Tag Archive | "Latino"

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New Marvel Comics Spider-Man is Black-Latino

By Channing Kennedy, ColorLines

Today’s a big day, both for comic-book nerds and for media-justice geeks. Marvel Comics’ “Ultimate Fallout #4” hits the stands on Wednesday, and in it, we get our first glimpse at the “Ultimate” storyline’s new Spidey, a half-African American half-Latino kid named Miles Morales. The Spider-Man alter-ego belonged solely to fictional working-class white dude Peter Parker (and to the white actors who’ve portrayed him) for five solid decades. So this is a big move for Marvel—and, of course, one that’s already being met with a racist backlash.

Peter Parker’s not really gone, of course; Morales is taking on the Spider-mantle only in the offshoot in which Parker got killed back in June, so storylines featuring each Spidey will sit side-by-side on shelves. That’s not to say this editorial decision shouldn’t be applauded. Every time the comics industry has attempted to fix its politics, it’s gotten pushback, whether it’s casually racist anger at an Angolan Muslim as the Batman of Paris, or real-deal white supremacists protesting Idris Elba’s role in the Thor movie.

In many ways, Marvel’s been the most admirably progressive of the major comics imprints, and spokespeople like Tom Brevoort have spoken eloquently and publicly about the impact that a superhero of color can have on a young reader’s self-image. But Marvel, like the rest of the comics industry, often finds itself trapped under the weight of its own legacy; its first-stringers and main moneymakers were created decades ago, in a less enlightened time. Imagine trying to write a story based on 2011 headlines with a social-justice bent—except it has to star your white racist great-grandfather as the good guy, and your entire family is watching over your shoulder, waiting for you to write something they find unrealistic. (If you don’t have a white racist great-grandfather… you probably don’t need this metaphor anyway.)

So how’s Marvel’s constituency handling Morales’ debut? Some, like Adam Serwer, love it and point out that Spidey’s essential nature has always been working-class urbanness, not whiteness. On the other hand, at the politics-and-comics blog Graphic Policy, Brett Schenker introduces us to New England retailer Larry’s Comics, who decided to mark the new Spidey with racist jokes about fried chicken and big lips.

But the check signers are getting braver as they realize that casual bigots don’t have comics-buying on lock. As Gene Demby pointed out at the American Prospect, critics and fans were won over by a powerful, grim-as-hell retconned one-off in which the Captain America tests were first tested on black soldiers. And Marvel’s Brian Michael Bendis, who’s helming the Morales storyline, says he was encouraged by Donald Glover’s half-joking Twitter campaign to be allowed to try out for the new Spider-Man role, a move which got plenty of casually racist pushback.

Back in 2005, Sukhdev Sandhu wrote for New York Magazine about a Marvel-released Indian Spider-Man miniseries, aimed at South Asian audiences. Some fans complained of their quintessentially American hero being diluted; Sandhu uses this to illustrate how working-class urban lives—re: Peter Parker’s origins—are a recent thing in India. Miles Morales isn’t from another country—but he is from 2011 New York City, a place where radioactive-spider roulette is, demographically speaking, likelier than not to result in a black or Latino protagonist-to-be.

And really, there’s nothing new about people of color receiving disproportionately exposure toenvironmental radiation and medical experiments. A few good superpowers is the least they deserve.

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The Origin of the Term ‘Hispanic’

She Made ‘Hispanic’ Official
A Conversation With Grace Flores-Hughes, Hispanic wordsmith

Sunday, July 26, 2009, Washington Post

While success has many fathers and failure is an orphan, bureaucrat-ese, it turns out, sometimes has one proud author. During her long career in government, Grace Flores-Hughes spent some time working as an assistant in what was then called the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. It was there, in the early 1970s, that she helped establish “Hispanic” as the government’s word of choice for people of Spanish origin — a term that made it onto the official U.S. census form in 1980. Flores-Hughes, who recently left a federal job as a Bush political appointee, spoke with Outlook’s Rachel Dry about why some people think “Latino” sounds cooler, who should really count as Hispanic and whether Sonia Sotomayor was wise to talk about “wise Latina” women. Excerpts:

What did you think when you heard about the nomination of Judge Sotomayor — by a president whose politics don’t align with yours?

I was terribly excited. She’s Hispanic. And obviously well qualified as far as I’m concerned. Politics came last with me in terms of seeing her nomination. Sure, I’m wary of future decisions, but I figure that she’s going to do her work based on what she said during the hearings, based on the Constitution.

You just said: “She’s Hispanic.” Why did you use that term instead of “Puerto Rican” or “Latina”?

Because I coined the term, and I’m faithful to my work.

Fair enough. But besides pride of authorship?

I believe that it represents the Hispanic Americans of this country. It best describes who we are based on our Hispanic surnames. . . . The reason I am not in favor of “Latino” or “Latina” is that those terms can represent the people of the Mediterranean. Then you’d be including Portuguese and Italians, if you take it literally. And then it takes away from the Hispanic people of America that need to be counted: Who are we; how are we being served by the government; who do we vote for? How are you going to come to a conclusion if you’re mixing apples and oranges?

How did the federal government come to use the term “Hispanic”?      hispan63

There are many Hispanic activists who think that Richard Nixon did it. Well, no, Richard Nixon was very busy — he didn’t have time to be doing this. When I explain it, they get relieved. They were holding this anger that some nasty Anglo named them. Well, no, it wasn’t. It was this little Hispanic bureaucrat.

You were on an ad-hoc committee in what was then the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. How did that come about?

A department within [HEW] had funded a report on the education of Hispanics and Native Americans. And in the report they referred to them — they were all Anglos who did the report — they referred to them as Puerto Ricans, and then Native Americans they called Indians, and then they called us Mexican Americans. And when the authors asked educators and community activists to come in and comment on the report, they screamed and said, “We don’t like the way we’re called.” And the report never went anywhere because they were so preoccupied with what they were called. Caspar Weinberger, who was the secretary of HEW at the time, said, “Okay, that’s it, we need to get some definitions.”

So you and others in your office joined a committee to come up with the best name.

It was very contentious. Others were pulling for the word “Latino.” I wanted “Hispanic.” And I was the youngest one in the group. They said: ” ‘Latino’ and ‘Latina’ is what we all are, that’s why we should be called that.” But to me the only way to accurately count us is by using the term “Hispanic.”

When I was growing up in South Texas, they used to call me Latin American, and I wasn’t Latin American. So we wouldn’t answer on the forms because we’d say: “We’re not Latin. We’re Spanish.” That’s when “Hispanic” started coming up.

The biggest concern was in those days they were beginning to hire a lot of minorities, especially Hispanic Americans, and if somebody would say, “Well, I’m Latin and they’re from Portugal, they’re going to get hired.” And I said, “That’s not the point of what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to open the doors for Mexican Americans.”

It was an affirmative action decision?

Essentially it was guiding any affirmative action that was going to evolve.

What do you think about the New Haven firefighters case and Judge Sotomayor’s position?

From a standpoint of my having suffered discrimination as a Mexican American in South Texas, I understood what she was trying to do and what she meant. But there are times when you just have to ignore that and say, “Is this really the best decision I can render?” You have to look at the bigger picture. I fully understand her thinking, but I would never have made the decision she made.

Who is Hispanic in your mind? Who were you thinking of when you fought for the term?

All the people in South Texas I grew up with. So many of them were poor, so many were disenfranchised. I thought: How can we argue for more federal funds or more federal help if we don’t know how many they are?

Today, the census will count someone as Spanish/Hispanic/Latino if that’s who they say they are. Is that the right way to do it?

I think that all the slashing that they do — the Hispanic slash Latino slash — is good. If you just put “Hispanic,” somebody’s going to say, “I’m not Hispanic; I hate that term,” and they won’t answer. And we would lose the count. The slashing allows all of us, kicking and screaming, to check the right box.

What did you think of all the attention paid to Judge Sotomayor’s “wise Latina woman” comment?

I thought: It’s a slow summer so we’re going to make this into a big issue when everybody knew darn well and good what she meant. I wished she had used different words so we wouldn’t have to keep bringing it up over and over.

What if it had been “wise Hispanic woman”?

I would have liked it better.

If she is confirmed, do you hope that the headlines say “First Hispanic Justice”?

Oh, I would like that. I don’t know if they’re going to do it. They may say “Latina.” Has anybody asked her? Does she prefer “Latina” or “Hispanic”? A lot of Democrats use “Latina.” It’s the chic thing to do.

Why are “Latina” and “Latino” chic?

Well, “Hispanic” they think is a much older term. More young people use “Latino.” And it seems like Democrats call themselves Latinos; Republicans call themselves Hispanics. It’s getting divided that way — I don’t like that. In many print media that I see, they’ll say “Hispanic,” and they’ll say “Latina” later on just so they don’t upset anybody.

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