... [I]t is hard to imagine what the shared racial characteristics of Latinos are. Proponents of the combined question say that the experience of anti-Latino discrimination defines Latinos as a race. This seems to grant too much power to non-Latinos to define who Latinos are, and doesn’t acknowledge how Latinos, even if they are racialized, are racialized differently depending on factors such as skin color and class background...."

"Yes, the French are... lazy. It’s just not in the way we lazily think."

I'm reading "Are French People Just Lazy?" by the historian Robert Zaretsky (NYT).
Consider Michel de Montaigne, who in 1571, fed up with his job as a magistrate in the city of Bordeaux, quit at the age of 38. Retreating to his library, he inscribed his reason on the wall of his study. 
“Weary of the servitude of the courts,” Mr. Montaigne declared, “I am determined to retire in order to spend what little remains of my life, now more than half run out … consecrated to my freedom, tranquillity, and leisure.... I do nothing without gaiety.”...  
[I]n 2016, when demonstrators occupied public places across France to oppose the labor reforms proposed by the then-Socialist government[, o]ne of their demands was the creation of a universal basic income. This would, in effect, subsidize laziness — or, more accurately, a certain kind of laziness. 
While la paresse is a common word for laziness in French, so too is l’oisiveté. Deriving from the Latin otium, it means focused calm or even spiritual elevation, so very different from negotium, the sort of work that gets in life’s way. 
A few months ago, Sandrine Rousseau, a prominent member of the French Green Party, caused a stir when she called for a worker’s right to laziness.....

The article uses the term "the French" — 4 times. It never uses "French people," the term used in the headline.

I'm noticing this because over on Facebook, my son John posted this: 

I wonder if the headline writer got the first message but not the second. It seems that the first position AP took was that there's a problem with putting "the" in front of a name that refers to a group even when you want to group them together and speak of them as a group.

It's hard to explain why, but remember when Dave Chappelle said (talking about Kanye West):
"Early in my career, I learned there are two words you should never say together. Those words are...'the'..." — long pause — "and 'Jews.'"

Similarly, it's better to say "black people" than "blacks," and you really don't want to say "the blacks."

But apparently, some people got offended getting told not to say "the French." What's going on there?

In any case, the headline writer and the column writer are at odds. Is it "French people" or "the French"? I think the column writer, Zaretsky, chose "the French" because he really wanted to say there is something in the national character, and this is not a place where he wanted to celebrate the diversity of individuals. He wanted to stress the commonality. The word he uses for that commonality — "laziness" — is deliberately alarming. And the headline writer just had to soften it, to step on the intriguing quality of the assertion. 

Maybe the headline writer also softened it by using a question — "Are French People Just Lazy?" I picked out Zeretsky's quote "Yes, the French are... lazy."

Of course, he goes on to describe that "laziness" in a positive way. Clever? Perhaps. 

But this is a cleverness you can do in the NYT with French people — and even "the French" — but do not try that with black people or, God forbid, "the blacks." 

"Generally, the cruellest are perhaps those who are of Russia but are not of the Russian tradition, such as the Chechens, the Buryats and so on."

Said Pope Francis, quoted in "‘Racist’ interview with Pope Francis causes fury in Russia/Francis says Chechen and Buryat minorities in Russia’s army more cruel in Ukraine than other soldiers" (The Guardian). 

Alexandra Garmazhapova, the founder of the anti-war Free Buryatia organisation, called the comments “inexcusable and racist.” “I was extremely disappointed to read these racist, inexcusable statements,” said Garmazhapova. “Russia is waging an imperial war started and led by Vladimir Putin, who is by all accounts not a member of an ethnic minority. The pope should condemn him personally, but he decided to sidestep the Russian president.”

“Let’s not forget that the Russian Orthodox church is one of the biggest supporters of the war,” Garmazhapova added, referring to the public backing of the war by the head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Kirill....

"Some Latino voters say the Republican Party supports their hopes for economic advancement."

"That is the case for Luiz Oliveira, 63, an immigrant from Brazil who owns three coffee shops in the Las Vegas area. 'I came here with a dream to live the American dream, and many other immigrants have the same dream,' he said. He said he is wary of Democratic policies that seem too much like socialism. 'Socialism will kill my dream, kill my business,' he said. The Journal poll, which included a large sample of Latino voters, found that views within that group differed by education level. Latino voters with a four-year college degree substantially favored a Democratic candidate over a Republican—61% to 32%—whereas Republicans led or were at parity among those with lower levels of formal education.... 'Black working-class and Hispanic working-class people have a lot more in common with white working-class people than many people have been willing to believe,' said Ruy Teixeira, a demographer at the American Enterprise Institute who writes often on the subject." 

From "GOP Gaining Support Among Black and Latino Voters, WSJ Poll Finds/Republicans appear to be in a better position with both groups heading into the midterms than they were in 2020 or 2018" (Wall Street Journal).

For more from Ruy Teixeira, here's "Hispanic Voters on the Eve of the 2022 Election/Hispanic Voters Are Normie Voters and Normie Voters Aren’t Happy." I was going to blog that a few days ago, but I got so sidetracked into the use of the term "normie"! He writes:

In short, they are normie voters. And like other normie voters, if they feel Democrats are falling short on the things normie voters care about, they are more than willing to punish the party they hold responsible.

I know the word. It's not difficult, but it seems disparaging — both to the "normies" and to the "non-normies." It does get your attention though. In my case, a word that sticks out gets way too much of my attention, and I was rooting around in the OED. It's defined as "colloquial (originally U.S.)/A conventional or ordinary person, typically as contrasted with members of a specified group or subculture; spec. an able-bodied person as contrasted with disabled people."

And the first published use of the word is in a 1950 article in The Atlantic by Al Capp. Al Capp! This is an American pop culture hero I've followed since childhood. I had to read the story "Young Van Schuyler's Greatest Romance," an account of Capp's own life:

To the Simple — that is, to adults — there are two kinds of kids: Normal Kids or “Normies”— that is, kids with the normal number of legs, arms, eyes, or pounds — and “Poor Kids” — kids with something terribly wrong with them, some instantly recognizable and terrible handicap that makes it impossible for Normies to associate with them as fellow beings, like being stone-blind or completely paralyzed or racially ridiculous.

But to Kids there is a third kind of kid: those “Other” kids who have handicaps that aren’t quite shocking or pitiful enough to prevent them utterly from being considered as fellow beings by the Normies, but whose handicaps make this consideration a tiresome and unwelcome effort; handicaps that don’t quite take them out of the cheery and untroubled Normie world, but keep them hovering uncertainly around the fringes of it things like having only one leg, or being grotesquely fat, or being racially peculiar.

The Normies are the lucky and blessed, because while there doesn’t have to be anything particularly right about them, there isn’t anything particularly wrong. The Poor Kids aren’t really so badly off either, because their handicaps are so spectacular that, long since, they have given up any hope of ever being admitted to the world of Normies, and their own special world is made pretty comfortable for them by the special treatment given ’em by everyone. It’s the Others that have the bad time; for the things that are wrong with them are not wrong enough to destroy all hope of ever being admitted into the world of the Normies — just wrong enough to make Normies uncomfortable when they are around. Not that the Normies aren’t darned nice to the Others. They are extra polite to ‘em; they are extra careful to avoid any subject remotely related to the [thing] that makes the Other not quite a Normie; and they are always in an extra hurry to get away from them to the untroubled company of other Normies.

And so while Bootsie and I were both Other kinds of kids, only I knew that we both were. She was looking at me as though I were a Normie. And so I behaved as no Normie ever behaves, except with another Normie. I treated her like a girl....

What made Capp an "Other" was the loss of a leg. From Wikipedia:  

In August 1919, at the age of nine, Capp was run down by a trolley car and had his left leg amputated above the knee. According to his father Otto's unpublished autobiography, young Capp was not prepared for the amputation beforehand; having been in a coma for days, he suddenly awoke to discover that his leg had been removed. He was eventually given a prosthetic leg, but only learned to use it by adopting a slow way of walking which became increasingly painful as he grew older. The childhood tragedy of losing a leg likely helped shape Capp's cynical worldview, which was darker and more sardonic than that of the average newspaper cartoonist. "I was indignant as hell about that leg", he revealed in a November 1950 interview....

"Beyond Mr. Netanyahu, the election is also a referendum on the kind of society Israelis seek to build."

"His coalition partners include ultra-Orthodox lawmakers who oppose teaching math and English to their children, and far-right settlers who frequently antagonize Israel’s Arab minority and seek to remove checks and balances on the parliamentary process. To Mr. Netanyahu’s backers, his victory would shore up Israel’s Jewish character. It would reassure certain right-wing Jewish Israelis who fear that the unprecedented involvement of an Arab party in the departing government has threatened the country’s Jewish identity and endangered their personal safety. To his opponents, a win for Mr. Netanyahu would endanger the integrity of Israeli democracy — particularly after Mr. Netanyahu’s allies announced plans for sweeping judicial reform — and make it even harder for the country’s Jewish and Arab communities to get along."

From "Here’s what’s at stake as Israelis cast their ballots" (NYT)(Netanyahu, the current opposition leader, faces "the governing alliance of right-wing, left-wing and centrist parties that share little beyond their opposition to the former prime minister").

"In its early days, the pleasure of 'The Great British Baking Show' was in the reassuring fantasy it built under a high-pitched country tent..."

"... an endless source of cheeky innuendo, serious amateur baking and absolutely nothing else. The worst thing imaginable was that someone’s Battenberg cake would come out a bit asymmetrical, or that one baker might accidentally use another baker’s custard.... But over its 12 years on the air, the worst thing imaginable on Bake Off has gotten worse, again and again. Last week, the hosts, Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas, strolled up a grassy slope dressed in fringed serapes and straw sombreros to introduce 'Mexican Week' with tired puns, saying they shouldn’t make 'Mexican jokes' but proceeding to do just that. The show had hit rock bottom, revealing what it had managed to obscure in the past with a bit of charm.... The 'Bake Off' clips were shared incredulously and angrily on Twitter, days before the episode even aired. The phrase 'Mexican Week' quickly became shorthand for profound culinary blunder, presented with a sense of naïve triumph. An image of a cursed avocado, lopped away with a knife, became the episode’s unofficial mascot, as if a home cook unfamiliar with peeling an avocado should feel humiliated."

From "‘Mexican Week’ Was Not an Accident for ‘The Great British Baking Show’/After 12 years, the show’s long, inexorable journey from comfort to cringe is complete" (NYT).

From the top comments over there:

Like so many articles in the New York Times that cover accusations of racism or cultural appropriation, readers are left pondering what actually happened. Other than straw sombreros, an abused avocado and a reference to a reference about “tired puns”, there’s no real reporting in here that actually informs readers about what was done that was so bad.


I watched the episode. There was much adoration and respect expressed by all the people in the show, contestants, judges, and hosts, for Mexico and its culture. Just because people are ignorant of a different culture when they set out to explore it, doesn't mean they're racist. It was an example of how people would set out to learn. But instead of celebrating people taking an interest in learning about another culture, we condemn them for not knowing it automatically. How are we to ask people to explore other cultures and respect other people when we shame them as they learn?


I'm sorry, its not 'The Great British Baking Show' that has hit a nadir, but we here in America being so woke that even the slightest bit of bad humor is considered a monumental transgression....

"I don’t know that there should be a common Latinx identity. This identity is rooted in land and geography when it should..."

"... be rooted in understanding settler colonialism in the Americas. I would be invested in a political Latinidad that first and foremost fought for indigenous sovereignty and black liberation. If it doesn’t do that, I don’t see the purpose...."

Said Alan Pelaez Lopez, a Zapotec cultural critic, artist, and academic, one of the 6 participants in a conversation at "The Problem With Latinidad/A growing community of young, black, and indigenous people are questioning the very identity underpinning Hispanic Heritage Month" (The Nation).

"Those who can identify with Hispanic or Latinx are those who benefit from power because of language, race and religion. Latinidad offers them a whole community, and then they become the ones at the top of it because they speak proper Spanish and they know their culture and they come from a Christian or Catholic background, whereas people who are practitioners of curanderismo or Santeria, who speak a bastard Spanish, who speak indigenous languages, or who come from other colonies in the Americas are erased from that identity.... Living in California has made me really critical of Latinidad. Mexican folks here are very nationalistic, but the Central American community, because of Mexico’s nationalism, has pushed back so much that they’ve actually become anti-indigenous in their narrative. It has created a binary opposition where Central American identity depends on borders. But I know Zapotec people living in Guatemala.... I think that Central American Twitter, because of Mexican nationalism, has tried to retaliate, but has accidentally perpetuated indigenous erasure...."

"An epidemic of Spanish-language right-wing disinformation that spiked around the 2020 election on social media platforms, and in some big-city AM radio stations, is revving up again..."

"... ahead of the fall midterms. Two years ago, before the 2020 presidential election, Spanish-language videos and news stories smeared Joe Biden as a communist. After the election, disinformation campaigns accused Black Lives Matter of spurring the Jan. 6 insurrection and bolstered the lie that Biden stole the election.... Conspiracy theories, easily debunked false narratives and outrageous lies spread quickly and take hold among Spanish-language users... [because] social media sites, including Facebook, do little fact-checking on foreign-language pages... [F]ake news videos often spread via large group chats among families and friends on WhatsApp, which is hugely popular among Latinos and is encrypted.... 'If your father sends you a video, you will trust your father. This is what makes us extraordinarily susceptible. We have very strong family ties.'... [W]e Latinos need to do our part. Don’t be shy about asking Abuela where she got that information she mentioned on WhatsApp...."

Who wrote these stupid lines for Jill Biden — "as distinct as the bodegas of the Bronx... and as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio"?

That's a description of human beings!

It's like something you'd make a politician character say in a movie comedy — and I don't mean a sophisticated comedy. Just a mainstream comedy that would make a general audience laugh.

I'm reading "Jill Biden rebuked after saying Latinos as unique as ‘breakfast tacos.'"

Jill Biden was praising civil rights icon Raul Yzaguirre during the annual conference of UnidosUS.... 

“Raul helped build this organization with the understanding that the diversity of this community — as distinct as the bodegas of the Bronx, as beautiful as the blossoms of Miami, and as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio — is your strength,” Biden said. 

When addressing the Bronx bodegas though, she mispronounced the convenience stores and said “bogedas.”... 

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists panned the remarks, stating, “We are not tacos.”

Isn't it obvious that you don't liken an ethnic group to its conventional food? Notice that the words seem to be intended to say that the individuals within the community are different from each other. There's diversity within the set of people who are Hispanic. But then she cited a stereotypical food — breakfast tacos — and presented them as diverse. That's the level of individualism — the way a breakfast format accommodates different food items.

I can't think of any other examples of public speech comparing an ethnic or a racial group to the food people associate with them. Maybe you can suggest a comparable statement about white people — as unique as the....

Ha ha. The man tries to defend himself. In public. I'm amused because I have the same foible...

... but I wouldn't excuse it.

I'm reading "You be the judge: should my boyfriend close the kitchen cupboards after himself?" in The Guardian. I'll skip "the prosecution" section, where the girlfriend complains that it not only looks disorderly, she knocks her head on the open doors. (She's only 5' tall.) 

Here's the guy:
I see no issue with leaving kitchen cupboards open.

If this were Reddit, they wouldn't be saying he's wrong. They'd be saying this means so much and she should leave him now. But this is The Guardian, so let's read on: 

I work from home and get up every 90 minutes to make a cuppa. On an average day I drink three cups of tea, two coffees and (after 9pm) several cups of peppermint tea. It’s more efficient to keep the teabag cupboard open all day. That’s my excuse and I think it’s a valid one. 
I know it doesn’t take a lot of energy to close the doors and drawers after yourself, but I just don’t think about it when I’m in work mode. After two years of working remotely I’ve got into the habit of leaving things ajar. I can’t help it. I leave the cutlery cupboard open, as well as three cupboards containing condiments and tea and coffee.... 
I don’t believe Daisy’s argument that she’s a klutz and needs help not to bump into things. Her eyesight is better than mine – I wear glasses and she doesn’t. When she’s banged her hip on a drawer I am sympathetic. I will hear a gasp or “ow!” from the kitchen and feel a bit bad. But I don’t think it’s my fault. She should watch where she’s going.... 
I’m Irish and Daisy is English – maybe it’s a cultural thing as we’re a bit more relaxed. When I told one of my Irish friends about Daisy getting irritated by my forgetfulness, he took a picture of his kitchen with multiple drawers open and said: “Finally, I feel seen. I do it, too.”

"I feel seen"! 

It devolved into ethnic discord! She's in the uptight group. He sought reinforcement from his ethnic group. 

I don't really have the same foible. I half close cupboard doors as if something in me wants the doors left ajar. But consciously, I want the doors shut, and I puzzle and even annoy myself by leaving them open. And my husband isn't hitting his head... or even complaining about the problem. So it's not really a problem. It's just a vague interest of mine: Why this fetish of leaving doors somewhat open? And, no, I am not Irish. 

"Yes, the French are... lazy. It’s just not in the way we lazily think."

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