That sound you just heard was Latinos taking yet another slap in the face. No, not from Donald Trump, but rather from the mainstream media.
What do you expect from an industry that is stuck in a black-and-white paradigm, suffers from being based in New York and Washington while more than half of Latinos live in the Southwest, and remains clueless about America’s largest minority thanks to a combination of ignorance and arrogance?
As you’ve probably noticed, the media have been obsessed with the story of Trump’s racist assault on the character of U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who Trump seems to believe is “Mexican” first and a jurist second.
Curiel isn’t really Mexican; he was born in Indiana. That was just sloppy shorthand by Trump, the kind that I grew up hearing in Central California when folks would talk about the “Mexican part of town.” Or when some of my high school friends assured me that I would not have gotten into Harvard if I “hadn’t been Mexican.” Or the kind that my parents grew up seeing in the Southwest of the 1960s where signs in restaurants read: “No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed.”
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Using a word like “Mexican” (as opposed to something more accurate like “Mexican American”) is how you talk down to people. And that’s how Trump intended to talk about this judge who was putting away drug traffickers as a federal prosecutor, and was so good at his job that he wound up with a bounty on his head and spent a year living under the protection of U.S. federal agents — all while Trump was judging beauty pageants in Atlantic City.
Let’s not get this twisted. If anyone deserves to be looked down on here, it isn’t Curiel.
As you can see, I have strong opinions about this story. Not that the television networks are interested in hearing them. Despite having done television commentary for more than 20 years on a dozen shows on a half-dozen networks, and having been tapped to go on a cable show to discuss a different topic just recently, I have not been invited to go on television and comment on the Curiel story.
And as far as I can tell, neither were any of my fellow Latino commentators who work for a variety of networks.
I might have shrugged this off as a harmless oversight had I not read an op-ed by Felix Sanchez, chairman and co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts in Washington.
“While all the major Sunday talk shows – ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos; CBS’ Face the Nation; CNN’s Inside Politics, State of the Union and Reliable Sources; Fox News Sunday; and NBC’s Meet the Press — all tracked the Trump/Curiel controversy, not one Sunday news show on June 5 included a Latino journalist or political analyst,” wrote Sanchez for the Hill newspaper. “Frankly, I don’t know who is more irresponsible — Trump for the horrendous and unjust damage he has inflicted on the Latino community, or the news media, who have failed to accurately report on these events or provide Latino analysts to interpret them to the nation and the world.”
I saw this failure with my own eyes on the night of the California primary. As the votes were counted in a state where Latinos make up 39 percent of the population — and where whites are a statistical minority — CNN convened what turned into a 45-minute discussion on the case of the “Mexican” judge without a single Mexican, Salvadoran, Colombian, Nicaraguan or other Latino on the panel. Led by anchor Anderson Cooper, the segment featured CNN contributors Jeffrey Lord, S.E. Cupp, Van Jones, Paul Begala and David Axelrod along with CNN host Michael Smerconish, CNN political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson and CNN senior reporter Gloria Borger. That’s nine people — two blacks and seven white people. But not one Latino.
That’s inexcusable. By not reflecting reality, the media compounded the harm that Trump has done, and perhaps — ironically — for much the same reason. So what if the New York liberals who run the networks think they’re more enlightened than Trump. Both parties seem to be drawing conclusions about which perspectives are valuable and which aren’t. And in both cases, the views of Latinos are tossed into the “aren’t” file.
Trump obviously believes that Latinos — excuse me, I mean “Mexicans” — are too culturally biased to offer objective analysis and reach fair conclusions. Do the TV networks believe the same thing?
Ruben Navarette’s email address is ruben@ruben navarette.com.