As you can most likely tell from my byline, I am a Latina. I am also an immigrant. I was born in the Dominican Republic. My parents left the island for a better life, arriving in New York City in the winter of 1990; I arrived the following year.
Now, my parents — like many Latino immigrants before and after them — were not people of means; to say they struggled when they first arrived in this country would be an enormous understatement. Without a set home, they jumped from apartment to apartment, using the wonderful hospitality afforded to them by relatives, friends or friends of friends until, finally, they settled in The Bronx in an apartment shared by other members of our family who also arrived in the United States chasing the ever-elusive American Dream.
Now, my parents hustled. And I mean HUSTLED. They busted their asses for my sister and I in a way that I truly never appreciated until recently, as a 25-year-old.
My dad bussed tables, drove cabs and sold fruit. My mom balanced being a young mother and hustling right alongside my father. One of my favorite stories is hearing about how she sold yun-yunes, or flavored ices, on the streets of the Bronx. (Check them out here if you’re not familiar with this delicious summer delicacy.)
Along with all of those hustles, my father also drove and still drives trucks. He drives six out of seven days a week, barely sleeps and only sees his family on weekends.
Now, throughout ALL of that work, these Latino parents put two daughters not just through private schools from pre-K all the way to high school; they also got us through college. And along the way, they provided us with all the resources they believed we would need for our future: books, school supplies, clothes, shoes and uniforms for the various sports we played.
They also managed to allow my sister and I to explore the many, many fleeting careers we envisioned for ourselves. We were Girl Scouts, swimmers, hip-hop dancers and even Jimi Hendrix-wannabe guitarists.
They did all of this while essentially working every single day of their lives, with no vacations.
Now, you were trying to refute Donald Trump. I get it. You really believed you were proving a point when you stated: “If you kick every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet, Donald Trump?”
You really believed that you were being much more open-minded, much more attuned to the Latino community than Trump could ever be.
But see, that’s the thing with microaggresions; you think you’re being helpful, but in reality, you’re not. At. All.
Microaggresions, defined by Psychology Today, “are the everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.” And that’s what you did there with your comment. You insulted Latinos by conveying an extremely negative stereotype. On air.
And yes, many of us have cleaned toilets — my mom and other members of my family have. But that’s not all we are. Because, check it out, it’s not just the stories of my parents and other working class Latinos. There’s Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in the United States; Junot Díaz, a Pulitzer-prize winning writer; Jorge Ramos, journalist and author; Dan-el Padilla Peralta, Ivy League humanist who recently wrote a book on growing up undocumented in the United States.
In case those names don’t seem familiar, have you heard of Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, Eva Longoria or even Narciso Rodriguez? The list goes on and on.
What I hear when you made your comments wasn’t someone correctly refuting Trump; what I heard was yet another person trying to comment on a community they have no association with. For you to imply, for whatever reason, that all of us, undocumented included, are mere cleaners, you put yourself on the same level as Trump. You showed us that you do not truly understand the Latino community in the United States. And the fact that your voice was heard, on air, shows the unwitting privilege you have — just like Trump’s.
If you were truly so opposed to Trump’s stance on immigrants, you would have done some research and learned that Latinos don’t just clean toilets. If you were truly so concerned with defending our community, you could have let Rosie Perez, the Puerto Rican host of the show you appeared on, speak; you would have listened to what she had to say. And it would have been OK to just listen, to admit that you could not speak on the types of jobs Latinos have.
Instead, you chose to refute racism with racism.
And here’s the thing: Latinos are so many things. We’re cleaners, lawyers, doctors, truck drivers, mothers, fathers, athletes, daughters, sons, actors, pilots. I know this because I see this firsthand in my community; I see this firsthand with my parents; and I see this because I am a Latino writer, adding to the growing list of roles my fellow Latinos are more than capable of occupying.
And if you didn’t know any of this before, just check out the #QueridaKellyOsbourne posts now forming all over social media.
Also on HuffPost: