The New York Times reported last fall:
That reminds me of today’s thumbsucker in the Times:
A Conversation With Latinos on Race
Leer en español (Read in Spanish)
By JOE BREWSTER, BLAIR FOSTER and MICHÈLE STEPHENSON FEB. 29, 2016
Last year we set out to make a series of short documentaries that we hoped would foster a discussion about race relations in the United States. To date the series has focused on the personal nuances of systemic racism as reflected in the relationship between blacks and whites. And while that dynamic is a significant part of the American story of race, it does not fully reflect the country’s varied history and rapidly changing demographics. So for our next installment of our “Conversation on Race” series, we decided to go broader, and hear from Latinos on their experiences here.
Fifty-five million Latinos live in this country, representing 17 percent of the population. After Mexico, the United States is home to the world’s largest population of Spanish speakers. Latinos are projected to make up a record 11.9 percent of eligible voters in 2016, just shy of blacks, who are 12.4 percent. We were curious about how race shapes opportunity in a community that draws from such a hugely diverse group of racial backgrounds and ethnicities. How does one identity get forged from such an assortment of experience?
Before we could even discuss racism and the challenges Latinos face in this country, though, we had to define the term “Latino.” When we asked our interviewees, their responses were wide-ranging. For some, Latino identity is a political stance involving both race and nationality, while others found the label deeply constraining. Most pointed to the frustrations of being stereotyped, marginalized and demeaned. The people we spoke with were vulnerable, and their stories illuminating, but most of what we took from them is that we need far more examination of this crucial segment of the American population. We hope you will join us in having these conversations. As a start, we invite you to do so here.
This woozy effort never makes much sense because it wants to avoid grappling with the very interesting evolution of meaning imputed to terms like Latino or Hispanic. In the liberal postwar era, the category disappeared from the 1950 and 1960 Census, because groups like LULAC, which represented middle class people of Spanish-speaking ancestry, thought it best for their members to simply be counted as white. The one drop rule didn’t apply to people with Latin American ancestry, so why emphasize difference when more or less white people were allowed to blend into the white majority (e.g., Desi Arnaz I Love Lucy). Some government methodologies, such as counting Hispanics as white in crime statistics, are left over from this era.
But by later 1960s, it was clear that there could be privileges in being a minority, so Latino/Hispanic/Chicano was revived for the 1970 Census. But because many Latinos are racist, their leaders worked out a deal whereby they didn’t have to admit to any taint of nonwhiteness, but could proclaim themselves white on race but Hispanic on “ethnicity.”
But the “ethnicity” wheeze has been less galvanizing. Accusing somebody of “racism” is the ultimate weapon today, but accusing somebody of “ethnicism” isn’t even a word. “Ethnocentrism” is a word, but it’s confusing because the Hispanic ethnicity is encouraged to be ethnocentric.
It’s better just to remodel Hispanics into being thought of as a “race,” at least for the purposes of accusing non-Hispanic whites of racism.
But this notion that Hispanics are a race tied together by blood who are the hereditary victims of racism by the white race, present and past, raises peculiarly delicate questions for the New York Times. If the sins of non-Hispanics ancestors are on the table for a full airing, what about dynasty that is the largest shareholder in the New York Times itself?
It would be especially interesting to discuss why the six heirs of the New York Times’ financial savior, Carlos Slim, would qualify for affirmative action as Hispanics if they moved to America, considering that they are pure Lebanese Maronite by descent, with a great-grandfather, Pierre Gemayel, who founded the fascist Phalangist paramilitary of Lebanon and a great uncle who was the most notorious rightwing warlord in modern Lebanese history. When Slim’s wife’s uncle was famously assassinated in 1982 during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, setting off the Sabra and Shatila massacres perpetrated by his followers, the NYT obituary featured the great headline: “Bashir Gemayel Lived by the Sword.”
It’s also likely although less certain that Slim’s mother, Linda Helú Atta, was related to another founder of the Phalange, Charles Helou, later President of Lebanon. The Mexican government forced Arab immigrants to Hispanicize the spelling of their last names — e.g., Salim to Slim — so it’s likely that Helu and Helou are the same name, although how close they are genealogically remains uninvestigated.
We do know that Carlos Slim’s maternal grandfather brought a printing press to Mexico with him from the Levant and started an Arabic newspaper in Mexico, so the Helus and Helous sound sociologically quite similar. Indeed, Carlos’s Mexican-born cousin Alfredo Harp Helu is also a billionaire.
If so, the Slim heirs aren’t products of random romantic attraction, but of dynastic marriages among the leading far right Lebanese clans. This helps explain the Slim family’s career choices in Mexico, such as Carlos’ older brother’s Julian’s career with a Mexican government secret police force accused of torturing and disappearing leftists.
All this is a topic that the NYT has shown extremely little interest in reporting during the years in which Slim has been the leading stockholder in the newspaper. Other outlets, however, have been gingerly picking up this story. For example, Time reported on 12/2/2015:
Carlos Slim, the richest man in Latin America and for several years, the world, has a surprising hero – the Mongol warlord Genghis Khan. …
Slim’s admiration for the Great Khan is one of many intriguing details of the Mexican billionaire revealed in a new biography by investigative journalist Diego Enrique Osorno. In “Slim: The Political Biography of the Richest Mexican in the World,” it is also uncovered that the tycoon was bullied at his Mexico City school because he is the son of Lebanese parents, who had the original surname Salim. It is shown that his family had ties to the Lebanese Phalange, a right wing Christian group known for massacres of Palestinians. And it is documented how Slim’s older brother Julian was a member of a Mexican secret police force accused of torturing and disappearing leftist rebels.
Perhaps Donald Trump should ask the New York Times to renounce Carlos Slim as a monopolist exploiter of poor Mexicans?
Perhaps the New York Times should ask the Slim family to renounce their Fascist relatives?