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Jewish World Review
July 31, 2009
/ 10 Menachem-Av 5769
No More Racial Sell-Outs
Rick Sanchez, a CNN anchor, provoked a tempest in a Twitter this
week when he said he'd be a rich guy if he "sold out as hispanic and worked
at fox news." The commentary on the episode mostly centered on whether
working at Fox News Channel constituted "selling out," with left-wing
bloggers defending Sanchez and conservatives weighing in on Fox's behalf.
But the real outrage in Sanchez's statement isn't what he implied about Fox
News; it's the whole idea that an individual is capable of "selling out"
others who happen to share his race or ethnicity.
First, a bit of disclosure: I've been a Fox News contributor
since 2001. I'm usually on to discuss politics or comment on a news item,
including recently giving my views on the nomination of Judge Sonia
Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.
While I suppose Sanchez might read the latter as proof that Fox
invited me as a "token" Hispanic conservative foil to the liberal Hispanic
judge, he'd be reading into it his own biases. In fact, Fox has invited me
on to discuss every Supreme Court nominee since I became a regular
contributor. I was one of the earliest critics of Harriet Miers (a Bush
nominee) and a staunch supporter of Chief Justice John Roberts, with whom I
worked in the Reagan White House, and Justice Samuel Alito. I'm there to
articulate a political point of view and to share my policy expertise, not
to "represent" the views of women or Hispanics on any issue.
Unless you believe that all women or blacks, Hispanics,
Asians, Jews, you name it think alike, it's absurd to assume that any one
person can or should represent the views of the diverse members of his or
her particular group. Of course, we don't tend to do that with whites or men
for that matter.
We'd be rightly offended if, say, Bill Clinton was accused of
being a traitor to his race or sex because he supported affirmative action
programs that benefited blacks or women. Yet a black, Hispanic, or woman who
criticizes those same programs is in for a heap of abuse based on his or her
alleged disloyalty. I know; I've been called everything from Tia Tomas to
Malinche (the Indian woman who aided Hernando Cortez in overthrowing the
Aztec empire) to "coconut" for my alleged ethnic betrayal. One viewer
offered the following critique after I testified against Sotomayor: "I want
to congratulate you for having the courage to sit in front of all those old
white men and reinforce their opinions of Latinos. You managed to place
yourself in the very useful position of smearing the accomplishments of a
fellow Latina. I wonder how good it feels to be used that way. ..."
We rightly condemn stereotyping when it maligns whole groups of
people. We know that it's bigoted to use terms like shiftless or lazy or
greedy to describe racial or ethnic groups. And any public figure who does
so soon suffers the consequences. Radio shock jock Don Imus lost his job
at least temporarily after calling the Rutgers University women's
basketball team "nappy-headed ho's," and scores of others have suffered
similar or worse fates. So why is it acceptable to call someone a sell-out
because he or she doesn't conform to ethnic stereotypes about political
We ought to relegate terms like Uncle Tom, sell-out, and
traitor-to-your-race (or sex) to the same category we do racial and sexual
epithets. They reflect the same root prejudices. Anytime we assume that we
know something fundamental about how a person behaves or thinks based on
race, ethnicity, or sex, we're exhibiting our own biases. People aren't good
or bad, hard-working or irresponsible, smart or dull, liberal or
conservative based on the amount of melanin in their skin or the number of
X-chromosomes in their DNA.
The sooner we start judging people as individuals, not as
members of groups, the sooner we'll put prejudice and bias of all sorts
behind us once and for all. So the next time Rick Sanchez starts casting
ethnic aspersions based on politics, let's recognize his prejudice for what
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JWR contributor Linda Chavez is President of the Center for Equal Opportunity. Her latest book is "Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)
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