Yesterday millions of people all over the world saw SF Giants pitcher Sergio Romo sporting a t-shirt that some thought was making a satirical in your face statement about racial profiling and being deemed ‘illegal‘. The shirt which read ‘I Just look Illegal‘, definitely raised eyebrows and got folks talking.
Some say Romo’s provocative t-shirt was a way of reminding people that in a day and time when many who are of Mexican descent are demonized, stereotyped and in the political and social cross hairs of those holding xenophobic outlooks, that they are in fact more often than not fellow citizens. Not only are they fellow citizens, but many have roots and family ties that run deeper to this land called America, then those doing the profiling. On various social media sites, there was many who gave props to Romo.
But many more found the shirt to be profoundly offensive and a big step backwards especially for those who have fought tirelessly to get folks to stop using the term ‘illegal’ when describing people who are undocumented..Whether it was intended or not many felt what Romo did was self mockery where he gave folks outside of immigrant communities that are frequently targeted, a license to further embrace a nasty stereotype..The concern is many who are now buying these t-shirts which are now selling off the shelves after yesterday’s widely watched parade are not getting the political context or the intended satire.
A recent article in the popular blog Think Mexican breaks down the concern many are feeling. One excerpt reads as follows;
…..Unfortunately, it was a very poor choice that sends the wrong message and validates racism and ignorance.
What does the phrase “I JUST LOOK ILLEGAL” really mean?
It’s based on the premise that there are people who are “illegal,” and thus people who “look illegal,” a term intended to dehumanize migrant workers in the United States, specifically those who make up the majority of this group, Mexicans.
By stating that one “just looks illegal,” the implicit message is that it’s okay criminalize people based on their appearance, as long as we distinguish between those who are “illegal” and those who only appear to be based on heritage and phenotype……..
The other message being sent with this shirt is that of racial self-mockery. Sergio seems to want to say: I’m Mexican, but I’m a jokester; I’m not a threat.
As we all well know, in the United States, Mexican Americans have been routinely stopped, arrested, and even deported under Barack Obama’s aggressive quota-based system of immigration enforcement. In the case of Raúl Castro, you can be a former US ambassador and governor of Arizona and still be detained by the US Border Patrol. And not just once, but several times.
Another excerpt is….
Imagine an African American wearing a shirt saying: “I JUST LOOK LIKE A MONKEY,” or a gay man wearing one that reads: “I JUST LOOK LIKE A CHILD MOLESTER.” The idea alone is absurd, as it should be. But the fact is, is that both were at one time popular slurs used to dehumanize gays and blacks, respectively.
You can read the rest of the article by clicking the link below
Although not fully addressed in the article, is the two edge sword when pop culture icons and professional athletes use their celebrity to make political statements. It can be a great thing if you are in agreement with the statement. Celebrities are instrumental in shaping opinions and bringing attention to key issues.
The flipside is they can in an instance move the crowd in another direction. This is especially true if that celebrity embraces a word or phrase that folks find problematic. In the case of Romo, does he wearing this shirt overshadow the campaign to not call folks ‘illegal’? How does any of this shake out when many express frustration and even anger when athletes and celebrities remain silent and apolitical? Was Romo being subversive?
Anyway peep the article and share your thoughts..