Monday, May 2, 2011

Mock Spanish

Shemise Evans  

            Jane Hill, author of  “Covert Racist Discourse: Metaphors, Mocking, and the Racialization of Historically Spanish-Speaking Populations in the United States” presents an engaging analysis of racism, in regard to Spanish and the impact of racial discourse surrounding Spanish speakers. Racializing is defined as the process of associating groups of people to stereotypes and attributes. For Spanish speakers, these stereotypes and attributes are consistently negative, and are commonly used conversationally amongst whites. Hill equates the use of Mock Spanish by non-native Spanish speakers to “covert racism”.  She discusses the “frame, "I'm not a racist, but” discussed by van Dijk (1993), [which] provides a good test for whether an utterance is covert racist discourse or not.” In theory, “If [an utterance] does not work, but analysis can show that racist meanings must be conveyed by the phrase, we have encountered covert racist discourse” (120).  When covert racism is used for comedic purposes, it “requires that those who "get" the joke have access to a stereotype of speakers” being referenced in the joke or comment (120).  This is often seen in people’s use of Mock Spanish and the same is true for any group of people whose stereotypes in humorous remarks. The use of Mock Spanish and other forms of covert racism are only beneficial to whites, or more broadly, those who are not directly affiliated with the stereotype.  Interestingly, these individuals highlight negative qualities associated with Spanish speakers for their own social gain. The vital question to consider then becomes, what are the intentions of whites and others who use these forms of racial discourse.
             Hill argues that the negative impact associated with these common racial discussions elude white speakers, which is why the terms “covert” and “invisible” are attributed to whites in reference to their use of Mock Spanish. Amongst whites, “evidence that this language is covert and invisible as racist is the absence of public reaction” (120).  Aspects of the minority experience become malleable ideas to be played with, without any consideration toward the negative experiences racial discourse draws upon.  By using Mock Spanish, the cultural and linguistic diversity of Spanish speakers “is seldom recognized by Whites, who understand populations of Spanish-language heritage within the homogenizing framework” where “populations originating in countries as diverse as the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Colombia are assimilated to the system of White stereotypes originally developed around Mexican Americans” (121). Hill claims, “A staple of anti-Spanish rhetoric is that hearing Spanish makes "Americans" feel like aliens in their own country”.  In fact, the use of any foreign language can have the same effect. Therefore, in order to maintain white privilege, whites feel the need to control and shape Spanish for their own purposes. However, whites are not the only group of individuals who use mock Spanish as a form of racist discourse. Similarly, African Americans can use mock Spanish to separate themselves as the other and position themselves in higher social standing than those who speak Spanish.  Hill notes that there are “Americans of English-language heritage across a wide front” and that all employ these racializing practices (124).
            Ironically, as opposed to positively representing themselves by using Mock Spanish, the ignorance of many individuals is put on display as they oversimplify Spanish and minority experiences. Within in-group discourse amongst whites, Mock Spanish can remain unquestioned so long as all speakers and listeners remain recruited to the same limited ideologies about Spanish individuals. In order for any racial comment to be brought under analysis, there has to be the recognition of difference.
Unfortunately, it seems that Spanish must loose its value as a cultural language and as a symbol of the Spanish heritage and experience to be fully embraced by many Americans.
In closing Hill states, “I hope to have made clear that the cultural projects of White racism work through diverse devices”(157). Despite the “color blind” ideologies that exist today in America, it is clear that racism is still prevalent in our society, constantly changing form as opposed to truly being erased from our everyday interactions. 

No comments:

Post a Comment