Latinos are much like the Irish. Both came to America as down-on-their-luck Catholic immigrants from failing countries only to be despised when they got here.
Now, in the age of Donald Trump, both are catching flak from their own kind for cozying up to an administration that comes across as anti-refugee and anti-immigrant.
On St. Patrick’s Day, Irish columnist Fintan O’Toole scolded the 40 million Americans who claim Irish ancestry. In an op-ed for The New York Times, he accused Irish-Americans who are anti-foreigner of being short on memory.
“We know something important,” O’Toole said. “What it’s like to be feared, to be discriminated against, to be stereotyped. We know from our own family histories that anti-immigrant hysteria is founded on lies.”
O’Toole blasted Irish-Americans who work in the White House, including press secretary Sean Spicer, chief strategist Stephen Bannon and counselor Kellyanne Conway. He also mentioned Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly who is apparently so eager to keep out illegal immigrants that the Irish Catholic is considering the sinful act of separating families at the border.
MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, another Irish-American, tweeted that his brethren in the administration “disgrace their heritage.”
That goes double for those Latinos – especially Mexican-Americans – who are currently debasing themselves by auditioning for the reality show known as the Trump administration.
During the campaign, Trump treated America’s largest minority like a pinata that he’d smack to entertain white voters.
Since he was elected, we’ve become an afterthought. Originally, Trump’s Cabinet didn’t have a single Latino on it. Only after Andy Puzder withdrew his nomination for labor secretary did Trump pick a Latino – Alexander Acosta – to take his place.
When Hispanic leaders asked for a meeting in January, Team Trump sent three Latinas – none of whom were, at the time, formally part of the administration. One was a former contestant on Trump’s other reality show, “The Apprentice.”
I take it that Charo wasn’t available.
And sadly, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has sold out. Originally tasked with promoting Latino-owned small businesses, the group spends more time these days schmoozing with corporate donors.
I’ve watched the organization’s downward spiral for the last 20 years, and it now fills the same role as a dozen Latino civil rights organizations: a self-serving one.
Even in a city as cynical as Washington, President and CEO Javier Palomarez raised eyebrows with a clumsy about-face. During the election, he went all in for Hillary Clinton. Palomarez even went on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” and delighted the hosts when he labeled Trump a payaso (clown).
That didn’t stop Palomarez from inviting Trump to speak to his group last October. The event unraveled amid claims that the USHCC demanded the billionaire join the chamber and pay a fee of “between $25,000 and $2 million.”
Palomarez told ABC News that the assertion was “a lie” and said the organization had cut relations with Trump “indefinitely.” After Trump won, indefinitely got a lot shorter.
The Hispanic business leader recently went over to the dark side by joining Trump’s National Diversity Coalition. He even bragged that he helped broker a meeting between Latina entrepreneurs and Ivanka Trump, and congratulated the White House on naming Jennifer Sevilla Korn as deputy director for the Office of Public Liaison.
You want to talk clowns? There are so many in this circus, you need a program to keep track.
If you’re Latino and working for the Trump White House, or jockeying for access, you ought to be ashamed. Have you no self-respect?
Los Angeles-based filmmaker Phillip Rodriguez chalks it up to “opportunism, a lack of integrity, even some self-contempt.”
Rodriguez – who, almost a decade ago, examined Latino political power in his PBS documentary “Latinos ‘08” – used to admire Latino Republicans for “avoiding the indoctrination of white liberals.” But he says the sickening spectacle of Latinos sucking up to Trump is just too much to stomach.
The filmmaker says there is only one way for Latinos to survive the scourge of Trump: fight back.
“This might be a good time for group solidarity,” he said. “We need anger, not accommodation. There is this racial fury that I thought I’d put away. Now I’m dusting it off. The meek do not inherit the (expletive) Earth. They get shafted.”
Attention, Trump’s Latino enablers. You’re on notice. If you help the president shaft us, history will not be kind. And your betrayal will be neither forgiven nor forgotten.
Ruben Navarrette can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.