THE BLOG

Can Ethnic Pride Translate into Hatred?

09/03/2011 09:27 am ET | Updated Nov 01, 2011

Like many ethnic minorities, I have been accused more than once of hating white people.

But for someone who despises the white race, I am seriously guilty of fraternizing with the enemy. I don't want to get into the whole "some of my best friends" are this or that, but I'll just mention that my wife (of German ancestry) would be a little peeved to find out about my deep-seeded hatred of white people.

I guess I'm also wracked with self-loathing, because (as I've pointed out many times) I'm half-white myself (on my father's side).

And for someone who is supposedly a Hispanic supremacist, I haven't exactly gone easy on Latino culture.

In any case, the criteria for hatred of another ethnicity are surprisingly low. For example, pointing out that races may interpret the world differently is usually grounds for getting called a bigot.

Enough people have labeled me a racist for me to address their complaints. I won't make this one long rant against my critics. Instead, I'd like to explore the idea that focusing on an ethnic group means that one hates all other ethnicities.

Right away, we run into a problem with this idea. If expressing pride in one's culture is racism, than the Irish, for example, have a lot of explaining to do. After all, every St. Patrick's Day, they run around waving those shamrocks and draping everything in green. Clearly, they only do this because they hate everybody else (I hear they especially loath Italians). And to make matters worse, we cheer them on and drink to excess celebrating with them -- yikes!

But maybe it's not simple displays of pride that make people uncomfortable. Perhaps it's the hints of advocacy that accompany many discussions of Latino culture.

For example, here is a sentence I recently wrote in another post: "Hispanic kids continue to lag behind other groups in educational achievement."

I then advocated for improving the quality of education for Latino children. I thought this was a pretty noncontroversial position.

Still, I received emails telling me that I was whining. This is, of course, the standard response from people who love the status quo, especially if they are the beneficiaries of it.

More interesting than this grade-school tactic, however, was the respondent who told me that I should not be pressing for any ethnic group's socioeconomic improvement. Doing so, I was told, is a form of tribalism.

But to equate advocacy for a class of people with lighting a cross on fire is, at best, intellectual dishonesty. That's like saying advocates of poor white people in Appalachia are no different than black separatists.

Hey, while we're at it, let's try a little thought experiment.

I'll change that sentence above to read, "Poor white Appalachian kids continue to lag behind other groups in educational achievement."

If I then say this is a problem (which it is), will everyone who lambasted me earlier repeat the assertion that I am pushing for one group's improvement at the expense of others?

I have my doubts.

Of course, some will say that this comparison is apples and oranges. But in both cases, we're speaking about disadvantaged groups (Latino kids and Appalachian kids) that need to improve their situations. It's just a lot more comfortable to address one of those classes and ignore the other.

The reason, of course, is because we've broken down one of those groups by ethnicity. In many people's eyes, this is calling for racial warfare.

But it is no such thing. Advocacy is not a zero-sum game, where acknowledging the reality of a situation (e.g., Hispanics' socioeconomic status) means that we want all other races to suffer.

As I've said, many readers disagree. A commentator responded to one my articles by insisting that I was pursuing "ethno-political activism for one 'tribe' (Hispanics) while telling members of another 'tribe' (Whites) to not do so."

To be honest, I was unaware that I was engaging in such vile activities. I also have to admit that I didn't know "ethno-political activism" was a real phrase.

But I'll be sure to drop that one into conversation from now on.