You are my friend. What a nice thing to say. Except of course if what you really mean is you’re a stupid moron and I’m better than you. That isn’t so nice.
In a class of mine here at Sam I encountered one of the worst forms of reverse racism there is. This was a sneak attack, and it was very successful.
A Hispanic male student sitting in front of me in the computer lab wore a very interesting T-shirt one afternoon. The shirt was black, and in white lettering it said:
Tu eres un pendejo.
(You are my friend.)
At first glance I read his shirt and thought, “That’s kind of nice; weird, but nice.” Then I realized that even though I didn’t know the language, I did know that Spanish for friend is amigo. So I looked up the phrase from his shirt online as he sat across from me, totally clueless to the fact that his shirt had now drawn all of my attention away from the class. I found that the phrase pretty much means ‘you are a jack-hole,’ but with dirtier language. The wheels turned in my head for a moment. So . . . I don’t know Spanish and that makes me a jack-hole? What?
There is a huge problem with this message. It’s not just a funny shirt; it’s not just a silly joke. It’s reverse racism at its ugliest. This time the victim, (all people who can’t speak Spanish), is tricked into actually laughing at themselves, thus making the blow even more devastating. When non-Spanish speaking people laugh at that shirt, they are participating in the mockery of their country and its people. I willfully concede that the shirt truly seems harmless. But I urge people to open their eyes and really look at things in society with an informed, critical eye to see the truth in everyday life.
An easy way to demonstrate just how wrong wearing that T-Shirt to school is, is by removing the issue from The United States and turning the tables. Ask yourself what would happen if a white, American student wore a shirt to school in Mexico that said:
You are a loser.
(Tu eres mi amigo.)
My guess is that there would be a complete uproar. CNN would be there within hours to cover the racial injustice and run it as their top story for a week. Good. That is what should happen when such an offense is committed. So where was the outrage? Where were the cameras and who did the interviews? No one reacted the way they should have because no one recognized the attack. Pay attention. It’s the duty of every citizen to defend the nation and you can’t do that with your head in the sand.
There is nothing wrong with being proud of your nationality or heritage. I embrace and encourage it. This article clearly shows that I love America, but did I insult Spanish or French or Arabic-speaking people to do it? No. I wouldn’t do that because I have respect for people and appreciate their differences. The same treatment in return is all I am asking for.
As a white American girl who only speaks English, I am saturated with disgust for that shirt. It is offensive to my entire family and me. The fact that I can’t, and don’t want to speak Spanish should never be made to appear negative by those who can. Here in America most people speak English. Lots of us might be jackasses, but not knowing Spanish doesn’t have anything to do with it.