After the infantile expression of how the Spanish define and theoretically honor Asians, and after receiving comment after comment by my Spanish friends blindly defending such characterizations, I come once again upon an example of how the Spanish media reduces all things foreign to childish diminutives.
In today’s El Mundo article by Luis María Anson entitled “Carta de la ministra al presidente del COI”, ironically in the name of equality and in defense of women’s rights, Jesse Owens is referred as that “negrito” (little black man) who confronted Hitler. Yes, I know that (1) bringing up Owens’ memory is supposed to honor him and (2) Spanish people mean no harm by using the diminutive suffix “ito” when describing other ethnicities. How the use of “ito” would promote equality is anyone’s guess.
Such patronizing is childish at a minimum, offensive in the extreme, and overall tiresome. We no longer live in a time when Cola Cao commercials mocking Africans as little savages all too happy to be exploited in the fields should be considered acceptable. We are more than Chinitos with slanted eyes, or negritos, or moritos or sudacas or gringuitos who need to be condescended to. We are not caricatures, but people — live, breathing, multi-faceted and unique individuals.
Would it honor Nadal were he to be called the “Españolito” or “Mallorquinito who finally won Wimbledon?” Or to call Indurain the “Navarrito who dominated the Tour de France”? How about calling Athletic Bilbao the “equipito vasco”?
Racist speech is not only about intentionally and wilfully insulting a person or group of people based on their race or ethnicity, rather it is also about how we further stereotypes, generalizations and otherwise discriminate against those different from us through language – language that ultimately limits us as individuals. It can be subtle and it can be subconscious. It is often, as in these instances, furthered simply and unintentionally by lessening the value assigned to a set of people through a diminutive suffix or by summarizing them based on a single physical characteristic.
I am not saying that Spaniards or El Mundo are racist. Rather that it is time to reevaluate the way in which Spaniards discuss, define, and view others.