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Ask a town full of outraged, progressive crybabies

After the Savage love fiasco earlier in the year, Eugene Weekly is in hot water again for one of its syndicated columns, this time “Ask a Mexican!”* by Gustavo Arellano. Community activists are calling for EW to stop running the column, and the paper’s letter section has been flooded with angry complaints for weeks now.

Last week, EW ran a cover story on Arellano and his column, giving the author a chance to defend himself. Here’s a snippet of what he had to say:

The point [of my column] is to debunk the stereotypes that people do have about Mexicans, to aggressively go after racists, but at the same time, do it in a way that people will want to read it every week and get entertained — whether it’s Mexicans laughing at ourselves or people laughing at stupid racists or at stupid questions. 

Poor Arellano. He has no idea how people in Eugene think, does he? We’re not allowed to laugh at anything like that ever! Outrage predictably continued unabated. According to this week’s story in EW, members of the paper recently met with concerned community leaders, including local Latino activists, who demanded that EW pull the column and replace it with content from local Latino sources.

As a real, honest-to-god Mexican, Arellano fields questions that range from the silly (Why do Mexican girls scream out “papi” during sex?) to the honest (Why do Mexican restaurants in the U.S. use yellow cheese instead of traditional white cheese?) to the downright racist (Why do you wetbacks keep stealin muh’ job?). His column is nationally syndicated in 32 papers, and it has won several awards, including the National Hispanic Media Coalition’s Impact Award for Excellence in Print Journalism.

While most people seem to be of the opinion that Arellano is either the funniest thing since groin injuries or some sort of evil, shapeshifting reptile, I will take the middle road and say that he’s kind of funny. He approaches immigration, race and racism in a satirical way that’s, frankly, refreshing after years of weepy protest marches and pot-bellied hicks sitting in the desert with rifles.

And that’s the reason, I think, that Arellano pisses so many people off. He doesn’t fit in progressives’ neat, little box of what a pro-immigrant, pro-immigration voice should sound like. He doesn’t write about The Cause with absolute seriousness and gravity. It’s the same reason that people got butthurt over Savage Love. Neither writer is afraid to make fun of his group (Mexicans and gays, respectively) or throw in an off-color joke.

And so the deluge of hand-wringing and tears begins, with progressives responding stereotypically by calling both columnists “hateful,” “cruel” and, in Arellano’s case, “racist.” While “Ask a Mexican!” isn’t the greatest, let’s hope that EW doesn’t bow to community pressure and pull it. If they did, it would only mean more of EW‘s “news coverage” or another local columnist (shudder).

*Note: the actual title of the column has an upside down exclamation point at the beginning (you know, like Spanish), but I couldn’t figure out how to add it on WordPress. My bad.

  1. Vincent. says:

    This is the letter to the editor I very nearly sent to the Eugene Weekly before noticing that they require full name, address, and phone number. Rubbish. At any rate.

    George Orwell once wrote: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Sadly, a large part of the Eugene Weekly’s readership evidently believes that, far from confronting that which it does not want to hear, it is instead preferable that words and opinions to which it objects be purged lest someone be offended or exposed to the wrong sorts of ideas.

    To me, Arellano’s column is moderately humorous and marginally informative, but it seems to have gotten people angry and gotten people talking. That seems like reason enough to keep publishing it. After all, in a city that so loves to congratulate itself for its commitment to free speech, this censorious little campaign to force the Weekly to remove from its pages a column that is so clearly provoking discourse seems a bit untoward, doesn’t it? Or has the “right” to not be offended finally trumped the right to free speech and all the little unpleasantries that come along with it?

  2. Joe says:

    I find the eugene weekly is good for lining the bottom of bird cages.

  3. Jo says:

    Alex: As I hit “submit” with my last comment, I realized you meant the TV show. Sadly, you can’t delete or edit your comments. Good point about the TV show, though.

  4. Danimal says:

    No, come on. The humor begins with the letters page. THEN Salley Sheklow. THEN Alan Pittman’s “hard-hitting” “reporting,” THEN … oh man, I miss that rag. You guys are so lucky to have essentially the most beautifully useless alt-weekly in this fine country, free every seven days.

  5. Timothy says:

    If “I Saw You” isn’t the first thing you read in the EW, you are broken on the inside.

  6. Well, when I said “kind of funny” I meant “not as funny as a groin injury.” The column is still one of the first things I turn to in Eugene Weekly. (After letters to the editor and the new Sweet Potato Pie ad, of course.) So for what it’s worth, you’re at least more entertaining than almost everything else in the Eugene Weekly.

  7. Oh, Ossie! People have used the food-critic slur against me muchos times, but why don’t you also mention my investigative reporting chops? Don’t believe me? Call the Catholic Diocese of Orange, mention my name, and get ready for a slew of Hail Marys.

  8. Ossie says:

    My favorite letter in the EW this week comes from Pedro Rosa-Mele

  9. Alex says:

    Jo, I meant the TV series, although the strip is good too. I think McGruder’s humor is WAY more subtle in the strip, but that’s been postponed while he works on the show, which is funny in a slightly different way, louder and more in-your-face..

  10. Jo says:

    Also, Eugene did discover the Boondocks. It used to be published in the Register-Guard, and there was a big ado about how its racist, so it was moved to the inside of the classified section for a while. Not sure if it’s still there…

  11. Jo says:

    Ted, here are the responses to your questions, in order:

    They’re durable, suv-like vehicles without really being SUVs. (I have no idea if this is true, but it sounds good).

    Because we appreciate the humor in the situation.

    They match everything.

    Of course the ’60s are over, but time moves slowly when you’ve done a lot of drugs, so a lot of the people here aren’t aware that it’s now 2007.


  12. Alex says:

    What’s going to happen once Eugene discovers The Boondocks?
    The second season is doing a great job of maintaining Aaron McGruder’s brand of offensive humor, especially the newest episode, which takes on the fallout from Hurricane Katrina (and has a guest spot from never-visited-Eugene rapper Lil’ Wayne)

  13. Niedermeyer says:

    I’m beginning to think we should start an “ask a Eugenean” column to give the rest of the world an insight into the peculiar perspectives of our locals. Sample questions:

    Why all the Subarus?
    Why doesn’t anyone care that the largest open-air drug market is on the courthouse steps?
    What’s with all the earth tones?
    Aren’t the sixties over?
    What exactly is the appeal of the Country Fair?

  14. Danimal says:

    Re: exclamation point … You can always just use a lowercase “i.” iI’m helpful!

  15. If I’m kinda funny, you’re muy funny! Gracias for the plug

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