The Stepin Fetchit Cover
It's never too late to be offensive: Call me oversensitive, but did Mitch Greenblatt's cover illustration of Puff Daddy for Brett Sokol's story ("All Puffed Up," July 26) have to show him grinning like a blackface cartoon? Haven't we been over this?
The Uncle Remus Cover
And don't forget the watermelon: Though it's not my usual line to cry foul (unless it relates to me), and though I'm the last person on Earth to be a Sean Combs fan, I have to say the cover caricature was not in good taste. Next time try giving him a basketball and a chicken leg. That would go over really well. My goodness. Teeth, gums, and a sinister grin? Wow!
The Old Black Sambo Cover
What do you expect from folks who wear white sheets? The Puff Daddy-as-Sambo cover was certainly shocking. We only wish you would have announced a little ahead of time that New Times had been taken over by the KKK. But then again, this is the same paper that said African-American men should be in jail or on the food line at Camillus House but certainly not rich and talented.
Take Your Positive PR and Shove It
And while you're at it, get your gringo nose out of our business: I am what you gringos call a Cuban American. I was born in the United States, but because my parents are Cuban I have been living with that label since I moved here from up north in 1979. I am writing in response to Errol Portman's July 19 letter titled "The Power of Positive PR." Like most letters written by non-Cubans, Mr. Portman's sought to blame exiled Cubans for the tragedy that has beset them. Blame the victim, so to speak. As usual it is we who are the terrorists, not the Castro government. It is we who need to be peaceful, not the hostile state of Cuba. It is we who need to be forgiving and tolerant, by which many Americans mean: Take it, like it, and shut up!
Mr. Portman wrote, "Before anyone sizes up my car for a bomb...." That is an insult to what he later calls a "decent, law-abiding, intelligent people." Excuse me, Mr. Portman, but Timothy McVeigh wasn't Cuban. Maybe if Cubans started acting violently in this community, gringos like Portman and this rag some call a newspaper would begin respecting my people. Let me remind you gringos that my people have never burned down their neighborhoods, homes, businesses, or attacked the police [after they] killed -- justified or otherwise -- some thug from the hood. It seems those who use violence get the attention, get the sympathy, and get the benefits. In this country if you work hard and practice your religion, the political and social elite attack you as bigoted, selfish, and the root of social injustice.
I suggest that gringos like Errol Portman mind their own damn business. It's a Cuban thing. You wouldn't understand. Violence is part of war, and Fidel Castro declared war on January 1, 1959. As for Mr. Portman's advice about improved PR, no thanks. No thanks at all.
When Demonization Isn't Enough
El exilio needs to roll out the intellectual heavy artillery: This is in response to Errol Portman's letter suggesting that Cuban Americans have done a bad job with their public relations. It is interesting that seems to be a business function, because business is the area in which I thought Cuban Americans were most successful. They have obtained the top economic position of any Latin-American group of immigrants. So why the public-relations misrepresentation?
Perhaps the favorable treatment Cuban Americans have enjoyed (especially the early exiles), compared to other Latin-American groups in the United States, has given them a sort of confidence that makes them feel they are above the rest. Perhaps, just maybe, this is why other people detect a sense of arrogance.
More important, though, I believe the bad PR mostly results from the lack of a serious intellectual critique of Cuba and Fidel Castro. I don't think the people of this country will blindly get behind a group just because they denounce someone (Castro) they claim is Satanic and has his own private santero.
Don't get me wrong. It would be terrible to live under a system in which freedom of expression is so limited. But how about going a step further and including other human rights such as health care, education, and housing, and critically comparing the whole system in this light? (By the way, I have been to Cuba. Why is it that we never hear that in Cuba there are no homeless, education and health care are socialized, and that doctors are sent to other Third World countries to help poor and sick people?)
A true critical analysis is long overdue by the Cuban Americans. Constant dogmatism is only working against their objectives and making people distrustful of their intentions. Let's start discussing these issues within the context of a Third World nation, Cold War assassination attempts, terrorism, money, and maybe even some achievements of the Cuban revolution. Maybe then people will begin taking interest.
San Francisco, California
Big-Time Bureaucracy, Down-Home Touch
We're talkin' about the Bubba factor: I've been reading Jim DeFede's stories about Miami-Dade County Manager Steve Shiver and his conduct as a Homestead city councilman and mayor. I have a question. So Homestead is a small town where everybody knows everybody, and a wink and a nod to your good ol' buddy the mayor will get a lucrative government contract thrown your way? Isn't that also the model for the big, cold Miami-Dade bureaucracy? That hometown feeling?
Homestead Toast After Financial Conflagration
Penelas and Shiver scorched survivors -- so far: The fire lit by the failure of Homestead city finances is heading north. In South Florida fires burn the underbrush so you can see what is really in the forest. This burn reveals the one person who has more reason to fear the fire than Steve Shiver, former Homestead mayor, now county manager. That person is Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas.
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It is time to hear from the county commission, which approved Penelas's choice of Shiver as manager. By a narrow majority the commissioners voted Shiver in, and they can vote him out at any time. That time is now. You cannot have confidence in a manager for our $4.5 billion budget whose résumé now includes running a municipality into the ground. Send him back to Homestead to sort things out.
As for Penelas, he imagines himself a riddle, a cipher, a mystery to his competition. Here's a thought: Not long ago commissioners approved a $67,000 raise for Penelas. Measuring his salary against the cost of driving Miami-Dade County into the lower echelon of America's city-states, how much would it cost for him to leave?
Name Withheld by Request