What is the cost of insulting or denigrating a human being? Do stereotypes or racist hyperbole incur a greater cost when spouted by a Presidential candidate? Is it more expensive to attack one group but not another? What’s the going rate to use a privileged bully pulpit to publicly belittle a Black, a Jew, a Homosexual or an Asian?
I don’t know the answer. But I do know that the price of insulting the Latino community in general and more specifically the Mexican community has become quite clear in recent days.
Businessman and GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump has just disclosed his earnings to the Federal Elections Commission. According to the document, Trump has amassed a fortune worth $10 Billion. The same statement claims that Trump does business with more than 500 corporations and organizations. We learned that, for example, the 14 episodes of the TV show “The Apprentice” on NBC earned Trump $213 million. Not that long ago, NBC said it had ended its relationship with Trump because of his comments about Mexican immigrants. Among other things, Trump said they were “drug dealers” and “rapists”.
Do $10 Billion bestow upon Trump the power to become the foremost racist in the United States? Is $213 million the price of admission to stand on a power stage and besmirch an entire community?
More questions. Last week in the wake of Trump’s verbal diarrhea of racism, my friend and El Tiempo Latino contributor, WAMU’s Senior Reporter Armando Trull, began asking uncomfortable questions of his own —Such is the lot of our chosen profession. Those questions centered around celebrity chef Jose Andres’ plans to open a flagship restaurant inside the DC Old Post Office Pavilion which Trump is renovating into a luxury hotel.
Those questions prompted a change.org petition from Andres fans that garnered 3,000 signatures asking Andres to pull out. Andres did so a day before hundreds of people including Latino community leaders and politicians protested in front of the future International Trump Hotel.
Trull kept asking uncomfortable questions. Why didn’t some of the city’s most powerful elected officials attend the rally? Why was DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s voice not heard at that rally castigating the offensive words of a businessman who is sure to play an important role in the city? Where was the District Office of Latino Affairs? Its Director, Jackie Reyes, usually shows up at just about any Latino related event taking place within a 100 mile radius of Mt. Pleasant, but she was nowhere to be seen or heard at the Dump Trump rally. Was Ms. Reyes' AWOL because her agency is under the Mayor's office and she is a Bowser appointee?
The truth is that Bowser’s reaction can be characterized as soft. So soft as to weaken the seriousness of Trump’s verbal attack against the Latino immigrant community. During an interview on WTOP radio the Mayor underscored that Trump’s investment in DC would revitalize Pennsylvania Avenue. She said she hoped Trump would take back his comments because they were senseless and idiotic. It’s obvious that for the Mayor, the important thing is the Trump Hotels’ 272 rooms and the $200 million investment.
So here are some more uncomfortable questions. Was the Mayor influenced by the money Trump and his children have donated to her and her inaugural? Would District leaders have reacted differently if Trump had said African-Americans were “criminals” and “rapists”? How hypocritical is it for Latino leaders to pressure chef Jose Andres to back out of his deal with Trump even at the risk of a lawsuit while those same leaders fail to question DC officials for taking Trump money and keeping silent? How can Latino leaders that have called Trump’s comments "racist hate speech" allow Mayor Bowser to dismiss Trump’s words as merely “idiotic”? What indeed is the price of idiocy, racism and silence?
Avendaño is Executive Editor of El Tiempo Latino