Univision has taken a stand. From the online rumblings and mockery regarding Donald Trump’s statements about immigrants emerged Univision to inflict an actual and significant consequence for Trump’s racism and ignorance. This was a watershed moment for Hispanic-American political influence. Despite that, the media seems focused on the exhausting side show that is Donald Trump. The real story is Univision.
When Donald Trump announced that he would run for president in a building he named after himself after descending an extremely classy escalator, he expelled from himself a meandering stream of conscious that can best be described as what would result if someone threw a grenade into a pile of Republican slogans and catchphrases.
One part in particular drew a great deal of attention. Trump stated in his speech, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with them. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Obviously, it’s as offensive as it is ridiculous. First, anyone with even the most basic understanding of the Mexican government, governments anywhere in the world, or the world in general would understand this makes no sense. It is literally impossible that Mexico has any been a direct controlling part of the illegal immigration into the United States at all, let alone are the ones responsible for it, as if we’re the Australia to their England.
Despite this incredibly large and coordinated movement of millions of people, only Trump knows about it. Trump apparently knows more than the CIA, or common sense. The most likely reason for this statement is not stupidity or at least not stupidity alone. He’s intentionally manipulating the worst elements of the Republican Party.
This point is supported by the inflammatory nature of the rest of his statement. As Jon Stewart pointed out, Trump supposedly knows they’re rapists, drug dealers, and criminals (this has to be the first time a presidential candidate used the word “rapists” in his announcement to run), but he assumes that some are good people. Not most, not even a lot, but some. And he assumes this. He’s apparently never met an immigrant or a statistic on immigrants.
The initial rumblings were on social media and among Hispanic activists. Twitter took to mocking Trump quickly, a trend which continues today. This however could be presumed to be the limit of the damage prior to Univision’s actions. Before Univision drew a line in the sand, any conservative or Tea Party member could say any terrible thing they wanted about Hispanic Americans and only have to worry about some angry tweets and snarky comments from Jon Stewart.
Then, on June 25, that all changed when Univision announced it would not be airing the Miss Universe pageant, part owned by Trump and NBC Universal, due to Trump’s offensive remarks. Univision and several of its employees issued statements criticizing Trump and supporting the decision to drop him. Jorge Ramos has been particularly active in criticizing Trump, describing his comments as wrong and prejudiced, as well as venomous and ignorant.
Trump predictably responded with an attempt to reciprocate with extreme childishness. He banned members of Univision from his golf courses, he sued them of course, and he even posted the phone number of Jorge Ramos. But these petty gestures apparently meant nothing as Univision continues to prepare for its IPO.
What did matter was Univision dropping Trump. What started as the typical mockery on social media and Comedy Central was channeled by Univision into the business world, Trump’s world, and the political one as well. The premiere and most profitable Spanish language TV network drew the line in the sand, and corporate America, never one to engage directly with controversial social topics, did not want to be on the side of the line where Trump was.
In the following weeks Trump was ironically fired from NBC Universal. Trump also went on to defend his remarks. Infamously having to have CNN’s Don Lemon point out to him on air his misunderstanding of the statistics he cited. That didn’t help, believe it or not. He’s also lost business relationships with Macy’s, Farouk Systems, NASCAR, ESPN, the PGA, Serta, PVH, and Perfumania, who apparently produces Trump fragrances, one of which is called Success, seriously.
Trump also defended himself by asserting that the Mexican people “love” him. Polls tell a different story (they don’t). He’s also excused himself because he employs Hispanic people, which probably has a lot to do with laws against employment discrimination. You can’t purposefully not hire Hispanic people so the fact that you do doesn’t mean you’re not racist. Many of the Hispanic people he’s employed or worked with no longer wish to be employed by him or work with him. This goes from the most everyday jobs up to the likes of Joes Andres and Geoffrey Zakarian, to companies like Televisa.
The Trump backlash that Univision kicked off has even spread to countries. Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica, and El Salvador. Former Mexican presidents have chimed in, which really doesn’t speak to Trump’s foreign policy skills if he creates an international incident not half an hour into his presidential run.
Trump isn’t going to starve. He’s still going to be rich. He owns a lot of properties. The entertainment wing of his company however will likely never recover. His ignorance has cost him millions of dollars, and likely will continue to as much of his non-entertainment dealings are built in part around his persona, which has been damaged beyond recovery. The days of Trump the celebrity are over.
The backlash has even trickled into his own Republican party, the one that boasts the likes of Steve “watermelon calves” King among its ranks. There’s nearly no Republicans who support Trump in his crusade to convince Americans of the Mexican conspiracy to fill America with drug dealers and sex criminals. The responses have been mostly condemnation, from members of congress to presidential candidates.
Even those who aren’t condemning are merely tip toeing around it. Some, like Ted Cruz, have just said he admires his boldness and vague nothing statements like that. All the worst people in Earth’s history have been bold. As Claire McKaskill observed he’s just trying to not direct any Trump hate his way so when the freak show’s over he can get the crowd over to his own sideshow.
But Cruz could get the Trumpies more affectively by just agreeing with Trump. So why doesn’t he? Because he’s afraid of the consequences.
Those consequences exist because of Univision. You cannot just say any ignorant thing you want about Hispanic Americans to stoke hate and get votes. Those days are now over. The limit has been set where previously there was none.
Don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of ignorant things said of immigrants in this presidential election and beyond, but not that ignorant, not anymore. The amount of ignorance you can level at immigrants will continue to decline. The move by Univision created a foothold. It may be low on the mountain but with the demographic trends in America they’ll only gain more political clout.
Sure, Trump has a knack for sucking up media attention, and it’s fun to laugh at the egg on his face, but that’s not the story. The story, the one that is important to history is not the brief trolling of a nation by a tacky buffoon, but a private company taking a risk to take a stand against racial ignorance and setting off an avalanche. What matters in history is the watershed moment that was Univision drawing the line and declaring that you can go too far in prejudice against Hispanics and there will be consequences for doing so.
This isn’t just a moment for business, or politics, or culture. It’s also a moment in journalism. Jorge Ramos has been unreservedly critical of Trump’s remarks. This has led to some journalistic soul searching with several articles and op-eds openly wondering if they should be covering this nonsense or if they do, if they should be tolerating it. Journalists naturally and rightfully try to keep their subjective opinions out of the news but if a matter becomes so bad it’s objectively bad then is it their responsibility to take a stand?
If a journey begins with one step, then this was that step in the journey to Hispanic Americans being treated as the Americans they are. Forget Donald Trump, or rather condemn him until we forget him, but remember the moment Univision said no more, because it may be the moment that changes political discourse in this country forever.
by Zack Goncz
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