More lessons from WATCH WHAT YOU SAY, WHEN YOU SAY IT AND TO WHOM: An exploration in changing the way we think of and refer to “others” 101.
The course is an ongoing discussion of observations made during these unprecedented times of accounting and, ultimately, enlightenment.
In one of the first examples we recall former Otay Water District board member Hector Gastelum, the Latino Republican who drew attention and ire for his anti-Muslim and homophobic remarks he made on social media while in public office.
Despite promises from aggrieved protestors, Gastelum was never recalled from office or forced to resign, though he ultimately did lose his impotent reelection bid.
The next example we can draw from involves current Chula Vista councilman and mayoral candidate John McCann who in 2021 caused the city to spend more than $15,000 so that a law firm could explore if he was discriminated against when the Latina mayor, Mary Casillas Salas called him a gringo because he couldn’t eat spicy food.
The investigation found the Republican had not been harassed or discriminated against because the Democrat used a word that described him as non-Latino foreigner. It wasn’t the slur McCann believed it was, though it was probably too casual and inappropriate a term to use among professional colleagues.
The latest example, however (and thankfully) comes from a few hundred miles away where two Latino council members and a labor leader were caught making racist and disparaging remarks about Black and Indigenous people during a private meeting that was recorded.
So far one of the L.A. council members has resigned their seat, the other is reportedly close to leaving as well and the labor boss stepped down. Good riddance.
While the McCann-Casillas flap comes nowhere near the level of ugliness that Gastelum or the L.A. contingent displayed, it, too, does serve as a reminder that words matter, whether used to joke around or to diminsh and insult.
There are so many other ways to describe people, even the ones we don’t like. Using their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious preference is lazy, wrong and increasingly less tolerated. It’s a lesson worth knowing.