It is estimated that about 80% of Latinos voted for then City Councilman now Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when he first ran. I was in the 20% that didn't. Over the years I have treated the Mayor on my show as I have treated all elected officials or candidates regardless of their party affiliation or race. That is: when they do something good I encourage it and when they are doing dumb things I say so. I am -- in this order -- an American, a Latino , a progressive, and finally a Democrat.
I say this so that you can understand that my reaction to Rush Limbaugh's comment that he mistook Mayor Villaraigosa as a "shoeshine guy" is not a knee-jerk reaction based on partisanship. It is a reaction as an American of Latino decent that quite frankly is tired of the media's Latino rules.
As a member of the largest minority ethnic group and a member of the media, I am continually puzzled and outraged by the idea that anyone can say anything about Latinos without fearing any consequence. While it would be out outrageous for anybody to have said a similar thing about an elected official of almost any other ethnicity, Rush will certainly not receive any heat at all for supposedly "mistaking" the Latino Mayor of the nation's second largest city as a shoeshine guy.
There will be no national debate about whether he should step down as there was when Imus referred to a women's basketball team in a derogatory fashion. There will be no national outrage like there was following the racist vocal vomiting of "comedian" Michael Richards. There will be no slam down and painful lame excuses like those offered by Mel Gibson after his anti-Semitic comments. The rules for Latinos are different.
Rush, Lou Dobbs, and a host of shock jocks are well aware of this different set of rules. Dobbs & Rush inc. can freely accuse Latinos of spreading Leprosy and TB, of raping children, and even planning the violent overthrow of the US, without any proof whatsoever.
While the silence around these comments is consistent, media heads are wrong to believe that they bring no negative impact. Someday, CNN will understand that most Latinos laugh when we hear the slogan " the most trusted name in news". Radio advertisers will eventually come to the realization that there is a correlation between radio market share loss, the growth of Latino populations in certain and important markets, and anti-Latino hate speech dominating the airwaves.
It seems that there is a growing consensus that we have moved past the stage of asking media figures to be removed for racism and sexism, a consensus of which I find myself to be a part. In place of firing Rush & Dobb Inc., broadcast outlets must be pressured to increase racial diversity and diversity of opinion on their platforms. How those diversity standards are enforced should be voluntary. However if voluntary action is not taken now, future majorities may act legislatively. Broadcast outlets should remember that in America, shoeshine guys elect members of Congress and their sons and daughters sometimes even become them.
Mario Solis-Marich is a radio talk show host that can be heard at www.GoToMario.com.