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On June 17, 2006, I attended my son Steve’s graduation from UC Santa Barbara. Our whole family was amused and annoyed by racist behavior by the liberal dignitaries on the podium.

They read the graduates’ names in a uniform, un-noteworthy way, unless they were Latino. All Latino names were pronounced as if the dignitary were a native speaker of Latin American Spanish, complete with exaggerated Js and rolled Rs and non-pronunciation of Cs and Gs as in “Managua, Nicaragua” being pronounced as Man Nah Wa, Nee Ah RRRRRah Wah. Furthermore, whenever the name was Latino, the announcer would switch to an exaggerated, celebratory glee normally only used by a mom speaking to a toddler who did it in the toilet instead of their diaper.

Names like Steven Reed, in contrast, were pronounced with weary boredom. Another damned white person getting a degree—probably kept some more deserving disadvantaged minority from getting one.

A Latino female has now become a “Latina,” courtesy of Sotomayor pronouncing it that way when speaking English.

Either we pronounce ALL foreign names as a native of the country in question would or we pronounce them all as an American would. If we go all native, Paris becomes “Paree,” Berlin becomes “Berleen,” Moscow becomes “Moskva,” Warsaw becomes Varshava, and so on. All Vietnamese and Chinese names would have to be pronounced using the sing-song tones of those languages. If German, a Slavic language, Yiddish, or Hebrew were the source, the guttural KH sound would have to be exaggerated and Ws would become Vs. All Irish and Scottish names would require a brogue. Etc.

They may say Pwerto Reeko in San Juan, but here in English-speaking America, it’s correctly pronounced Porto Reeko,” partly because many Americans don’t speak Spanish, but mainly because all countries around the world convert foreign place names to versions that are easy for them to say and consistent with the structure of their language. As far as I know, there was no exception to this anywhere in the world including America until around the last 30 years and now the only exception is patronizing “authentic” pronunciations of Latino names and places and only Latino names and places and this is done only in America. WTF?

Obviously, this is silly. In fact, it would sound like some sort of comedy routine. Indeed, the situation comedy Married With Children had a recurring gag in which a Latino newswoman would begin her broadcast by saying into her hand-held mike, “This is Miranda Veracruz de la Jolla Cardinal,” complete with rolled Rs, Ls that became Ys, Js that became Hs, and all the other ruffles and flourishes employed by the UC Santa Barbara bigwigs. Here's a Youtube video. Every time “Miranda” pronounces her name in the exaggerated, “authentic” Latin way that has become de rigueur—pardon my French—now in America, the studio audience explodes with laughter. She—obviously a very talened Latina—has to pause to wait for the laughter to die down. Exactly.

So why do they do that only with Latino names? It’s racist. The speaker feels that Latinos have a monstrous self-esteem problem that the other ethnic groups do not, therefore they require extra cultural deference—affirmative-action name pronunciation.

I’ve long been amused by the propensity of the politically correct to sanction racism when it has been instigated by “minorities.” We have a Congressional Black Caucus which excluded a white congressman the majority of whose constituents were black. We have black studies majors in colleges. But if you substitute the word “white” for “black” in any of those things—Congressional White Caucus, white studies—you get an instant, near universal hostile reaction, and appropriately so. We are individuals not racial stereotypes.

No sooner did blacks eliminate segregation at Confederate Woolworth lunch counters than they re-instituted it via black-only tables in college and high school dining halls all over America.

With one graduate, the UC Santa Barbara liberals in charge went to the other extreme. They pronounced his name it an exaggerated, quiet, flat, monotone: Marlon Brando, Jr. Apparently they figured he did not need the self-esteem boost those “poor, pitiful” Latinos did.

John T. Reed