Earlier this past February, I completely blew up (editorially) at Sean Penn’s lame gaffe at this year’s Academy Awards. Right before he announced the Best Picture winner to his comrade Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, he said: “Who gave this son of a bitch a green card!” and I was fuming. It was in poor taste and so not the kind of “inside joke” you say on the Oscars stage. This wasn’t some low-rent event. I wanted to know who gave Penn the right to berate anyone not born in the United States but still had taxes taken out of their paychecks.
Now yesterday, it happened again for the third time this year. If we’re not having to over-explain or oversimplify why the chant “All Lives Matter” is counterproductive to “Black Lives Matter”, the matter of immigration and particularly immigrants from Mexico and Spanish-speaking countries are (still) at the nexus of America’s embarrassing conflicts with race and racism. In late June, hopeful presidential candidate for the Republican Party, Donald Trump, hurtfully regarded to Mexicans in the U.S. as drug mules and “rapists” during his bid declaration. He exclaimed that America had become a “dumping ground for everyone else’s problems” and concluded that problems in North America stemmed from “more than Mexico [but also] coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably, from the Middle East.”
Trump’s comments remained a discussion in the media. And many Latinos (American, immigrant and naturalized citizens) have protested against him, while NBC, Univision and Macy’s have all cut their losses from associating with Trump’s racism. Tuesday, while on The View, Kelly Osbourne, in an attempt to spoof the tycoon’s debasing viewpoint commenting on the hot topic in saying: “If you kick out every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet Donald Trump?” Instantly, the other ladies of The View (Osborne was a guest correspondent) reacted nervous, baffled or annoyed, the last most exhibited by Rosie Perez, a Brooklynite of Puerto Rican descent. Perez retorted with her invisible ice pick: “Latinos are not only-” and that was when Osbourne immediately attempted to clear up her statement. Yet in between “no, I didn’t mean it like that” and “I’m not a part of this argument”, all of The View were talking over each other to try and fix the unintentional misshap. When you watch the video of the exchange, it actually makes you shift in your seat.
I initially didn’t view Osbourne’s comment as offensive. But I thoroughly understood why plenty felt they had to put the Dukes up and proclaim what she said was harmful. She was wrong because it perpetuated the images of Latinos immigrants as just ” the help.” However. She wasn’t wrong in her honesty about how rich, well-off, and wealthy White Americans view and essentially benefit off of the Latino community regarding work. I can attest to what Osbourne actually meant.
It is bizarre that for someone like Trump, considering his position and place in American finance, business and politics is so predisposed to racist thoughts about people of color, yet for example, the Latinos he’s maliced in the press are the very same people that take care of him outside of his board meetings. You think this particular group of individuals want to work menial jobs for him? The only reason why a lot of Spanish-speaking Latino immigrants take thankless jobs is to support their families and with the hopes that their children, who will likely grow up either bilingual or speaking English, will have better lives and opportunities than they did and never have to scrub any toilet but their own. And of course not every Latino person in America is or has been a “toilet scrubber.” Please enter into the conversation, Sonia Sotomayor, America’s first Supreme Court justice member of Latino-descent (specifically Puerto Rico). For those that have, it is purely circumstantial. Nobody wants to do that shit and look after someone like Trump’s ass.
When it comes to Osbourne’s comment, the millisecond run it took to derision was na issue of eloquence and White privilege. Osborne’s opinion didn’t matter because she is the daughter of a rich, famous rock star. Ozzy Osbourne, a British rock legend, was affluent by the time Kelly, was born. She grew up with enviable advantages. But her insight into why White rich celebs hire and treat the help could’ve been a little insightful.
In December 2014, Chris Rock lit a fire under Hollywood when he wrote in an essay for entertainment trade The Hollywood Reporter on how wealthy and powerful White people condescend Mexicans to servant roles regularly. He even referred to the famed district as a Mexican “slave state.” (He also disclosed how Black artists’ stories, talents and contributions were routinely subjected as afterthoughts and back burner projects). So Osborne’s comment wasn’t the first entry into the mindset of how rich White celebs behave. Read Rock’s excerpt below.
“But forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question is: Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You’re in L.A, you’ve got to try not to hire Mexicans. It’s the most liberal town in the world, and there’s a part of it that’s kind of racist — not racist like “F— you, nigger” racist, but just an acceptance that there’s a slave state in L.A. There’s this acceptance that Mexicans are going to take care of white people in L.A. that doesn’t exist anywhere else. I remember I was renting a house in Beverly Park while doing some movie, and you just see all of the Mexican people at 8 o’clock in the morning in a line driving into Beverly Park like it’s General Motors. It’s this weird town.
You’re telling me no Mexicans are qualified to do anything at a studio? Really? Nothing but mop up? What are the odds that that’s true? The odds are, because people are people, that there’s probably a Mexican David Geffen mopping up for somebody’s company right now. The odds are that there’s probably a Mexican who’s that smart who’s never going to be given a shot. And it’s not about being given a shot to greenlight a movie because nobody is going to give you that — you’ve got to take that.”
Pretty intense words from Rock, but we know he’s telling the truth. That’s why it was a bit surprising that Osborne caught some flak for her intentional lampoon of Trump and was handed the racist label. I, an American born of Afro-Costa Rican descent, have made similar comments to what Osbourne uttered. “So who’s going to look after your child Donald Trump?” So rude and disrespectful to an entire categorical group of people but who’s been looking after him making sure his suits were steamed and the beds made when he came home. I for one have had a relative work as a maid. I know the will just to make a dollar as a Latino immigrant in the U.S. is all too real.
What Kelly Osbourne said wasn’t entirely “wrong” in its truth, but quite honestly, it was more so in the overall essence of what so many, Latino or not, go through to provide for la familia.