how the world sees america

The Hyphenated American

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CARACAS - In the parlance of hyphenated identities, Nelson Agelvis would be an 'American-Venezuelan'. He was born in Venezuela, grew up in Kansas City, speaks with an American Midwest twang, and now teaches media studies in Caracas. But he says such labels, and hyphenated identities in general, are "uniquely American."

We listen together to Super Tuesday coverage on the radio of his Ford Explorer. As American pundits ponder the possibility of the "first female president", or "the first African-American president," Nelson wonders aloud if such distinctions cause the U.S. more harm than good.

"In Venezuela," he says, "the media doesn't mention the race or origins" of its subjects, whether they’re Carnaval dancers packing clubs now, or foreign politicians running for president.

"[My students and I] don't fixate on Obama as the first black candidate….And we're really puzzled by the way Americans do,” he says. “It seems to us like a form of racism. Americans don't realize how racist they are….By always discussing race, they just perpetuate their problem."

Nelson’s brush with American racism came early. In 1975, when he was three years old, his family moved to Kansas City so he could have an "international childhood." He spent a decade in school there, as the short kid with the foreign last name. Either because of height or origin, he frequently got into fights. In tenth grade, his parents decided to send him back to Venezuela to “find his roots”, and once there he found that his American identity was suddenly an asset. "I was the cool gringo kid who knew the disco and rock scene backwards and forwards, and followed baseball like a religion." He and a Polish girl were stars in Caracas, he said, even though his Polish friend back in Kansas had been mocked mercilessly.

This is one simple anecdote, but it’s one that’s repeated by Nelson’s students, two decades his junior, who've spent summers in the U.S. where teenage Americans asked them, "if Venezuelans lived in trees or had TV." Wealthy students share these anecdotes in between laughs. Together with news clippings about the government’s poor Hurricane Katrina response, or the plight of illegal Hispanic migrants, they reinforce an image of the racist United States. And the government of Hugo Chavez perpetuates this image, teaching members of its 50,000-strong Frente Francisco Miranda, a social-service/pro-Chavez organization about “the unfinished struggle” of Malcolm X.

For this reason, Nelson is particularly skeptical of defining ethnic or racial divisions. He sees it more as a political tactic, especially under Chavez, than as an appeal for group solidarity and pride. "Chavez is trying to introduce the idea of Afro-Venezuelans now," to consolidate his support among Venezuela’s poor, who are largely darker-skinned. That adds a racial element to a struggle already defined in terms of class and sovereignty.

I press him on this. Isn't an attempt to wash away hyphens just a way of masking the problem of racial inequality? He concedes, "Yes, there is racism here. It is true the higher you go in the corporate world, the lighter-skinned the bosses become." But he insists that there are better ways to resolve the problem of racial inequality than the American model of differentiation and ethnic mobilization. What that is, exactly, he doesn't say. But an Obama win might force him to re-think his position.

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Comments (142)

Venezuelan guy:

Chakman ... you are right. Maybe I am wrong and arabs and jews are members of the same beach and country clubs. I know the KKK is nothing now. But I must admit, you are right. The inferences come from strong stereotypes that we obtain, ironically, from US media and Hollywood. Also by our own experiences when we travel to the US and from stories we hear. I personally have been to some clubs across the US and many seem to have he same type of people, not much diversity. Anyway, I am sorry for seeming closed minded toward the fact that the US might not be as racist as it seems. I know one thing: times they are a-changing.

the chakman:

"So, I came out white (in the US I am told many times I look French..??), but I a cannot join the KKK because I have darker skinned ancestors and even a jewish one. So, I look white but i am not racially "pure""

"I imagine this would be hard to see in the US (arabs and jews being friends in the same beach club). I'm sure american arabs would not seek memebership in a club with an enormous jewish population (what happened here)."

You know....how can anyone even discuss things with inferences like this?

Half the problem is the stereotypes and myths taught about USamericans. After a certain amount of discussion, it's like a Mollusk...There's no point?

When we try to engage with you, you basically just keep saying you are better in every way, and close to flawless.

While the USA is flawed in every way, according to you guys. If any contradictions or facts are pointed out, you can just mention something negative, even if it's totally unreleated.

Oh well

Venezuelan Guy:

TO FF (the best US poster here).

"One strain has insisted on Venezuela as a melting pot where everyone is simply a different shade of one single race, while others have referred to more distinct racial/ethnic/national groups. Maybe someone can clarify this situation a bit for me."

For sure. There are distinct races, but many in only physical appearance. For example, I look like your everyday Italian, Spanish or French, but I am neither. My grandmother was dark Venezuelan Indian with Spaniard White (Spanish Jewish father). My mother is pale white southern-european looking, but her family is fully Venezuelan. My Father is mestizo (darker skinned with european facial features). So, I came out white (in the US I am told many times I look French..??), but I a cannot join the KKK because I have darker skinned ancestors and even a jewish one. So, I look white but i am not racially "pure"

There are many white and black Venezuelans with no mix of other races. But because the vast majority of people ARE mixed, we consider ourselves a true melting pot. By the way, many of those mixed ones, would be simply BLACK in the US. It happened to a girl I know that married a white American friend. Here, she was not black, she was..well ...Joanna (her name)... and she was simply in a marriage. They moved to Nebraska (he had to go) and now she is "black" and is part of a "mixed race marriage", a new concept for her. Over there, she realized that she was the product of a "mixed race marriage" herself, she just never saw her mom as dark and her dad as light, they wer just mom and pop. So you see. The race issue becomes blurred in the shades of skin color of the mestizos. It's clear among the "pure" white and the "pure" black. There are also rarities, such as Venezuelan redheads, albino-like blonds, australian aborigene type blacks, but you only see them in specific circles.

As for the arabs, they are part of Venezuelan society fully, just like the descendants of Italians, Spanish and Portuguese. The fourth generation arab kids are hip Venezuelans that pack the dance clubs. Ironically, one of the most popular beach clubs for Venezuelan Arabs is the the most popular for Venezuelan Jews. They make fun of each other sometimes, but in the end, they are all Venezuelans. I imagine this would be hard to see in the US (arabs and jews being friends in the same beach club). I'm sure american arabs would not seek memebership in a club with an enormous jewish population (what happened here).

About the asians (mostly chinese), they ARE another race here. Very few have chosen to become part of Venezuelan society. They have their Chinese club, they marry among themselves mostly. They are still foreign to Venezuelans, even though they are Venezuelans too. It's sad. If they opened up more, maybe the regular Venezuelan wouldn't see tham as "chinese", like what has happened in other latinamerican countries with asians. In this (the asians), Venezuelans have to learn from Americans.

Well, that's pretty much the situation here.

seconding SIMON:

What Simon says is true ... here in Venezuela, people don't need to pick up a hyphen. They are allowed to be who they are, conserve their traditions and be Venezuelan at the same time. Many of them are better Venezielans than the orginal ones. A perfect example of this "respecting the heritage" thing is with the descendants of african slaves. They still dance the same dances they brought 500 years ago and have even made the rest of all Venezuelans dance "tambores" (african drums) at parties. The most upper-crust white elite weddings in Venezuela have a "tambores" group, with black shirtless men dressed in white pants banging on their drums while the crowd goes into a dance frenzy. This would be hard to imagine in other countries, such as those that "melted" cultures while keeping races segregated.

Simon (in NYC from Venezuela):

You can't willfully become 'American' or 'Venezuelan'. It happens over time and generations.

When you ignorantly state that they should be americans just because they move the U.S you are falling into the same close-minded name-tagging hyphe-nation politics.

In Venezuela, we have a fair share of second and third generation italian descendants. These kids are Venezuelan with a strong italian heritage--food, social clubs, etc. They are Venezuelan.

However, their parents and grandparents are "Italian" and they remain expats to this day. Venezuelans have no problem with Italians beings Italians in our country.

Inmigrants should not be forced to become Italian-Venezuelans or Italian-American...over time, kids and grandkids will be Venezuelans--they will always root for the azzurri in the world cup and we will always get to enjoy their delicious food

Harry:

They are here to become Americans. Or are they here for some othere reason?????

Harry:

They are here to become Americans. Or are they here for some othere reason?????

Harry:

Why is it so hard for the real Americans to say
"I am an American of what ever nationality they came from"....why are they here in the first place?

Harry:

I am an American of Italian desent. And I do not understand why people have to preface American with anything at all. Are you an American or not.
And I don't care where you came from you are here now. So you are an American.

RKS:

"[My students and I] don't fixate on Obama as the first black candidate….And we're really puzzled by the way Americans do,” he says. “It seems to us like a form of racism. Americans don't realize how racist they are….By always discussing race, they just perpetuate their problem."

The author of this article completely mis-understands his topic. Americans openly confront and deal with racism and the HYPHEN is a big part of the strategy to move beyond the past. Instead of suppressing thier cultural heritage Americans celebrate it. So Latino-Americans, African-Americans, Italian-Americans etc. don't feel the need to hide their culture or skin color, instead, those differences are celebrated and inserted into the mixed cultural soup that is America.

Compare that to Venenzuela, the rest of South America, and most other places in the world where people of darker skin have few or no opportunities for equality and fair treatment. Only in American can a child of an immigrant, with no special family background or wealth, rise to be a serious candidate to be the leader of the free world. We don't ignore the fact that he is a hyphenated American, we celebrate it, because it affirms our unique success (albiet recent) in dealing with race.

I'd just add that as an African-American who has spent the last 10 years travelling the world, there is no better country to be black than the USA.

ff:

"OK RR, I get your point. The problem is that you don't get mine. Beyond the hyphens, it's the whole obsesion with race."

Yeah, we're undeniably obsessed with race issues. It's unavoidable in a country with our history, and I'm not convinced it's altogether unhealthy, all things considered.

"anyway, we still don't want those hyphenated names here because they just remind people of RACE."

I hear you, and you might be surprised to learn that many Americans have a similar attitude. They get sick of hearing about it all the time, and wonder why we can't just move on. As people get older and more experienced, however, they notice the key flaw with such an approach (at least in the United States): only white people have the privilege of not thinking about race. If you're a minority, you're constantly confronted by situations in which you have to second-guess how you'll be perceived and treated. It's a simple fact of life that races exist, and that people are aware of them, and no amount of white people ignoring that fact is going to improve anything.

Some related issues I'd like to raise (if anyone is still reading this): there seems to be some disagreement amongst Venezuelan posters as to how race is construed there. One strain has insisted on Venezuela as a melting pot where everyone is simply a different shade of one single race, while others have referred to more distinct racial/ethnic/national groups. Maybe someone can clarify this situation a bit for me.

To make this more concrete, I did some Wikipedia research on the demographics of Venezuela, which indicated that around half of the population is of mixed background, one fifth is "pure" European, one tenth "pure" African, and very small percentages of natives, Arabs and Asians. I note that the relative size of the African population is roughly the same as the percentage of the US population categorized as black. It seems to me that a lot of the difference in how the groups are perceived may relate to the more mixed nature of the majority group in Venezuela, as compared to the United States? More generally, where do the Asian and middle-eastern peoples fit into the picture? Are they participating in the melting pot, or forming separate enclaves, or what? Are they even referred to as "Venezolanos?"

Andres Fuentes:

As a Venezuelan that has been to the United States many times, I can tell you that the obsession many United States Americans have is with the first. The first this the first that. Maybe an obsession with statistics. Now in the Obama case you have two big things together, a first and race. It is for them like a double-header ball game. what happened to the second place?

WHAT IF:

Chakman . If nobody moved out of you neigborhood when back folks moved in, it must be that wealthy neighborhood where Michael Jordan moved to or one like it. If you tell me it's a blue-collar neighborhood, then I'll really be taken aback. But I will see it as exceptional, becauese sadly all the other cases I know are all about "white flight."

About conspiracy theories on JFK, I'm not oliver stone. My comment was tongue in cheek.

Oh, and about Obama winning. Gotta see it to believe it. I think the US will prefer a white woman than a balck man. Let's see if I end up right.

VENEZUELAN GUY:

OK RR, I get your point. The problem is that you don't get mine. Beyond the hyphens, it's the whole obsesion with race. I saw many other articles from this "world sees america" series and this is the one with the most comments of all the ones I saw. Why? Because the interviewed subject drove it home mentioning the great demon of American society: race. I accept your explanation for the hyphens. It makes sense the way you say it, as a symbol of diversity, preserving the culture, etc. .... anyway, we still don't want those hyphenated names here because they just remind people of RACE.

the chakman:

FF already responded to VG, so I guess it's my turn to respond to "What if", as one of those loco Obama supporters.

So...let's see...

What if said:

"Many of you say that if Obama wins... racism wil disappear. Ha! Keep dreaming."

I don't recall anyone saying that. It just shows that him getting this far, and perhaps becoming president, shows that we might not be quite as racist as some people here would like to imagine.
Otherwise, how could he have gotten this far? Why are the mostly "Blanco gringo" states voting for him in the primaries?

"If Obama turns out to be a bad president ... you will not see another black president again. It's the race stupid. "Let's give the negro a chance, just like the one we gave that catholic guy back in the 60s, so we can show that all men are created equal in this country" but that's it. By the way, if he begins to really think he has the power, we'll take him out, just like with the catholic guy."

If you actually believe that....that's sad....
The whole point of voting in the president is getting the right PERSON for the job...not whether they are a woman, black, white, older, mormon, etc.... but seeing their qualifications overall...

"So, if Obama wins, white folks will not move out of neighborhoods when "colored people" move in?"

None of my neighbors did.

It must really make you angry that so many people of differing ethnicities live in the same neighborhood, huh?

Carlos Freitas:

RR. I like your post it is very clear. Anyway I am Venezuelan of Portuguese grandparents. I want to say you that here in Venezuela, I go to the Portuguese club, we have portuguese weddings, even speak portuguese, even four genertion after come here from island Madeira still speaking portuguese. Venezuela is a country that respect culture. In Venezuela everybody dance "tambores" (african drum) coming from 500 year ago from the black people. The music is here still, after 500 years. Anyway, to show more, my grandfather was call "el portu" by the people here but no problem. A negro work in our grocery store and everybody call him "el negro", and he call me "catirrusio" (dirty blondy). That is the way here in Venezuela. We not are serious about the race. For this, we are very surprised that all this nicnames is so bad in USA. I understand we are diferent. I understand your post. Yes, we are diferent. For we, race is not serious.

ff:

"And he didn't get into the issue of government forms. They don't ask you race."

Most government forms in the United States do not ask for race, and the few that do always include the option of not specifying. It is explicitly illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, national origin, gender, etc., and there is a federal agency charged with jumping down the throat of anyone who does so. Data on race is gathered only for statistical purposes, so the government (and society at large) has some idea of who's being left behind.

Running through this discussion is the idea that if the government doesn't ask your race on forms, it can't be discriminating. However, most people know this to be false. There are any number of more subtle race indicators. Looking at what happens in, for example, France provides evidence that not asking for race on government forms simply makes it easier to get away with discrimination (since offenders can facilely claim that they weren't aware of race), and ignore the overall effects of racism (which cannot be measured).

"I agree with Nelson that the hyphen is a tag, like a star of david on your arm. Jews were OBLIGATED to wear it. Same goes with your hyphened status in the US."

Wow, what an incredibly ignorant and offensive thing to say. First of all, the hyphenated labels are almost universally self-applied. There is no Gestapo running around forcing people to use hyphenated terms. Indeed, the most-used hyphenated term (African-American) has recently gone out of fashion, exactly because black people decided they'd rather be called "black." It's all about respecting peoples' feelings on how they'd like to be identified. Also, unlike the case of Jews in Europe, it's typically very easy to determine an American's race simply by looking at him, so it makes no difference what you call him. Everyone is going to be just as aware of race regardless.

"Racism in homes I understand (it happens here), but having it institutionalized? I think it's wrong."

So do Americans. That's why we did away with every vestige of institutionalized racism 40 years ago. What you guys seem to be missing is that having the institutions pretend to ignore race is actually an insidious form of institutionalized racism. The fact is that races, and racism, exist whether the government aknowledges it or not, and having the government ignore it makes things worse, not better. It makes the oppressed people invisible.

To put it another way: while a genuinely post-racial society would indeed not bother to aknowledge race, it's a fallacy to imagine that ignoring race is a productive way of creating a post-racial society.

Also, are we to understand that you don't think racism is wrong "in homes?"

"But I feel Venezuela, because of the TRUE melting pot that it is, is more evolved in this matter. The US will be social-racially like Venezuela in around 100 years. "

"More evolved," eh? It's pretty ignorant to think that the United States and Venezuela are on the same path in this regard, and extremely chauvinistic to imagine that Venezuela is 100 years ahead of the United States... The social and demographic dynamics of the United States are vastly different than in Venezuela (ongoing immigration, religious pluralism, etc). The two countries are simply on very different courses when it comes to these kinds of demographic issues, and have been for quite some time.

"It will be a true melting pot and not just a fondue of different white cheeses with multicolored vegetables as a side order."

Good metaphor. But, as I said a few posts ago, it's far from clear that a "true melting pot" is a desirable goal, at least for the United States. It sounds nice and all, but you quickly find out that most people aren't all that excited about having their ethnic identity subsumed and eliminated. Which makes it problematic for a country committed to large-scale immigration, among other things. A better approach is to learn to respect and embrace diversity, and so create a place where all races and welcomed and valued. That's what the hyphenated-American thing is about: creating a way for people to take pride in their background (African-, or Italian-, or whatever-) while emphasizing their common membership in our nation and society (-American). Yes, we still have a long way to go towards creating a utopia where all ehtnicities can live in peace, but it still beats ignoring racism in the naive hope that it will somehow disappear.

What if:

Many of you say that if Obama wins... racism wil disappear. Ha! Keep dreaming. If Obama turns out to be a bad president ... you will not see another black president again. It's the race stupid. "Let's give the negro a chance, just like the one we gave that catholic guy back in the 60s, so we can show that all men are created equal in this country" but that's it. By the way, if he begins to really think he has the power, we'll take him out, just like with the catholic guy.

So, if Obama wins, white folks will not move out of neighborhoods when "colored people" move in?

Yeah ...hey, wanna buy a bridge?

Venezuelan guy:

Many of you are puting words in Mr Agelvis's mouth. He never said that Venezuela was not racist. The opposite, he says it is, just differently. What he is saying is that the media does not make a big issue out of RACE like US media does. He is simply saying that the hyphenated races are not a common media practice. He is, through thIs example (tone, intenion, etc) cRiticizing that practice. It is true. If an "afro-venezuelan" athlete wins a medal in something, you will NEVER read a Venezuelan newspaper mentioning his race, same goes fOr a blond "euro-venezuelan." And he didn't get into the issue of government forms. They don't ask you race. I agree with Nelson that the hyphen is a tag, like a star of david on your arm. Jews were OBLIGATED to wear it. Same goes with your hyphened status in the US. Racism in homes I understand (it happens here), but having it institutionalized? I think it's wrong. It's only my opinion. But I feel Venezuela, because of the TRUE melting pot that it is, is more evolved in this matter. The US will be social-racially like Venezuela in around 100 years. It will be a true melting pot and not just a fondue of different white cheeses with multicolored vegetables as a side order.

ff:

Speaking of immigrant and non-immigrant nations, I think that's another important aspect to consider when comparing race relations between the United States and Venezuela. Not to endorse some of the ignorant comments which appeared previously about Venezuela's record of taking on immigrants, but in the last few decades there's been an enormous difference. The United States takes on around 1 million new immigrants each year (legally, the total number including illegal immigration is much higher). In Venezuela, meanwhile, more people move out of the country each year than move in. So, approaches to relations based on the idea of "we're all just " are probably much more appropriate to Venezuela, where the demographics are more settled, than the United States, where they've been in constant flux for many generations, with no sign of stabilizing any time soon. To put it simply, people are migrating here much faster than they can be assimilated into "un-hyphenated" Americans, which kind of ties our hands.

Another important difference to consider: well over 90% of Venezuelans identify as Roman Catholic. No such unanimity exists in the United States. So there's another commonality that binds together all the different peoples of Venezuela, but has no analogue in the United States.

the chakman:

I really don't know why if someone wants to refer to themselves, with a hyphenated description, it is automatically a bad thing.

in the US, 90 % of the time, it's just something we say to describe our heritage....and that question comes up occasionally, as USamericans are curious, and might not know. So they ask. Big deal.

It's almost like Venezuelans are saying "we don't care what race you are, because we will never be curious about your heritage, or anyone else's"

That strikes me as the same attitude as other non-immigrant nations. I expect this attitude in Switzerland and Norway......

Of coarse, I'm hoping I have it all wrong.....

colorado kool aid:

It is a fool who tries to say that "we're not racist here" but that "your country is so racist." Racism is a human condition -- it doesn't believe in national boundaries. Just ignore people who try and tell you otherwise.

Chaotician:

These hyphenations are bizarre! Note that Barack supposedly has a White mother and a Black Father; so at most one could presume to be 50% white and 50% black. Of course neither parent is neccessarily pure anything, assuming such a thing is even possible nowadays!

Is it not a little crazy to call anyone with a single drop of black, asian, native American, hispanic blood as having that ethnic label? What value does this labeling provide, except to divide us into tribal groups for exploitation?

It leads to the nonsense beliefs of evangelicals, Bill O'Reilly, GW Bush, and the rest of the pandering crowd of bigots!

CAM:

To THE CHAKMAN.
I think I got to understand your point. There is not other way to treat this race issue in US as you already have done in the last century. And I think it is working, with logical bumps and misunderstandings. We treated the problem in another way. Maybe because we never were as polarized as in the United States.
I want to point out a recent misplaced commentary by a ESPN sports commentator about Tiger Woods and how the other players should lynch him. Rev. Shapton wanted the commentator fired (and her career destroyed, what a nice reverend of what religion?), Tiger Woods on the other hand, said he understood it was just an irrelevant mistake. Two ways of focusing the matter, that show the worst of racism in Sharpton and increased my admiration for Tiger Woods.

ff:

"What bothers me is that they have the BALLS to look down on us because we commit the sin of talking about race forthrightly, because we have the audacity to use words like "negro" and "catire" matter of factly and without getting our collective panties all up in a bunch."

From where I sit, y'all have been getting looked down on not because you talk about race forthrightly, but because you don't. Frankly, I'm stunned that you could wring such a conclusion out of this conversation. Most of what I've seen from the Venezuelan side is a lot of cheap cop-outs about how race doesn't exist there, or the government has a don't-ask-don't-tell policy, or (worst of all) dark people are lazy and get what they deserve. I mean, wasn't the original post all about how explicitly race is aknowledged in the United States? Which side is equivocating, and which side is being honest?

The stuff about "negro" is a red herring. Nobody has lectured anyone about that; you've simply been informed that, up here, that word is no longer acceptable (nor is gringo; thank the Mexicans for ruining that one for you). This isn't a value judgement: everyone understands that certain words acquire ugly connotations in certain times and places. I haven't seen any attempt to universalize that into an accusation of racism. On the contrary, I've seen a lot of cheap attempts to claim that the acceptability of the term "negro" in Venezuela somehow implies that racism does not exist. To which I'd point out that you can call someone in the United States "black" without any worries at all (in fact, this term is preferred to "African-American" these days, the latter being used mostly for recent immigrants from Africa).

I'm also struck by the post-colonial insecurity: "USAmericans" politely tell you that, although they know you don't mean it that way, the words you're using are considered racial slurs in the United States, and y'all bug out and start beating your chests about cultural imperialism. I expect this from the peanut gallery, of course, but it's somewhat surprising coming from someone who has already demonstrated so much insight into the ways perceptions of the United States are exploited to manipulate the Latin American political consciousness. But then, perhaps that just goes to show why such ploys are so effective.

Some more general food for thought: although the "melting pot" ideal is entrenched in American political discourse, there remain serious questions as to whether that has ever truly been a widely-accepted ideal in the United States, or if it even should be. Certainly, the trend in much of the West has been the other way: towards multi-culturalism. The United States has always treaded a somewhat unique path between melting-pot assimilation and multi-culturalism, so it's unclear to me that Venezuelan lessons about assimilation have much relevance to the United States. There are also the differences in scale and complexity of the two socieities to consider. At this point, I can't resist pointing out that the insistence by various posters that the United States should be learning about race relations from Venezuela smacks of chauvinism and cultural imperialism.

But don't take any of this the wrong way: of all of the dialogues generated by Amar's series of blog posts, the Venezuela episodes have been, by far, the most informed, civil, educational and interesting. I was very near giving up on following this project (which has mostly generated very predictable, polarized comments) until these recent episodes, and so I applaud you all for your contributions.

the chakman:

Responses to:

"Negro:


If I am in USA with a friend or relative, I want to continue be called Negro, period. I don't care is this is an offend to Americans, but not for us.
Over there there a whole bunch of people with inferiority complex.
I don't want any US person to tell us how we should behave."

What, like the "good professor" tells US citizens how to behave? LOL. Like the Venezuelans are telling us how to behave? My original response to Cam was just an FYI, on how these terms would be interpreted within our culture.....

Of course, I'm not really surprised that you think that we all have a "bunch of people with an inferiority complex" because our culture operates differently from yours.....

That is...if you think the US has a culture....many people in LA don't really think we have one, and are just a convenient piece of land to move to....

"F. Toro"

"There is a Black TV channel BET, magazines only for blacks. Medicine: Could you believe that each race has to be under different medicine or medical treatment? This happens only here."

No one forces you to watch BET. I really don't understand your point about medicine. Do you mean that African Americans get (willingly) screened for Sickle cell anemia, HBP, and Diabetes more?

Again, no one is forcing you to live in the US.

"V lady"

"What bothers me is that they have the BALLS to look down on us because we commit the sin of talking about race"

Um, what? The "good professor's" comments about us was what started this...him looking down on us...for "mentioning the race" of a Bolivian carnival goer....

Basically the exact opposite of what you said.

Cam:

I never accused you of anything, especially saying that racism doesn't exist in LA. Racism exists all around the world. It will be here as long as humans are. It will just manifest itself in different ways.

"FYI: Gringo and negro are not insults nor slur here."

Yes I know. They are here. just informing you and the people on the board. Unfortunately....because of the difference between our culture, it will always be taken the wrong way...see responses above....

"I know their meaning in USA, and again, my recommendation is a change of attitude. United States could teach a lesson to all Latin America in many things, but regarding tolerance between races, you are light years behind us."

Obviously, opinions differ here.

I really just see it as different sides of the same coin. Ours seems rougher, and filled with DIRECT conflict, while your seems smoother. To you. Not to us. It just seems more nefarious.

The USA is a vastly different culture, so it will have a different response. We can't just "change our attitude" to yours (Venezuela's) because our history is so different. That said, just because we are different from you....doesn't mean we are dealing with it the wrong way.

One other problem (which again, I am not saying you believe) is that throughout LA.... the USA is thought of as not having any culture at all.... a culture free environment where you can just do what you did before, and live a private life.


Oh well. So much for communication and understanding.

CAM:

To THE CHAKMAN
I clearly said that we are racists too. Every one is very aware of the whiteness of their skin, even the ones that are not very white. But we are of a more tolerant kind. The lack of race driven crimes in our society proves that, as well as the browness of our people.
Many hispanics in US are poor and live in poor neighborhoods, that happened to be also predominantly black. What do you expect their reaction if many crimes are commited by blacks in those places? If the main criminals were irish then they would have a similar attitude against the irish. I am sure they are getting very aware of tatooed latinos with funny pants, that happened to be the uniform of hispanic delinquents.
The dark skined people I was talking about are the ones that live in Venezuela. Why are they in average poorer or less educated? Racism, bad parenthood, lack of educational institutions in our country, etc, etc. It is a fact. But it is also true that dark skinned people are every year more educated and able to get a better social position.
I live in Venezuela. FYI: Gringo and negro are not insults nor slur here. They could be, but it depends in the tone and situation. That's why I say we are very contradictory in this race issue. I know their meaning in USA, and again, my recommendation is a change of attitude. United States could teach a lesson to all Latin America in many things, but regarding tolerance between races, you are light years behind us.

Hunky Santa:

F. Toro:

Blame those "crazy, convoluted mass of racial attitudes" to rich white elitist (ugh!) "progressives" and race hustlers perpetuating victimology (blacks and Latinos). Those are who demanded these race categorizations decades ago and who created all this mess.

Que se jodan ellos...

They should learn from another minority, one that doesn't need self-pity, and which is the richest group of all: the "Asian-Americans."

F. Toro:

V. Lady,

You know, what bothers me is not that gringos have some crazy, convoluted mass of racial attitudes that really make no sense to me. I mean, God knows they have a complicated history with this stuff, and though I find their attitudes really weird, I'm in no position to judge. Ellos son blancos y se entienden.

What bothers me is that they have the BALLS to look down on us because we commit the sin of talking about race forthrightly, because we have the audacity to use words like "negro" and "catire" matter of factly and without getting our collective panties all up in a bunch. THAT's what sets me off. The ONE subject where we actually could teach them a thing or two, and they lecture us!

No joda, chica, que se laven ese...

Venezuelan Lady:


F. Toro:

Thank you for the post, most of us (not from US) agree.
Americans say "mixed race marriage" how funny is that. USA is the only country in the world to have this expression.

Also people here were not be able to be marry if they were different race. Even in 1962! They call mixed race MONGRELS, so in Latin American we are mongrels?
Here is such a big deal be mixed.

That is why they want to categorize people into certain races....but AMERICAN DO NOT ACCEPT "Mestizaje", so how in this world they will be a melting pot?

Diversity, this expression,now in fashion, is invented by "whites liberals wanna be" because they are racist to, they don't even know they are racist! Diversity is a kind racism to keep people labeled. Martin Luther King. Jr. was dreaming with integration, but our society is disintegrating.

Sad, but Malcom X is most popular in schools that MLK.
There is a Black TV chanel BET, magazines only for blacks. Medicine: Could you believe that each race has to be under different medicine or medical treatment? This happens only here.

I love USA my second home, but not this distortions about races, because is schizophrenic.


Negro:

The_Chakman:

Your answer 8

In Venezuela we say Negro without insulting. My family and friends call me "Negro" or "negrito", "Hola Negro, como te fue hoy"? Hi Blacky how was your day? I am black, I am the darkest one, so what?!!!

This is not an insult, this is friendly and tender to call me, now, if some one I love say " Victor....."
I would feel strange, like if that person is mad...

If I am in USA with a friend or relative, I want to continue be called Negro, period. I don't care is this is an offend to Americans, but not for us.
Over there there a whole bunch of people with inferiority complex.
I don't want any US person to tell us how we should behave.

Sincerely

Victor,

From Venezuela with Love

Just A Human:

Back again.
All comments shed some light on the true nature of the game.
Confuse the pliable masses.
Punch and counter punch;
Man,what power?
The disposessed of all colors/castes been kept fighting each other so long,
Simply lost track or the hour.
Or, of the 'Oz Wizard' cowering behind the smoke-obscured curtain.
You know who I mean?
The one throwing out the appeasement crumbs -
a little longer chain, a little more power coupled with just a littel more (always revokable on demand) priviledge -
enjoying the inevitable, resulting scramble and scrum.
And, desperately always ringing the bell signalling the next round of mayhem.
Hoping to witness continual mutual neutralization, if not outright, cancellation of any challengers before the prospect of any awakening materializes.
Divide and conquer - same, same, same!
Terrorize with well placed blight. (Aren't you really fortunate to not have to live there?)
Keep 'em hooked on the 'White'.
Never provide a chance to ever see the light.
Never, ever, allow a sliver of light.
People just might, just might, realize ...
we are all (Gasp and double Gasp!!) members of the same HUMAN race.

The_Chakman:

TO Cam:

on Answers 2 and 4

Well, if there is no no such thing as race identification in Venezuuela....how could you hear of crimes towards someone of a certain race...? Be it mob lynching, or any other (more modern) crime?


on Answers 3 and 7:

This helps to illustrate our points actually. It tells us how you percieve Blacks in the US. Hey, it's an honest answer....I appreciate it.

Answer 8: Both "gringo" and "negro" are considered
insults / slurs in the US, just so you know.... an FYI.

I'm sure this fact doesn't help communications between cultures...

CAM:

After reading many valuable comments here, I conclude:
1. Yes, Venezuela and all Latin America are Racists. Not very different from the rest of the world.
2. But, at least in Venezuela, where I live, I haven't heard of any race driven assesination or crime. This speaks a lot about the tolerance of our society. I think because everybody knows they have a black or an indian among their ancestors. And the white immigrants got married or had kids with mestizos.
3. Dark skinned people are the less educated and that's why you don't see many pictures of them in TV, politics or science. Dark skined (it is difficult to find a "pure" black here) people, that are educated and honorable, can get respect and good positions in our society. And since 1958 you see more and more of them in those positions.
4. Never, ever, I have heard of a Venezuelan mob linching chinese, africans, jews, arabs or even gringos, just because they are from a different race. I am sure some "whiter" venezuelans won't marry "blacker" ones, but they don't kill each other nor request race or religion in their job applications.
5. Our racism is more subtle.
6. Our apologies to chinese or any other group that are offended by us. Some Venezuelan, black, white or of any other in between color, have a total lack of education and respect for people that are different (like many people in more advanced countries).But I am sure you can find more friendly people among us that jerks with bad taste for jokes.
7. Black people in US have suffered racism as no one of their race in Latin America, and longer. But a change of attitude would be welcome. Some African Americans behave as racists too. Many hispanics in USA just see you as dangerous because they live in dangerous neighborhoods with high rate of black criminals, and that RAPPER attitude doesn't help.
8. Gringos are welcome in Venezuela. If you are african gringo, and somebody call you NEGRO, smile. The one that said that surely will be black according to US standards and is just being friendly. Just learn some Spanish and call him back " Epa,Noche sin luna" (ey, Night without Moon), both will laugh and get a beer. If the guy is white, "cucaracha de panadería" will work (bakery cocoroach).

hoos30:

Is this a joke post? Professor from Venezuela doesn't want to acknowledge racism because he is one who benefits from it. He must not realize that we can see Ven. television here in the U.S.: no black faces unless you're the maid, a dancer or a baseball player. This must be a joke.

Chris:

Your experience in Kansas City is not due to hyphenated cultural ID; it's due to how homogeneous societies deal with the introduction of foreign cultures. Divisions between people with different backgrounds are a given -- they will not go away. Hyphenated identities acknowledge (dare I say celebrate?) different cultures while uniting all of us over a common denominator: American.

In this way, hyphenated identities accomplish two things: They allow communities preserve unique cultural identities while uniting all these unique communities under the umbrella of America. It says I can both preserve my [African, Latin, Asian, etc.] identity while also be accepted as American. This duel identity is not possible in France, Japan, or other countries that don't do hyphens. You're either native or foreign. Japanese or Korean (who happens to live in Japan). French or Les Arab. I certainly would not uphold these societies as models of immigrant integration.

I would much rather acknowledge that we are not all the same up front than pretend those differences do not exist.

Ali:

Now, how is it that we're thinking of Senator Obama as an African-American, when in reality he is biracial and has presumably chosen to identify himself as African-American (unlike Tiger Woods, who apparently embraces all 3 of his ethnic/racial heritages)? From what I've heard, Senator Obama went on quite a lengthy search for his racial identity and considers it important, so why shouldn't the rest of us?

Ali:

Coming from an Hispanic, I find Mr. Agelvis' comments more than a little hypocritical. Hispanics in the US (note that the term is "Hispanic", not "Hispanic-American" or "Latino", not "Latino-American") insist on an ethnic identification that not only doesn't recognize dual identities, but focuses on the "ethnic" and not the "American".

ff:

"Some racism exists (family type), but not in the media, government forms, educational forms, job applications, etc."

That race is not aknowledged in those forums does not mean that racism does not *exist* in those forums. Just look at, say, France, for another example. Purposefully ignoring race is often the most effective way of encouraging the spread of racism.

"He tries to say that Americans cannot forget race (or CLANS) even in an article about a carnival dancer. MANY (not all) of you cannot understand this because you are American."

What you all don't seem to be getting is that the luxury of not thinking about race is itself the hallmark of membership in the privileged race. Everyone else in your society, meanwhile, gets confronted by it all the time and, worse, is browbeaten into not talking about it, lest they disturb the illusions of the power group. Many of you cannot understand this because you are not American, and so don't have any groups of hyphenated-Americans around to remind you that racism is real.

But, hey, why confront the real problems in your own society when you can spout cheap platitudes about how you're superior to the gringos?

G.Norias:

Nelson
Perhaps in your classroom no one fixates on race and this is good. However you know very well how the people caste each other concerning color and social status, to imply this doesn’t exist in Venezuela is absurd. I suggest you get out of the classroom, tour the countryside taking in fresh air and reality. The reality is that no political idealism/ socialism, communism etc., has the power to change peoples racial preferences period.

Martin Luther King understood the reality of racism.. his response, “I Have a Dream”.
Whoever declares Venezuela racism/ discrimination as mild is just plain dreaming.

What is Pres. Chavez doing when he bellows at the U.S. people “Gringos” and worse. That is setting the bar quite low for everyone.

G.Norias

Lived in Venezuela, and do'nt agree:

Having spent several years in Venezuela, pre and post Chavez, I must say that I saw and heard much racism. TV personalities and newscasters are all light skinned, print media ads-all light skinned. The country is obsessed with its beauty queen industry, with all contestants light skinned. Hair straightening is big, even among men. If a family suspects that a son or daughter may be dating someone "too dark", they inquire about color of gums, and other intimate parts to determine if there is much non-evident dark ancestry. There is a huge population of Columbian immigrants who do lots of the dirty work. They are universally denounced, and will never be allowed to call themselves "Columbian-Venezuelans" because Venezuelans do not want them, regardless of their color. The professor should understand that his country has an idea of what is Venezuelan, and Columbians are not welcome, thus no hypen will ever be necessary.
Under Chavez, there has been some xenophobia toward caucasians of all origin, not only Americans.Venezuela has a small population of indigenous people, who are spoken of as exotic creatures, different from "civilized" persons. It is a very colonialistic and patronizing attitude toward them. The fancy clubs generally have understandings among the members not to admit persons who are "too dark" themselves, or married to a partner who is "too dark". The clergy is almost all white, because rules until relatively recently did not permit persons who were mixed or "too dark" to join their ranks. The society is rather obsessed with establishing their lineages directly back to Spain, and many persons sneek in a "de" before their names to appear even more Spanish, from the nobility. The thinking is that if your are so "Spanish", you don't have any dark ancestors.

ff:

"What baffles me is this: if USAmericans understand that race is a social construct, why can't you accept that different societies construct it differently?"

Oh, we accept that just fine (once we're exposed to it; some people are simply ignorant). What we don't accept is the cheap tactic of insisting that racism doesn't exist in Venezuela (or whereever) because the local constructs don't align with ours. Certain people seem to think that they can fool credulous Americans into believing that Latin America is a post-racial paradise by pointing out that the categories are different down south, and that nobody there wants to talk about the issue. Meanwhile, everyone knows perfectly well that Latin Americans are among the most virulent racists on the planet, and that societies that avoid discussions of race typically are the worst offenders.

Beyond the offense this approach presents to the intellects of Americans, it is an insidious and divisive piece of post-colonial identity politics. I.e., implicit in this argument is the reduction of "racism" to refer only to its manifestation in the United States. Everyone else, then, gets a free pass to not only pretend that they aren't racists themselves (ha!) but to actually sermonize about how superior they are. This, in turn, entrenches and perpetuates the racism inherent in those societies.

The dynamics are just as you described in posts a few days back: the USA is defined as essentially evil (in this case, racist), allowing the outsider to define himself as inherently good (in this case, non-racist). Meanwhile, the actual reality marches onward, undeterred.

Afro Boricua:

Venezuelan Lady, you are correct. Many Central Americans are very racist. I live in Washington, D.C. and I find many of the Salvadorans and other Central Americans to be racists towards blacks and Afro Latinos. When I speak in Spanish, these racist Salvadorans in the D.C. area look at me as if I am from another planet. They say to me, how did you learn to speak Spanish. I tell their ignorant behinds, both my parents are from Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. I attended Howard University undergraduate and graduate schools. I am a professional black Hispanic man, but many of the Salvadorans look at people like me and Obama as beneath them.

Afro Boricua:

Venezuelan Lady, you are correct. Many Central Americans are very racist. I live in Washington, D.C. and I find many of the Salvadorans and other Central Americans to be racists towards blacks and Afro Latinos. When I speak in Spanish, these racist Salvadorans in the D.C. area look at me as if I am from another planet. They say to me, how did you learn to speak Spanish. I tell their ignorant behinds, both my parents are from Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. I attended Howard University undergraduate and graduate schools. I am a professional black Hispanic man, but many of the Salvadorans look at people like me and Obama as beneath them.

Venezuelan Lady:

Dear Afro-Cubano,

You are right! We can't be hide this because is true. If you ask a person, especially here in US, to describe a Mexican, he or she would say, brown, short, chubby, Indian or indigenous, but at the first she or he wouldn't think of a white person. On TV is way different, every one is white, including the maids! So is a distortion of the reality and racism. That is true.

Also indigenous from Central America and Mexico, our "Hispanics" are racist against blacks, more racist than any white latino.

I am from Venezuela and I will vote for Obama, but I doubt that a "hispanic" (C. American ) would vote for him....

Venezuelan Lady:

Ralp:

You'r right! ha ha ha really goofy-correct ha ha,

"....In this goofy-correct designation of races, why am I not "European-American" ( I am "white") and why are those from Egypt, not also "African-Americans"? ...........

Egiptians are africans! and they are semitic mediterranean (like me).

Ralph:

In this goofy-correct designation of races, why am I not "European-American" ( I am "white") and why are those from Egypt, not also "African-Americans"? Besides, who decides what each group should be called? Mexicans have been called "Latino", then "Chicano", "Hispanic". Blacks are "Negro", "Colored", "People of Color", "Afro", "African-American". What signal, from where, should one look for, in order to be "correct" that day or month?

Afro Cubano:

This guy and these other wanna be white Latinos who's say's racism doesn't exist in Venezuela, Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Panama, etc. are living in the 'Twilight Zone". I am Afro Cubano living in Miami, and I can tell you, the white Cubanos here are very racist towards Afro Cubanos and other blacks. All you have to do is look at all the white faces on Spanish television in the United States. You wouldn't think, blacks or dark skin Latinos existed. The late Afro Cubana Celia Cruz and Afro Venezuela Oscar DeLeon were the few blacks I saw on Spanish television outside of some Afro Latino baseball or sports figure. Wake up wanna bee white Latinos, racism does exist in Spanish speaking countries and there's no EEOC to help black Hispanics like me in those countries.

Hunky Santa:

To those who wallow themselves in guilt (white "progressives") and self-victimology (race hustlers), how can you explain how a minority that has almost zero political representation is also the wealthiest "race" in the US?

They excel in education, income, and even their mortgage application acceptance rate is higher than the supposed "oppressors", the whites.

I'm talking about the Asian hypen American.

To George Albert:

The Democrats created the KKK? They started the Civil War? They stole voting rights from blacks post-Civil War? WHAT on earth are you talking about?

The hyphenated American is a cultural identity. It is up to an individual that does not understand this to assume it is a racial attack or to use it to make a racial attack or single people out based on it.

John Lennon:

All of you people who are hung up on labeling everyone American. Think bigger.

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Mwilliams:

White people in America have never acknowledged their benefits from slavery and the legal discrimanation that lasted for another 150 years after slavery. Most white people claim that they never had anything to do with slavery. In fact, they will say that their families never owned any slaves. So why should they be made to feel guilt. They never say that they benefited by discrimation. Certain jobs were reserved for them; housing, accomandations and services were afforded to whites. 15 percent of the population was not permitted to compete, therefore whites had an advantage.

linda in cincinnati:

Should all American citizens use a geographic based hyphenated description to further identify their heritage? Or is "American" good enough?

Arlington :

Any Venezuelan who claims there is no racism there is delusional. That is a myth that Venezuelans like to perpetuate so they do not have to confront their own racial issues.
The fact that Hugo Chavez has darker/more native indian skin and comes from the "common" people is often brought up especially because it contrasts with the mostly light white skin of the rich upper class (the very same students who 'spent their summer in America' and laugh at American racism). I lived there for a number of years and racism is very much present. A few of my African American friends have been denied services there and been treated differently in restaurants and clubs. Light, white skin and European features is very much the preference among the upper class.

Reese:

I'm sorry, but I found this article to be laughable. That any Latin American citizen, let alone a Venezuelan, would actually tout that their society is less racist then the US is absolutely ridiculous.

The Latin American way of dealing with racism is too never talk about it or acknowledge it any way. Those nations’ goals since slavery were to "dilute" anything "dark" in preference of light. They also never "institutionalized" their racism by putting it on the books (read:laws), so that the lower class dark skinned people never had anything tangible to fight (unlike the US where the Civil Rights movement targeted Jim Crow laws). You can even see how racist they are in some of the comments to this discussion. One person on here commented that LA is not racist; it’s just that the dark skinned people are lazy and don’t work hard. Ha! If that’s not a racist generalization, stereotype, and complete and utter denial of the caste system found in your nation, then I don’t know what is.

All you have to do is turn on any Spanish language television station and you will see how "non-racist" Latin America is. The only medium that they allow dark skinned people in is music; but of course, not actors, actresses, models, etc. In fact, just a few short years ago it was a big deal in Venezuela that they had picked the first black Miss Venezuela ever. If race isn’t important there, then why was the picking of the first black Miss Venezuela (in 1998- whoa! so much progress!) front page news in Caracas?

As was pointed out in numerous posts here by people who were "minorities" in LA, latino nations, especially Venezuela, are very racist. But, they honestly believe that they are not racist simply because they don't speak about it. For, you see, it's very easy to ignore your racist behavior if you never acknowledge that it exists in the first place.

Well, I am African-American and/or Black American (I don't care which of those terms you use) and I can say that I'd rather live in the U.S. then any Latin American nation. At least in America we acknowledge that we have issues and we try to deal with it. I'm a firm believer that "the Nile" is only a river in Egypt- not a manner in which to live your life.

As an aside, if you really pay attention not just to this discussion, but other discussions regarding racism in LA, you will find that the only people who claim that there is no racism in LA are light-skinned Latin Americans. Food for thought.

Bud:

It's been said that racism has its roots in tribalism commonly found in prehistoric man. That is, people tend to "like their own" and give preferential treatment to their own kind. This tribalism probably had an evolutionary advantage when people did indeed live in tribes and had limited contact with others. It promoted cooperation within the group and loyality to the group and thus survival of the group and the species as a whole. Now, in a multicultural world where modern travel and communications technology has brought any part of the world to the screen of your computer or physically reachable within a day or so, this tribalism is not only outdated, but has negative consequences that manifest themself as racism. Evolutionary changes are sure to take place to correct this, but they generally takes thousands of years to occur. Thus the relatively rapid development of technology (within the last century) has clashed with remnants of our evolutionary past, which will take thousands of years to undo.

Alain James:

Obama has received over 100 Million dollars to run a campaign.
He had no record. The last speech he made of any importance was in 2002. Since then, he has said little and accomplished even less.

No wonder the press concentrates on race.

The people behind Obama are giant corporations, financial institutions and the medical insurance industry. They are not forking over these huge sums because they think Obama is going to change anything.

So the media focuses on race.
And young people respond. It is an issue with which they can identify. Racial discrimination. Discrimination based on gender hasn't the same panache.

As far as race is concerned, Obama has hardly been in the front lines of issues concerning racism. He sometimes will mention the existence of racism, but proposes no solutions - except to insinuate that his election would prove a point. The point is that, in the words of his spouse, that "we can do it too". "It" is the election of her husband.

In the future, perhaps we will see the corporate giants offer us a Jew, a Buddhist, or a "Native American". The latter group are occasionally considered to be citizens, but are not included in the "nation of immigrants" bromide.

George Albert:

Democrats are all about race. They started the Civil War, they stole voting rights from blacks in the post Civil War period. They created Jim Crow and the KKK. They fought tooth and nail against school integration. They fought against the Civil Right Act of 1964 so the Republicans passed it instead. They continue to engage is racist identity politics: See Obama with the fake "black" accent when he addresses black crowds and see BillyJeff dissing on Jesse Jackson.

The Dems ARE RACE POLITICS

Mo Dandy:

I would like to say that I am glad to see so many good points made against a shallow argument made by the Profesor. Having said that, I will highly recommend to the professor the points made by 1)hypcrisy 101. 2) Classic Case of see Evil, Hear no Evil. 3) Vic Van Meter......

In addition, please, Profesor, stop propagating the archaic construct that the conquistadores have left with you in LA.

Take note, Obama will be your worst nightmare. No more US racist and slavery stuff. The world will learn about your own racist, slave inheritance. So, start cleaning your own mess. Time has come for everybody to focus on their own mess.

Jorge from Venezuela:

By Venezuelan standards the professor is not "white", he is mixed, as alomost everyone in Venezuela. Blue eyed blond girls with bubble butts and back girls with thin noses, that is Venezuela. Anyway, even the true european descended whites in Venezuela, with no mix, are tan because of the sun. Some racism exists (family type), but not in the media, government forms, educational forms, job applications, etc. THAT is what he is trying to say. He tries to say that Americans cannot forget race (or CLANS) even in an article about a carnival dancer. MANY (not all) of you cannot understand this because you are American.

Blackowl:

There are a lot of good points made about the Venezuelan Profesor´remarks.... However, I would highly encourage the professor to read the comments posted by: 1) Hypocrisy 101. 2) Classic Case of see evil, hear no evil. 3) Vic Van Meter.

Latin Americans: Wake-up and clean your own mess. The US Democratic System has always been and will always be self-correcting, though it seems sluggish and snail-pacing at times. You will no longer hide behind the conquistadores inherited societal constructs. The world sees your game and Obama is your worst nightmare.

ga:

Has this guy ever talked to a Venzulan with obvious physical African roots via dark skin or physical features, this idea of a more enlightened Ven. would be laughed at. You can call it discrimination based on color but the roots of the color discrimination are based on race. The idea being the lighter you are the more mixed with white you are, the better you are. And I'm not singling out Ven.,its common throughout Latin America and Mexico.
And to echo the thoughts of others, the US relationship with race is a long, complicated one please stop limiting to "slavery ended 200 yrs ago", legal segration and inequality only ended a one generation ago.

Anonymous:

I grew up in USA, became a naturalised U.S. citizen, paid taxes and all, even more than my "true American" neighbour as I was also taxed on inherited property and income "back home". At one time, I had employed about 800 people in America and they also paid taxes. They were "indigenous" and first and second-generation immigrants or new Americans.

But I was eventually fed up with this hyphenated American stuff. It is not a very subbtle way of bringing back an us-vs.-them stuff of the 1950s..... to the extent that I renounced my acquired U.S. citizenship, moved away from USA and left it all alone behind about 10 years ago, before this massive devaluation of America's standing in the world. Aside for an occassional craving for BBQ sauce, I don't miss it!

In hindsight, that is probably the best decision I ever made in my life....

D:

I am an African American Woman living in the UK now for two years. It is obvious to me that I am culturally American, but also distinctly African-American as only a black person from the USA can be. Living outside of the historical context of my identity is challenging, but I wouldn't trade my hypenated identity for less complexity. I rather people not assume I have the same perspective they do about living in the US, and hypenating seems to say...yeah, I'm (US)American with that rich cultural background, but you know my family's journey to the American dream has been enriched by my family's history in the US. I think difference is positive and commonality between humans is just plain obvious (or should be). It's interesting to see the US try to reach for the complexity of what makes up a Senator Obama while others, in their own interest, try to make it about black and white.

American in France:

I basically agree with the Venezuelan professor's remarks.
No, I do not agree with sweeping racism under the rug: quite the contrary, we should ALL talk about it, but that is precisely what Americans do NOT do!
We may vote for an eloquent black person, especially one who is so centrist he offends NO ONE (!).
But do whites and blacks ever really talk about the nitty-gritty issues that divide us?
It is just my lonely little opinion but I think whites are too quick to forget/forgive the horrible crimes committed by our (recent) ancestors while many blacks do not assume enough responsibility for their own situation.
Now, how enough do normal black, white, hispanic or Asian people ever really talk about these questions at work or elsewhere??
We have totally conflicting views on OJ Simpson, the recent incidents in Louisiana and many other events about which we never discuss!
Yes, my fellow Americans, always looking for the easy solution, think they can somehow make racial/ethnic racism disappear by electing a black official. If that were the case, racism would have evaporated in the major cities following the election of black mayors some 30 years ago.
One last point for the wimps who think the world community is anti-American: My experience is that most non-Americans admire much about our culture (which they know much better than Americans realize) and give the average American TOO MUCH of the benefit of the doubt!
As for me, I consider that the GW Bush administration has made a laughingstock of the WHOLE country. On that score, I do NOT discriminate between black or white, Democrat or Republican!!!

Classic Case of See No Evil, Hear No Evil:

I get it. These Venezuelans feel uncomfortable with Americans expressing their ethnic identities because it forces them to confront the fact that they have a not so hidden racial/ethnic problem of their own.

If Barack Obama becomes the first "black" president, then that forces Venezuelans (and other Latin Americans) to question whether they are actually as color-blind, and their societies as fair, as they so strongly claim them to be. Latin Americans are so used to enjoying looking down on Americans as racist because of our history of chattel slavery and legally-sanctioned segregation (especially since they're so used to feeling inferior to Americans because their northern neighbor is such a world power economically, militarily, culturally, and politically while Latin America is an afterthought on the world stage).

Thus their thinking is as follows: If the "racist" Americans can elect a "BLACK" man to be the most powerful person in the world, then what does it mean about us Latin Americans that we have few, if any, "blacks" (or Indians, mestizos, mulattoes, etc.) in powerful positions in government or business in our countries? Maybe the Americans aren't as racist as we think. If that's true then we compare even less favorably to the Americans than we imagined! That's unacceptable.


So, of course, it's better to condemn the Americans for being so "race-obsessed," with their hyphenated identities, while we continue to put our heads in the sand about our own race problems. We're all Latinos here - white, black, and brown united! No racial or ethnic problems here other than ones exported by the Americans through their media.

--

Latin America, your hypocrisy is shameless and transparent.

Hypocrisy 101:

African Americans are beyond a shadow of a doubt the most successful black people in the history of this world. From political figures like Barack Obama and Condoleeza Rice, to civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, to successful business people like Oprah Winfrey and Bob Johnson, to entertainers like Will Smith and Beyonce, African-Americans have in just a few generations gone from slavery to a great deal of success in mainstream America. Progress is incomplete but it is on-going. African Americans certainly haven't made this much progress (potentially culminating in the first black President this year) by playing blind to reality and acting like great disparities didn't exist between whites and blacks.

The irony of some Venezuelans (and others) judging Americans harshly because of our enjoyment that we are further overcoming hundreds of years of black slavery and legally-enforced segregation by potentially electing a "black" president is stunning. Even if Venezuela was a bastion of racial enlightenment such a harsh judgment would be unwarranted. However, Venezuela like every other Latin American country, has an extremely pronounced racial and ethnic caste system with lighter-skinned "whites" occupying virtually all positions of power and darker-skinned mixed race, Indian, and black people forming a largely poor underclass. Venezuelans are in no position to stand in judgment of America. Fix your own mess first! Oh wait, you don't even want to acknowledge that you have a mess. I wonder how long that will work for you.

American:

It's understandable why Nelson Algevis decries racial/ethnic labeling in Venezuela. If dark-skinned Venezuelans who disproportionately occupy the lowest rungs of Venezuelan society were ever to develop a distinct ethnic identity they would have the potential of organizing into protest groups and then demanding more equal opportunity in that country (in education, jobs, housing, and government). As a member of that country's light-skinned elite, why would he encourage the development of something that would so drastically change the world as he knows it by potentially eliminating his privilege? Better to play dumb and blind than to confront the truth.

F. Toro:

Everyone in the US can accept "race" is a social construct. To deny that would, itself, be racist. What baffles me is this: if USAmericans understand that race is a social construct, why can't you accept that different societies construct it differently? That categories like "white" "black" and "brown" have different meanings and weights in different contexts, meanings and weights that can't be flattened out through thought destroying simplifications like "sweeping it under the carpet"?

This debate reminds me of a married couple I know: he a white East Coast gringo, her a morena (brown) from Barquisimeto. To US eyes, she looks "black", but in her family, she is the fairest skinned person, so her family nickname was "catira" (blond girl)! She grew up taking it for granted that she was "white"...within her reference group, she was often among the fairest skinned people and everybody just matter of factly called her "blondie."

So imagine her shock when she went to the US with her husband and had to field concerned questions from well intentioned East Coast liberals about what it was like being in a "mixed race marriage" in Venezuela! She just couldn't piece together how the two hour plane ride between Caracas and Miami had somehow, magically, "turned her black."

"Black" and "white" just mean different things in different places. Were US Americans less enamored of their own navels, less smug about the whole thing, they might realize that "exporting" their racial attitudes, superimposing them on people from other societies who construct race differently, is in itself an act of cultural imperialism, an attitude dripping with colonialist condescension.

Honestly, you do us no favors by "gifting" us natives with your "superior" (in this case, psychodramatically convoluted, transgenerationally conflicted and plain old f*cked up) attitudes on race. Paso y gano.

The ultimate irony is that it took our first "anti imperialist" government to take the bait and adopt the language of afrodescendent nuttery.

BOB:

Hypenated or not? It boils down to personal identiy and the lables that people, groups, and even your other conflicted self give yourself. Are you a dad, brother, son or artist, business man, or still finding yourself? I am living overseas and to some I would "Chinese-American" but as a US Diplomat I simply say that I am an American. My point being that, in a larger sense, in the modern world (and I mean MODERN as in after 1600 AD), we as individuals (and especially Americans) have the option of selecting our identity (our sense of who we are) and not have to accept that which the world or society has pre-ordained. We no longer are assigned tribes, "family" or clans, or for that matter race (whatever that meant), but are free.

Garrett:

YES!!

Randal Jelks:

I am not sure I buy this argument. It is as though race is not a factor in Venzuela. No country in the Americas is "color-blind." Not Cuba, Venezuela, or Brazil. Where ever there were slaveholding societies you have a degree of racial antipathy. In Latin America, in particular, these antipathies are disguised by saying everyone is united. However, the truth is those people of African descent in Venezuela are at the bottom of all that country's social indices. It is precisely because African Americans have organized as an ethnic community that has allowed black Americans to have a degree of upward mobility not seen by those of African descent in Latin America. The unity of Latin America disguises the institutional parameters of bigotry throughout Venezuelan history. I simply don't buy this argument at all.

kb:

in response to some comments -- it would be cool if everyone was so not-racist that race wasn't such a big issue. it's just that isn't the reality. we have a terrible history here. I see nothing wrong with honoring accomplishments of African Americans who made it against all odds, and continue to pave the path for people who are still making it against all odd. The fact that no black president has ever won or been viable until now says a lot about why people think that having a first black president is a big deal. I hear people all over the place calling Obama a terrorist based on his name, or trying to tear him down based on his race. Believe it or not I've heard him called the N-word and not in an endearing way. I'm so glad the people who wrote on these boards are not like that, and my rainbow coalition of friends aren't like that, but many people are, in less explicit and unnoticable ways. I will proudly celebrate Black Heritage/History Month and I'm sad that accomplishments/contributions of many blacks are still not considered American history.

fordson 61:

What a bunch of nonsense Venezuela is sliding rapidly into dictatorship and we get this confused griping about whether Americans understand identity? Get to work on democracy in your own country!

kb:

I think we mention race so much because of how our country was founded-- on oppression based on race. Because these institutions from the past continue to have a present effect, race remains an important focus. This is part of the reason why, I think, people choose to self-identify as a particular ethnicity. For me not to recognize my hyphenation would be a form of denial, when racism actually does exist and when people who look like me are still discriminated against, no matter what we choose to call ourselves. Color-blindness is not a desirable reality when racist institutions still exist (and they will not go away simply by removing titles and labels). In many senses, however, I agree that we put too much of a focus on our divisions rather than our commonalities as Americans. I am a proud American but I won't pretend all of us are treated equally.

Alfredo:

Mr Falco, you are wrong.

Venezuela had natives, Spniard Conquistadors, German colonizers from Augsburg, Italians, black slaves, everybody mixed, and from 1600 to 1970
we had:
Spaniards civil was
All over Europe, looking for a new life, Italians,
scaping Mussolini, Germans, Jews scaping Hitler,
Spaniards Scaping Franco, Cubans scaping Fidel Castro, Chileans, scaping Allende and Pinochet,
Nazis, scaping Germany, Eastern European, Greek, Polish, Colombians.and Irani and Sirian.

We are a melting pot. BUT!!!

Now everybody that can scape Chavez autocracy and fake democracy, is leaving. Descent of Europeans are getting the European Passport, and thousands are in exile, this is the worst government we have ever had. corruption, crime, drug traffiking supported by the regime, increased poverty, and mal nutrition. A total failure, Chavez the big impostor.

haha:

I believe there is nothing wrong with using hyphenated American terms. America is a place where a diversity of races and cultures coexist, and that's the beauty of it. A hyphenated term clarifies one's roots, and it is just a way to describe somebody - just like we describe somebody by their gender, age, eye color, height and body size. I'm Korean living in Korea, and if I'd ever become an American citizen, I would be happy to be called Korean-American, because that would be who I am, because that shows my identity. Besides, the terms per se does not create racism. Hyphenated terms are neutral in its meanings; it is just the notion and attitude people associate with the terms.

haha:

I believe there is nothing wrong with using hyphenated American terms. America is a place where a diversity of races and cultures coexist, and that's the beauty of it. A hyphenated term clarifies one's roots, and it is just a way to describe somebody - just like we describe somebody by their gender, age, eye color, height and body size. I'm Korean living in Korea, and if I'd ever become an American citizen, I would be happy to be called Korean-American, because that would be who I am, because that shows my identity. Besides, the terms per se does not create racism. Hyphenated terms are neutral in its meanings; it is just the notion and attitude people associate with the terms.

haha:

I believe there is nothing wrong with using hyphenated American terms. America is a place where a diversity of races and cultures coexist, and that's the beauty of it. A hyphenated term clarifies one's roots, and it is just a way to describe somebody - just like we describe somebody by their gender, age, eye color, height and body size. I'm Korean living in Korea, and if I'd ever become an American citizen, I would be happy to be called Korean-American, because that would be who I am, because that shows my identity. Besides, the terms per se does not create racism. Hyphenated terms are neutral in its meanings; it is just the notion and attitude people associate with the terms.

Just a Human:

It is really hard to construct a post incorporating a response to both the author's well-meaning, but bafflingly incoherent article comparing the proverbial 'apples' to 'oranges'; and to the posts that somehow mistook his , again, well-intentioned, comments as sort of a starting gun to let loose with all of their neo-colonist/racist/classist, etc. rants attempting to justify the unjustifiable.

There is only one race- the human race, period!!! On a scientific level, of course, certain physical, as opposed to geneological or even bioligical, charactistics lend themselves due to their respective socioligical and cultural evolutionary histories to convenient, short-hand mostly tribally based depictions. To deny their existence, even their historical relevance, would be folly. To continue to use them for rank political purposes, namely to justify the disproportinate allocation of resources (some would call it mere greed) would be greater folly still.

The poor of all groups will always be with us. The uneducated of all groups will always be with us. The criminally inclined of all groups exist all around us. Those berift of parential guidance in shapint their world view and thusly their commitment to the greater social fabric, will always be with us. Those segments do not define the group. Otherwise, a study of Ted Bundy and Bernard Goetz would lead one to the conclusion that all white men are inclined to be sexual preditors and sadistic murderors with cannabalistic tendencies.

So, what, if anything at all, does any of this have to do with he villification of a 'Race', (biologically speaking) of noble people who have endured the most ghastly of subdigations and persecutions via the colonialist wealth stealing campaigns and who have survived? Not without human imperfection, but who have survied! Only to be villified again for the mere fact of having survived. And for having the unmitigated temerity to attempty to self identify tehmselves in the midst of a proven hostile environment. Why can't we just all get along and move along, indeed!

Not one of you who has not had a father or grandfather lynched or beaten at the hands of white domestic terrorists, or who has had acid thrown at them by the KKK, or who has had crosses burned on their lawn for the mere crime of saying "I am a man.", or who have had female ancestors raped with impunity and without legal recourse by white community 'pillars' - the Janjaweed ain't got nothing on those guys - can stand in judgement of that of which you know nothing. Not one of you!

I embrace all of the geneological groups which comprise my biological make-up. It is you, not me, who places an undue value merely on my geneology, regardless of my appearance.

Again, read history. During the period of slavery white society was so demented that having even a remote African ancestor -the Louisiana created "one drop" rule of thumb - consigned blond-haired, blue-eyed individuals to work as slaves in the plantation fields. Post-slavery genetic genuflecting was sent to new levels of contortionism in efforts to explain away and to remove the 'stain' of African ancestery - Octoroon, Quadroon, Mullato, etc. What was the point of such descriptive parsing if all humans were equal to begin with? And now, we still are dealing with versions of the same old crap.

Someone, please re-read, or just read, the works of Franz Fanon, "Neocolonialism, Class and Color", "The Psychology of the Oppressed", "The Wretched of the Earth"

None of the AmeriKas are exempt.

Second Class Citizen:

Venezuelan Lady: The one drop rule has applied in this country for centuries. Obama and Tiger Woods look like me, black men. Tiger Woods mother isn't white, but Asian. There were lots of fair skin blacks who looked white like Lena Horne and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. I not saying it's right or wrong, but that's the way things are in the United States. I can assure you, many whites will remind these so called mixed race people like D.C.'s Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Barack Obama, they are N--gers! Let's face it, white Hispanics like Cubanos and others can assimilate and are accepted by white society in the United States before blacks. Yes, some blacks do have a lot of anger inside, because we have been treated like dirt by the white ruling class all over the world including Venezuela. Go on the campuses of Georgetown, American, Catholic, and George Washington Universities, the majority of Hispanics matriculating are white. Many had racist attitudes towards black students and blacks. I experienced this from the racist white Puerto Ricans from the island while studying at Georgetown University in the eighties. The Catholic Church supported slavery. If you are black or Afro Latino in Washington, D.C. and you speak Spanish, other Latinos hair stand up on their heads like Don King in shock. What the heck is a Hispanic suppose to look like? Oh yeah, they should look like the white ones in all three Spanish networks in the United States on the Soap Operas. If I saw a black person on Univision, I was always the late great Afro Cubana Celia Cruz. Once she played as a slave or witch in one of those racist Novella's on Spanish television. Central/South America, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic help to perpetuate these stereotypes.

Keith Berry:

My wife is Japanese but born in Peru, and I know since Fujimori was elected there, that the lack of racism must have been strong, but I credit that to the color of opportunity in a terrorist ravaged, poor corrupt country at that time. Racism has many varied degrees and tones. Religions are also subject to discrimination and racist ideals. But I think the racist views in this country is centered around the fact that some races are seen as having opportunities to achieve more in life than others. This creates resentment and isolationism takes over. Colleges help dispel some of that through education, but it is still rooted in many different cultures in this country. Capitalism breeds competition and sometimes racism helps create a buffer between the haves and have nots.

PK:

Who cares what Venezuela thinks?

Magdalena :

F Toro:

It is true, also, Obama wouldn't be black in Venezuela, he just look like a common Venezuelan "cafe con leche" "coffee and cream", mulato, black and white.

Magdalena :

F Toro:

It is true, also, Obama wouldn't be black in Venezuela, he just look like a common Venezuelan "cafe con leche" "coffe and cream", mulato, black and white.

Magdalena :

Now, the current president of Venezuela is dividing the country by his hate toward whites. What a disgrace. Chavez is infesting our country with racism, helped by his “friends”: Danny Glover, Belafonte etc…Also Sarandon, Oliver Stone. Sean Penn. Hugo is full of hate. These US people are giving him “some ideas” that are pure North American. He is talking in the name of Simón Bolívar who was white, racist and oligarch, give me a brake.
We were not divided by races or color. We don’t have to fill up application to get jobs or education, or loans etc…like Aldredo pointed out.

Here in the US is a taboo to talk about social classes because it could be linked to communism.
There is trash people in all colors etc…the same way there is educated people in all colors. Here people love to stereotype, we have to fix into certain categories.
Hello! Education is what matter, not the color.

Confused by it all:

I had a talk with a coworker last week about racism related topics. There's so much that I wanted to say when I first read this story, but I feel most of it has already been said.

So instead, I want to push things a little with a few questions that I my coworker and I discussed.

Isn't the use of the hyphenated descriptor something that each person chooses to do? Why couldn't a black person born in the US simply declare himself American and nothing more? Or is it not a choice, and he must declare himself African American? If there's no choice, why isn't there a choice?

For those on here that have grown up or lived abroad for long periods of your life- I'm curious if there are ever check boxes on official forms (census and what not) where you describe your race? If so, what are the options? Should we even care about race or ethnicity anymore? If so, why? Why not?

Venezuelan Lady:

Blacks are racist too, the only different is that they are wide open racist, but many Whites (Anglos) are just hypocrites..they are hiding the racism deeply inside that even themselves do not notice it.

Nobody wants to talk about "hate crime" committed by blacks, the media hide those crimes because is not politically correct. In one word those who hid the true and the news are racist.

Also, Mr. Obama is not black, he is mixed, he is half WHITE. See the racism? Why not say that he is just a citizen, a person?

This "one drop" rule is just ridiculous.


Anonymous:

Venezuela is not like the United States, in that its population really is fairly homogenous -- a nation of meztizos on a continuum from less brown to more brown. That Colin Powell looks white to them is telling. He doesn't "look" white to Anglo-Americans or Europeans, because there are plenty of really white people around for comparison's sake – whom he doesn't much resemble.

A couple of anecdotes to stir into the pot:

1. Our au pair comes from Sao Paolo. She is a third-generation Brazilian of 100% Japanese ancestry. When I asked her what ethnicity she is considered in Brazil, she answered without hesitation: "Japanese." No such category as Japanese-Brazilian exists there. Is this lack of specificity less racist or more racist? I tend to think more, as it perpetuates immigrants' outsider status over generations.

2. In the Philippines, where everyone is pretty much Asian, there is a pronounced preference for pale skin and large noses -- in other words, white characteristics -- a population of non-whites. The supermarkets sell soaps that advertise their purported skin-whitening properties.

z:

Advice to new immigrants that have soul. The one thing that this society hates more than anything are the ones that speak the truth and say "my god, blacks are discriminated". Keep it to yourself, especially in a small town. Once they know how you feel they will consider you as a Black and discriminate against yourself. You can discuss anything, even tell them you believe in communism, but once you have shown sympathy for blacks; you are in trouble. I remember in southern Illinois, where they said they were going to hang me and feed me to the dogs, at a restaurant. I asked the black dishwasher "what is going on"? She said you were seen with an African student"

JFDIV:

I find it very strange and a bit amusing that the people that seem to most loudly proclaim that racism doesn't exist, they are not racist and denounce racism the loudest always seem to be very people that reinforce racism and seem the most racist to me. I am by no means a world traveler but I don't have to go to the slums of most Latin American countries to know that people living there bear very little resemblance to the ""white" man in the video denouncing the Afro Bolivian heritage of the dancer in the paper. Did no one else feel that his overreaction to the girl's description seemed bit too visceral and strange for such a small thing. Take another look and tell me if its just me. Look, by no means is my country (USA) perfect and I know the last seven years we have had to sacrifice the moral high ground in about every issues out there....but the great thing about this country is that only in America is a story like Barrack Obama possible. A man of his background would not possible in probably any other country in the world outside of Africa.

However, I would make the prediction that when Obama is elected President and takes his oath of office on January 20th, 2009 your going to see a lot more Afro Bolivians, Colombians, Brazilians and whatever else is out there. And with any luck they will start advocating for equal rights, access and opportunities as the ones that the man in the video and other fairer skinned people in his country enjoy. This demand of freedom, liberty and equality is American as apple pie folks and it’s a beautiful thing. He (Nelson) probably won’t like it because it will shatter his superficial cognition of the world and the society he lives in but consider this our first gift to the rest of the world after the tragedy of the Bush administration, hope you like.


Obama 08 folks, YES WE CAN!

hapha:

Someone correct me if I'm wrong but my understanding is that the hyphenated American is a moniker that each hyphenated group has willing given itself. For example "African-American" came about as a way of attaching place rather than skin color to identity. To be African -American is to acknowledge your African ancestors and their struggles, triumphs as well as their contributions to the United States. And in my experience we come in a rainbow of colors from French Vanilla to Midnight Blue not just black or Negro.

z:

What we see here in the USA is unbeliveable as far as their attitude towards Blacks! Blacks got some freedom in the 1960's by protesting. I remember in W.VA. were they were not allowed to eat at the counters, in the south they had signs saying "drinking fountain only for whites". I worked in a private employment office where Blacks were rated as 3. I noticed that Purto Ricons at least got applications but Blacks did not. I lasted a couple of weeks on the job. Today, new immigrants are taken by the hand, from anywhere in the world, not just Latinos, and some cousin who works there takes them right inside the personal office and he gets the job, while blacks wait and are told "there are no jobs"...and after awhile the black goes out and hears "you people just dont want to work"

Doug:

This is such a hard topic to discuss - not because it's sensitive, but because the breadth of peoples' reactions to race vary so greatly with generation. I am 36, most people I know socially are under 50, and race matters so very little that it's striking when the subject rears its head. And I'm in a conservative part of America (Cincinnati).

The problem is, most of us just don't care whether you're afro-, indian-, native-, whatever-, american. We don't even care whether you're -american. What we've accepted is that you're a peer in a global society.

If you're not there yet, you're part of a past generation, even if you're not older than me.

Vic van Meter:

Nelson, I think, misses the point. America is not about race. America is about conflict. Blacks were often held down both before and after their bondage in slavery. But really, that is simply trouble by association. Blacks tended to be slaves because they were technologically less proficient in Africa and it was an easy (and afterwards traditional) place to get them. But had there been no black people, any group could subjugate another. The Native Americans were also largely enslaved. Before America, any nation would enslave the citizens of another during various wars. Islamic empires, African kingdoms, and even barbarian tribes all kept slaves.

America's true racism after Emancipation was not about race. It was about power. White racists, as a group did not want blacks as a group to gain equal power. Any racial argument used to justify slavery was simply a veneer to paint over the core driving principle of American society, conflict and victory. Remember the large influx of Irish immigrants to the United States where they were mistrusted and kept from the halls of power. Think even now of the large influx of Hispanic people into America, even the legal ones, and you begin to see the point. If you want power in the United States, you do it by appealing to more Americans that would benefit from you gaining power and fighting heartily against those who would not.

But this is not limited to race alone. This is also seen in class battles, generational battles, nearly every aspect of American society. We are clannish by nature and also very aggressively territorial. There is also a great deal of diversity in America, not solely because of our ethnic mixture, but because America is so large in and of itself. Regional shifts are as different as night and day sometimes. Driving from California into Texas even will almost completely change the average mindset, not to mention the range within these states themselves.

Now why is this relevant to Nelson's article? Because Nelson is backwards. Americans don't fixate on Obama's blackness as a form of racism, they fixate on it as a form of clanism. Not that Obama's race is going to go to the White House, but because his clan will. Few people honestly believe Obama's race is going to have anything to do with his Presidency. The reason it is such a fuss is because Obama's people, African-Americans as a CLAN and not as a RACE, will send a representative. Blacks in America were held from political discourse for several centuries. So were women, oddly enough. But Mitt Romney had exactly the same reaction from people who were talking about the first Mormon president in office, not because they are religious zealots, but because Mormons would have their first representative in office.

So, Obama being black has little to do with Americans' interest. It is largely because the black people in America may have a president from their group. The same goes for Hillary Clinton.

This is also why talking about race and sex makes the commentary news (read the WP's opinions page) but cannot EVER be mentioned by the candidates. They are not allowed to call the other out on their clan allegiance. Look at the uproar Bill Clinton caused with his comment. Americans tend to gloss over the fact, in our quest for equality, that people of the same color or from the same nation tend to group together by association. In a way, there is hatred EVERYWHERE, in every country, because we will never be one people.

The fact that Nelson himself says Americans fixate on Obama being the first black president the same sort of bigotry he does not tolerate in Americans. Obviously, not all Americans DO care that we may have the first black president. Often enough in our political discourse we do not comment on it. In fact, Obama mentions it very obliquely, focusing instead on his message of change. "CHANGE" is the message. Race is not what Americans fixate on (hence his doing well with white males as well). Nelson doesn't do this on purpose; he is a well-meaning individual who honestly tries not to generalize. But whenever he does, he does exactly as he preaches against, unaware that this sort of speculation is simply human behavior. He creates "us" and "them" and then generalizes "them" without ever considering the scope of "their" potential beliefs and reasonings.

It is no ones' fault, especially since this is perpetuated so heavily in America. Little slights like Nelson's are a way of life in a place where you are constantly under siege and fighting against a harsh current for success. Our competitive drive and spirit of conflict drive Americans deeper into these tribal natures than other industrialized countries do. It is simply a matter of perspective and generalization.

Even by writing this, I am generalizing Americans, and am thus doing exactly the same. Obviously, there are Americans not caught up in the gears of a conflict driven society. But I would certainly not say that I do not generalize based on some associative quality. Perhaps Nelson should realize that no one is immune, not even himself. His only chance to be completely non-segregational is to never generalize any person by anything except by their own individual present actions.

Good luck with that...

Alfredo:

I grew up in Venezuela, studied wih kids of all colors in public free schools,also in private schools, nobody talked about color or race if you were blond blue eyed you were that, if you had black hair an green eyes you'r that way, if you were blak or mixed with Black you were that, and I, nobody had to fill any forms or papers anywhere, private sector, education, political, work, get the venezuelan ID never asked, WHAT RACE ARE YOU? never. Now Chávez started with that idea, and is now wen problems o division and barriers were put up, divide and conquer, all my life and all I heard was "Veneuelan",and of course people would talk about their grandpas coming from different places.
Now for the first time ever we have to be African Venezuelan, european, asian venezuelan, Arabic!!! I hate this new division and I do not agree with racial stickers.
If you happened to be born in South America, and have Arian descent or Jewish or German, o Portuguese, and come to ths country, you are not white anymore, you are latino, no matter how white o black or asian you are, you come from there, here is your sticker.... LATIN
That is why there are many people walking in the streets they are white, they are black, but many are called latino, dependig of their passport.
Latin is a language, not a race.
Eliminate race from forms, that is a good start.

Z:

I am a immigrant from WW2. Our family were in shock when our uncle, a doctor in an Emergency Room in New York told us: "they said to me forget the Negro (who was first in line) and treat the White one. My uncle responded: he is a human, I will continue"

sue:

Face it : there is MORE racism against Blacks than any other groups in this world. More than against Latinos, Jews, Arabs, Asians and so on. History proves this to be true. Although other groups have been persecuted at times, the Blacks have CONTINOUSLY been persecuted, go as far back as you want. And the irony of this discrimination is that they are our ancestors. We all come from Africa.

Anonymous:

Face it : there is MORE racism against Blacks than any other groups in this world. More than against Latinos, Jews, Arabs, Asians and so on. History proves this to be true. Although other groups have been persecuted at times, the Blacks have CONTINOUSLY been persecuted, go as far back as you want. And the irony of this discrimination is that they are our ancestors. We all come from Africa.

Anonymous:

Face it : there is MORE racism against Blacks than any other groups in this world. More than against Latinos, Jews, Arabs, Asians and so on. History proves this to be true. Although other groups have been persecuted at times, the Blacks have CONTINOUSLY been persecuted, go as far back as you want. And the irony of this discrimination is that they are our ancestors. We all come from Africa.

sue:

Face it : there is MORE racism against Blacks than any other groups in this world. More than against Latinos, Jews, Arabs, Asians and so on. History proves this to be true. Although other groups have been persecuted at times, the Blacks have CONTINOUSLY been persecuted, go as far back as you want. And the irony of this discrimination is that they are our ancestors. We all come from Africa.

lmh:

As an African-American woman who has traveled around the world extensively and lived for several years in both France and the Middle-East, I can say with absolute certainty that there is no other place on this earth I would rather live with my skin color and ethnic heritage than the United States. That's not to say that racism isn't alive and well in the US. Racially based prejudices are something I have to deal with on an everyday basis...literally. Usually it takes the form of seemingly innocent, yet racially insensitive comments and attitudes. And other aspects of my life will always be impacted by my race: employment, housing etc...However, at least in the US I have the opportunity to overcome and rise above the prejudices and racism thrown my way, and be backed up by a legal system that takes discrimination seriously. That can't be said for other parts of the world. I have friends from France, England, Brazil, even Canada - who feel that no matter how well they are educated or how hard they work, the institutionalized racism (and classism) they face in their countries keep them locked out of better job opportunities. In fact the French government refuses to legally acknowledge that racism even exist, even though highly educated French-Arabs I know who look "white" enough are forced to change their Arabic sounding last names to get a job, or simply leave the country. The United States, for all of its faults, DEALS openly (if not sometimes clumsily) with the "isms" - racism, sexism, nepotism, etc...

Sonia Vishnevsky:


Mr. Falco, you are wrong when you say:

“Venezuela, on the other hand, hasn't had the same history of ongoing immigration. The Spanish Conquistadores of the early 1500's, followed by slavery until it's abolition in 1854 pretty much sums up the major "immigrations" to Venezuela.”

My father is Italian; he immigrated in Venezuela after the World War Two, the same as many other Europeans did, Jewish and not Jewish. We have a large Italian community here, Portuguese, German, Russian, Spanish (or Spaniards).

In the 40’s and the 50's the government adopted a policy of “open doors” for a big number of Europeans displaced by the second war. These working immigrants contributed to the development of our country.

Also, we have a huge immigration composed by Syrians, Jordanian, Lebanese, Chinese, and Greeks. I am proud to be from a really melting pop nation. Most of the population is mixed, we have different colors, but here in the USA to be mixed is bad. People have to define themselves as white or black etc

I have been living and working here for nine years and I never imagined seeing so much racism. This “diversity” thing is just a “kind racism”.

Agre:

Good observation! Indeed, the fact that a lot of voters have ignored years of dedicated public service, mastery of issues, just to have the first black president (whose black race is even from a non US citizen) seems to imply race is the only consideration. (In fact, some of them would have been Clinton supporters if Obama is not running.) Others joined in because of male chauvinism (more white males voted for Obama in California .. obviously they are not racists and that is great) or just a feeling of dislike for someone which they themselves could not explain (still a form of prejudice). Fellow citizens, let us be honest and admit the article has some truth to it.

Christopher:

US Americans do not understand that although there is racism all over the world, the degree of segregation that exists in this country is comparable to that of few others. Venezuela is a country where people marry, date, have children and socialize in a color free manner, and simply find the US labels offensive to their ears.

US Americans will also look and see more racism in other countries because of their own experience of apartheid for most of their history, of tv dating games which pair members on a racial basis, of segregated churches, communities, and cities even today. Such levels of segregation have never existed in Venezuela. Most of you US Americans pointing your finger at our racism are engaging in a log of projection, but it's forgiven, you know not what you do.

U. S. Citizen:

Nelson Algelvis, I agree with your comment, but as a black man who's ancestry goes back over 400 years to slavery in South Carolina. My ancestors were beaten, lynched, and mistreated during slavery and Jim Crowism in the United States. Blacks along with whites and Jews took to the streets to fight for blacks civil rights as United States citizens. Many Mexican Americans felt, this was not their fight, because their birth certificates stated white, not colored or Negro. With the influx of racist Latinos from Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador, and other Central/South American countries wouldn't have been able to come here if it had not been for native blacks fighting for our rights as U.S. citizens. We paved the way for many of these foreigners who migranted to this country. Many foreigners tend to forget this once their behinds come here legally and illegally and want to look down on black people. I suggest to you, Venezuela/Colombia need to address the racism against black Venezuelans/Colombians being oppressed in those countries.

Susie:

No hyphen. WOMAN.

Another perspective:

I grew up as a Çhinese-American in Venezuela, and definitely found racism (or at least total ignorance about some races) was alive and well. People thought nothing of staring at my family openly and saying, "Ching chong ching chong" or pulling their eyelids back with their hands or practicing karate moves as we walked down the street. This happened when I was 5, 10, 15, and I never got used to it.

As some posters said, the racial dynamics were simply different than the American black-white dichotomy. People talked about skin color very openly (saying that person is cafe-con-leche, coffee with milk, or calling someone negro, black) without the "loadedness" that such a comment would have here in the U.S. On the other hand, socio-politically, the whites/European and lighter-skinned folk tended to be the elite.

John:

The author raised a valid question: why the news reports have to mention the race or gender of a candidate, if it is not an issue? The answer to this is that it IS an issue to America. For most Americans who never travel 50 miles away from home or have no idea which continent Venezuelan is in, race, religion, and color of skin can all be problems. It is not only Americans with a westen African origin have suffered from racism or prejudice, almost all groups of people, Jewish, Italians, Chinese, who came to this country have suffered deeply. For many Americans who are against racism have to realize this. It is very sad to see one race that once suffered is pitched against the other. A rational dialogue is needed between race and ethnic groups to truely understand the histories and the problems each faces. This can only be done through communities, education institutes, and on the internet. I applaud this discussion.

Jonathan:

I agree; although racism in America is certainly to great an issue to discuss in a mere essay, Mr. Aglevis is absolutely right. To expand on the subject of the differing standards due to racial profiling, I would like to refer to Shelby Steele who stated that (paraphrased): there have been two great betrayals of the Negro people by White Americans. One was slavery. The other is affirmative action. Affirmative action leads not just Whites to believe, even subconsciously, that one race may be inferior to another intellectually, etc., but also Negroes and Hispanics and other target groups to believe that they themselves are inferior or that they themselves have an excuse to fail. Dr. Steele also argued that in this day and age, racism is no longer a universal problem in the U.S. (although isolated issues do of course still exist), so racism is no longer a cause of failure. I think that American concern with race keeps us from understanding and dealing with real issues, and promotes a sense of 'us and them' that isolates minority groups into conformist race labels.

Ernesto Fabeiro:

Being a Venezuelan, I can answer all the allegations of us sweeping raicism "under the rug". As someone above said, here we see people by their conduct and behaviour, not their skin-tone. Decent Venezuelans of any color get high paying jobs if they are qualified. The problem is that the best school education comes with money because the public school system is deficient, and most money is in lighter-skinned hands. But many of these lighter-skinned Venezuelans were poor 3 generations ago when they came here after WWII. They worked hard and saved, and put their children through good schools and later the good public higher education here. Today these are many of the "white elite." The undereducated Venezuelans laughed at how stingy and cheap my grandfather was when he worked as a construction worker here and saved his lunch money. Today, they seek jobs at our large construction company. In our board of directors is a typical dark-skinned Venezuelan that went to college with my father. He is there because of his qualification, and he speaks like any upperclass Venezuelan, because he is, thanks to his academic preparation. Racism in Venezuela, NO. Classism based on education, YES! The Professor is right in that race is not an issue here.

A. Budde:

Enough damage has been done by not talking about racism in the United States. Americans see race and the best way to head off discrimination is to directly acknowledge it. I don't think Americans are any more racist than other people based on my travel experience. We're just more obessed about racism than other people.

Frank:

This discussion brings up a good point. Should African-Americans be called "black" then, to denote race, like whites are called caucasians? Or should whites be called European-Americans? People whose ancestors are from the far east are called Asians, not Asian-Americans, and how about Mexicans, are they not Mexican-Americans? I say drop the African-American moniker, it serves no good purpose, it just widens the rift.

Steve :

I remember having dinner at the house of some British friends and one of them was complaining about how when he came back from a holiday all the immigration inspectors were foreigners. It turned out the "foreigners" he was referring to weren't really foreign, they were only descended from Caribbean immigrants.

The British don't commonly speak of hyphenated Britons; you can't be a Jamaican-Briton, but you can be a Jamaican, and therefore a foreigner. I think the American practice of hyphenating identities to describe a racial or ethnic version of a fundamentally American identity is far better than the notion that they are foreign and somehow don't belong.

Larry Oswald:

There is a crisis in ethnocentrism coming if President Obama happens. You see the Black Ameerican experience runs through SLAVERY. Barak did not come that way. Neither did his family. Neither did Colin Powell. So what we will need by 2010 is the concept of Slavery Impared American.

Of course that is all crap. I insist on believing that the good old US of A is getting better. We the people are getting over it. Who cares! We just don't care! Maybe the media and the statisticians will get over it some day.

Ahoff:

Having lived in Latin America for several years, primarily Colombia and Venezuela, I have heard this argument or similar ones many times. The belief seems to be that if they don't talk about race and racism than it does not exist. That sounds good and might make for good sound bites, but it totally ignores facts. If LA countries are not infected with racism, why do blacks have much lower standards of living, significantly less educational opportunities, poor job prospects, and life expectancies that are decades less than whites in the same countries? The US is far from perfect and we have the same issues between whites and blacks, but statistics clearly show that the difference between whites and blacks is significantly greater in LA countries. At least by talking about it, we prevent it from being swept under the rug and keep people from assuming that there are no major problems. Mr. Agelvis' opinions seem at best naive and at worst help maintain blacks in LA countries as a permanent, but undeclared sub-class unable to end the racism that has placed them there, because it supposedly does not exist.

Dubhlaoich:

After observing my daughter over the years, she is now 26, it has been my impression that she and her generation are far less inclined to draw racial lines. Her school classmates from kindergarten through senior year of college were a grand mix of ethnicity, race, gay and straight. And it all happened in the incorrectly stereotyped "pure white" Iowa, by the way. In one instance when she was in grade school she attended the birthday party of a girl who was from Pakistan. When I asked her why she never mentioned her friend's homeland she said it didn't matter; she didn't think about it. She never refers to someone as "Mary the black girl" or that "guy from Vietnam". They were her friends and acquaintances. Perhaps older Americans should tune in to the attitudes of the younger generation and take note.

As for the writer who stated, "In the UK, Irish, Scottish, and English are all considered different races", I can only add that I am proud to call myself an Irish - American. Proud of both descriptions because my Irish ancestors were persecuted, prosecuted, starved and evicted from their homeland by you-know-who, but they fortunately found a home, opportunity, and left a legacy in the USA.

Carlos José:

I am Venezuelan. I agree with Prof. Agelvis on many issues, but from my observation, in Venezuela there is more educationalism or culturalism than racism or any race-based discrimination, even though the higher you go up the social ladder the whiter it gets, but that’s because of access to education (vicious cycle), not because of race. Venezuelans see themselves as classist (socio-educational level) maybe, but never racist. The US white, black and now even some ridiculous “latinos” are the racist one in our eyes, and they are teacing that to the Chavistas, who wish to divide to get votes.

HELL YES:

He is right.

Everybody here needs a racial tag of some kind.

It's like the Old Guard trying to make an issue of Obama's race, or if "Hispanics" voted this or that.

Racism go away.

Vincent:

Before attacking hyphenation as being "PC" you should do a little research. Hyphenation existed long before the term "PC" was even thought up.
Being poor is a lot different than being "Black".

If Venezuela didn't have problems with race why is it that Chavez is the first Venezulelan of mixed African ancestory?

Aerosailor:

All the comments really do give a snapshot of how peole worldwide have issues regarding the peceptions of race. It's a bit unrealistic to think that if we do not talk about it no one will notice my skin color, especially if its different. You notice even if its not an issue with you cool, however please accept that everybody ain't like you! So after you have had to deal with being forced to constantly feel the major and many many minor inequalities of life you may have better insight. For many people these pains are cumlative and never go away. I applaud anyone that has been blessed enough not to have to deal with racially insensitive people, however many of us have. I love to celebrate the accomplishments of many cultures because so many have been ignored for so very long like they never existed!

Didius Falco:

Americans use the hyphenated form precisely because we are a nation composed largely of immigrants. The two exceptions to this rule are the Native Americans, who did, in fact, emigrate (just a lot longer ago than the rest of us), and Blacks brought over unwillingly as slaves.

Venezuela, on the other hand, hasn't had the same history of ongoing immigration. The Spanish Conquistadores of the early 1500's, followed by slavery until it's abolition in 1854 pretty much sums up the major "immigrations" to Venezuela.

The real measure of how egalitarian a society is can be determined by the distribution of wealth, land and power. Draw up 2 scales, with the first showing the above and the second showing what group they belong to and I'd be willing to bet they would look largely the same: Indians and Blacks at the bottom, Mestizo's in the middle and the lightest skinned at the top.

Bob:

Having lived in Caracas for over a year and having had this very conversation with any number of Venezolano friends, I'll pose the same challenge to the Readers as I did to them: Look at photos of the Venezuelan National Assembly going back as many as 25-30 years and point to all the black faces. Although it was hardly surprising to most of my Venezolano friends, there was not a single black face in all those photos (as of 2000). And that's a society without institutionalized racism? Give me a break. At least the U.S. has taken dramatic strides in doing away with the kind of legal-structural racism that had crippled this country for over a hundred years. That's real progress.

Bert:

I'm not seein' a moon base. Lots of money changing hands, lots of stocks being traded, no solar panels, windmills in my area, Iraq war's not over yet, gross overspending on the increase,
people whining and filing lawsuits, probably not much honest work being done, oh, and yes, your taxes WILL go up while people figure out ways to get other people to pay for stuff that they want and have learned how to make a career out of 'gaming' the system to get it. Fraud? Larceny? Dishonesty? YOU dam betcha. I will NEVER apply to work any kind of federal job again, they run a crooked shop as far as I'm concerned. Hyphenated-americanism=institutionalized reverse discrimination.

Ibsen Martinez, PostGlobal Panelist:

Like almost all Spanish postcolonial societies, Venezuela is racist . But, strange as it may sound to American ears, Venezuelans can also pride themselves on their tolerance. A strong reason for this is our fully mestizo heritage: almost anyone here is "crossbreed", even most of the people that foreign left-leaning corespondents would describe as "white elite".

This mixed blood quality used to make things very difficult for any racial supremacism. Ours used to be a very sly kind of racism, in most occasions expressed only half-mockingly and almost exclusively in private conversation.

Take the exquisitely nuanced difference between the word "negro", spoken as an insult, from that used as a familiar, amorous utterance between lovers, as in " ¡bésame, mi negro!",i.e, "kiss me, my n_gger!" Hearing that would be a baffling experience for any foreigner.

Then along came Chávez and his cronies with all his "progressive narratives" and their politically correct jargon, a great part of it ironically drawn from U.S. Latin American Studies Departments.

Now "los negros"( "the blacks") are officially called "Afrodescendants", something rather ostentatious when spoken in Caribbean Spanish. Come to think of it, it all is too laughable to deserve comment for how can you make love to your brown-skinned girl (or boyfriend ) and exclaim at the climactic moment, "kiss me, oh, my beloved Afro-descendant?"

I think of Ivan, my elder son, who is black. His mother and I call him "el negro", as we Venezuelans fondly address the most dark-skinned member in the family. He lives in Irvine, CA, working hard for his PhD in Economics. I am not sure about how he would react at being called "n_gger" anywhere in Orange County , but he certainly will not let anyone in Venezuela call him "Afro-descendant" instead of our plain, deferential, friendly good old Spanish word for black people: "negro". He'd be offended if someone dubbed him an "Afro-descendent."

But, of of course, I am only a class traitor "zambo" or mulatto who might be dead wrong about all these things and perhaps one year in the "Danny Glover Political Correction Center" would help me change my mind.

SS:

Jen Wrote:
The post did not bring up the fact that unlike many countries, the U.S. has an unfortunate history of slavery and oppression of blacks - let's not forget that the 1960s was a completely different country.

You are joking right? Slavery and oppression of Blacks was worldwide. And forget about slavery and Blacks. EVERY country had a "lower-class" that was pretty much enslaved. Not until very recent history have the richer people in society seen the poor as actual people.

This whole hyphenation thing is all done by the PC police.

2greekdc:

"if Venezuelans lived in trees or had TV." - how funny is that observation?

I remember talking with a Persian friend from Greece some years ago who at the time lived in the US and his cousin asked him if "Greeks had paved roads or rode on camels".

I remember my time living in Greece and having a Lebanese-Christian friend terrorized by American Army Brats who thought HE was a "terrorist" just because he was an Arab. Americans should know that Christian Arabs are the least likely people to have ties to terrorists, but they assume ALL Arabs are terrorists.

These and so many observations of Americans make us the laughing-stock of the civilized world...and all this BEFORE the Iraq War.

Kevin:

America is one of the only true immigrant nations on the planet, where people from across the globe have come here for centuries for hope and prosperity, and others - unfortunately - were brought here for slavery.

Naturally, there are a variety of racial, religious, and national groups that have located here, hence the hyphenated terms such as African-American, Italian-American, Chinese-American, etc etc have arisen to a) preserve heritage, culture, language, etc b) have proper historical recognition (versus more offensive terms like Negro, Oriental, dego, etc), and c) to illustrate -covertly or overtly- that America, like it or not, is the true bastion of globalization, and that the world of tomorrow will live together --- hyphens or not.

CAM:

Chavez has tried to sow hatred using the race card (blacks and indians against whites), the income disparity (poor vs. rich), the nationality (Venezuelans vs. Colombians), the political affiliation (good leftist vs. bad ugly whatever), the economy (good poor vs. bad capitalist), the world domination subject(horrible capitalist USA vs. noble poor of wherever), and you know what: almost noboby in Venezuela hates USA, Colombia, your skin color, or your capitalist ideas. We are begining to hate the political affiliation of chavistas because we have 9 years being insulted, harrased and sent to economic caos by a failure of a president. Venezuela has never had any real problem with the United States. All this revolutionary rethoric is just hot air made by the biggest mistake in Venezuelan history to divert the attention from the real problems of our country.
Are Venezuelan racists? Sometimes. Even people with dark skin sometimes say "Tenía que ser negro" (black had to be that person) when they are fed up with somebody. And even people with very clear skin call their loved ones "mi negro or mi negra" (my black boy or my black girl) to show tenderness toward somebody. So, call you black could be an insult or a show of love. Totally contradictory, but that is the way we see race.
Something that shocks me the most about United States race issue is that sometimes your black people seem to be as racist as any WASP, with the excuse that they were slaves and brought agains their will. Well. That happened more than 200 years ago. And now you are US citizens. Many africans will sell everything they have to become one. So, enjoy your status and maybe to get another attitude will help to change the remaining racist attitude of the other skin color US citizens.

Jen:

The post did not bring up the fact that unlike many countries, the U.S. has an unfortunate history of slavery and oppression of blacks - let's not forget that the 1960s was a completely different country.

However, many people do want to move beyond our history and show how far we've come, especially the younger generation that is not sadled by the past.

By acknowledging that Obama could be the first black/African-American president, we are highlighting an important step towards national reconcillation - both blacks and whites vote for him, with younger whites more inclined to NOT focus on race as older whites (see exit poll results from the primaries).

Moreover, as a black president, Obama can take a stand on issues that help both blacks and white move beyond using race as a reason for injustices and poverty, e.g., in a recent debate he noted that our schools have failed our inner-city blacks, but black fathers must also take responsiblity. Given our history with race, no white candidate can say that so frankly.

Unfortunately, polls also show that while whites will vote for Obama, Latinos - with the growing exception of younger generations or those who watch English-language television - are less likely, which may speak to other forms of racism in the U.S. - but this type of racial divide is in no way unique to the U.S.

Jen:

The post did not bring up the fact that unlike many countries, the U.S. has an unfortunate history of slavery and oppression of blacks - let's not forget that the 1960s was a completely different country.

However, many people do want to move beyond our history and show how far we've come, especially the younger generation that is not sadled by the past.

By acknowledging that Obama could be the first black/African-American president, we are highlighting an important step towards national reconcillation - both blacks and whites vote for him, with younger whites more inclined to NOT focus on race as older whites (see exit poll results from the primaries).

Moreover, as a black president, Obama can take a stand on issues that help both blacks and white move beyond using race as a reason for injustices and poverty, e.g., in a recent debate he noted that our schools have failed our inner-city blacks, but black fathers must also take responsiblity. Given our history with race, no white candidate can say that so frankly.

Unfortunately, polls also show that while whites will vote for Obama, Latinos - with the growing exception of younger generations or those who watch English-language television - are less likely, which may speak to other forms of racism in the U.S. - but this type of racial divide is in no way unique to the U.S.

Emma Lazarus:

I have been to Venezuela dozens of times over the last 30 years, and I have witnessed many racist and sexist remarks made by members of every ethnicity there. My impression is that in so many instances, there is an assumption that particular positions in government and society should only go to lighter-skinned persons, and normally to men, and of course, straight. Machismo is very much alive in Venezuela. I also have often heard great intolerance about races that are only nominally represented in Venezuela, especially Asians, as well as disparagement of gays and lesbians. People in Venezuela have expressed shock to me that they have heard about civil rights laws protecting the rights of US minorities. Of course, all of this exists also in America. However, the huge difference which the professor should understand, is that in America, our democracy is committed to making our society more equal for persons of all races, for men and women, and increasingly so, for gays and lesbians. Since democracy is a process, this has been slow, but the movement has been in the right direction. There are many many private organizations in Venezuela where there are policies restricting entry or advancement by what would be considered by some of its members to be less desirable groups. I think that the ivory tower exists also in venezuela, as to what the good prof sees or does not see in his own society. The first step necessary in tackling a problem is acknowledging its existence.
As to hyphenated Americans, I believe that it has been a useful tool for main-streaming the multiplicity of diverse groups into American society. I was a courthouse in Rockville, Maryland once, where I saw a couple hundred persons from all over the the world leaving a naturalization ceremony, where they all became American citizens. Strangers were walking up and congratulating them all as they passed by. In American society, the overwhelming majority would not think to challenge their American-ness, nor their rights as citizens. I have a friend who moved to France ( married a French woman) and became a dual citizen, and who speaks fluent French. He says that he will always be considered a foreigner, and is not really recognized as being French. I believe that America is somewhat unique in assimilating so many diverse peoples, every religion, etc.

Edinburgh:

In the UK, Irish, Scottish, and English are all considered different races. Someone my (white) wife talked to on the phone and then met in person, said (to my wife), "I knew who you were when you said hello, from your accent - oh, sorry I didn't mean for that to sound racist." My wife was perplexed.

On a tram in Amsterdam, we overheard two eastern Europeans say "Americans are the stupidest race on the planet." Um, yeah, and Labrador retriever is the ugliest color of dog!

The hyphened America is largely something that is perpetuated by the media, Democrats, and race hustlers (I'm calling you out Jesse Jackson). To the extent those who do not consider themselves a part of one (or more) of those three overlapping groups ever use hyphenated language, it is simply to avoid being labeled a racist (by one of those three aforementioned groups). So, this story is simply one on how an extreme leftist country is different from a loud minority of leftist Americans (i.e., Democrats).

This doesn't mean there isn't racism, of course. But what exactly is "racial equality"? Equality of opportunity? Outcomes? Now, there's a can of worms...

Franconia:

Isn't it sort of unfair to compare the Caracas of twenty years ago with the Kansas of twenty years ago?

the chakman:

To the professor:

At least Americans discuss race, and don't sweep it under the rug.

Slavery was the USA's birth defect, and we will constantly be questioning race and social status, until true social and economic equality is achieved.

Until then, I guess when we visit other countries, we should keep our thoughts to ourselves, if the professor has his way.

Apparently, all the good professor found in the US was racism.

Gee, I wonder why some Americans shy away from traveling outside the US?

Hunky Santa:

I have to agree that America's obsession with describing someone with "hypens" might be racist and makes problems much worse. When one becomes a citizen of a country, be it the US or Venezuela, then one should be "American" or "Venezuelan."

The US has been so rich and powerful for so much time it has the luxury to think about such things. That being said, authors of these "hypens" (white elitist liberals -- oops, "progressives") feel a sense of guilt for living so well that they invent programs that promote self-flagelation.

Regular people of Third World countries don't have time for that. They're too busy looking for a job or getting some money to feed their family. However, that doesn't mean there isn't deep racism and descrimination in the Third World. There is, only that it hasn't been exposed and discussed as in the First World.

Matt:

If it makes you feel better I'm from Hawaii, and I was asked whether we live in grass shacks and have electricity when I went to college on the mainland. And I'm white, so this is probably just the typical ignorance of other places.

As far as racism goes, having been exposed to many different countries and situations in my life, the US is no more or less racist than anywhere else I have traveled. I've been lectured openly and proudly by various Europeans about the six jewish men who rule the world, how all africans are dirty and worthless, and how Muslims got what they deserved in Bosnia. Not saying these are necessarily representative but since you can pick and choose incidents and then make blanket characterizations I will too.

Also, I think many countries would like to believe that they are not racist but I think conflict after conflict around the world shows that when the going gets tough, people retreat into similarity, and usually that is racial in nature.

F. Toro:

In my experience, USAmericans are almost always baffled and confused by Venezuelan attitudes on race. The cookie just crumbles differently in Venezuela than in the US: we don't have "white people" and "black people" we have a chromatic scale, a spectrum where rather than being EITHER white OR black everyone is just a different shade of brown.

I remember back when Colin Powell became Secretary of State having to explain to baffled Venezuelan colleagues why it was that the US media were reporting he would be the "first black secretary of state." Nobody could figure that one out. "But he's so light skinned! He's not black at all!" I'd try to explain that, in the US, "black" and "white" were more about your parents, about group identity, and people would stare at me incomprehendingly. "But, but, but...just LOOK at him, he's not black at all!"

Frankly, I think the Venezuelan attitude is a lot saner than the US attitude. In Venezuela race really is JUST about skin color, whereas in the US race is about ethnic identity, about the way you act and dress and talk and dance and cook and vote. (c.f. Obama's remark about having to check out how well Bill Clinton can dance before being able to say if he really had been "America's first black president.) In Venezuela, though, we never really had this consciousness of different people belonging to different categories depending on the color of their skin. "Black" and "white" are purely descriptive terms - plain old adjectives attaching to shades of skin - rather than the hyper-loaded cultural constructs they are in the US.

It baffles gringos every time, this one...

Kevin:

Nelson is right on target. All of this obsession with African-American Months, and first black President, and first black Super Bowl coach, etc. just imply inferiority and put racism in people's minds. Case in point, our mostly white church elected a black president 20 years ago. He was a CFO, good organizer, great with people...a natural choice and won unanimously. Didn't dawn on anyone that he would be the first black president until weeks later. When the pastor suggested honoring him for this accomplishment during a service, his response was "Are you crazy? The fact no one noticed is progess!"

rasheedah:

"race" is such a double edged sword. sociologically and genetically, it's a bit of a myth of human creation with real-world implications used both to build a sense of connection and visibility for individuals grouped into each category and to separate people as the "other." it's become so tricky, i think partially, because its the elephant in the room that nobody wants to discuss - which often contributes to racism that isn't defined (brazil is struggling with it right now in its higher education system). you take away the legal identity and many feel they have no recourse to protest because race essentially doesn't exist in such a state and therefore racism doesn't exist (take the xigurs in china, by self-identifying b/c of much needed rights in a place where they're supposed to be like everyone else, they get targeted by the government). but then often times when it's recognized by a state or media pundits, it's discussed in such a cursory way because most don't have the educational/experiential background to put it into words that it becomes divisive and shallow when mentioned. i think there's an informed middle ground that hasn't been approached thus far, at least not in popular public life, a way to talk about race and racism and what it really means socially and historically and ways to overcome it together and learn from one another - since we're all more alike than not. i think until we get to this point, the issue is always going to exist - either as a haunting ghost that creeps up when we act like things are fine now or a polarizing fact of life....maybe obama could be a catalyst for that kind of conversation....but then again, maybe not....

Not so sure...:

What's more racist: noting that there are divisions based on race and being able to respond to them OR not talking about race, while most of your poor people happen to be one race?

I'll always take discussion and open communication over sweeping it all under the rug, which is what Nelson appears to want to do. Notice how he's not really able to offer up any alternatives...

dwight:

I think that people that focus on what you asked are just trying to raise trouble, nobody I know cares about race. it's a loaded question raised to cause trouble in the USA. let's talk about venezuela and chaves and the danger venezuela is to Colombia.

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