Friends don’t let friends tweet

Without engaging the cerebral cortex.

So advice columnist Margo Howard (daughter of the late advice columnist Ann Landers) tweeted her confusion about why Telemundo Chicago was covering and tweeting about the Blagojevich trial:

Not sure why Telemundo cares. Their soap operas off?

To which State Representative Deb Mell (sister-in-law to Rod) replied:

Wow that is so racist

An NBC news producer responded:

@Telemundochgo crews covering #Blagojevich each day

So Howard responded:

I knew that from the 1st trial, which I covered. Wondered why then

But never spent a few seconds to find out. More:

Not racist at all, & not meant to be. Y would People in Mexico care? & they ARE known for their shows.

Well, I’d guess most people don’t mean to be racist. But we still manage on a regular basis even without any intention whatsoever. Or so we say. But I digress.

What’s racist here? Is it what she actually said?

In my opinion, the racism shown in this set of tweets is more about not having to take notice of another group of people at all.  And obviously knowing nothing about what is going on.  Yet still coming from a place of privilege.  She probably came from the recent Splainer Convention.  (Which is the longest, largest damn convention in the history of the universe.)

It seems pretty obvious that Howard isn’t really reading @telemundochgo’s tweets.  Because if she did, she’d realize it is a Chicago news station in Spanish.  And here’s the blip from Telemundo’s twitter site:

¡Hola Amigos! Telemundo is a U.S. Spanish-language television network. It is the essential entertainment and news source for Hispanics. Gracias por seguirnos.

It’s in English, so Howard should have been able to read it.  Did she?  Nobody knows.  But quite obviously she equated a Spanish-language station with Mexico.  Not even considering the millions of people in the United States who speak Spanish.  It’s probably our second language.

Journalist Alba Mendiola (who won an Emmy for best reporter in 2004) kindly updated her:

Dear Margo, Thanks for reading my tweets. Telemundo is an American television network that broadcasts in Spanish.


our local station has been covering local news in Chicago since 1985. Myself, 10 years. big Hispanic audience.

Howard acknowledges she did not know this.  But then she feels the need to add the following:

Talk about much ado about nada. From not knowing that @TelemundoChgo broadcasts to the US to being branded a racist is quite a leap.

How long would it have taken her to find out Telemundo broadcasts in the U.S. (not “to the US”)?  Five seconds.  That is, if she wanted to know, or felt she needed to know, or if she were even aware that she did not know.

Interestingly, she uses the word “nada” in her lastest tweet.  It’s an example of what Jane Hill refers to as “Mock Spanish” (“The Everyday Language of White Racism,” 2008):

Mock Spanish works to create a particular kind of “American” identity, a desirable colloquial persona that is informal and easy going, with an all-important sense of humor and a hint — not too much, but just the right non-threatening amount — of cosmopolitanism, acquaintance with another language and culture.  At the same time that Mock Spanish helps to constitute this identity, it assigns Spanish and its speakers to a zone of foreignness and disorder, richly fleshed out with denigrating stereotypes. (pp. 128-129)

That is, Spanish speakers = Mexicans in Mexico.  Foreigners.

Oh, and here’s one little more tidbit:

11 women on #blagojevich jury & 1 man. He must B suicidal by now.

But some of her best friends are women. And Spanish speakers. Hasta la vista, baby!

8 thoughts on “Friends don’t let friends tweet

  1. Definitely racist. Instead of asking “why do they care”, she should have asked, “why wouldn’t they care?” What is so different about them that they wouldn’t care about a major news story being carried by all of the other networks? Her statements were full of racist assumptions and white privilege. And too stupid to even realize. And that sums up part of white privilege, the notion that its okay to be completely ignorant of anything outside of whiteness, and feel justified in their ignorance.

  2. ha – apparently Howard felt the need to block me after i tweeted the link to this post. but not before implying that i must be coming to the defense of Deb Mell – we need to be friends with people to point out racism?

  3. I love (not really) how the WORST POSSIBLE THING is to be called racist, but actually acting racist is, like, no big deal. Blech.

  4. How do you work as a journalist in Chicago without knowing that Chicago has the second-highest percentage of Mexican immigrants of US cities after LA and the second largest Puerto Rican population after New York? Because you never…talk to your neighbors? Read a newspaper? Sometimes racism looks a lot like pure stupidity.

  5. Wow, RaceFail via Twitter, now in new and improved flavor !!

    Amazing, especially how she just keeps digging herself deeper and deeper.

  6. I love the reference to Dr. Jane Hill’s book which is an excellent and insightful read. I used the first chapter as assigned reading for a parent education class I led last year. The ubiquity of mock Spanish is amazing now that my ears are open.

  7. Well, I haven’t read that book, so I’m not quite clear of her definition of mock Spanish, but I always equated it with lame valley girl or dude types who throw it in to be cute. But it turns cringe-inducing after age 12, and not just for racism reasons…it just sounds so corny.

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