Ya. No más. Por favor. Please. No one is perfect, but you tried and made things worse. We don’t need your voice to speak for us anymore. We need our own voices to do the talking. You need to sit down and listen.
Querida Kelly Osbourne, when you said, “If you kick all the Latinos out, then who is going to be cleaning your toilets, Donald Trump?” you tried to combat the presidential candidate’s disgusting remarks about Mexican immigrants by tying Latino/a self-worth and visibility to the laboring bodies that Trump might only notice were missing if they were no longer there to clean up after him. It was the first thing you could think of. It didn’t come out how you meant it, I’m sure. You had to interrupt The View co-host Rosie Perez to prove how much you didn’t mean it.
I thought of my abuela, who watches The View religiously. How did it feel for the background ambiance that fills her living room to talk about her gente in such a brash, simplified way? I thought of the middle school media literacy syllabus I’ve been crafting, how I now had another example to add to an already long list of ways media works for some and not all. Like many, I was mad but not surprised.
Immigration Reporter Esther Yu-Hsi Lee felt the same. As she notes in The Persistent Stereotype About Latino Workers That Won’t Die, “Osbourne’s comments are not entirely unusual. Other public figures have made similar blunders while drawing a crude connection between Latinos and immigrants who work in low-wage sectors.”
Querida Kelly Osbourne, immediately following your comment, Black and Brown Twitter began sharing their reactions, then compiled them under the hashtag #QueridaKellyOsbourne.
The majority of those responding under the hashtag waved their existence as scholars, writers, artists, business owners, doctors, lawyers, etc. in the face of the comment as a way of saying, You will never see my Latino/a body cleaning up after anyone, especially you. My Latino/a-ness is so much more than cleaning toilets. If all I am good for is cleaning toilets, how could I be or do X,Y,Z?
While the online unity against your comment is overwhelmingly positive, work is work. A job is a job. Cleaning toilets is work. It is work that some of us have not had to do because our parents, or their parents, found their own bodies scrubbing, cleaning, silent in other people’s homes because that’s what they needed to do to take care of their families. There should be no shame in work.
The agriculture and service industry is, after all, disproportionately filled with Latinos, says Yu-Hsi Lee. “Data from the 2000 U.S. Census shows that about one-tenth of Latinos work in agriculture. That number could be higher and incomplete since undocumented immigrants also work in the industry and are unaccounted for. A Southern Poverty Law Center survey found that Latino immigrants are most often employed in construction, factory work, cleaning, and restaurant work. And a 2011 National Council of La Raza study found that nearly one in five employees in the accommodation industry is Latino.”
There is no shame in hard work. Cleaning, silent, scrubbing is the sort of labor that rich white people like Trump and yourself are most comfortable seeing us perform. Let’s get real(er): whether it’s cleaning up your privileged white existence or living lives of privilege ourselves, you don’t care to see us as we really are: complex, beautiful, worthy, intelligent, living a life that isn’t extricably tied to your needs or perceptions. So don’t try to speak to our experiences. No mas.
#QueridaKellyOsbourne isn’t about disproving or devaluing or placing ourselves against or above custodial labor. It’s a final kick to the head that mainstream media—white media—is still not for us and all that we can be. We’ve got to do something different. We’re going to tell our own stories so you don’t even have to try. You’ve been warned.
Yesterday evening after my anger had cooled, I called my abuela to ask her what she thought of your comments. Turns out she doesn’t watch The View anymore. “There’s no one good on it, anyway,” she tells me.