by Nick Baez
Friday, June 24, 2011: the day that I became even more proud to call myself a native New Yorker. It was the day that the NY state Senate voted to allow same-sex couples the legal right to marry. It is hard to believe it took even that long, and even harder to believe that there are still many states in this country which not only do not recognize same-sex marriage, but also seem to go out of their way to deny same-sex couples even the most basic rights that I, as a heterosexual married man, enjoy every day.
In spite of the fact that progress in this country typically moves at a snail’s pace (consider, for example, the nearly 100 years that passed between the end of the Civil War and the signing of Civil Rights legislation in 1964), the decision by the NY government should have been universal cause for celebration.
Unfortunately, some reaction was vehement. Sadly, much of this negative reaction came from our own Latino community, as was evidenced by the handful of insensitive (and downright homophobic) remarks made in response to articles by Xeno Martinez and C. Adán Cabrera. It saddens me because such remarks, coming from Latinos, represent the ultimate form of hypocrisy: when those who are a part of a historically disenfranchised group subscribe to the same rhetoric that causes pain, marginalization, and further disenfranchisement. This type of hypocrisy manifests itself in two primary ways:
When Latinos are anti-LGBT
LGBT citizens have, for most of history, been one of the most persecuted and marginalized groups around. They have been denied basic rights that most of us enjoy, and they have been prevented from so much as adopting children. As Latinos, we should know exactly how that feels. However, some in the community perpetuate injustice against the LGBT community under the oft-regurgitated talking point that being gay/lesbian is a “free choice” (as if one wakes up one day and decides that being a part of a marginalized group sounds awesome).
Many in our community also insert the religious angle into the “free choice” rhetoric, believing that gays/lesbians make a “free choice” to live against God’s will. However, irrespective of whether or not one actively discriminates against our LGBT citizens, perpetuating a mindset that gays/lesbians somehow “knowingly and brazenly live in sin” creates very real harm and very real persecution.
When Latinos disparage our poorest citizens
Once again, within our community, we often see a mindset that perpetuates injustice against the poor. Often, Latinos who feel that they have “made it” in society accuse the poor of not trying hard enough to be successful. Such rugged individualism ignores the very systems of injustice that perpetuate poverty in the first place. Additionally, many Latinos buy into the myth that the poor are most to blame for this country’s economic ills, believing that their mythical abuse of welfare greatly contributed to the economic downturn. Ironically, these are nearly the identical arguments that have been used against the entire U.S. Latino community during times of economic distress (as was the case with the Mexican Repatriation during the Great Depression).
The moral of these stories is simple: if we as the Latino community are to be taken seriously as a global force in the 21st century, we must not actively or unwittingly engage in the very marginalization that we have been subjected to throughout our history.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.