Remember when the Catholic Church pulled a sly move by acceding the
mafia’s first “Latino” pope to the throne? Jorge Mario Bergoglio, whose rap name as the new Catholic leader became Pope Francis I, was born in Argentina to Italian parents. The man, like many Argentinians, is of European descent but he was technically born in the South American country and is the first dude from Latin America and the New World to reign over the religious illuminati. The moment he ascended, the first question many of us asked to ourselves was, Ummm, is this guy really Latino? And then, we thought, Smart move: he’s technically a Latino by birth but Father Bergoglio is phenotypically European and will maintain the imperial face of colonialism in tact while attracting more Spanish-speaking heads to the church. Bravo. Well played. At any rate, Pope Francis I’s race quickly became media fodder for several weeks until we let it go. It was too damn confusing and not soundbite-friendly enough for Sunday morning tele-tooby shows.
Fast forward to this morning. I was watching, like I often do, NY1 News’ In The Papers segment. I was stopped in my tracks by a story reported by non other than the New York Post, a paper I only flip through at my boxing gym if my coach brings in a copy. The piece, written by Dana Schuster, is about the next Bachelor, who’s being billed as the shows first “non-Caucasian” and “Latino” star to look for love in the franchise’s 11 year history. The dude, 32 year-old Juan Pablo Galavis, is from Venezuela.
Props to Ms. Schuster for somehow dropping this nugget in an otherwise distasteful, fear-mongering, Murdoch owned
newspaper. In the article, she writes:
But considering the homogenous array of men (and women) ABC has paraded out season after white-washed season, you’d think show execs would have had the guts to make a stronger statement with their first “non-Caucasian” “Bachelor” than an all-American-looking South American.
She’s right. But, well, hear me out: it’s not fair—not even in the case of Papa Francis I—to challenge someone’s identity because of their phenotype. Galavis may be proud of his heritage, of the diversity in our global community. It’s not his fault he was born a blond. We have a tendency, including my own friends and family, to say things like, “You’re too white to be Dominican,” or “You’re too dark to be Puerto Rican,” or some other ridiculous variation of the aforementioned. Latinos/Hispanics/Latino-Americans are the embodiment of New World history. We are the genetic result of the Columbus Effect. We are the first Americans in what we call the New World, here evolving and mixing hundreds of years before the first illegal European immigrants stepped foot in modern-day North American and terrorized the Indigenous peoples already living here. Our phenotypes range from alabaster to opal, from European to Indigenous and African, and everything—and I mean every freaking combination—in between.
BUT still, come oooooooonnnnn.
We need, and I mean desperately, more biological, gender, economic and phenotypical diversity on television and in the media. It’s not enough that your news anchor, Bachelor, starlet, weather girl, or whatever-what-have-you, has a Latino/Hispanic last name. It’s just not enough.