Last week, Mark Halperin of Bloomberg Politics interviewed U.S. senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz. In the Q & A, Halperin grilled Cruz on a topic he hopes will be on voters’ minds in the event Cruz becomes the Republican candidate — whether he has “an affinity for or a connection to” his “Cuban past.” In other words, is Cruz Cuban enough?
Before anyone accuses Halperin of the most blatant form of racism, note that there was a line he refused to cross. He never once summoned up his best Ricky Ricardo and told Cruz he had some “‘splainin’ to do” (although he came dangerously close at several points, including his request that Cruz discuss Bernie Sanders’s entrance into the race “en español“).
The interview might never have gained the attention it has if it weren’t for a stinging rebuke of Halperin’s methodology by Hispanic journalist Ruben Navarrette, who wrote in the San Jose Mercury News:
Imagine the following pep talk that a young Ted Cruz might have gotten from his father, Rafael, about 35 years ago.
“My son, I was tortured in a jail cell in Cuba, but I managed to come to the United States and build a life so that you could live your dreams. I grew up speaking Spanish, but I made sure you spoke English so you could go far. If you study hard, you can attend great universities. You can clerk for the chief justice of the Supreme Court, become a great trial lawyer and argue nine cases before the high court, get elected to the U.S. Senate, and someday run for president.
“Then, after all the family’s efforts and sacrifices, one day, you can go on an interview program and be asked by a smug and clueless white journalist if you’re authentically Cuban.”
Watching Mark Halperin of Bloomberg Politics interview Cruz recently, I wasn’t just uncomfortable. I was actually nauseated.
As a journalist, I felt embarrassed for Halperin. As a Hispanic, I felt like I was watching a college fraternity have fun with racial stereotypes.