Univision President and CEO Joe Uva have some explaining to do. On Friday, May 28, Univision aired an outrageous, racially demeaning skit on Despierta America. The show is billed as America's leading Spanish-language morning show.
The skit was a parody on the upcoming World Cup soccer games in South Africa. Four program participants and hosts dance and mug around the TV set with spears and outlandish Afro hair wigs to a faux jungle music beat. They seem to be thoroughly enjoying their romp through every vile, vicious and offensive stereotype that's come down the pike on Africans. Even worse, Univision brags about its partnership with the International Federation of Association Football to televise the World Cup games.
The skit is an over the top slap in the face at the unwavering support civil rights leaders have given to Latino organizations and Latino media in their fight against racial profiling and stereotyping in the immigration battle. Al Sharpton, the NAACP, and the Congressional Black Caucus have repeatedly and loudly condemned the draconian Arizona immigration law. And their major point of attack is that the law opens the door wide to racial profiling.
But that's not all. The skit dredges up another ugly racial skeleton in the often thorny history of black and Latino relations. And that is inter-ethnic racism. Many Latinos refer to dark skinned persons as negritos or little black people. This is not seen as racially offensive, but rather as a term of affection even endearment. For years in Mexico, a popular afternoon telenovela had a comedian in blackface chasing madly after light complexioned actresses in skimpy outfits. Ads have featured blacks in Afros, black face, and distorted features. The most popular screen stars in film and on TV in some Latin countries, and the models featured on magazines and billboards, are white or fair skinned with sandy or blond hair. That's the standard of beauty, culture, and sophistication that's held up as the penultimate standard to emulate, and that standard is unabashedly commercialized, and peddled as top commodities in Mexico and other Latin American countries. In 2005, the Mexican government ignited a firestorm when it announced sale of the racially offensive cartoon character Memin Pinguin as a commemorative stamp. And now there's the Univision skit.
The racist skit mocks and demeans Africans and African-Americans and reinforces old, stale and reprehensible stereotypes about Africa and Africans. Uva and Univision should do quick damage control and apologize for it and make sure it doesn't happen again.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press).
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