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White Liberal Guilt, Ignorance, and Nuanced Racism May Bring Independence for Puerto Rico

Yeah, I said it, White liberals know jack about Puerto Rico, and they are a quite racist too.
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Houses in La Perla, Sanjuan, Puerto Rico.
Houses in La Perla, Sanjuan, Puerto Rico.

Yeah, I said it, White liberals know jack about Puerto Rico, and they are a quite racist too.

So it is not surprising that the U.S. media that poses as liberal has adopted independence for Puerto Rico as their new cause celebre- and the author of a novelized "story" of Puerto Rico under the U.S. as the spoke person for all things Puerto Ricans.

Of course White liberals have good reasons to do this. They are tired of having a colony- it is embarrassing. I imagine their conversations during brunch:

"Martin, we need to set the Puerto Ricans free. I think they are ready. They are such a strong and beautiful people."

"I agree Sarah, but I think they prefer to be called Boricuas."

"Oh Martin, you learned so much auditing that intro to PR history course."

"Thanks Sarah, now let's go and liberate the Puerto Ricans."

Seriously, if I had a dollar for every time that a fellow graduate student- or sometimes a professor- approached me during my years in college in the U.S. and said: "I'm sorry for U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico and I support your struggle for independence" I could help pay off the island's public debt.

That always took me as a surprised because- even though I was quite loud, opinionated and militant while GROWING UP IN PUERTO RICO- I somehow missed the great struggle. So, in my ignorance I asked questions like; What do you mean? What struggle? I was quickly offered a laundry list of the many things done under U.S. rule to keep Puerto Ricans ignorant and submissive. I was also instructed on how American colonialism (because Spanish colonialism was different and almost benign) left the Puerto Ricans suffering from a Colonial Complex that don't allow most of them to see how they are being oppressed.

Still wrapped in ignorance I would ask: Why do you support independence and not self-determination? Shouldn't Puerto Ricans decide what they want the island to become, it is not like they aren't U.S. citizens? And, last time I checked, they have brains just like you. Can they make decisions on their own?

Of course I was unaware that I was suffering from that Colonial Complex too. Thankfully, my White Liberal friends took the time to fill me in and elevate me through compassionate uplifting. They would also suggest a list of readings- from DuBois to Fanon- (which I had already read- and not the the Cliff Notes like so many of my peers- but whatever) so I could understand my colonial nature better and finally be able to fight back.

I thank my White liberal professors and fellow graduate students for enlightening me about Puerto Rico's struggle- said no intelligent, well-read Puerto Rican ever!

I'm not opposed to independence for Puerto Rico at all and if Puerto Ricans voted for it I would like to be part of it. But, I'm a realist. The truth is that no one can deny that at least 80 percent of Puerto Ricans who live in the island (and that is being ultra-generous to the independence movement) DO NOT WANT INDEPENDENCE and prefer to have some kind of association with the U.S. as the elections and referendums on the status questions have shown since at least the 1970s. And there is that little thing that make independence almost unworkable (even if Puerto Ricans voted for it)- U.S. citizenship!

Here is where racism plays a nuanced role. White liberals condescendingly assume that the 3.5 million Puerto Ricans who live in the island just don't know what they need. They have been damaged by colonialism. That is a variant of an old discourse used by local elites in the island before the U.S. took over in 1898 to explain their reluctance to break ties with Spain- that of the Puerto Rican popular sectors being docile and ignorant. When the U.S. took over and did not allow the island to become independent or a state of the union, the same narrative was used by both the metropolis to rationalize its imperial act and by the local elites to blame the masses for the metropolis' decision!

Later on, the champions of independence in the island adopted that narrative to explain the weak support for independence. And they continue to do the same to this day. The popular sectors in Puerto Rico are accused of being lazy or/and cowards used to what some call "mantengo" or living off the government. Others try to be more elegant in their condemnation of the people of Puerto Rico and misuse psychological terms.

So, it is not a surprise that the author of War Against All Puerto Ricans (a never-uttered phrase he claims to be a verbatim quote) dares to claim in an Op Ed in the New York Times that independence is the only solution to solve Puerto Rico's economic crisis but that "After 117 years, many Puerto Ricans are victims of Stockholm syndrome, fearful of losing the "safety net of United States benefits."

You know what that means. The Colonial Complex of the lazy, ignorant, and docile Puerto Rican morphed into the Stockholm syndrome. So, let's take away U.S. citizenship from 3.5 million Puerto Ricans and let the island be independent- and let's do so, unilaterally. Eventually they will be grateful.

How ironic that the path to independence as predicated by this new messiah and White liberals is racist, condescending and the ultimate colonial aggression.

The author's views and opinions are his own and do not represent the opinion of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College or CUNY