Racism and deportation

There’s a little discussion at the admirable e-zine, Colorlines, about whether the following part of De Niro’s speech at the Golden Globe awards is a bit racist.  There’s one comment so far; it’s so anti-immigants that it’s convinced me the comment by De Niro is racist:

 The article in Colorlines links to a horrific story about deportation.  It turns out that you can be a resident with a green card and still get deported.  For what appears to be a verbal slip.  If at a border crossing you say you are a citizen when you are merely a resident then, even if you correct yourself, you can be sent to your country of origin.

8 thoughts on “Racism and deportation

  1. The “along with most of the waiters” statement if not racist seemed very stereotypical to me. His whole speech kind of made me uneasy.

  2. LaNeshe, I think that’s exactly it; he’s employing stereotypes. There are some very vicious comments on the speech both on wordpress and at Colorlines.

  3. A charitable interpretation:

    De Niro’s remark about the waiters, while indeed employing stereotypes, was intended to point out a form of hypocrisy. Specifically, the hypocrisy of wealthy, (mostly) white people enjoying a glitzy ceremony and employing (mostly) Latino people to serve them drinks and whatnot – all while not doing or saying very much about anti-Latino immigration policies. In other words, De Niro was highlighting the easy, passive exploitation of Latinos by the members of his audience. Further, he was pointing out the implicit racism of American immigration policy (notice the joke about Javier Bardem, which relies for its humor on the fact that one can only imagine border agents deporting Bardem if they are utterly single-mindedly focused upon Latino background).

    Of course, whether or not we should interpret De Niro charitably depends upon lots of background info about his character and past utterances. And I don’t know anything about him beyond his films. But absent that further info, it remains possible to see these comments as well-intentioned, if perhaps imperfectly expressed.

  4. De Niro advocate: I think that’s a very good case for saying there’s an interpretation under which he is actually fighting against racism.

    I worry from the reactions that he is reinforcing stereotypes. This might be a case where we want to say that someone who is not a racist can still use the language of a racist.

    In any case, I wonder if the words were his at all.

  5. @jj – wondering if the words were his at all is a good point because that was a scheduled award for him, no competitors, so that may have been written as part of the show.

  6. I would be very surprised if this was not meant in the way De Niro’s advocate hypothesizes (I thought there were some rumors years ago about whether or not De Niro might pull out of a movie because Mel Gibson was cast in it) But given the comment on Color Lines, it clearly wasn’t written well enough to make that clear (if that was the intention).

  7. Don’t care about DeNiro one way or the other, but in light of his Homeland Security joke, I interpreted it as an attack on the anti-immigrant tone in the country – Arizona and such.

    Had Bush still been President, I think it would have been universally interpreted as making fun of anti-immigrant sentiment.

    My bigger concern is regarding why he needed a teleprompter for an acceptance speech.

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