One Day, All Crime Will Just be Labeled as “Crime”. I hope.

So, I live in this tiny subdivision out in Roswell. Property values have taken a hit in the last 4 -5 years and we have had one demographic move out and another demographic move in. I’m talking about homeowners versus renters.

In my little enclave, we have people of many races and ethnicities: African Americans, straight up Africans, a few Caribbea Islanders, a mixed race couple, some Caucasians, two Hispanic families and a gay couple, just for spice. Oh. And the neighborhood weed man. Can’t forget him. We all get along because we largely ignore each other except to wave on the way in and/or out of the enclave, or when my girls are selling Girl Scout cookies. Despite our brief interactions, we’ve gotten to know a bit about each other.

“I like your slippers. Where did you get them?”

“Oh! I got them when I went home to Trinidad.”

Or

“Hey! What are YOU guys grilling today? It smells great!”

“Chorizo. It’s from Argentina. Do you know it?”

“No. Never had it.”

“Well try a piece. And here, give some to Stone. He’s so cute.”

argentThat last interaction was with my neighbor Valentina*. She is, as you may have guessed, from Argentina. I guess you could say she is a “white Hispanic”, as I have recently come to understand that Hispanics have a sort of caste system amongst them. I don’t know what the proper term is. I still have to contend with colorism in the Black community, so I’ll leave this for them to deal with.

I like Valentina a lot. She always has a ready smile, a goofy joke, and she keeps her carport clean. She looks out for my kids and I am kind to her dog. I’ve never seen an ugly side of Valentina… until today. Okay. “Ugly” is a strong word. Let’s just say I was “surprised”.

There is a bush/tree/mutated vegetation that grows outside of my house. There is some sort of symbiotic relationship between the pompous grass and some thick weedy thing that grows in this area. The plant is not just an eyesore, but it is a safety hazard as well. I don’t know if you can make out the red and white “no parking” sign in the picture, but it is about an inch taller than I am. I am 5’4”. The mega-bush dwarfs it, and probably is about ten feet tall – conservatively. It is as wide as it is tall, and is dangerous because the kids play around the area. Cars cannot see them, they cannot see cars as they approach. Marshall once almost hit Liya because he could not see her while she was riding her trike one afternoon.

Lord. I hate this thing.

Lord. I hate this thing.

I have complained about this bush for almost a year. Nothing has been done. I finally took a different approach and contacted someone else on my HOA committee. If you live in a community with an HOA, you know it takes a decree from God Almighty and an act of congress to make anything happen. I sprinkled my email with big words. I called and left voicemails with my most Talented Tenth, grating, condescending tone. I took pictures and made YouTube videos. I was being a total jerk. And it was not until I was a jerk that something got done.

A Mexican man named Jorge showed up at my door today to say he was there to cut down the bush. I told him it was out back and that he would need to drive around. As I was coming out of my door, I saw Valentina get into her car. I walked over to say hi. She had been out of the country on summer vacation and I hadn’t had a chance to greet her in weeks.

“Hey, Valentina, what do you think of this bush? Does it bother you?”

Her eyes flashed and she furrowed her brow.

“Oh yes!” she said in her thick accent. “I don’t like this bush at all. It’s so big… you can’t see anything around it. It’s very dangerous. Especially with the kids.”

I nodded, feeling vindicated. I wasn’t crazy. I told her that I had contacted the HOA to have them cut it down.

“They aren’t going to do anything about,” she snarled.

“No, actually, they are on their way now.” I pointed to the black and green landscaper’s truck pulling up. Valentina nearly spat.

banderamexico“If it’s that Mexican, he’s not going to help you. He’s a useless man.”

Yo. I can’t explain to you how she uttered the word ‘Mexican’. It was as if the word left a dirty taste in her mouth, full of bile and contempt.

She spun around and hopped into her car seconds later. I literally didn’t see her leave. The landscaping manager approached me and began to talk quickly. I didn’t even get a chance to address him or the bush.

“I don’t know what that woman said to you, but we have our own issues with her.”

“Okay…”

Then he launched into a missive about how she wanted her carport blown out, how unreasonable she was, yadda yadda yadda.

“I don’t know what issues you have with her, and I don’t care,” I said, jumping to her defense. “The fact is that our HOA dues pay for these services, and she has a right to request them.”

(I stopped myself from saying “and they pay for your hourly wage too”. See? I’m learning tact!)

Eventually I got Jorge to focus on why he was here. Actually, Marshall got him to focus, because I apparently he saw me do a neck roll/hand on hip/squat-kick combo and came rushing out of the bedroom to diffuse the situation. Upon seeing my husband’s herculean frame, Jorge immediately became five times more docile and compliant… and stopped talking to me altogether. This was the second incidence of misogyny in as many days, and I was not having it. I was the one making the incessant requests for this shrubbery to be cut down. He darn well was going to respond to ME!

Marshall had to take a call, and Jorge had no choice but to talk to me. I told him what I wanted, and he said he would do his best.

“That’s all you can do,” I replied, reaching out for a handshake.

I turned to leave and he stopped me.

“This is my card. Call me tomorrow after I’ve talked to the HOA manager. I’ll see if we can do anything else.”

“Thank you, Jorge.”

It ended pleasantly. I wondered if Valentina and Jorge might resolve their differences as well one day? While I am ignorant of the exact forms in which ‘racism’ exists within the Hispanic or Latin community, I do recognize the symptoms as they manifest: the same sneers, side glances, and inflection in one’s tone when talking about the ethnicity of the next person, they are almost universal.

I have heard more white people complain about the Black community’s apathy towards black on black crime in the last year than I’ve ever cared to. Who told these people that we are not concerned about Black on black crime? If my loved one was killed today, I wouldn’t care what color the person was that pulled the trigger. Is the fact that the assailant’s race/color matches mine supposed to be some sort of comfort? And for the record, our community has had plenty to say about intra-race violence. No one bothers to report it.

What does that have to do with my Hispanic neighbor and Hispanic landscaper? Perhaps not much to you, but it was certainly revelatory to me – and it left me puzzled on few issues. So… Hispanics are capable of hating each other? How is that even possible? How long has this been flying under the radar? And when White people kill and rob each other, is that ‘White on White’ crime? Does such a thing exist? Does that mean White people have an intra-racial psychosis that mirrors that of Blacks? You know, like when the guy in the trailer beats up on his wife or rapes his kids. Why does Black crime get the distinct honor of being exclusively racialized, while all other crime gets the benefit of merely being known as “crime”?

No really. Why.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “One Day, All Crime Will Just be Labeled as “Crime”. I hope.

  1. David S.

    The “black on black crime” argument is a smokescreen argument at best. The difference between black on black crime and what happened to Trayvon Martin is in the words. Specifically the last word: Crime. If I leave this office building right now and go shoot some black person, if they catch me I will pay for my crime. What George Zimmerman did on the other hand is apparently perfectly legal. He could go out an do the same thing again tommorow, and he would probably walk again. So to compare it to “black on black crime” is just a ridiculous argument. We haven’t legalized black on black crime. But we legalized GZs actions.

    1. Malaka Post author

      Oooooo snap!!!!

      Sorry. That escaped me before I had a chance to compose myself.

      You’re so right. The law worked exactly as it was designed to. What’s sick is how so many states are adopting it so rapidly. Hmmm. Black travel advisory in effect!

  2. Dali Cintra Bartharès

    Dear Malaka,

    There is no such thing as Hispanic. Think about it: how much do you have in common with all the Anglophones in the world? Do you have a deep, abiding kinship with all Anglophones? Why do we even use such a contrived word as “Hispanic” to describe people who speak Spanish but are of many different races, (many mixed, many not), and many different countries? I would argue that “Hispanic” is a racist construct used by people who think “those people are all the same anyway.” These are sometimes, but not always, the same people who talk about Africa, not as distinct countries or distinct peoples or tribes, but as just “Africa.” Berber, Amhara, Zulu, whatever. It’s all the same. Because it doesn’t matter anyway. I think this is an example of color-blind racism; either none of us has a race or each of us does. I think this comes from the American White Privilege mindset and also affects Americans of other races.

    Mexicans of any color have very little in common with Argentinians of any color. They have such different cultures, cuisines, histories, different landscapes, different communities, different social structures, different everything! Mayan Mexicans are Amerindian, but have little in common with Mapuche Argentinians. (They are only similar insofar as both are Native American peoples but of different tribes geographically far away from each other.) Same goes for White people of both countries, or black people of both countries, in the same way that black Nigerians find they have many cultural differences with black Americans, or French whites have cultural differences with American whites.

    But then again, there is such a thing as Hispanic. Life in the United States being what it is, the meaningless term “Hispanic” comes to have a particular meaning. First of all, it means “not from here.” For example, if you speak Spanish, you must not be “from here.” Who cares if your family have lived in California since it part of Mexico, or if you were born and raised in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest European-founded city in the United States. The American White Privilege mindset ignores American history that is not white, but it also ignores history that is not British.

    Also in my experience, Americans of any color assume that Hispanic means mixed-race white + Amerindian and/or + black. (Never mind the other races that exist in Latin America.) Most American people seem to think Hispanic is a single race. Some Americans think they are enlightened and call Hispanic an ethnicity, but Hispanic is many races and many ethnicities, because all it means is that you speak Spanish. Some Hispanics in the United States do not identify by that term and prefer to describe themselves by nation of ancestry, regardless of race. Some Hispanics feel so otherized by Americans that it makes sense to call themselves “Hispanic,” regardless of race or ancestry. Hispanics do not, however, all attend meetings of La Raza and while some vote progressive and Democratic, others are very conservative and very Republican. You can find Hispanics on all sides of any particular political issue in the United States. Some are even anti-immigration!

    And what does it mean to look Hispanic? Americans more or less think that looking Hispanic means you have Amerindian features and bronze/beige skin. This is what they mean when they describe someone as “Mexican.” If they say you look Puerto Rican, it means you have black features and light skin. If they say you look “Spanish,” it means either of the preceding two categories, but not Spanish from Spain. Again, who cares about precision as long as you speak Spanish or you look like you should. This is why Hollywood actresses who are Hispanic of any particular race, put on plenty of spray tan and bronzer, and dye their hair dark if necessary. It’s a kind of minstrelsy. I honestly don’t know what race Jennifer Lopez is. I can’t find anything about her race because it seems “Puerto Rican” is a good enough descriptor. (Again, they’re-all-the-same mentality.) She is, however, much paler than she appears in public. Sofia Vergara has also adjusted her hair color and applies bronzer appear more “Hispanic” to American eyes. Funny–when she was on Univision, she was a natural blonde.

    Then there is the topic of white Hispanics. Why is it that when a white American identifies by race, she can boast that she’s a mutt and even throw in something about “Native American blood” somewhere in her woodwork, and everybody still agrees she is white? But if a Cuban says she is white, she could produce a genealogical tree going back to Isabella and Ferdinand, but every American would still think that she is a Racist Denier of Her Mixed-Race Heritage, because she must be mixed race. (Also Americans think they know her race is better than she does.) The truth is that there are Hispanics of every class, every race, every phenotype, every everything. Within Hispanic societies, there are tons of white people who benefit from white privilege and who suffer from white racism and derangement and have to own everything about being white, all the evil and the neutral and the good.

    To complicate things, for some it is a status symbol to be white, both in the sense of race, but also in the sense of lacking exposure to the sun, meaning you’re rich enough to have a car, or not to do manual labor. Sometimes when people of Amerindian or black or multiple races can pass for white, they do. (I understand this also happens in America.) But there are also plenty of people who cannot, or do not wish to, pass for white and are described in exquisite detail as to their degree of whiteness, i.e., mulato (has kinky hair) or jabao (mulato with straight hair). There are also proud Afro-Cubans, Afro-Venezuelans, proud Yanomamis, proud Quechuas and so forth. Latin American societies are both plagued with every kind of racism and blessed with every kind of racial pride that you can find right here in the United States. After all, it is a whole continent-ful of humanity down there.

    And to go back to white people: yes, white people do suffer from enormous intra-race psychosis. But that’s another subject.

    So to answer your post more succinctly, your Argentinean neighbor may be racially and/or culturally bigoted against the Mexican landscaper. Or she may be elitist. By the way, I’ve been reading your blog for some time and admire your frank writing.

    1. Malaka Post author

      Dali: Thank you SO much for your detailed comment. And you are absolutely correct in saying American society heaps all Spanish speakers in one group.

      Being from Africa myself, I ought to know better. Although we speak hundreds of different languages, we are unified by speaking either English/French/the language of our colonial oppressors. I imagine the same applies to people of Mexican, Dominican, etc decent.

      All though the point of this article was about who commits crimes against whom, you bring up a myriad of other points which are very much worth discussing. Thank you again for your thoughtful insights and thanks for reading!

  3. Dali

    Dear Malaka,

    Regarding the main point of your post, I think Abagond speaks to the racialization of black crime well :

    http://abagond.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/reading-while-white-history-and-news/

    I feel that this analysis is also more or less applicable to other groups coexisting in the same space as insiders and “others.” Internalized racism seems to exist to the extent that “others” accept the dominant narrative about “others.” I am not sure to what extent “others” do the same to dominant groups or to different “others.” For crime just to be “crime,” I think humans would have to be a lot more mature and touched by the grace of God or whatever deity or force we relate to. Even on issues that don’t relate to race, humans have a tendency to avoid overwhelming alarm. If something makes them feel too vulnerable, they often knock out the feelings and instead look something to hook the alarm to, even if it’s wrong and/or evil, from spider phobias to irrational fear of others.

  4. Pingback: The Concept of Black on Black Crime is the Steam Off of a Pile of Shyte. | Mind of Malaka

Comments are closed.