Mike Kueber's Blog

October 29, 2015

A Civil Exchange

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:17 am
Tags: , ,

David Martin Davies is a reporter for Texas Public Radio who uses his Facebook wall in a manner akin to passive-aggressive behavior – i.e., he uses the tone of a reasonable moderate, but his underlying message is usually extreme and radical.

Earlier this week, Davies provided a prime example by posting a 45-year-old, ten-minute news clip from NBC News titled, “Mexican Americans in Texas in 1970.”  Davies described the clip as follows:

  • A documentary from NBC News in 1970 called “Mexican Americans” shot in San Antonio and opens with a sound bite from then SA Mayor McAllister saying some racist stuff. The doc focuses on the economic inequality in SA along racial lines.

As is his wont, Davies characterized McAllister as a racist without providing any specifics re: his “racist stuff.”  Because Davies is an NPR newsperson, his progressive listeners/commenters naturally accepted his conclusory statement without referring to any specifics.

But I decided to listen to the video.  It started with former SA Mayor McAllister saying:

  • Mexicans in America have a different temperament than Anglos.  Mexicans are fine people who are home loving; they love beauty and flowers and music and dancing, but perhaps aren’t as ambitiously motivated as Anglos are to get ahead financially, but they manage to get a lot out of life.

Then NBC newsman Jack Perkins described San Antonio as having a patronizing local government and brutal police conduct.  He complained about the absence of industry in SA and its inadequate school system.  He interviewed a leading proponent of reform, who admitted that he hate “gringos.”  When Perkins asked if gringos hate him, he responded, “I don’t care.  They’ve been screwing us for 200 years.  Sure we want to control this town.”

Perkins ended his report by stating that, “This is the despair that makes the barrios potentially explosive.”  (Incidentally, Perkins noted that Mexican-Americans were still a minority in SA in 1970.)

After watching the clip, I commented to Davies as follows:

  • Mike Kueber – You are really grasping to characterize McAllister’s soundbite as racist while ignoring the leading spokesman for the other side defiantly declaring his hatred of all “gringos.” McAllister merely suggested that Mexican-Americans in SA at that time weren’t as driven as Anglos to achieve financial success. That is racist? Some people denigrate Jews precisely for that – i.e., for being driven to achieve financial success. Aren’t some cultures more entrepreneurial than others? Perkins said that Mexican-Americans in SA wanted to retain their Mexican culture and Spanish language. Was that racist, too? After watching this video, it is easier to understand Julian Castro’s anti-Alamo sentiments.

This comment set of a wide-ranging, substantive discussion as follows:

Michael Canales – “Merely” suggesting that, as a whole, one race of people is inferior to another isn’t racist? That is the definition of “racist”. And to infer that Jews as a race are inherently more driven for financial success is just as racist. A positive racial stereotype is still a stereotype.

Chuck Coats – ”Mexican Americans are not driven to success” sounds pretty doggone racist to me. Although declaring hatred for all gringos is pretty doggone racist too.

David Martin Davies – McAllister was an elected official and a leader in the business community. He should be held to the highest standard. I think that other speaker is Jose Angel Gutierrez and he is an activist and admitted he didn’t like gringos because he was fighting for his people. He was reacting to the oppression of McAllister and the system in Texas at the time. Gutierrez is the reaction to McAllister. Without a McAllister there would be no Gutierrez but the opposite is not true.

Maria A. Berriozabal – I did not see Jose Angel Gutierrez in this clip. Only Richard Avena who was the Director of the US Civil Rights Commission Office that we had here at one time, and Mariano Aguilar, an activist. There are two other speakers whom I did not recognize.

David Martin Davies – Sorry if I got that name wrong – I don’t know these players that well. Never the less the point stands.

Mike Kueber – Michael Canales, McAllister didn’t say one race as a whole was inferior to the other. That is the definition of a racist. Rather he said that SA Hispanics in general had different values than SA anglos. That is inherent in Perkins’ suggestion that …See More

Mike Kueber – David Martin Davies, the activist didn’t say he didn’t like gringos, he said he hated them and wanted to subjugate them, but I accept your point that McAllister should be held to a higher standard.

Mike Kueber – Chuck Coats, I’m glad that you’ll concede that hating everyone of another race is almost as bad as suggesting that the other race isn’t as financially ambitious as yours wink emoticon

Chuck Coats – Concede? All I’m saying is they are both racist statements. That’s it.

Mike Kueber – Chuck Coats, my point was that, imo, David was stretching to characterize McAllister while he seems to be an apologist for the person who is undeniably racist. Perhaps David has accepted the idea that oppressed people, by definition, can’t be racist. Only the oppressors can be racists.

Michael Canales – Would that culture stop at the city limits, or would it have been some foreign vestige? I think you’re missing the implication of his statement. The idea of “culturally less-driven” sounds a lot more like “lazy Mexicans” to me. I’m failing to understand how a successful business man with; purportedly, no racist leanings, could say something like that in the face of obvious socioeconomic disparities.

Mike Kueber – Michael Canales, my law professor in the 70s, Lino Graglia, caught hell for opining that Mexican-American families, in general, did not as much cherish their children’s academic success or scorn their children’s dropping out of school as much as anglo families. Does that make Graglia a racist?

Michael Canales – Judging by what little information I have here, I’d have to say, “it depends”. Was this an observation followed by an interest as to why Graglia was seeing these trends? Were these students dropping out to go to work to support a struggling family? Or are Mexican- Americans culturally predisposed to academic disinterest or failure? We know the latter isn’t true. So maybe LG was just shortsighted.

Mike Kueber – Michael Canales, agree that the distinction between culture and socio-economic condition is valid.

Michael Canales – Yes, agreed. Personally, I feel like McAllister might not have. Have a good evening, Mike.

After this peaceful conclusion, Sarah Fisch decided to join the fun:

Sarah Fisch – If by “grasping,” you mean “maintains a grasp of racist ideology,” you’re right on. To declare that Mexican-Americans at whatever time in history “weren’t as driven as Anglos to achieve financial success,” and to ask the reader to infer, based on stereotypes of Jewish financial prowess, that Mexican-Americans are less-than, is close to the Platonic ideal of racism.

Mike Kueber – I don’t understand why McAllister’s comments justify a leap to Platonic racism. Rather, I see them along the lines of Paul Morand’s famous comment about Manhattan – “The Jews own New York, the Irish run it, and the Negroes enjoy it.” Talk like that is no longer politically correct.

Sarah Fisch – For sure, McAllister’s remarks are very much along the lines of the famous comment by French author Paul Morand (1888-1976). The book that this comment is taken from, “New York,” was published in 1930. Morand was an aristocratic racist and anti-Semite who went on to hold two ambassadorial posts within the Nazi-collaborating Vichy government. Given this context, Morand’s perspective on the 1930s New York City seems maybe not so accurate, or harmless. And given that the endpoint of the politics Morand chose to espouse was Nazism, racism would appear to be a big part of his consciousness, as well as his allure. I’m not saying that McAllister (or you!) are Nazis by any means, but the belief that certain cultures do and should hold less power, whether economic or social, is a cornerstone of racist argument and policy.

Mike Kueber – I wasn’t aware of Morand or his notoriety until I looked up the bromide to determine its author. I think I first read it in some Thomas Wolfe novel. It sounded cute at the time, so I shared it with one of my best friends, a Jew from Brooklyn. He chuckled, too. Ditto, for my other best friend, an Irishman from upstate NY.

Sarah Fisch – Yeah, the New York early-20th century “ethnic white” narrative, which involved primarily Jewish, Italian, and Irish populations, has been written about a lot, and it’s really interesting – “Bonfire of the Vanities” is very much about this story, but this model isn’t applicable to South Texas.  This is way oversimplifying, but the Ellis Island-era immigrant experience in New York City was unique, in that ethnic groups arrived in the same place at the same time, and lived alongside each other – competing, complaining, mis-understanding, inter-marrying. This population was united though various labor and public health movements, and collectively encountered resistance by the pre-existing Protestant white power structure. The history and struggle of Mexican-Americans in South Texas isn’t animated by similarly inter-ethnic shared experience, in which differing responses to the power structure seem to indicate differences between immigrant cultures.  In South Texas, an existing population of people was brutally colonized and oppressed by an encroaching, heavily militarized white power structure who divested people of property and used them as cheap labor. In this way, the Mexican-American struggle in South Texas is much more related to the Native American genocides by Europeans, and to Middle Passage slavery of peoples of the African diaspora, than it is to the experience of the Jews and Irish of New York.

So, in the end, we had a useful exchange of opinions and no one resorted to name-calling other than Davies throwing the race card at old Mayor McAllister.

August 22, 2014

Political correctness rears its ugly head

Filed under: Culture,Media — Mike Kueber @ 6:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

Other than Wikipedia, my favorite on-line resource is the Urban Dictionary. This resource provides not only a workable definition, but also does it with it with wit. So when I decided to post another entry in my blog about political correctness, my first step was to refer to the Urban Dictionary for a working definition:

  • Politically correct is a way that we speak in America so we don’t offend whining pussies. Ex.: only pathetically weak people that don’t have the balls to say what they feel and mean are politically correct pussies.

David Martin Davies is not especially politically correct. As a talk-show host for Texas Public Radio, he fashions himself a disinterested independent observer, but any discerning listener quickly knows that Davies is as independent as Will Rogers was (or a younger reference, Jon Stewart). Yesterday, however, he posted something on his Facebook wall that reeked of political correctness.

The background for the post was that the Washington Post had included a small item in a column called The Loop about up-and-coming, erstwhile SA mayor Julian Castro making a big splash in DC, and some copy editor had subtitled the item, “Going to need more fajitas.” Apparently, the Post quickly replaced the subtitled on its own volition and apologized to Castro, but that was not enough for hometown booster Davies. He posted the following on his Facebook wall:

  • Washington Post, sure D.C.is going to need more — whatever. Here’s the problem with the headline. It tells us that all you see is a Mexican American. WAPO, you could have written something about a rising star, maybe the next VP? You could have noted his youth. Another HUD Secretary from SA? There are lots of things they could have put in the headline of substance but instead you admitted that all you see is a Mexican American. It’s not about fajitas. It’s about the WAPO’s lack of understanding about where this country is going and which demographic will be leading the way.

Virtually all of Davies’s Facebook friends were similarly outraged by the Post’s racism and insensitivity, so I decided to give an alternative perspective:

  • Obviously, the copy editor was trying to be funny and witty, and sometimes that falls flat. Reminds me of Fuzzy Zoeller making the joke at the Masters’ dinner about Tiger Woods and fried chicken. Apparently, Castro has not indicated whether he was offended. I would be surprised if he was.

After reflecting further on Davies’s post, I realized that Davies was being hypocritical by first denying the importance of Castro’s Hispanicness and later in the same post asserting that Hispanicness is the future of America:

  • The lady doth protest too much, methinks; or being hoist by your own petard 🙂 David Martin Davies, if Julian Castro is so much more than a Mexican American, why did you conclude your argument by pointing out that WAPO’s “lack of understanding about where this country is going and which demographic will be leading the way.” I assume the demographic you are referring to is the exploding number of Mexicans in America. Most reasonable people know that Julian’s claim to fame is his Mexican-American heritage. Furthermore, I don’t think most Mexican-Americans are ashamed to be associated with fajitas, but I could be wrong.

I probably should have stopped with that follow-up comment, but later I got sucked into an attenuated discussion with Vanessa Martinez Campos:

  • Vanessa Martinez Campos – So we can go back to associating black people with foods? How would that play out?
  • Me – Vanessa, every ethnicity is associated with particular foods. As a Norwegian, I am often teased about lefse and lutefisk. As a German, I am often teased about sauerkraut. The problem arises when someone uses that association to “put you in your place.” Arguably, Fuzzy Zoeller did that when he suggested Tiger Woods would be putting fried chicken on the menu for the formal Masters Championship dinner. I don’t think the Washington Post was out-of-line in joking that DC people who want to suck up to the new kid in town should stock up on fajitas.
  • Vanessa Martinez Campos – I took 7 years of German culture, and not once in my life have I ever thought to tease any German about sauerkraut or bratwurst. But, I’m of a race and culture that gets thought less of, stereotyped negatively, and thus knows better than to do that to others.
  • Me – So you think the Washington Post guy was trying to stereotype negatively Julian Castro? I don’t. You seem to think that it is always inappropriate to crack wise about someone being Mexican-American. I think context is important and this brouhaha is an excellent example of being politically correct, with the charge of racism bandied about too casually.

Incidentally, before I used the term, “crack wise,” I turned to the old reliable Urban Dictionary:

  • Crack wise – To be sarcastic and/or engage in witty banter, for the purpose of creating a humorous moment — in particular with mates or friends.

In the politically correct world, where no one is your mate or friend, it is hazardous to crack wise.

April 30, 2013

What are “special interests”?

Yesterday, while participating in a campaign forum on Texas Public Radio’s The Source, I charged that my two opponents were being compromised by campaign contributions from special interests.  The moderator David Martin Davies followed up by asking me to define what I meant by special interests.   

My opponent Ron Nirenberg typically tries to stave off my charge by claiming that his “special interests” are his neighbors, even though many of his contributions come from 78209 (Alamo Heights), 78205 (downtown business), and lobbying law firms, so I gave Davies a definition to block Nirenberg’s evasive tactic – i.e., I said that special interests are people and businesses outside of District 8.  To which Nirenberg responded by saying that, based on my definition, his dad would be a special interest because he lives in Austin.  And Moderator Davies piled on by concluding the forum by saying to Ron, “You’re not just representing the District; you are a powerful voice for the city.”     

Immediately after we went off the air, I jokingly chided Davies for rebuffing my argument without giving me a chance to respond.  Davies acted a little surprised, as if he had said something that incontrovertible. 

Truth be told, though, I was probably lucky that Davies had run out of show-time because this is an issue that I had not previously thought through completely, and therefore it would have been dangerous to go through the mental gymnastics for the first time on live radio.  My blog is a much safer place to explore this issue.

As I indicated in my blog yesterday, I have never been receptive to the argument that small gifts will not affect a person of normal integrity.  Small gifts affect me and most of the people I have known in my life.  I still remember receiving (and appreciating) the bottles of booze I received as a State Farm adjuster at Christmas time from Minot body shops.  Of course, I don’t hang around with fat cats and moneyed people.  Reed Williams lives out at the Dominion and perhaps it is no big thing for him to receive some Spurs tickets or a free round of golf, but most normal people don’t live in that sort of environment. 

This topic was discussed in some detail at this morning’s Chamber of Commerce forum, and afterwards a former Councilperson came up to me and expressed broad agreement with my positions except for the issue of campaign contributions.  His tack was almost the same as Reed’s – i.e., $1,000 won’t buy or even influence him. 

I recognize that I am cheaper than the average Joe, but I think most voters would tell aspiring politicians that, even though you may not feel you can be bought for a couple of Spurs tickets, as long as you are representing us, we will insist that you indulge us by restraining your lax gifting habits until you no longer work for us.

Getting back to David Martin Davies original question – what is a special interest? – I suggest that there is a spectrum of answers.  The broadest definition would be anyone who gives you money in return for access or influence.  If the person or business is outside your district, the contribution is more suspect.  And the most suspicious of all is money that comes from a PAC or lobbyist, whose raison d’être is access and influence.