Uh. Yikes. Yikes yikes yikes.
By now you’re probably familiar with our latest racist media frenzy centered on remarks Kelly Osbourne made on The View, a response to the incredibly racist Donald Trump.
But she sounded just as racist.
I don’t watch the The View because to be honest, it seems hellishly bad. (Didn’t Whoopi Goldberg keep defending Bill Cosby long after it became evident he was a rapist? Another yikes). But when I read about Kelly Osbourne’s comments and saw the clip, my heart just kind of broke for her a little bit.
Because here’s the thing: I really believe Kelly Osbourne was not trying to be racist. I wholeheartedly believe that she believes her own apology: “In this particular case, I will take responsibility for my poor choice of words but I will not apologize for being a racist as I am NOT.” Source report that when the show cut to commercial, Osbourne burst into tears, terrified that everyone would now think of her as racist.
But this makes what she said so much scarier and so much sadder. Imagine, that even people who are trying to defend Mexicans against blatantly racist people like Donald Trump, cannot come up with a better response than “Who will clean your toilet?”
This is a failure of imagination, not just for Kelly Osbourne, but for a lot of people. Popular cultural representation of Mexicans and other Latinos on TV and in the movies portrays us as maids or gardeners or drug-selling cholos.
The reason this comment hurts so much is because it had good intentions. Osbourne grasped at some vague concept of what a Mexican person was and a toilet-cleaner was the easiest thing for her to imagine.
This points at a larger problem than Kelly Osbourne, which is best articulated by the novelist, Junot Diaz:
There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.
In this case, the failure of representation makes monsters out of Mexican children who grow up and see their media reflections as cholos or as pregnant teenage girls. They don’t see any other paths for themselves. But it also makes monsters out of the rest of America, who consume media and its stereotypes unquestioningly.
Kelly Osbourne made a poor choice of words because it all happened so fast, because she wasn’t thinking, because she said what was most readily available: a really derogatory stereotype.
Instead of trashing Osbourne, (because really, who cares about this dumb-dumb?), we should refocus our energies on supporting diversity of representation for Mexicans and other Latinos in our culture.
Read about Sonia Sotomayor’s life! Watch Jane the Virgin! Be disturbed by watching Y Tu Mama Tambien!
It’s also important to remember that Osbourne was trying, in some vague and ignorant way, to speak out against Donald Trump.
He’s the real dumb-dumb here and he’s the one making a genuine bid for presidency on a platform of racism.