by Orlando Rodriguez
In 2008, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio was sued for racial profiling of Latinos. In a separate case, Arpaio’s office agreed to pay $200,000 to two Latino men for illegally detaining them. His deputies suspected they were illegal immigrants for no reason besides driving a pickup truck and looking illegal. The men are Julian Mora and his son Julio. Julian is a legal permanent resident and his son is an American citizen. In a recent radio interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton, Arpaio’s comments provide insight into his hyper?zealous enforcement of immigration laws that also ensnare legal residents.
During the interview, Sheriff Joe’s very first comments were to correct Sharpton on his pronunciation of Arpaio. Arpaio does not like Sharpton’s pronunciation of his surname because he thinks it sounds Latino. Sheriff Joe has corrected Sharpton before for this linguistic faux pas. Sheriff Joe says that Arpaio is an Italian surname and he wants it pronounced in italiano. Sheriff Joe insists on his Italian pronunciation of Arpaio (ar-PY’-oh), which is a trivial and adolescent demand. So what’s the big deal?
I initially assumed Arpaio was Latino because of his surname, and it is likely that most people make the same assumption. Arpaio might be a bit over sensitive to this cultural mis-identification. Is Arpaio’s zeal for rounding-up illegal immigrants a response to a lifetime of being mistaken for Latino because of his Latinoish surname? Instead of empathizing with the stigma of being Latino, has Arpaio gone to the opposite extreme of doing all he can to prove that he is not Latino? Did being mistaken for Latino drive him to the dark side?
I have two suggestions for Arpaio to help him solve his problem. First, take a lesson from Luke Skywalker who walked into a dark cave and confronted his demons. Luke emerged from the cave having come to terms with his dark side. Luke also left adolescence behind in the cave. Arpaio may benefit from such a cave awakening. The other option is for Joe Arpaio to change his surname to something obviously non?Latino, like Smith. There is no chance of being mistaken for Latino with a name like Joe Smith.
The consequences of a surname change for Arpaio, and other non-Latinos with Latinoish surnames, could be monumental for Latinos. Non-Latinos would no longer have to overcompensate for having a Latinoish surname by becoming anti-Latino. It is not realistic for Latinos to change their surnames, which have become quite common in the U.S. Garcia is the 18th most common surname, Martinez is 19th, Rodriguez is 22nd, and Hernandez is 29th. Arpaio is so uncommon in the U.S. that it does not appear in the Census Bureau’s list of surnames.
To learn more about Orlando, visit his Bio Page.
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.