Makes Me Wanna Holler
The title of this post is taken from a book by Nathan McCall that I had to read my sophomore year in High School. I enjoyed it thoroughly and it was the first time I think I ever got an idea for what it was like to be black in America. That is, until I moved here.
While it would be vastly overstating the situation to compare the experience of a White person in Miami to that of a Black street kid in professional America, it is about as close as any middle-class Caucasian will ever get. You may think this is yet another one of my diatribes about Hispanics in Miami and how much I dislike their culture, which in a sense it is, but this is different. I want to make clear to those of you who are not white Miamians what it is to be one of us. It makes me want to Holler.
These are not my stories, since many will be happy to point out that I do not have a “real” job. But they are the stories of Anglos I know here who are in the corporate world. Stories of supervisors talking to coworkers in Spanish during meetings, giving peers instructions in Spanish and getting mad at Whites for not following them. Never understanding what your coworkers are talking about and feeling left out of the cadre. Being forced to take a 10-week Spanish immersion course to get a finance job in America. Are you getting the point? Me complaining about Hispanics is like them complaining about us in LA. Here, they are the Old Boys Network. We are the ones on the outside forcing a laugh at some Pepito joke we are supposed to find funny. We are the ones desperately trying to fit in so we can climb the corporate ladder. I am not a racist, people, I am a minority who is frustrated by the arrogance of the majority. Not the popular majority, like blacks in Detroit or Mexicans in San Antonio, but the economic and political majority, like Whites in the rest of America.
The point I make over and over and over again about Miami is that it is not simply a city with a predominantly Hispanic population. It is a city run, almost completely, by Hispanics. Want to know why government offices conduct business in a language other than English? One might think that if you could not apply for social services or get a drivers license without knowing the language, it might encourage people to learn. It is because almost all of those gevernemnt agencies are run by Hispanics. Want to know why, if you want to work in almost any type of marketing, advertising, or consumer-related business you are almost always required to be bilingual? One might think that getting a good job should be dependent on speaking the national language. It is because management and those making decisions are Hispanic. People here can run thriving, dominant businesses and never learn a word of English. And no, these businesses do not involve smuggling cocaine.
One thing that I absolutely can’t stand is when I try and explain my frustrations to people from cities like LA or Houston, with large Hispanic populations, and they say, “Yeah, it’s like that here too.” No. It isn’t. Having your food messed up because the guy at Del Taco didn’t speak English is a minor inconvenience, not a major factor in your daily lifestyle. Do you go out for happy hour and have all of your coworkers have their Friday afternoon conversations in Spanish? Do you go to the office Christmas party and not understand a word being said at your table? Are you made to feel like an outsider each and every day at your place of employment because you do not understand the little references everyone is making? If you are a white collar worker in any other city, I’m going to guess the answer is no. While I’m sure some of you would love to not be able to understand the chattering of coworkers, it is still something you take for granted that we do not have. Like idle chit chat with the guy at Starbucks.
Have you ever gone and applied for a job in your city? How many of the people who interviewed you were white? Or at least highly assimilated minorities? I’m going to guess more often than not the majority were. Not the case here. I have never gotten a job here when interviewed by a Hispanic. Ever. Not to say it is impossible, mind you, plenty of whites get good jobs in Miami. But it is harder than it is in other cities. It is harder because people tend to hire people who are like them. This was often the argument for affirmative action (a policy I abhor, but that is another story). I would never blame my not getting a job on my being White, but I also understand that the guy doing the hiring is going to like working with someone who he can make bilingual jokes with better than he is going to enjoy working with me. Living here is as close as a white American will ever get to understanding what it is like to be a minority in America.
If you are Latin and live here and want to call bullshit on me, shut the fuck up right now. You DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS LIKE becasue you are not White. So do not tell me you went and tried to get a job in Milwaukee and it was hard because you were Latino, but you did anyway because you were determined. Perhaps you did, but don’t try and tell me that the roles aren’t completely reversed here. I have empathy for minorities in other cities now. I also understand that sometimes you just have to accept that you are on the outside looking in and that you must try harder. But it makes it no less maddening. If you are white and you don’t live here, your city is not the same. So do not regale me with some tale of not being able to get the gardener to cut your lawn right or a frustrating experience with your auto mechanic. It’s not the same and you will never understand unless you move to Dade. It’s the first day of fall in South Florida. It’s about 80 degrees and sunny and the humidity is low. But I just wanted to remind you all who might think of moving here that his place is far from paradise.