There's an old and dreadful prejudice currently spreading throughout the U.S. faster than almost any other time in history, and it's doing a tragic amount of harm. Due to Trump's rise to power and the mainstream adoption of his hateful, xenophobic, and racist rhetoric, many minorities in America are suffering unjust consequences—among them the Latinx community.
Trump's anti-immigration agenda has been built precisely on spreading false stereotypes associated with Latinxs, appealing to baseless fear and irrational concerns to promote general distrust towards them. And it's been working. The El Paso terrorist specifically targeted immigrants, using words not unlike Trump's. Just last month in Milwaukee, a white man committed threw acid on a U.S. citizen's face, just for being of Hispanic descent, after confrontationally asking him "Why did you come here and invade my country?" And while this kind of racism is nothing new, it has dramatically worsened since Trump took office.
Unfortunately, Hollywood's representation of Latinxsdoesn't help either. There's a widespread habit in the film industry to typecast and promote harmful stereotypes that needlessly corrupt the image of the community as a whole—which is clearly a bad thing. Trump supporters and the current administration take advantage of this embedded preconceived opinion, so it's only easier for them to use it against Latinxs around the country.
But the administration's strategy is only as effective as the public allows it to be: it's up to us to reject these unfair generalizations about Latinxs for what they are. In order to stand up against hate, here are six Latinx stereotypes you should simply never believe.
The drug dealer
It's a common cliché to have Latinx characters associated with organized crime in some way, especially as either low-level drug dealers or international drug lords. If not that, then you get plenty of Hispanic characters depicted as some kind of gangster, thief, thug, or hustler. The motif is so widespread that it has become a significant part of the perceived Latinx culture around the world—which only helps promote the idea that Latinxs are typically criminals.
But of course this is an unfair generalization, just as it would be for whites to be shown as mostly serial killers or hateful shooters. It's simply not true that most Latinxs are associated with organized crime, as the vast majority of them are in fact law-abiding citizens just like any person of any other ethnicity in America.
Speaking of criminal stereotypes, this is another Trump-favorite falsehood about Latinxs. The president went so far as to refer to many people of the community "animals" and "rapists" explicitly, which is clearly done in bad faith. Latinxs are by no measure more prone to be rapists than any other ethnic group, including whites, so to view them as such is nothing short of racist.
Now, while a rapist Latinx may not be the most characteristic stereotype in film, Hollywood does tend to present Hispanic men, including those of Spanish descent, as "machos," meaning they tend to be viewed as misogynistic characters driven to sexism by their very nature. But for Latinxs in America, this is not a particularly accurate description—at least not more than it is for whites.
Now, here's one of America's favorite labels for anyone who even remotely "looks Hispanic." People seem to confuse ethnicity with citizenship all too often—a truly unjustifiable mistake that's behind most hate crimes in the country. When a white person sees someone who, in their mind, looks like a Latinx, they almost always immediately assume they must be an immigrant, documented or not.
The most racist among us, like the Milwaukee attacker, will simply jump to the conclusion that any Latinxs they see are most likely undocumented, which is as baseless an assumption as you can get. (And just to point out the racism in this tendency, consider that, despite there being hundreds of thousands of undocumented white Europeans currently living in America, no white American will go around assuming fellow white people are living here illegally).
If this is a common misconception among the American public by default, it certainly doesn't help that Hollywood most commonly depicts Latinxs as immigrants—when they depict Latinxs at all. Think of your typical Hollywood film: if we don't get the 'criminal' stereotype, we are treated with the monolingual Hispanic who either speaks with a heavy accent or speaks no English at all, most of which is associated with them being either first or, at best, second generation Americans with immigrant parents. To show Latinxs as exclusive Spanish-speakers is not only misleading, it's outright false: many Latin Americans don't even speak Spanish (Portuguese, not Spanish, is Brazil's national language, for example).
Many Latinxs living in America never learned Spanish, even if their distant ancestors hail from a Spanish-speaking country. Yet many Hollywood producers go as far as to demand an accent from their Latinx actors. Late actress Lupe Ontiveros, for example, once told NPR that during auditions, casting directors were explicit about promoting these stereotypes. When asked whether they needed her to speak with an accent, "they’d say, ‘Yes, we prefer for you to have an accent.’ And the thicker and more waddly it is, the more they like it. This is what I’m against, really, truly.”
But that's a ridiculous notion that keeps fueling the disingenuous link between being Latinx and being from a foreign country. Not only have many Latinxs lived in the U.S. for many generations, but some of them descend from families that were living in what today is considered American territory long before the borders were established. Consider Eva Longoria's statement that her family didn't cross the border, but rather the border crossed them.
The job thief
"They came here to steal jobs from real Americans!" Ah, the rallying cry from most racist xenophobes, and one that absolutely misunderstands how the whole employment system works. You see, no one takes away a job from you—you compete for it, and, ideally, the most competent person gets it. In other words, any person, Latinx or not, is given the job. In no way do they "steal" it.
Also, in the case of many immigrants (read "immigrant," not "Latinx"), they tend to be willing to perform jobs many Americans are not willing to do, so there's no stealing here either. When Hollywood depicts Latinx not only as immigrants, but as people looking for jobs illegally, constantly running away from authorities, they do nothing but promote the already-adopted notion that Latinx steal jobs from "honest Americans." Just think of that scene in Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) where Dick is forced to look for low-paying work, just to end up being confused with an undocumented immigrant on account of his "accent."
Be careful with this stereotype, as it has been historically employed by the U.S. governmentto turn the Hispanic community into a scapegoat, committing all kinds of human rights violations against them.
The domestic employee
Another tired stereotype that needs to go already: depicting Latinx women as maids. Even superstars like Jennifer Lopez are not immune, having famously played a housekeeper in Maid in Manhattanback in 2002. Ever since the 1980s, Latinxs have been increasingly been represented as domestic employees in both film and TV, from shows such as I Married Dora(1987) to big films like Spanglish(2004) and Babel(2006).
The blue collar worker
This is for Latinx men what being a maid is for Latinx women: a (sexist) cliché whose disappearance is long overdue. If they are not some kind of criminal, most Hispanics are depicted in some kind of blue collar job, and while there's nothing wrong with being a blue collar worker, to pigeonhole a whole ethnicity into a single vocation is simply racist.
Of course there are many Latinxs dedicating their lives to manual labor, but there are also plenty that are working in completely distinct careers that require a good deal of professional preparation, from arts to STEM fields. Yet Hollywood is notorious for lacking Latinx characters in the latter category, not because there are no real-life Latinx scientists, but because the film industry is keen on keeping these stereotypes—and that's a problem.
Hopefully, with all the progress done in the past few years within the film industry as a whole, filmmakers and producers alike will begin to realize their depiction of Latinx is as hateful as any other form of discrimination—and will stop the practice accordingly. If anything, the time has come to demand fair media representation of this vulnerable community from now on.
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