Is it okay for Caucasians and Mexicans to make jokes about each other?
Dear Readers: Although many of you have loved and/or loathed my columna for years, the Mexican still finds new readers every week in the unlikeliest of spots (hola, Chattanooga! See you in August, inshallah!). As a result, I sometimes receive questions about the methodology of the column, questions that everyone else knows the respuestas to, but ones that bear refrying from time to tiempo. So without further ado...
Dear Mexican: I've been watching you speak about your ¡Ask A Mexican¡ column. Now, you keep reiterating that this is supposed to be a joke. I have a question for you: It would be okay for a Caucasian to speak in an insulting yet joking manner about Mexicans, right? When my daughter comes up to me and asks me why some of the girls at her school call her a white bitch, what am I to say when adults continue to press the issue that this is acceptable and funny? She is the only one in her class who looks like her, but that's a non-issue because she's white. If it were the other way around, it would be a big deal — I know this because it was when I was a child. I do not believe you understand the damage you are creating by making it socially acceptable to speak the way you do.
Dear Gabacha: I've never said my column is a pure joke. It's a satirical response to the bigotry Mexicans must endure in this country. A joke's only intent is to elicit a laugh. For instance, did you hear the one about the guy who left a banjo in the back of his truck, only to return and find the windows shattered — and two banjos? Okay, so bluegrass-music humor isn't exactly Jerry Seinfeld territory, but there are no ulterior motives behind the chiste other than an intra-group ridiculing of banjo players: no social commentary, no statement of fact, nada. Satire is humor laced with stinging facts and points to make specific commentaries attacking the status quo — think Twain, Swift, Colbert, Chappelle and the mess that I make trying to copy them. And when have I ever said it's okay to make fun of gabachos for their race? I advocate logical, lyrical smackdowns of Know Nothings, who come in all colors — and if you don't believe me, try to figure out what Michelle Malkin's maiden name is.
Dear Mexican: I read your column regularly, thank you. I do, however, have what I think should be a simple request of you. My Spanish skills are confined to the street slang that I learned growing up in Los Angeles County during the 1970s and '80s; I'm not exactly what I would call proficient in polite company. Not surprisingly, you often use Spanish words and phrases in your column that are more appropriate for usage in the forum of public debate. I would appreciate it if at the end of each of your columns, you would allot space to define the Spanish words and phrases that appear in your articles. For most of us, the alternative will be to look it up on the Internet: a translation done out of context. For instance, all this time I thought that I was a "gringo," but maybe I'm a "gabacho" instead — or too? Who knew? In any event, it would be nice to learn a little bit about the language at the same time, and in the same context, that we are learning about the Mexican culture through your column.
Muchas Gracias (which means "Thank You")
Dear Gabacho: No, you're very much a gringo and a gabacho. I do love slipping in words in español whenever possible, but I also make it a point to make easy-to-decipher choices. For instance, look at the Spanish words I've used so far. Tiempo? Use your cabeza: It's "time," as in the idiom "from time to time." Cabeza? Head, as in "use your head." Pretty fácil, right? In the rare cases that I do use palabras that you can't easily understand, keep reading: I'll explain it sooner rather than más tarde.
GOOD MEXICAN OF THE WEEK: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers have done the Lord's work for the past decade organizing Mexican, Central American and Haitian tomato pickers in South Florida to ask fast-food giants to pay an iota more to double the salaries of its members. More information at www.ciw-online.org.
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