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Nuance Escapes Both Supporters and Foes of Illegal Immigration

There's more to immigration reform supporters than one-dimensional cartoon caricatures.

by
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Bio

May 18, 2011 - 12:00 am
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Recently, I wrote a column for PJ Media explaining why President Obama is hemorrhaging Latino support as America’s largest minority — like many other segments of society — figures out that it has been hustled by a president whose words don’t match his actions.

But I happened to toss in a few lines in which I accused Republicans of behaving “despicably” and throwing a “piñata party” by demonizing Latinos in the immigration debate.

Apparently, that’s the only part of the piece that some people read. That includes the conservative radio talk show host who, blood boiling, booked me on his show to try to rough me up.

So far, none of this is very surprising. It’s just another day at the office. When I’m not busy fighting with defensive left-wingers in denial about Obama’s deceptive and inadequate handling of the immigration issue, I’m mixing it up with defensive right-wingers in denial about how horribly the Republican Party has handled the issue.

The surprise came from the fact that the radio host itching for a fight was my old friend, Larry Elder of KABC. I’ve known Larry for 18 years. In fact, we were once co-workers. He was the 9pm to midnight host at KABC, and I was the co-host (with Tavis Smiley) of a show at the same hour on sister station KMPC. The studios were just a few feet away from each other. And sometimes, after work, the three of us would meet up for early breakfast at a 24-hour diner near the station.

I like Larry. And I respect him. More than that, I identify with him. Here’s why: I would guess that, as a black conservative, he’s been called an Uncle Tom about as often as I’ve called the Latino equivalent — a “Tio Taco.” And in both those cases, the attacks on us have come from both members of our own tribes and — as an added treat — presumptuous white liberals who treat minorities like a ventriloquist treats his dummy. The critics think they have us all figured out, and prefer to marginalize us by treating us like ideological stick figures. No complexity. No nuance. No gray area. No thoughtfulness. They see conservatives of color as cartoon figures, because it makes it easier to dismiss what we have to say. And they’d rather dismiss it than hear it.

So, given all that, I was surprised and disappointed that, during our hour-long interview, Larry tried to do to me what countless people have tried to do to him over the last two decade –  reduce me to a one-dimensional caricature: The Mexican-American columnist who supports illegal immigration from Mexico so he can bring in his relatives for Sunday dinner.

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