Having grown up in a town that me and my friends would joke around was 99.9% Mexican, we tend to become accustomed to the comfort that comes with such a situation. Our families and extended families tend to live in the town, so you really have no reason to leave. Why go somewhere where you might not encounter as much raza as you do here in “Little Mexico” aka Watsonville, California? It’s easy to get lost in the comfort of it all, even when there’s still a decent sized population of Anglo people living in the town. Even if they are the minority, they have stuck around and for the most they are cordial to all members of the community. However it’s always interesting to see the latent racism arise from some of them.
During my vacations, usually for the holidays and summer I would head back to my hometown to spend time with my family, and while there I would renew my membership at a locally owned gym. One of the employees, a middle aged white guy with tattoos, that has been there for years, has been a friendly face, possibly maybe even having been raised in nearby Santa Cruz, since he gives off that surfer dude vibe. However I wonder about him and maybe his own racist tendencies toward the local Mexican crowd he mainly has to cater to. With me he’s been very friendly, at times taking the time to ask me how I’m doing in school. It’s not to say that he doesn’t have that same friendliness toward other gym members, but I notice that with some of the other Mexican members he takes certain liberties when it comes to their accent. One exchange between him and another Mexican gym member caught my ear in particular, because the guy said hi to the employee, and he replied by saying “Hey mang! How’s it going mang?” The Mexican guy laughed it off. That exchange should have been fleeting in my memory, because it seemed, that that was the type of friendship they had, but I think it stuck in my mind, because on a few other occasions I heard the employee using that same heavy, almost cartoonish accent used to ridicule Mexicans that struggle speaking English, since Spanish is their first language. He did it to that Mexican guy, and a couple of female Mexican gym members as well. They seemed to take it as the employee just joshing with them.
At the same gym there was an older employee as well, also Anglo. He was maybe in his late 50′s early 60′s. Also a friendly employee, from what I could recall. One day while I was on an elliptical machine, he was talking to an Anglo gym member on an exercise bike not far from me. In fact I had my head phones on, listening to rappers talk about shooting motherfuckers, and their excess of hos. But I must have had it at a reasonable volume, because I caught some of the conversation, which at the time revolved around Sonia Sotomayor and her nomination by Barack Obama. This was during the time that she called white men stupid, remember? Not really, the line was as follows: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Well, as the elder employee walked back to the front desk, he was very angrily saying, “She called white men stupid! Sotomayor is a racist!” It was enough to make my cardio workout all the more enjoyable. He was clearly hurt that Sotomayor had called him stupid, even though technically it was interpreted and spoken by his white, conservative republican representatives in this way; you know like Newt Gingrich, and Rush Limbaugh. But no, he took it as if she had called him stupid, you know, because he’s white and apparently not stupid. Even white men are allowed to hold onto their racist pride, er, I mean racial pride.
At the same gym my mother had her own encounter with this latent racism with a couple of white gym members. She told me that she was using the shower after her workout and that she overheard a couple of the women talking, when one of them said “I don’t get why these people take so long in the shower.” Apparently we’ve moved from being “Dirty Mexicans,” to “Too-Clean-Mexicans.” We can’t win. After her shower my mother approached the woman and simply told her, that if she’s taking too long, she can let her know next time. The woman according to my mother, turned red, and said “Oh, it’s fine.”
There are a few other instances of this type of racism that have occurred in my hometown, “Little Mexico.” Maybe if I did research on my hometown I would find that it was once owned by an interbreeding group of KKKers that left behind generations of their brood, sticking around to demean Mexicans with their remarks, in the hopes that the very large Mexican population in the town will feel like they ain’t shit, because of their heavy accents. Or maybe they’re sleeper agents whose programming is backfiring and their necessity to maintain the racial hierarchy is overriding their need to stay undercover, and in turn this is being exhibited through their latent racism.
More than anything I write this post, because there can be a sense of security, familiarity, safety, or even a shielding from such things as racism when we’re the majority in the town. Those things that happen in the South don’t happen in our hometown, when the reality is that they do, just in a more passive aggressive manner. It occurs so undercover that some of the members at the gym take it as joshing around from a white employee, or the bitter rantings of an old white man. When in reality we are seeing and hearing the underlying racist tendencies of a few people who still haven’t truly accepted the overwhelming numbers of Mexicans in their town. They want to keep Watsonville, as Watsonville, they don’t want a “Little Mexico.”
– by Xicano X