This is Temple City

My hometown is Temple City, CA, a sunny place about 15 miles east of Downtown LA. Temple City is a small, sweet town in which the residents don't always know what to say to each other. Sometimes it's because they truly don't know what to say, and sometimes it's because not everyone speaks the other's languages. Temple City is 60% Asian, and many older Chinese residents only speak Mandarin.

This scene from New Girl basically is Temple City to me. It's the town acting itself out, if it could. With the silence and the laughter and the absurdity and the serendipity. It just is Temple City.

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Rick and Jon

Former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez - the one my grandma looked forward to saying, "La foto del diiiia!" every afternoon - has been fired from CNN.

Because he said what he thought.

I thought both Rick Sanchez and Jon Stewart worked networks. And that the idea of the news is a search for the truth. Rick's truth is that the sense of persecution so central to Jewish American identity is no longer relevant, as Jews hold enormous (and hard-earned!) influence over the media, academia, and finance. His truth is that the power dichotomy in America is no longer about WASP or Jew, crucifix or dreidel; it's about white vs. brown. This truth holds that you're not only not going to get into the country club, but you might get pulled over, you might be asked if you're American even if you're born here, and you might even be a victim of a hate crime. And not because your last name is Polish as opposed to British; because your skin is brown.

Jon's truth is different. And that's fine. This isn't just about "speaking truth to power"; it's about multiple truths.

Isn't journalism supposed to want all sides of a story? Isn't it supposed to not just tolerate, but welcome, dissent?

Little Ms. Illicit

Illegality is in. The Stimulus bill isn’t working, and the gulf is drowned in oil.

What’s left to do? Make movies!

The TV show Weeds and new movie The Joneses star two women conducting their life just on the wrong side of legal, and loving it. These women, maybe 15 years ago, would have done things the right way, but are just kind of over it. One sells pot, and the other uses the pre-fab name of Mrs. Jones to sell…well, herself.
These new Sopranos of the American Sunbelt are interesting to a country in the midst of a recession, a country vaguely fascinated by the fact that there is now a black market in white suburbia. That there is an informal sector - the Hot Dog Vendor On the Corner sector - but with an asking price of $2,000, not $2. The type of profession where your boss doesn't chat with you by the water cooler but pulls up in a black limo and says, "Get in."
As U.S. suburbia gets broker and broker, the people living it will become more and more broken. 
Maybe Demi Moore’s chose her lifestyle because she thinks being a real Mrs. Jones might be boring, and Nancy, is, as Andy her brother in law says, just terrified of being ordinary. But eventually, emotions get the best of them. Ms. Jones ended her fake wifery and took up being a real one, and Nancy Botwin is...well...chingada.
A woman who started off as a soccer mom in the San Fernando Valley chased non-taxable money far enough down a rabbit’s hole to find, at the root of it, men who teach her that mota = money. The higher she ranks in the drug trade in Southern California, the more Latino her life becomes. She ends up baby mama to a drug kinpin-gone-politico in Tijuana, unable to leave the house and stuck in the strands of a real politik she doesn't understand. She is the hacienda wife of the hacendado landowner, nothing more, but gladly enough, nothing less.
Ms. Illicit’s 21st century America of Rich vs. Poor, of Get Yours, doesn’t look all that different from Latin America. The neighborhoods of the Nancy Botwins of the world, and the Joneses of the world, might soon be adding new steps to a popular tune in Latin America.
What wouldn’t Ms. Illicit do for love or money? Por la plata baila el mono – would the monkey dance for money? (Que si, que si! )

Dianne Sawyer and the Census

I had the privilege of going on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer on national Census Day to talk about the complexities of filling out the Census for people of Latino (or part Latino) descent. I went on behalf of the organization I work for, Voto Latino. 

The April 1st, 2010 segment asks the question, 'Can the census form adequately capture a concept as complex as racial identity?' The answer: not really. Check out what these castiza airwaves have to say about who the new national American 'me' is...


Jessica and George

Earlier last month, George Lopez interviewed Jessica Alba on his new TLC show, during which he made public the results of a DNA test he ran on her to find out her "real ethnicity".

The footage is painful to watch, as is the remedial effect it’ll have on understandings of race and ethnicity in Hollywood and beyond.

Apparently we're going backwards here; maybe Ellis Island-type head measurings are next. This is not 21st century 'post-racial' America, but rather plain, old-fashioned, institutionalized racism.

Perhaps what’s most disappointing is to hear this from a Chicano hard-liner  bent on the politics of inclusion. Latino culture is built on mixture, and for Lopez to do this is to shoot that legacy in the foot.

Lopez looks all but ecstatic to tell her, "Jessica Alba: You're whiter than Larry David." (The same - rather questionable? - DNA tests that revealed that Alba is 13% Native American while prominent Jewish director Larry David is 37% Native American.)

Jessica Alba is not whiter than Larry David, and that's because she doesn’t look it.

People are treated based on how they look, and Jessica Alba was put in ESL as a child because she was brown. (Her teachers assumed she only spoke Spanish.)

I doubt Larry David had a similar experience.

Let’s face it: genes do not always equal phenotype. And a lot of people know this. Growing up in and around mixed white/Latino families, kids like me thought it a funny little secret that we could all play together – some with blond hair, some with black hair – and have the rest of the world not know that we were actually all of the same “racial” mix.

If Lopez is going to do DNA tests, he needs to at least acknowledge that they don’t mean what he thinks they do. Whatever it is he sought to prove, the only thing he will end up proving is that this type of “only if” Latino belonging is exactly what made Jessica Alba reluctant to identify as Latina in the first place.

The sort of “only if” litmus tests - the only if you’re Latino ‘all day, every day’, the only if you speak Spanish, tests - is what disqualified Jessica Alba from Hispanicity in Southern California but made her Latina to everyone outside of it. In the greater U.S., to be half Mexican is to be Mexican, but in many places in Southern California to be half-white, half-Mexican is to be white.

Big difference.

How do people expect her to accept something she is constantly rejected from? (And okay, maybe I’m partial to her because she has a castiza baby. But she can never seem to win Hollywood’s race game, and I don’t think she needs to.)

And why does someone have their own show if their favorite thing to say is, “You can’t play in my sandbox!” on network late night?

Please. In “GLo” terms, that is so MP: más puto.

I mean, where can he go from here? Run a DNA test on former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and announce to everyone that this Latin American man is not Latino because he's East Asian? Or better yet, run a DNA test on himself? What would Lopez do if his results said he was part European - or, as he put it to Jessica Alba, part 'Oh My God'? Say...oh, my God!?!

On Pundits...and Pico Rivera

The pundit (reporter) Soledad O'Brien aired her second series exploring one part her tri-ethnic heritage. The Afro-Cuban-Irish media maverick's "Latino in America" aired nationally October 21st and 22nd.

I went to an advanced screening of CNN's "Latino in America" at the Newseum, and was asked some questions by a local DC blogger on the way out. Who knew he would use what I said and put it on YouTube?? And that 4,000 people have watched it by now?

(I can't decide if that's hilarious or weird.)

[youtube=] I then wrote a full review of the documentary, from a mixed Irish-Nicaraguan perspective. I talk a lot about Pico Rivera, cuz she mentioned it. So then I mentioned it. So I can be a pundit (reporter), like her.

Televisa Reconciles...on TV

From March 18th to 20th, I blogged the 2009 Reconciliation Forum for PODER Magazine and the Americas Business Council. It's stunning how much the power elite of Mexico City and Miami resembles the power elite of Beverly Hills...they just have cuter shoes and better haircuts.

At the forum, an arthritis-ridden Gorbachev found very poetic ways to complain, and Desmond Tutu made us feel like kids at storytelling time. Find out what the stories were about here.