Rod Tam claims he didn't know the term "wetback" was a racial slur, aimed at Mexicans:
“Over here in Hawaii, we’re so liberal,” Rod Tam told the Star-Bulletin. “We have multiethnic cultures. We don’t think in the same terms of the mainland. People look at it different. I learned something, and I apologize if I offended anybody.”
I don't think Rod Tam really meant to be mean when he said it. He's been living on an island where only something like 8% of the population is Hispanic (very few of whom probbly swam here from Mexico), and he's been ridiculed for, among other things, trying to get Council workers paid for having naps and snacks.
There aren't enough "Hispanics" in Hawaii for locals to understand how bad the connotations of using the word "wetback" can be. [If we lived somewhere that people used the word, I would say it's kinda like "Go back to Mexico!" with an implied "but while you're here we're gonna punish you". Along the lines of "faggot" (I am one, so I can say it) or "the N word" (I ain't, so I can't). ]
On the South West Coast of the mainland, when you wanna scapegoat for why there aren't enough Americans washing your car, or selling flowers or fruit in the heat & pollution of California traffic, you yell out your car window "Wetback!" Or if you want someone to clean upp after your dirty stuck-upp ass or perform dangerous physical tasks for you, but don't wanna pay them fair or owe them any type of benefits, you get a "wetback".
We "joke" and react similarly toward other ethnic groups of larger numbers here in the islands. In fact it's a way of life, and I think it's fun. There's a tasteful way of being acting ignorant. And just like fashion, the people whom it's okay to hate, or make fun of, changes with the times.
The generation before mine bad-mouthed Jews, Japanese, Blacks, Haoles and Hawaiians. Now everybody wants to be them. When I grew upp in the 80's, we talked shit about Gays, Russians, Phillipinos and bums. Nowadays the Cold War is over, Gays and Phillipinos are the coolest things on TV and in the clubs, and poor people are invisible! Today, since Bush got in office, it's A-OK to hate on Arabs, Muslims, the French, and Mexicans. (If I didn't mention your people, don't be hurt, your time will come. This is America and everyone gets an even chance. Sometimes there's encores).
But members of the "Hispanic Community" weren't happy with Rod Tam's apology, including Jose and Marie Villa of hawaiihispanicnews.org, who have received harassing email and phone calls, since they demanded Rod Tam apologize to the Hispanic community face to face....however that's done. So they've asked for Rod Tam to step down or be fired from his job.
I dug upp this email from down in the Brown underground:
"Upon returning from our Hispanic community leaders’ meeting on Saturday, I found an ugly letter in my mailbox from an anonymous coward. To me the amount of venom and hatred for Mexicans and other Hispanics expressed in this letter is incomprehensible and overwhelming. I have attached a copy of the letter, a bumper sticker, and one of the pictures this coward sent me, so you can see them for yourself. "
Rod Tam is right.
"Ignorant" -say what? mexican workers are 'illiterate peasants"
No country, no state, no county or city needs un-controlled
waves of illegal, stupid, ignorant, dirty mexicans.
Take a look at these photos of mexican peddlers pushing their
garbage to the 3rd and 4th generations of illegal alien beaner mexicans who
feel it's like eating in mexico.
Do you want these scenes repeated in Waikiki, Kahala, Manoa, Punchbowl
-how about on the Puowaina or Azores?
Shame on you!
What are your thoughts of living in a community where thousands, even
millions of Guatemalans, El Salvadoran, Peruvians, etc. who have invaded
your neigbor with their spray canned graffiti, their stupid 14 year old
pregnant children, beggars, un-educated, cheap workers, criminals, drug
users, unlicensed animals, gang members, etc.
Why do you think mexicans have the right to ruin the United States of
American and the State of Hawaii?
Go back to that filthy, corrupt beaner country - mexican and fix that
stinking hole of 1/2 breeds.
Hey, is that racist enough for you? '
"In Greek mythology Pandora’s curiosity led her to open a box that released all the evils of mankind into the world. Our Hispanic community has been brutally shattered this past week when Councilman Rod Tam opened a Pandora’s box of his own and released all kinds of evil into our community. As a result of his incredible cultural-insensitivity, our local Hispanic community is now a target on the radar of racists and bigots.
We will not tolerate any politician who facilitates or causes a Hawaii ethnic group to become the target of bigotry, racism or just plain prejudice."
It seems the above email never went to the networks or newspapers, because none of it made it on TV or in print. For a little more sensationalism, while attacking a silly politician maybe they coulda exploited the actual articles of a**hole-ism. But maybe that's what the haters want, and we here at Shaka Zine just gave it to them. Hmmm, well I....
A "peaceful protest" was planned for outside Honolulu Hale on Thursday June 12th, from 3pm to 430pm.
About 40 people turned out at different times during the demonstration. Some speaking with members of the press. Others reminding everyone to spread out along the street instead of jumbling upp in one spot. Still others leading chants of "Tam must go!"
Lotsa people honked their horns, while others past by unsure of what was really taking place. Those unfamiliar with the issue, or driving too fast to read the hand written protest placards, may have missed the point. Guaranteed: they watched the News to find out.
I didn't realize one of the friends I made was the head of the local chapter of the NAACP, otherwise I'd have gotten his picture. He was quoted in the Honolulu Advertiser saying,
"I feel the entire City Council and all elected officials should go through some kind of diversity training. If we have a representative on the City Council acknowledge that he does not know the magnitude of this term then I am expecting immediate corrective action. You can't have a representative of the people making remarks like that. What he said was a real dishonor to his office and it put a great stain on the spirit of aloha."
There were a couple of young guys I'm glad I had an excuse to photograph. It was hard enough to ask permission to get their picture, I didn't have the nerve to ask any questions. I guess I coulda gave them my Shaka Zine card so they could see their pics, but if they ever called or emailed me, I'd probbly drunk-dial them. "Hola chico. Eres guapo. Soy maricon. Tu me gustas. Besame mucho. Ai papi. Hoochi coochie."
I had to hold a "This Hispanic Votes" sign for a few minutes, but eventually was let go to shoot some pics. My favourite sign had a list of media bad boys and their punishments:
To quote my friend Akiko,
"People can be nails."
As in "lame". She was expressing as much frustration as she was granting permission.
People make mistakes. Rod Tam may be laughable, but he's not fearsome. If he really looks like his pic above I'd probbly flirt with him if he came into my work (more for the sale than the thrill, but still). He's too dorky to be dangerous. In fact, since the incident, he's been getting fanmail too.
But guess what.
The guy who had Rod Tam's job before, is one of those who tried to get him fired. His name's Charles Djou (sounds like "does you" if you slur em), I met him once at Club Pauahi, and I think he's Chinese like Rod Tam (and Shawn Ching). Djou's a little better looking than Rod Tam, (but not as hunky as Shawn Ching, although I hear Ching's kinda diva-ish), and, according to his commercial, Djou is "completely honest",
so if it's put upp to a vote, cutie Charles would probbly win. He's already won my heart. "I wanna do you Djou."
But na...Rod Tam...I'd hold his hand in public. He's skosh cutie. I hope they forgave him already.