Rosie Pérez: Images and Wisdom

Despite the demographic explosion of Latinos in the country, there are still many glass ceilings that need to come down for them in TV and in Hollywood. It is within this context of implicit bias and decades of stereotypes that denigrate Latina wisdom.
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The stereotype of Latina women that cabins her into an imagery of her beauty and sexuality and less about her intelligence and wisdom is a stereotype that exists in all professions. At the workplace this can be manifested in sexual harassment and overt discrimination at one extreme and implicit bias or indifference at the other.

Laws exist to address these abusive and hostile work environments and to ensure that employment and career decisions are based on merit.

Today there is a debate about America being a post-racial society, that is, an environment where the worst aspects of discrimination against African-Americans and Latinos are things of the past -- of a time of black-and-white TV. The successive election of President Barack Obama symbolizes this arrival to a new, sophisticated era.

But putting aside the reality that racial attacks against Latino immigrants and sexual harassment of Latina workers continues unabated in this modern era, whatever analysis of Latina stereotyping that occurs today must account for the implicit biases that exist and affect decision-making by private sector management. It is in this vein that the recent developments concerning the actress and activist Rosie Pérez on The View have parallels in the career paths of many Latina professionals. The first obvious difference in drawing these parallels is that Rosie Pérez's work product is displayed publicly before an audience of millions of viewers.

But the attacks on her performance may still be the same. Recently, she has undergone a series of anonymous critiques by someone with access to the show's management that questions her wisdom. It is worth noting here that we speak of a highly-regarded, Oscar-nominated actress, director of documentaries, member of a presidential commission on HIV/AIDS, and a formidable activist on Puerto Rican community issues.

In other words, the anonymous attack concerns a Latina woman with significant accomplishments who broke a 14-year ceiling in becoming the first Latina to be a regular on the popular program The View.

Despite the demographic explosion of Latinos in the country there are still many glass ceilings that need to come down for them in TV and in Hollywood. For example, in 39 years of programming of Saturday Night Live, produced in the largest city in the country where the largest racial/ethnic minority is Latino, there has been at best, one Latino comedian cast in the show.

Indeed, for every milestone in Hollywood -- like last year's award for director Alfonso Cuarón -- there are multiple barriers to Latino inclusion, and many revolve around the stereotype of the Latin lover or the Latina spitfire. One study last year placed the number of roles for Latino characters at five percent at a time that the Latino proportion of movie ticket buyers stood at 25 percent.

In her book on Latinos in Hollywood, Clara Rodriguez noted that Latino roles are typically eroticized and that when they are for Latinas the roles are made to attract attention to their bodies -- not their accomplishments or their intelligence.

It is within this context of glass ceilings, implicit bias and decades of stereotypes that denigrate Latina wisdom that the treatment of Rosie Pérez merits attention and discussion.

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