gustavo-arellano

On our post-election episode of the Code Switch podcast, Shereen Marisol Meraji and I interviewed Negin Farsad, a comedian and filmmaker, and Gustavo Arellano, the editor of the OC Weekly and the author of the satirical ¡Ask A Mexican! column.

Our guests suggested that, in the wake of Donald Trump’s election-night victory, racial animus in America — or at least, Americans’ boundless capacity to countenance it — could be combated if people of color more actively engaged white people, assuaging their anxieties.

Farsad and Arellano presented that idea humorously, but the ask was a serious one. Farsad pointed to her film, The Muslims are Coming!, in which she traveled across the country on a comedy tour with other Muslim-American comedians, as an example of outreach.

“The goal was to meet people where they were, and I feel like if they do that, they will come around,” she said. In other words, people of color need to be “ambassadors” to the larger, skeptical, anxious white world. If respectability politics is predicated on the performance of public uprightness — or at least agreeability— being an ambassador is the strain that concerns itself with the hand-to-hand, interpersonal engagement. Say, explaining why black people can say nigger and white people should not. (It’s a little trickier than that.) Or calmly explaining to a person on Twitter who asks if “nappy” is an offensive word. (Short answer: it depends, but she probably shouldn’t say it.) My inbox has been full of questions like this from strangers since the election.

If you’ll allow me to indulge in a bit of understatement here: listeners had opinions about this idea. To crudely characterize the many responses we got, there was an obvious, vocal split between black folks and other people of color. Many black listeners suggested that having to make the argument for your humanity was itself an indignity.

Who Should Do The Hard Work Of Being The Race Ambassador?

Illustration: Bjorn Rune Lie/Ikon Images/Getty Images

Let the Republicans rant – after all, they’re going to be the ultimate losers in all this. Like Mexicans, most of the Muslims I know seem natural for that party: fiscally and socially conservative, with a particular affinity for family values. Yet Republicans push us to the Democratic side because they’re so obnoxious and clueless and really think we don’t belong to this country.
—  Gustavo Arellano, a Mexican, on why Muslims are America’s new public enemy number one 
Some days I feel like a Latino. Some days I feel Chicano. Some days I feel like a Mexicano. Most days I feel like a Zacatecano, because that’s where my parents are from and that’s what my heritage is. I’m never really a Hispanic, because that’s just not a term that I use. I rarely think of myself as an American, because that’s just so self-evident that it reeks of desperation to identify myself as such.
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Gustavo Arellano, editor of O.C. Weekly and the author of the column “Ask a Mexican,“ discussing sometimes confusing and fluid identities.

From ”What is Latino? Defining America’s Ambiguous Ethnicity“ [Huff Post]

Chili con carne, now plain ol’ chili, was a harbinger of things to come for Mexican food. It was a Mexican dish, made by Mexicans for Mexicans, but it was whites who made the dish a national sensation, who pushed it far beyond its ancestral lands, who adapted it to their tastes, who created companies for large-scale production, and who ultimately became its largest consumer to the point that the only thing Mexican about it was the mongrelized Spanish in its name. The Mexicans, meanwhile, shrugged their shoulders and continued cooking and eating their own foods, all the while ostracized by Anglos who nevertheless tore through whatever Mexicans put in front of them.
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ReasonTV Interviews: Gustavo Arellano

Since 2004, Gustavo Arellano has written the wildly popular - and wildly politically incorrect - Ask a Mexican! column in the OC Weekly. In each installment, the California-born Arellano answers reader queries about Mexican-American mores that rarely come up in day-to-day conversation. Recent entries have discussed whether it’s safe to shop for prescription drugs in border towns, why Mexicans eat so many tortillas, and if it’s common for Mexican men to wear necklaces bearing their mothers’ names (it’s not, cautions Arellano, and probably a sign that a particular hombre has a chica south of the border).

The column, Arellano told Reuters, “started off as a joke. It was supposed to be just a satirical take on xenophobia against Mexicans and it just exploded.” The column now appears in about three dozen publications and spawned a 2007 collection (buy it here). The column is remarkable not only for its humor and insight but its willingness to talk frankly about topics that usually stifle even the most-open conversationalists.

In April, Reason’s Nick Gillespie talked with Arellano about U.S. natives’ attitudes toward Mexicans, whether half-Mexican Anthony Quinn’s performance in Zorba the Greek or Jack Black’s Mexican-wrestler turn in Nacho Libre was more offensive, whether Mexicans can or should assimilate, the effect of the drug war on border relations, and much more.