Monday, October 26, 2009

Is October Discrimination Month in the South?!

Apparently we didn't get the memo here at the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights (not surprisingly). Two of the most blatant cases of recent discrimination come out of Louisiana and New Mexico.

Exhibit 1. (Unsolicited) Life Lessons from Keith Bardwell:

In this interesting case out of Louisiana, Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, denied a marriage license to an interracial couple because he was concerned for the children that the couple might have. According to Bardwell, neither Black or White society accepts mixed children so he wanted to save the couple's potential children from being ostracized. (Gee, what a great guy.) He also explained to them that in his experience, interracial marriages don't last long. But wait, he's not being racist. Look what he told AP news:
"I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."
It's nice to know that he doesn't have separate facilities in his home, really. You go Bardwell. MLK would be proud.

Luckily Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal didn't buy it. He called for the state judiciary committee to review the incident and revoke Bardwell's license.

Exhibit 2. Anglicizing Your Hispanic Name

No it's not a facebook application or a Flavor Flav-esque nicknaming game. When Larry Whitten took over a failing hotel in Taos, New Mexico, he laid down some controversial new rules. Rule 1: don't speak Spanish in his presence (lest his workers talk about him behind his back). Rule 2: Change your name from Marcos to Mark. Rule 3: "there are too many Hispanics working at the hotel - I'm firing a bunch" (I paraphrase). Whitten, who has worked to place numerous hotels back on their feet, says he has always required his workers to Anglicize their names; it's less confusing for guests that way. However, residents in the Taos community embrace their Native American and Hispanic cultural background and find his actions extremely offensive. But Whitten claims he is not a racist:
"It has nothing to do with racism. I'm not doing it for any reason other than for the satisfaction of my guests, because people calling from all over America don't know the Spanish accents or the Spanish culture or Spanish anything." [From Yahoo News interview]
Clearly, nobody wants to travel or stay at a hotel where they might learn something about another culture - that's just crazy. Rather than trust the people of the community and take the time to learn about the culture he set up shop in, Whitten simply called the residents "mountain people" and "potheads who escaped society." I'm interested to see how well a Southwestern adobe-style hotel run by an all-white staff will fare in an area known for its vibrant and interesting culture.

Thankfully this month is almost over.

~Posted by Jane Smith (the blogger formerly known as Andréa Villarreal)

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