(CNN) — When Donald Trump began his historic quest for the Republican presidential nomination, he said: “When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity. And now they are beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me. … When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They are bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
The mainstream majority laughed off the bully’s harsh rhetoric and hardly noticed the world stage humiliation of Mexican Americans and their brethren Latinos. Despite all the “outreach” and reform talk by the GOP, it only took a few seconds for Latinos to once again become the Republican Party’s favorite punching bag.
Where was the reaction from the chair of the Republican National Committee, the Republican presidential contenders or Republican congressional or state leaders? A loud and public shaming of 54 million Latinos in the United States had occurred, but apparently, neither the GOP leadership nor the national media had completely understood the depth of the insult. It has been indelibly etched in the consciousness of U.S. Latinos, however, and in that of our “good” neighbors across our southern border. The irreparable damage has been done.
Following Trump’s presidential bid announcement last week, a groundswell of Latino reaction to his blanket character defamation began bubbling up online and on social media. Trump’s repugnant charges were heard loud and clear, and Latino voters were outraged and incensed at both his audacity and the outright lies. But the Latino community has also been deeply frustrated, not only by the depth of the insult but by the media’s inadequate interpretation of Trump’s remarks.
Multi-generational Latinos who count Mexico as their heritage homeland have reached a tipping point and will no longer accept being a scapegoat for all America’s woes. Univision understood the Latino dynamic and recognized its moral imperative to respond as a U. S. corporate citizen by standing up for the honor and rights of its viewers. The company said it would not air the Miss USA Pageant, partly owned by Trump. Univision’s decision exemplified civil rights leadership in the digital age.
Univision would not allow Latinos to be forced into the back of the bus by Trump. Univision would not allow Trump to profit from the Latino community. Univision would not allow its loyal audience to be disrespected one more time by the jingoistic slogans of a false prophet. Latinos have been galvanized by Trump’s treacherous litany of alleged Latino sins. And the outlook is bleak for institutions that do not break with him.
Latino artists — from all ethnic stripes — have also withdrawn from their respective roles on the 2015 Miss USA Pageant, they include: J Balvin, Cristián De La Fuente, Roselyn Sanchez and Zuleyka Rivera. Latinos from all ethnicities have united to demand zero tolerance from institutions who would turn a blind eye and continue their business of political engagement with individuals, like Trump, who recklessly has sullied the national reputation of Latinos, solely to achieve power and profit.
Has the Republican Party not learned anything from the 2012 presidential election, when Mitt Romney called for self-deportation, which resulted in a mass exodus of Latinos from the Republican column? The Republican Party has shredded its credibility, and its failure to shun Donald Trump and to demand his exit from the presidential race is proof positive that nothing substantive has changed, only the window dressing.
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), of which the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) is a member, represents 39 of the preeminent national Latino organizations. NHLA has called upon NBC Universal to follow Univision’s lead and to both withdraw from the Miss USA telecast and terminate its financial relationship with Donald Trump.
If both the Republican Party and NBCU turn a blind eye or tacitly continue to work with a person who espouses such bigoted rhetoric, it is clear that the Latino community will express its disgust and assert its power, not just through TV ratings but also at the polls.
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Felix Sanchez is the chairman and co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.