Colum­nists share their thoughts

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Es­ther Cepeda’s email ad­dress is es­ther­j­[email protected]­, or fol­low her on Twit­ter: @ es­ther­j­cepeda.

Find out what peo­ple have to say about lo­cal and na­tional is­sues.

A re­cent col­umn in which I asked read­ers to do some in­tro­spec­tion about their own racial be­liefs spurred many in­fu­ri­ated emails.

Some peo­ple took of­fense at my im­pli­ca­tion that a white per­son who feels strongly that his or her race is be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against might be like­lier, among other things, to wear a MAGA hat.

Why is it so dif­fi­cult to imag­ine that wear­ing a very spe­cific hat could sig­nal align­ment with some­one who has done so much to di­vide the coun­try — and who, by the way, has be­lit­tled, de­mo­nized or mocked peo­ple of color, women and those with dis­abil­i­ties?

We are walk­ing bill­boards who pay for the priv­i­lege of ad­ver­tis­ing prod­ucts on var­i­ous parts of our bod­ies, en­dors­ing what the words or sym­bols stand for.

Au­thor Is­sac Bai­ley calls the MAGA hat a “sig­ni­fier for those who be­lieve Amer­ica was great dur­ing some point in the past they dare not name, know­ing if they do, it would re­veal a time when it was worse for peo­ple of color.”

Wash­ing­ton Post fash­ion critic Robin Givhan noted that the hat “has trans­formed into an open wound, a firestorm of hate and a marker of so­ci­etal atavism.”

Harper’s Bazaar po­lit­i­cal editor Jen­nifer Wright as­serts: “Do you know why peo­ple think MAGA hats are a sym­bol of ha­tred? Be­cause peo­ple wear­ing them keep do­ing hate­ful things.”

Such hate­ful things as the New York case of a man wear­ing a MAGA hat and shirt who sat next to a His­panic man on the sub­way, pulled him onto the plat­form, punched him in the face while say­ing, “F—-ing Mex­i­cans. You peo­ple are dirty. You peo­ple are nasty” and then threw him onto the tracks.

Thank good­ness the vic­tim, who had been in the coun­try six years, was not hit by a train.

But in­ci­dents like these are wreak­ing havoc on the men­tal and phys­i­cal health of peo­ple who won­der if they’ll be the next tar­get.

Or worse — worry that their par­ents, chil­dren or other vul­ner­a­ble loved ones will be harmed.

A new re­search study in the sci­en­tific jour­nal PLOS One de­scribes how the pres­i­dent’s rhetoric has even af­fected Lati­nos’ will­ing­ness to see a doctor.

The par­tic­i­pants were “not a med­i­cally naive group — the vast ma­jor­ity had seen a doctor in the U.S. pre­vi­ously and were aware that health care work­ers do not re­port pa­tients to im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties [and] few be­lieved that doc­tors and nurses treat them dif­fer­ently,” ac­cord­ing to the study, ti­tled “De­clared Im­pact of the U.S. Pres­i­dent’s State­ments and Cam­paign State­ments on Latino Pop­u­la­tions’ Per­cep­tions of Safety and Emer­gency Care Ac­cess.”

Yet the re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cisco found that “nearly a quar­ter of them still had fear in com­ing to the [emer­gency room, at­test­ing] to the po­ten­tial power and threat of state­ments about de­por­ta­tion and de­nial of ser­vices com­ing from the pres­i­dent or be­ing used dur­ing a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. No­tably, rates of safety con­cerns and fear of ac­cess­ing the [emer­gency room] were sim­i­lar in re­cent and nonre­cent im­mi­grants, in­di­cat­ing a per­va­sive­ness that does not ap­pear to wane over time liv­ing in the U.S.”

It only gets worse every time a per­son who “looks Mex­i­can” is at­tacked for sim­ply be­ing in the United States.

Last week in Mil­wau­kee, a Peru­vian im­mi­grant had acid thrown at his face after be­ing called an “il­le­gal” and told to “Go back, moth­erf—-er,” by a 61-year-old man out­side a restau­rant. The sus­pect has been charged with a hate crime.

Yes, in­ci­dents like these make me scared to live in the coun­try I was born in. There’s no amount of fi­nan­cial re­sources, so­cial cap­i­tal or pro­fes­sional pres­tige that can wipe the brown off my skin or my par­ents’ skin, not to men­tion the peril we feel in cer­tain places if we wish to speak our na­tive lan­guage.

On that note, if peo­ple want to wear MAGA ap­parel, well, it’s a free coun­try. But it has to be done with the un­der­stand­ing that some peo­ple will as­sume they’ve bought into Pres­i­dent Trump’s record of dis­crim­i­nat­ing against black peo­ple, de­grad­ing women and de­mo­niz­ing peo­ple who look like they might be im­mi­grants.

See­ing the words “Make Amer­ica Great Again” re­minds many of us that some peo­ple wear­ing those hats have at­tacked oth­ers on the ba­sis of their race or eth­nic­ity.

You can call that racism, but those of us who stand a chance of be­ing men­tally or phys­i­cally harmed call it self-preser­va­tion.

Es­ther J. Cepeda Colum­nist

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