It started when Fox News chairman/CEO Roger Ailes cracked that O’Brien was “that girl that’s named after a prison.” (Soledad State Prison in California) Soledad tweeted back her response Twitter, writing: “Um. I wasn’t named after a prison. Ailes is mistaken. I was named after the Virgin Mary.”
Whoops. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have been continually tagged prison-esque as Lalo “Alcatraz” by idiots and careless typists)
Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu is the Cuban born Palestinian who accused President Obama of not knowing how to be American. Soledad schooled him on Mitt Romney’s misleading talking point about 716 billion dollars being “gutted out of Medicare.” Sununu seemed to be ready to keel over from a severe cranial detonation.
The most recent example might explain this. During an MSNBC budget interview Romney VP also-ran Tim Pawlenty shot a racist crack at O’Brien when he accused her of not understanding English.
That’s a pretty stock racist insult. Believe me, I’ve heard most of the racist anti-Latino taunts and comments that exist out there. I’ve had plenty of them directed at me. Never have heard them on a news program before, directed at the host, till now.
So what is it about Soledad that drives conservatives crazy? It must drive these staunch white guys crazy to see a half-Cuban, half-Irish brown woman dare to destroy their talking points. What else can it be? Maybe they’re chauvinist puercos, who don’t like it when a woman is sharper than they are. But judging from these Ailes’ “prison” crack, and from Pawlenty’s ““Do you know what that is in English?” comment, they seem frustrated that a woman of color is kicking their ass up and down Pundit Boulevard.
As Latinos, many of us- well, the observant ones anyway- know instantly when someone sends us a racist dig. Sometimes they are subtle and couched in “compliments” like, “Where were you born?” or “I can barely hear your accent.” We say, “What accent?! I was born here, and I don’t have a pinche accent! Or it could be overt, as in, “Show me your papers.”
It all could be that these powerful men who live in artificially segregated bubbles have not come to terms that people of color are just as educated and sometimes more brilliant than they are. It’s not always racism, as reportedly even known-non racist Vice President Al Gore once assumed she spoke Spanish and hablo at length to her en español during an interview. Ay dios mio.
Whatever you’re doing, Soledad keep doing it. It unnerves powerful people that you’re a chingona! (Uh, that means you kick butt, okay? )
Lalo Alcaraz, an NBC Latino contributor, is an award-winning, nationally syndicated Chicano cartoonist and illustrator.