My post on Ann Coulter’s comments about Mexican culture resulted in a firestorm of comments on my blog’s Facebook page. I expected that, because her words express such a hatred for Mexicans that they expose her racism. As I looked at the comments, I realized that there is some debate about how to define racism. English is a second language to me and therefore I do not always use English words appropriately. When a debate ensues over the use of a word, I usually default to my English-speaking friends and they set me straight or we debate the use of the word. Most of the time, I accept their counsel.
I still believe that Ann Coulter’s words are racist.
Hold on tight, this blog post is not only going to be long but it will touch on extreme topics that will make many of you uncomfortable. As uncomfortable as the topic is, it needs to be discussed.
I am always challenged on my use of the word racism, especially by those that disagree with me. The notion, being that you cannot be racist against an ethnicity, as in Mexican citizens, or a culture as in the Hispanic or Latino culture. I have always thought that racism is not about skin color but rather it defines discriminating against an individual because of certain characteristics.
There are two major dictionaries for the “official” English language. Unbeknownst to many of you, my first English lessons were from an English teacher direct from England. My immersion into the English language, on the other hand, came from US television and conversations with US citizens. For the most part, my English is now driven by the US English version.
The Oxford Dictionary is accepted as the British determiner of the use of English words. The Oxford dictionary defines racism as “The theory that distinctive human characteristic and abilities are determined by race” in comparison to another. The Oxford Dictionary credits Richard Henry Pratt as first person to use the word racist in 1902.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the US English authority, defines racism as the “poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race” and “the belief that some races of people are better than others.”
Aha, some of you are gleefully proclaiming, you have been using the word racist wrong! Taking the definition of the word from the dictionaries – it is obvious that the word racist narrowly focuses on race as the determining factor.
We can all agree that humans are grouped into races, although we are all part of the Homo sapiens species. The term race is an extension of the expansion of Homo sapiens across the Earth with the race tag being defined as new distinct cultures were merged into conquerors through colonialism.
Thus “race” is nothing more than an identification tag used to define humans by certain traits or characteristics. The term evolved by colonialism and not because of scientific differentials of the Homo sapiens that we are.
Anthropologists continue to argue about how many “races” there are but generally recognize three or four ethnographic groupings. The three agreed upon are Caucasian, Mongolian and Negroid.
To the great chagrin of Ann Coulter and individuals that subscribe to her reality, Mexicans and most Latinos are Caucasian like her. Of course, humans must compartmentalize things and thus grouping Homo sapiens further leads us to ethnicity.
Ethnicity is the grouping of individuals based on national origin or deriving from a certain culture. There are hundreds of ethnicities with most of them deriving from a common language, culture, religion or even the food they eat. Many of us can argue ad infinitum, about what ethnic group we each belong to because the vast majority of Homo sapiens have comingled and thus very few, almost none can claim a “pure” ethnicity. A pure “ethnicity” probably no longer exists.
What complicates matters even more is that governments view race and ethnicity differently. The United States Census Bureau states that it “must adhere to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards on race and ethnicity which guide the Census Bureau in classifying written responses” in regards to race.
The US Government, as per the Census Bureau, defines race and ethnicity interchangeably as White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.
Much to the chagrin of individuals like Ann Coulter, Mexicans fall under the “White” designation as per the US government definition.
As you can see, race and ethnicity can be interchanged as groupings of people. The United States government uses both terms interchangeably. Unfortunately, the United States has also used the term “racial groups” to classify responses to government requests making the definition of race even more nebulous.
To complicate matters even more, we need to discuss “culture” as a further divider of the Homo sapiens species.
Apparently, we cannot all just be human.
I need to quickly address the term “Mexican” in order to clear up some misconceptions in contemporary United States public policy discussions. Contemporarily, when using the term Mexican in the United States it is often misinterpreted because the word can define many things. A Mexican can be a citizen of the Republic of Mexico. It can also be used to define a US citizen of Mexican descent. In other words, the term Mexican can define a US citizen, a Mexican citizen or a citizen of both countries. It can also be used to define a culture based on national origin.
Regardless, and this is important, a Mexican, however used, is of the Homo sapiens species that identifies closely with the Spanish language but is nonetheless White in race and ethnicity.
Dissecting Coulter’s Words
I am sure Ann Coulter identifies herself as White by all of the definitions I have discussed so far. I believe that by the same definitions, Mexicans are also White.
As an aside, I am focusing on Mexican today because, although, I am not ignorant that Coulter and her ilk also discriminate against other human groupings she specifically targeted Mexicans in the diatribe I am writing about. I am not ignorant that discrimination involves every Homo sapiens, including the “White” groupings.
Therefore, let us review Ann Coulter’s words. I am using the “America with Jorge Ramos” video that has been making the rounds on social media. If you are so inclined, you can see the actual two-minute video by going to the bottom of my post.
I am going to focus on two specific sentences she uttered.
“If you don’t want to be killed by ISIS, don’t go to Syria. Yea, if you don’t want to be killed by Mexican [sic] there is nothing I can tell you.”
After a few seconds of silence, she added,
“Very easy to avoid being killed by ISIS, don’t fly to Syria.”
In responding to host Jorge Ramos asking her if there are “people biologically predisposed to commit crimes,” she stated,
“No, I think there are cultures that are obviously deficient.”
She went on to state that bringing in cultures into the United States included bringing in “honor killings,” “uncles raping their nieces,” “it includes dumping their litter all over the place,” “it includes not paying your taxes,” “it includes paying bribes to government officials.”
For today, I am focusing on two sentences she uttered. The first one is where she stated that to avoid being killed by ISIS, don’t fly to Syria but to avoid being killed by Mexicans, “there is nothing” she can tell you.
The second sentence is that she believes “there are cultures that are obviously deficient.” She was specifically referring to the Mexican culture.
At the very least, we can all agree that her words makes the argument that Mexicans are more likely to kill you then ISIS terrorists. Coulter also argues that the Mexican culture is “deficient.”
Some of the commentary on my blog’s Facebook post has centered on the notion that I mischaracterized Coulter’s words as racist. The argument being that the term Mexican is not a race.
Why use racism to define Coulter’s words
The two dictionaries that I referenced define the word racist as one who argues that one race is better than another race. I have already established that Mexicans are White, just like Ann Coulter and her ilk.
By ascribing certain deficiencies upon Mexicans and alluding that citizens cannot be protected from Mexicans, Ann Coulter has separated a group of people based on certain characteristics and abilities. (Oxford Dictionary) Coulter has also articulated her belief that her culture is superior to that of the Mexican culture. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
This leaves us with the definition of race. As I have already showed you above, race is subjective and is further confused by its official use by the US Government. Thus, race can be used to define a heritage, a culture or an ethnicity. The US government officially uses the term interchangeably with the others.
Let me bring all of this together for you now.
Racism, in its simplest terms, is arguing that one group of individuals are superior than another based on subjective terms such as economic status, culture, heritage or ethnicity.
However you personally choose to define the term Mexican – ethnicity, heritage or culturally is immaterial because Ann Coulter’s statements diminishes all versions equally.
Ann Coulter’s two sentences are racist by any measure of how the word is defined.
It was intended as racist. It is racist and it clearly shows that Ann Coulter does not want to associate with Mexicans or allow them to live in her country.
Her words proves that Ann Coulter personifies racism in America today.
Note: this topic took me through various digital multimedia exercises: digital graphics, the written word, sound bites and videos. It is such a personal issue for me that I needed to express myself in multiple mediums. I did not respond to Coulter’s various factual inaccuracies in my blog today but I will address them in a video tomorrow.
The video where Ann Coulter makes her statements: