After failing to get Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to defend or denounce Donald Trump’s labeling of Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals” at the beginning of Tuesday’s vice presidential debate, Sen. Tim Kaine tried once more as it was wrapping up.
“When Donald Trump says women should be punished, that Mexicans are rapists and criminals, he is showing you who he is,” Kaine said.
To which Trump’s running mate replied:
Pence’s off-kilter retort predictably took on a life of its own on social media with the hashtag #ThatMexicanThing.
Lots of people, understandably, thought it was pretty funny.
But to many Latino-Americans on Twitter, the flippant comment was no joke.
More than a few people took to Twitter, eager to show Pence and Trump what “that Mexican thing” really is.
For some, it’s a long history of defending and serving America.
For others, it’s working long hours for low wages to provide a better life for their families.
For still others, it was facing discrimination — and triumphing despite the odds.
And for a few, it means making their voices heard in November.
Pence and Trump’s attempt to paint a large, diverse group of immigrants, natural-born citizens, and families with decades- or centuries-long histories in the U.S. with a broad brush is both insulting and misleading.
Some Mexican immigrants in the United States are undocumented. Contrary to the implication that they are streaming unimpeded across the southern border, a Pew Research Center report estimates that the United States’ unauthorized immigrant population has remained steady since 2009.
Others, like Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who oversaw the fraud case against Trump University despite Trump’s claims that his heritage prevented him from being impartial, or comedian Louis C.K., who has spoken about experiencing anti-Latino racism from people who don’t know about his Mexican background, were born and raised here.
Mexican-Americans are lawyers, actors, migrant workers, sports heroes, cooks, and doctors — and their votes, along with those of other Latino-Americans, might just decide this election.
Ultimately, there’s no one “Mexican thing,” any more than there’s an “Italian thing” or a “Bangladeshi thing” or a “Japanese thing” or an “Irish thing.”
There’s just an “American thing,” and it’s time Pence and Trump got wise to it.