With her purple hair, deliciously lispy English accent and effervescent personality, Kelly Osbourne is a far cry from the entitled drug-addicted brat she was on MTV’s “The Osbournes.” However, she’s in hot water for the flub of all flubs on live TV.
We all know that Donald Trump has been attacking immigration while benefiting from using low-cost labor in countries like Mexico and China to make his products. He’s also likely to have immigrants in his employ. But when talking about the comb-over enthusiast on ABC’s “The View,” Osbourne said, “”If you kick every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet, Donald Trump?”
While a powerful sound byte, it’s racist as all get-out. But, is it Osbourne’s fault? Fresh off their righteous indignation over Cecil the lion have the Internet Fates declared a fatwa on the pastel-haired rocker? Furthermore, should Osbourne bear the brunt of inadvertent Latino racism backlash when America lets it happen every day?
Osbourne’s faux pas came with a side of rice, beans and extra offense to fellow host Rosie Perez. Perez is Latina, specifically Puerto Rican. Since 1898, Puerto Rico has been part of the United States. Ergo, all Puerto Ricans are Americans. In her misguided example, Osbourne evicted Perez and also implied she, too, would clean Trump’s toilet.
Osbourne’s not the only offender. Many Americans know little about the island or how long many Puerto Rican families have lived in the United States. When the now-infamous Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro held three girls hostage, multiple news outlets asked if he would be deported. Yes, that’s right: News people who are meant to be in “the know” were unaware Puerto Rico is more than a great tourist getaway; it’s an impoverished part of the United States. Few people care about how the commonwealth’s not-quite-statehood has left it in a state of political turmoil and economic unrest.
To her credit, Osbourne also labeled the 55 million American Latinos as toilet cleaners regardless of their education, wealth or social standing. Most Americans don’t know any better. California is home to one of the largest Latino populations, mostly Mexican. It also houses the bulk of television and film production. Not only are there so few Latinos on television, most of what America sees of Latinos, if at all, are Mexican stereotypes. For some variety, there might be Puerto Rican thugs and Colombian drug lords.
The irony is each country has its own unique culture, and its only unifying characteristic is one language, which, to its credit, has different nuances and dialects. But the rich history and culture of people from more than 20 countries is relegated to one identity.
Before we head out seeking a violet-colored scalp, we should stop and look at how America contributes to this problem. Americans support a media that shows so few Latinos, the prospect of showing the diversity within the Latino community is unfathomable. Americans equate the Spanish language or a Latino identity with ignorance, immigration and poverty — meanwhile, there are wealthy Latinos all over the world. Paging, Sofia Vergara!
Sure, many American Latinos may have started out as poor immigrants, but that is literally the origin story of any American’s ancestors. Plus, to add insult to injury, a group of people from 20 different countries, cultures and backgrounds are meant to unite to try and fight oppression while they have their own cultural identities, politics, beliefs and come from different parts of the world. We have trouble agreeing with people from 48 states, and we all use the same money, buy the same products and vote in the same elections.
At the end of the day, Latino Americans are Americans and deserve to be able to exist without being haphazardly lumped together arbitrarily due to ignorance. Now, Kelly Osbourne may have put her spiky-stilettoed foot in her mouth, but her ignorance is representative of this country’s denial of a large cross-section of its population. Rather than grabbing the pitchforks and torches, many people should make their own effort to educate themselves and others of a large portion of our populace.
Christian Cintron is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.