But Robert Diefenbach tells the Oregonian he would like his record cleared of the racial and sexual harassment charges that accompanied his suspension last year after sharing Gustavo Arellano's popular syndicated column. He still reads '¡Ask a Mexican!' and even received an autographed column from Arellano, who has gained at least a few readers as a result of the brouhaha. "I've had people come up to me and say they're really glad this came up because they discovered him," Diefenbach says.
That's right: OC Weekly writer Gustavo Arellano's popular syndicated (and AltWeekly Award winning) column has spawned a book, aptly titled ¡Ask a Mexican!. Arellano says the hardcover book, a collection of some of his best columns, is due out May 1. In a review, Publishers Weekly says Arellano "wittily defuses bigotry and mocks stereotypes," adding: "The author's relentless irony and reclamation of derogatory terms is not for the faint of heart, but this approach is a welcome reprieve from common tiptoeing around the fraught subjects of race relations and immigration."
Late last year, Richard Diefenbach was suspended from his job in Newport, Ore., for five days without pay, and accused of racial discrimination and sexual harassment for sharing a copy of Gustavo Arellano's politically incorrect syndicated column with a co-worker. Diefenbach tells The Oregonian that the incident had a deleterious impact. "I have to weigh everything twice before I say it now," he says. "I felt like my organization branded me as something I am not, a racist and a sexist -- a horrible person." Arellano says "Ask a Mexican!" is now syndicated in 21 weeklies with a combined readership of 1.3 million. CORRECTION: Arellano tells us his column is syndicated in papers with a combined circulation (i.e., not readership) of 1.3 million.
Richard Diefenbach read Gustavo Arellano's syndicated column for the first time in the Weekly Alibi, while on vacation in Albuquerque. He was so enthused with the column -- which that week addressed readers' questions about "the Mexican love affair with chicken and similarities between Mexicans and the Irish," according to Arellano -- that when he returned to work in his hometown of Newport, Ore., he printed a copy and gave it to a Mexican-American co-worker. The following day Diefenbach was suspended from work for five days without pay, accused of racial discrimination and sexual harassment.
"All Things Considered" reporter Howard Berkes last week broadcast a segment based on a story by OC Weekly writer Gustavo Arellano that questioned the motives of local charity "Snowball Express," which brings the families of Iraq war casualties to Disneyland. Arellano found that the charity's organizer, Michael Scott Kerr, owes about $50,000 in child support in Arizona, where there is an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
"It's troubling ... to know that some people actually get upset when a U.S.-born-and-bred Latino isn't fully fluent in Spanish," Gustavo Arellano writes in a Los Angeles Times editorial published Monday. Arellano is a reporter for OC Weekly and the author of the controversial syndicated ¡Ask a Mexican! column. He explains that his parents taught him a rural Mexican dialect, which became "mangled" after he attended a public school where he only spoke English. The criticism of Arellano's Spanish intensified after a June appearance on The Colbert Report, but he swears he doesn't care: "I'm an English-language columnist; it's my job to help Americans understand Mexicans, not to write the next Don Quixote."
We're a little slow in posting this, but OC Weekly's Guastavo Arellano -- who just won a first-place AltWeekly Award for his column -- was the guest on Monday's episode of The Colbert Report (available for download on iTunes). Colbert initially called the column "Ask THE Mexican," and according to Arellano's blog post, also mispronounced his name, but the two still managed to discuss topics ranging from immigration to little people. Arellano tried to provide a legitimate Aztec cultural background on the latter topic, but Colbert evidently thought the explanation was too sophisticated so he interrupted, asking, "Are you speaking Spanish right now?"
After picking up OC Weekly's syndicated "Ask a Mexican" column, Editor Steven Robert Allen writes, the newspaper received "plenty of positive responses" but also "lots of angry calls and e-mails from people -- both Latinos and Anglos -- saying [the column is] promoting hate speech and negative racial stereotypes." Allen interviews the author, Gustavo Arellano, about the column's genesis and subsequent fallout. "Especially during these times, which are so contentious and fraught with animosity, when you have a column that's addressing these issues, not in a namby-pamby way but as blisteringly as possible, people want to read that," Arellano says.
"Ask a Mexican" is "an indictment of the American mind and how it, for whatever reason, cannot accept Mexicans ever becoming Americans," OC Weekly columnist Gustavo Arellano said in an interview with NPR's On the Media last Friday. "The fact that this column exists truly is a joke, and the fact that I have to answer these questions is ridiculous. That said, I will answer these questions to confront all of those stereotypes and really the pitiful nature of the American mind that cannot accept Mexicans being in this country." Arellano also criticized other Mexican and Latino members of the media for focusing on positive stereotypes, which he called "a disservice to Mexican or Latino society or culture."