Herald Columnist's Racist Tweets Reflect South Florida Latinos' Summer Of Denial
COMMENTARY Armando Salguero's controversial remarks point to a larger racial problem in South Florida's Latino community
Last week Miami Herald sports columnist Armando Salguero disgorged tweets that polluted the racial waters the way algae blooms are fouling Biscayne Bay. But I’m not as surprised as many of my outraged media colleagues are – because his outburst is really the culmination of a summer-long crescendo in much of South Florida’s large and influential Latino community.
And it’s perhaps the loudest call yet for that community to do some serious racial soul-searching.
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Salguero, a Cuban exile, blasted former Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill for his remark that America “was founded upon racist ideas.” Tannehill, who is White, was expressing solidarity with Black Tennessee Titans teammates protesting racist police brutality. But Salguero angrily tweeted: “I am so sick of the America bashing by people who have never lived and would never live anywhere else.”
Then Salguero dug a deeper, more disturbing hole by whitewashing the Three-Fifths Compromise of 1787. That was the patently racist agreement to count a Black slave as only three-fifths of a human being, a slavery-accommodating deal struck by the authors of the U.S. Constitution – the document, Armando, that contains the ideas America was founded upon. Astonishingly, he tweeted that Three-Fifths was an “anti-slavery” provision.
Salguero has since tweeted he realizes racism is ongoing “on Earth.” Whatever that means. But his America-love-it-or-leave-it rebuke is an especially common trope from Latin American expats who’ve escaped despotic dystopias, in Salguero’s case communist Cuba. We’ve heard it over and over this summer from a growing chorus of South Florida Latinos who are convinced that Black Lives Matter and other racial justice movements represent violent anarchy bent on twisting the U.S. into left-wing netherworlds like Venezuela and Nicaragua.
We’ve watched Latino-led law-and-order rallies like one in Miami Lakes, where a bilingual bullhorn speech warned, “Black Lives Matter wants to dismantle the Biblical definition of the family! They tout gender confusion!”
One Latino voter after another here has fed me this doublespeak: Sure, what happened to George Floyd was unfortunate – but the BLM folks protesting it are nothing but chaos-worshiping looters who should be tear-gassed away before they get a chance to take over and turn Hialeah into Havana.
Or, as one Venezuelan expat woman told me: “You can’t compare what they're rioting about on the streets of Minneapolis with what our people are fighting for on the streets of Caracas.”
Salguero's Twitter tirade is perhaps the loudest reminder yet that South Florida's large and influential Latino community needs to do some serious racial soul-searching.
Translation: Black Lives Don’t Matter. At least not compared to regime change in Venezuela or Cuba.
That was the underlying message of Salguero’s tweets and all the South Florida Latino grievance-mongering that led up to it this summer. To wit: How dare you equate any problem in the American paradise that took us in – even the bullseyes so many cops see painted on Black people’s backs – with the Latin American infernos we had to flee.
That willful failure to acknowledge racism in the U.S. – we’ve also heard Latino officials suggest there’s no need for anti-racism education in our schools here – grows in no small part out of a refusal to acknowledge it in the countries they left behind.
Like the U.S., Latin America is an incorrigibly racist place. During this BLM summer I’ve heard few if any Colombian-Americans mention the case of Anderson Arboleda. In May the 19-year-old man was beaten to death in southwest Colombia by two policemen because he violated a pandemic curfew – but most of all, say rights advocates, because he was Black.
Too many Colombian expats, the vast majority of whom consider themselves White, don’t consider racism a problem back home. Ditto too many Brazilian expats. Ask them about the widespread applause right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro gets when he calls Black Brazilians “good for nothing” or indigenous Brazilians “almost human,” and many’ll get huffy and retort: You can’t call Brazil racist; we gave the world Pelé!
And don’t forget the case two years ago of a popular comedy staged in Little Havana that featured a caricature of a Black Cuban woman – performed by a White Cuban woman in blackface. In the year 2018.
It took a public uproar to finally stop it, because too many Cuban theater-goers just didn’t see the problem. Hopefully the growing uproar over Salguero’s tweets will make him – and other South Florida Latinos – see his. And theirs.
Editor's note: The Miami Herald is the news partner of WLRN News.