Barack Obama’s candidacy has changed America’s cultural compass; nobody can deny it after coming across the JFK comparisons and the term “black Camelot.” A new paroxysm is spreading: the “obamagasm,” definable as a rush of delight in imagining Barack rather than George as our leader. But our fearless man of color may be headed for a brownout in a race against McCain. Latino voters will be a tough battleground.
Gore and Kerry won a majority of the brown vote, and Obama will likely beat McCain among Latinos. The problem is that “winning” among Latinos is not enough to win. Since we are the largest minority, Democrats have to win big with us to offset the Republican advantage among white males. As far as I can tell, Latinos have a Democratic appetite these days, especially in light of immigration debates. But the brown folks I know are lukewarm on Obama.
Obama needs to pull farther ahead to protect himself from unexpected fluctuations to the right. If McCain unveils a more moderate stance on immigration or proposes a compromise plan on amnesty, Obama’s lead with the brown vote would disappear. Let us suppose Obama smears McCain as anti-immigrant, but McCain offers centrists a better energy plan or a tax-break scheme that makes Obama look like a financial risk. Black Camelot would be in danger depending on how many white Independents turn out for McCain (as of yesterday’s CNN poll, Independents are currently split 45-45 with 10% undecided.)
Welcome to the impossible-to-dichotimize, statistically illegible world of Latino politics. We’re here, we’re unclear, get used to it.
Latinos are not a captive constituency like African Americans on the left, or white evangelicals on the right. We usually split 60/40 between Democrats and Republicans with a significant subset amenable to switching sides. The split is partly related to the differences among Central Americans and Cubans, who can lean Republican, and Chicanos and Puerto Ricans, who tend to lean Democratic. But we have a collective identity, as evidenced by the solvency of pan-Latino media companies (Univision in Spanish or SiTV in English). We feel a commonality even if we can never articulate what exactly makes us all Latino, so in spite of our diversity, we aren’t Balkanized. No umbrella group is so unpredictable and yet so culturally cohesive. If a party gets lost in the mixed signals, it can pay the price at election time; just ask Ken Mehlman. In 2006, when Republicans appeared nastier than Democrats on immigration, Latino support for the GOP dropped to around 28%, and the Democrats stormed Congress. Not soon after that, Jewish Mehlman was out of the RNC chairmanship, and Mel Martínez was in.
Gore and Kerry fell short; in both elections over 40% of Latinos voted for Bush. In Latino-heavy New Mexico, for instance, Bush beat Kerry by fewer than 6,000 votes. In Iowa, which experienced a spike of Hispanic immigration, Kerry lost by only 10,000. In two states with enormous Hispanic populations, Texas and Florida, a combined edge of two million votes dunked Kerry’s head under water.
None of this bodes well for Obama four years later. Hillary Clinton’s broad sweep among Latinos in states where Obama won among white Democrats (California, Texas) points to a general disconnect between him and the Latino zeitgeist. Where exit polls counted Latinos, Clinton won against Obama every time: 72% of Latino votes in New Jersey, for instance, and 63% of “all other races” beside black and white in New York. Latino populations have grown significantly in battleground states like Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Ohio.
At a recent meeting with professors in Latino Studies, one colleague from California suggested that Latinos would go full-force for Obama, despite the Hillary blip. She thought the shift toward the Democrats in 2006 signaled an irreversible brown disgust with conservatives.
“The polls bear it out,” she said. “Obama’s leading McCain by a spread of seven points.”
I promised to forward her my July 2004 article, “A Nine-Day Search for Bush’s America,” in which I responded to similarly rosy assumptions from Kerry supporters. Back then, Kerry had a snug lead of five percentage points. Fahrenheit 9/11 was selling out in movie theaters deep in the red states. The word on the street was that even Bush’s staunchest supporters were fed up. But I dug deeper that summer, driving through nine states in the South and prodding notoriously circumspect Southerners to talk politics with me: Yes, they were in fact fed up with Bush. But, as I said in the piece, “You don’t have to like Bush to vote for him.” Between Bush’s sorrow and Kerry’s nothing, they chose Bush’s sorrow.
When it comes to Obama’s supposed silver bullet, the agony of the middle class, caveat emptor. Latinos don’t completely fit the narrative about Bush’s disastrousness. In 1996, 1.4 million Latinos had a college degree, while in 2006, the figure had risen to 3.1 million.
The growth of a Latinorati both helps and weakens Obama. It means there are more Hispanics who went to college and absorbed the liberal beliefs that give people obamagasms. It also means the community as a whole, seeing brown success stories, won’t be as likely to agree that the economy is totally going down the tube. More Latinos have studied US history and understand the importance of the first black man getting nominated. More of them are also afflicted by a petit-bourgeois practicality, of the Thatcherian and Nixonian kind, which makes it hard for brown office managers and mechanics to elect an untested pretty boy who looks like he’s never put in a hard day’s work. The most lethal scenario is this: Latinos celebrate that Obama made it this far, and then decide that it’s far enough.
The community’s multifarious changes on US soil mirror the rapid changes in our home countries. I’m not going to proclaim that a Bolivarian utopia has taken hold, but if you haven’t noticed, a wave of popular leaders in Latin America has reversed centuries of lopsided paternalism. The fact that many of the new Latin American “demagogues” are antagonistic toward Bush does not negate that their rise, and the rise of a more muscular Latin American economy, coincided with Bush’s presidency.
Perhaps Iraq’s intractability resulted in Bush lacking the time or spare manpower to push our home countries around. But at any rate the Western Hemisphere is better off without a bully/victim or benefactor/charge psychology between Anglos and Hispanics. Thoughtful Latinos get nervous when Democrats lambaste Bush for losing the United States’ “moral authority” in Latin America. That sounds like code for pulling the Marines out of Iraq and sending them to Ecuador in search of new babies for Angelina Jolie to adopt.
The bottom line is that Hispanics are not necessarily going to view the Bush years as a catastrophe. Among those who do see it that way, it is not universal to see Democratic policies as salvation. It is true people are losing their homes and healthcare is flawed, but most Latinos can go back two or three generations and remember our families existing in far direr conditions: civil wars, disasters with no rescue crews, and unsanitary hospitals that carried out torture for the continent’s copious Cold War dictatorships. Last year my aunt Calixta Torres published Melania, a collection of short stories charting our family history from the early 1800s; it reads like a prosaic Inferno. You pass through slavery, then drought, then decades of itinerant poverty peppered with unspeakable violence. At one point my great-great-grandmother, a freed slave, beats her daughter unconscious after finding out she’s gotten pregnant out of wedlock. Things get marginally better by the late 1930s, when my mother is born under a plantain tree and her midwife drops her on her head.
A part of me is understandably grateful that I live in a country where emergency rooms are legally bound to treat you, even if you may end up going bankrupt afterwards. If someone harps too much on the Sicko segment featuring a man who lost a finger, I might eventually feel offended. Consider my childhood memories of a hunched and disabled uncle in Rio Piedras who lived with my cousins, or my grandmother’s toothless and scarred sisters rocking on the porch in Caguas. Lots of Latinos have grown up with disfigurement and injury around us; rather than express horror our instincts are usually to utter a noncommittal “ay bendito” and then make disfigured or injured people a part of our daily routine. Overuse of such images borders on hygienic imperialism, another instance of Anglos telling us the way we do things is disgusting.
When I delivered a speech at the Veterans Affairs for Hispanic Heritage Month, I had the chance to listen to some Latino vets’ opinions on Sicko. Their take was simple and unabashed: “Everyone can get free healthcare in America by signing up for the military.” This statement may infuriate an Obama supporter, but the important thing is to understand where it is coming from, and respond without making a Hispanic even warier of what Obama is proposing.
The pitfall here is not the message put forward by people like Michael Moore, but rather the unspoken assumptions that are supposed to frame the message. In the assumptions, well-intended liberals often lose Latinos and fail to edit out their own fallacies. A narrative about the disastrous effects of Bush’s presidency is a sure bet if you are talking to middle-class white families who attained and lost the American dream and now long for the heady idealism of the 1960s. It helps if your listeners consider that Kennedy and Johnson created prosperity by launching social programs, which later Republicans evilly dismantled. But such a collective memory cannot be taken for granted when the crowd is brown.
To understand the hazardous divide between Anglo and Latino pathos, take a moment to reflect on an instant classic, one that is popular in pro-Obama circles: Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed from 2001. Imagine what the following passage sounds like if you are an unsung Latino wage-earner, someone treated like furniture by many Anglos in your immediate environment. In the final chapter, Ehrenreich offers these thoughts about the nature of democracy and minimum-wage work:
“[I]f low-wage workers do not always behave in an economically rational way, that is, as free agents within a capitalist democracy, it is because they dwell in a place that is neither free nor in any way democratic. When you enter the low-wage workplace […] you check your civil liberties at the door, leave America and all it supposedly stands for behind, and learn to zip your lips for the duration of the shift. We can hardly pride ourselves on being the world’s preeminent democracy, after all, if large amounts of citizens spend half their waking hours in what amounts, in plain terms, to a dictatorship.”
Ehrenreich’s book was incredibly inspiring to many liberals; in some places it has been turned into a play. It might be tempting to liberals, at this juncture, to draw from Ehrenreich’s style as a way to rally multiracial support behind Barack Obama. But reassess this line of argumentation, imagining that you are a Latino no more than one or two generations from the struggles of the Third World.
If your family survived an actual dictatorship, someone like Trujillo or Castro, it might seem presumptuous for Ehrenreich to compare a snooping boss to serious human-rights abuses. And if the low-paying job is what motivated your family to cross rivers and brave armed border guards to come to America (which you knew was imperfect rather than the world’s “preeminent democracy”), then you start to zone out at the lines about leaving “America and all it supposedly stands for.” At some point Ehrenreich’s pathos backfires, because you feel like she is caricaturing a life that is, as far as you can tell, the only life you have and a life that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can save you from. Eventually Ehrenreich cannot veil her contempt for the people whose lives she is trying to redeem, when she writes, “I was amazed and sometimes saddened by the pride people took in jobs that rewarded them so meagerly, either in wages or in recognition.”
It seems prima facie that Barbara Ehrenreich hopes to save you by revealing that you exist. But where does it all lead? Conservatives devalue you because you aren’t rich. Liberals hate you because you “cling to your guns and religion,” to paraphrase Obama, as a way to anchor yourself in a heartless world. Liberals also hate you because the same moral code that moors you makes it hard to understand why teenagers need to get their nipples pierced or how gay marriage became a concept, let alone a phenomenon. Unions hate you because you are the cheap labor that drives down the wages they wish to prop up. Ehrenreich’s readers probably hate you, on a subliminal level, because you keep coming to work and enabling the system she finds abhorrent to continue. And the publishers who catapulted Barbara Ehrenreich to fame have no interest in talking to you. You start saying to yourself: What does Barbara want me to do? Quit? Join a union? Go on strike and put this place out of business? Run away somewhere else?
Nickel and Dimed may make you feel vindicated as an unacknowledged worker. But for you it will not vindicate Barbara Ehrenreich or liberals, because if you are that Latino, you know your version of Nickel and Dimed is entirely different. Working at diners, nursing homes, motel suites, and Wal-mart isn’t a shocking tour of the grotesque. It’s banal; it’s the life you lead and one you know you can survive. The managers aren’t evil masterminds, but rather people you maintain a cautious but cordial relationship with, because you need them and you hope one day to become them. And instead of ending the story by escaping a double life and returning to a world of bestselling books and press junkets, you do what millions of Latinos have done to get ahead in America: You pay your dues, do the backbreaking work for a few years, and wait for your lucky break. You don’t accuse the vague forces of corporate business of some grave injustice; rather, you mind your budget, patiently move up the pay scale, and break into management one day so you get a break from the dirty work.
As poor Latinos scrape their way up this unglamorous ladder, many of them unwittingly vindicate the Republican maxim so many liberals like to debunk: Hard work and individual effort pay off in America, as long as you can keep the government and Barbara Ehrenreich out of your hair. A sizable chunk of the Latino community drinks this Republican Kool-Aid at election time. Many agree with the opposing view from mainline Democrats, which is that the government owes its citizens a boost. But for lots of brown people who give up on the red tape of social agencies, the Democratic narrative feels hollow and deceitful. Many of the new bourgeois Latinos are precisely what Garry Wills decried in Nixon Agonistes as the insidious beast of American politics: the ungenerous “self-made man.” They do not feel indebted to liberal social policies. They feel minimal gratitude to the War on Poverty or the civil rights movement, since they weren’t in the United States when these things happened, or they were in the United States back then and got nothing out of such upheavals.
No sane Latino would deny that our community is struggling. Our poverty rate is still much higher than that of whites. In many places we are dropping out of school at disturbing rates. While HIV infection rates have gone down in almost all demographics, they have gone up among Latino men who have sex with men. The Washington Post dealt a huge blow to our ego with new figures indicating, on June 4, that Latinos are “more likely to engage in risky health behaviors, including drug use and attempted suicide, than white or black teens.”
Under the numbers, the story is of course more complicated.
Take the poverty rate. As I pointed out earlier, the number of college-educated Latinos more than doubled in the United States between 1996 and 2006, so there is a new bourgeoisie gaining in critical mass. As a community we are more likely to live in multigenerational homes; hence the stereotype of the typical Hispanic household where infants, grandparents, prodigal sons, and an endless parade of family friends share their domestic space with varying levels of transience. One of my favorite books by a Puerto Rican author, Nilda by Nicholasa Mohr, includes an unforgettable death speech by the protagonist’s mother. In her dying hours she confesses to her young daughter Nilda that her life was unfulfilling (“Nothing ever belonged to me … Nothing was every truly mine”) because as a Puerto Rican woman in her middle age, she was expected to take care of anyone who needed a place to sleep.
Readers of Nilda are left with a mix of admiration and grief. Latinos place tremendous burdens on mothers yet revere them as our anchor; this increases a tendency to see uplift and social transcendence as a family affair, the domain of “madres fuertes” and not the business of an unaffectionate force like the government. Some Hispanic families have assimilated and gotten comfortable with North American ways, like putting the elderly in nursing homes or shutting their doors to siblings who won’t shape up, but a large cross-section of us still approach family in the same way that Nicholasa Mohr noticed sixty years ago. Depending on what the political situation was in our home countries, we are likely to beware state institutions and instead count on a system of karmic reciprocity (i.e., you can sleep on my couch when you get a 72-hour notice, and then I can sleep on yours when my wife kicks me out.) As recently as 2006, my immediate household included my widowed father, my wife, my daughter, my divorced sister, and my niece. This raised no eyebrows in my family.
The Latino family’s elastic domestic sphere means that many who are poor according to the statistics, can still count on some help from people who are being counted as middle class. If you double the number of middle class people, even if the percentage increase seems small, many others feel a significant change for the better. The reverse is always true too: If one middle-class person loses a job, a large network of people feels the strain. This web of social reliance diffuses anxiety, so our despair is not necessarily as acute as Democratic rhetoricians might presume during economic downturns.
Pro-Obama people can’t just harp on economic sob stories, and if they want to help their man this November, they will study Michael Moore and Barbara Ehrenreich to learn how not to talk to Latino voters. The secret to beating McCain, I would answer, lies in studying how Hillary Clinton worked. More than any other politician in recent years, including her husband, this woman truly had our community in the palm of her hand.
Hillary Clinton was reviled by the liberal wing of the Democratic Party for the same reasons that Asians and Latinos fell in love with her. She came across as more conservative, more accessible yet tougher, less of a bleeding heart and more of a strict mother, all things that middle-class-bound Latinos admired. She weathered the attacks against her husband in the 1990s and had the guts to fight for a Senate seat twice. Her husband slashed welfare, signed NAFTA, and acted like a Republican a lot of the time, which alienated white liberals but appealed to success-mongering Latinos focused on self-improvement.
Superficial aspects of Clinton’s gender hurt her in Anglo terms but helped her among Latinos. In her canary-yellow pantsuit, she looked less like a socialite and more like one of our dyed-blonde, discount-happy moms unaware that one doesn’t wear tropical colors in North America; our moms who put up with our unappreciative dads and found a small dose of pride in the fluorescent-lit offices that Anglos see as the hallmarks of dead-end jobs.
I found it fascinating that so many people in the press failed to understand the appeal of Hillary Clinton to a proud but struggling community like ours. For better or worse, lots of Latinos hang our hopes on clumsy middle-aged mothers moonlighting as real-estate agents, administrative assistants, dental hygienists, and clerical workers. If you have just one such woman wired into a familial network of eighteen people, her paycheck is a fragile lifeline keeping the whole clan afloat: the older folks living on disability, the hot-tempered dads who quit their jobs over an insulting comment from the boss, the semi-grateful kids who enroll in community college, hoping to transfer to a state college and swearing they’ll buy Mami a new car before she develops carpal tunnel syndrome. Hillary Clinton tugged at these heartstrings without insulting us or making us feel like our lives were anything to be ashamed of.
As blue-eyed and WASPy as she is, Hillary Clinton reminds me of Latina mothers I know, squirreling away cookbooks and proudly selling tickets for the parish brunch next Sunday. This is The Latina Mother who puts up with a cheating husband because she wants more than anything else to keep up appearances and hold the family together. Those of us who grew up under such a maternal regime are both thankful for the stability she gave us, and embarrassed she had so little self-respect. We have struggled at times not to judge her for looking desperate by the standards of white feminism. Such resonances cut both ways in political psychology, since for years I’ve projected onto Hillary all my unresolved anger at my Puerto Rican mother’s hypocrisy (comemierdería, as a Latino might say, or trying too hard to be what one is not). I backed Obama and said horrible things about Clinton this spring. But when all is said and done, I cannot deny the irony: Hillary is the whitest of white women yet she still looks like one of us. Michelle and Barack do not.
Clinton’s comment about “hard-working Americans” got her in hot water with the press but Latinos are receptive to many of the cheap shots, à la Geraldine Ferraro, that Barack Obama got lucky. Rather than cry bigotry one has to concede that their candidate’s rise was a bit hurried for people with meritocratic tastes. There might be a tinge of racism involved, because Obama’s status as a golden boy awakens latent Hispanic resentment. One of my closest family friends, whom I will call José, summarizes racial politics this way: “when black people cry, America listens, but when Latinos cry, America tells you to shut up and get back to vacuum cleaning.”
If a default bias leads Hispanics to see American blacks as overindulged and underworked, it does not help that the Democrats’ first black nominee received a plethora of money and positive coverage after a rousing speech and a short time in Congress. Expect more than a few grumblings from Latinos who have been treated like invisible serfs for years.
Which brings us, at last, to the big elephant: race. Only a year ago there was a torrent of media punditry about Don Imus’ “nappy-headed ho’s.” At precisely the same time, nightly tirades against immigration bordered on calls for ethnic cleansing on other channels. The lack of a nationwide mea culpa over immigrant-bashing would seem to deepen the already suspicious attitudes held by people like José. José won’t say it to many people, but he thinks black people take up too much space in the nation’s cottage industry of guilt and sensitivity. And he has a point. Isn’t calling someone a nappy-headed ho less serious than arguing that twelve million illegal aliens should be rounded up and thrown into detention camps through brute force, which Lou Dobbs has said on several occasions? It’s as though blacks and Latinos live in a sealed and unventilated chamber and Latinos can’t get a word in edgewise, because African Americans are sucking up all the oxygen.
When Hillary Clinton said Jeremiah Wright “wouldn’t be my pastor,” some Democrats like Michael Moore jumped on her and accused her of race-baiting. Latinos read the whole melodrama quite differently. We come from a continent where mulattos and mestizos far outnumber anybody who’s racially “pure,” so the incessant tête-à-tête between whites and blacks can feel bewildering at times and at other times tiresome. Obama’s now famous speech about race, delivered on March 18, stirred many white Democrats to tears and consolidated his base of support. Some Latinos liked it too, but others felt bored, even annoyed.
The Latino community’s race-weariness should be put into context. We are sustaining a daily barrage of hate on the immigration issue. Within both parties the new populism has unleashed an indomitable xenophobia. Both Martínez on the GOP side and Menéndez on the Democratic side have spoken up against immigrant-bashing, but coverage is overwhelmingly unsympathetic. With so few people in power willing to speak in our defense, many people in the Hispanic community simply tune out. Rather than find new reasons to classify Lou Dobbs as a rectal wart, I’d rather just turn off CNN when he’s on and enjoy dinner. Lots of us are determined to focus on our jobs and family, confident we can build a life in America without asking for another group to rescue or shield us. Coming from this survivalist modality, we are bound to bristle when famous African Americans ask for more discussion about racial tensions that don’t reflect the way we define our identities anyway. Obama’s disquisition on the Wright controversy convinced many educated white liberals that he was better than Hillary Clinton, but the whole episode made lots of Latinos even more desperate to push her to victory, so we wouldn’t have to listen to racial tedium all the way to November or, God forbid, all the way to January 2017.
Clinton pushed the Latino community’s buttons in a good way, rather than in a bad way: She presented herself as someone of the old caudillo or “strong-man” tradition. Caudillos waste no time on self-pity or grandiose philosophical claims; instead they circulate, strike deals, and win people’s loyalty with tangible offerings. In “Nuestra América” José Martí railed against the parochialism of a boss-centered politics, because Martí felt it fostered leaders who focused on atomized promises and town-by-town negotiating; Martí wanted to usher an age of grand narratives. Martí died young. The caudillo system went on. Hillary Clinton is everything Martí hated but the Latin American spirit relishes nonetheless: She wins us over because she knows big and important people, she’s got guts, she brings the lechón to the spit roast, and she’s not afraid to muddy her ideals with the inescapable minutiae of this world.
Obama’s oratory energizes educated whites largely because of what it draws from a black spiritual tradition. In Afrocentric Idea, Molefi Kete-Asante asserts that the key dynamic in African American discourse is the “messianic” mode. Other theorists have coined different terms: “bearing witness” according to Frances Smith Foster, “signifying” according to Henry Louis Gates, “the blues ideology” according to Houston Baker. All such terms point to deeply felt reverence for inspiring language and a magnetism toward leaders who speak exceptionally well, sometimes but not always religious men like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Combining a uniquely African love of performed language with Protestant eschatology, the greatest African American bellwethers evince a verbal mastery and visualize a future salvation. Hence “hope,” Obama’s buzzword, appeals to African Americans and also mystifies whites.
The messianic mode carries much less cachet among Latinos. Latin America debunked its own religious claims in the sixteenth century, long before the Puritans arrived at Plymouth. In the 1540s, a Dominican priest named Bartolomé de las Casas wrote a long and scathing letter called An Account Much Abbreviated of the Destruction of the Indies, in which he detailed in gory detail the genocide of Indians by men claiming to be Christians. This missive, mailed to the Spanish monarch, was later published all over Europe complete with illustrations by a Dutch engraver. Here, perhaps, lies the beginning of Latino history; we may be religious but we are not hardwired to find ecstasy in utopian preaching. Before Winthrop immortalized the Biblical phrase “city on a hill” in Massachusetts, Latinos had a dystopic origin narrative that would be impossible to erase. You can consider us unsophisticated for siding with Hillary Clinton’s Machiavellianism, but if you want to keep us from defecting to McCain then you’ve got to avoid misty sermons, histrionics on the economy, and dilatory meditations on black/white relations.
By April 23, 2008, Maureen Dowd scoffed when Hillary Clinton said, “How come Obama can’t close the deal?” The term “close the deal” sounded embarrassingly sleazy to Dowd. Beside the picture of Dowd’s red-headed elegance and smug smile, the column continues:
Her message is unapologetically emasculating: If he does not have the gumption to put me in my place, when superdelegates are deserting me, money is drying up, he’s outspending me 2-to-1 on TV ads, my husband’s going crackers and party leaders are sick of me, how can he be trusted to totally obliterate Iran and stop Osama?
What Maureen Dowd saw as Hillary Clinton at her most pathetic was, in fact, a persona resonant with a community bred on caudillos rather than messiahs. Latinos have had decades of the Times covering Latin America with a hegemonic-liberal satisfaction, so we were bound to feel some glee in the way Clinton responded. Rather than quaver before accusations of gaucherie from a WASP establishment, Clinton got even more shameless, heightening her philippic tone and finally saying “f- you” to the Democratic whiners who gave us John Kerry and now hoped to shove Obama’s vague promises of redemption and recycled racial platitudes down our throats. On Clinton went to pummel Obama in Puerto Rico, which can only be glossed as a gigantic SCREW OBAMA the day after the Democratic Party halved the Florida and Michigan delegates, thereby rendering it numerically impossible for Hillary to win. There is much to be learned from the breadth of Clinton’s Hispanic appeal. We’ll have to watch the campaign trail closely and see if Obama can learn a trick or two from her.
ROBERT OSCAR LOPEZ, a regular contributor to Buffalo Report, is an English and Classics scholar at California State University at Northridge. His website is http://www.bronzepage.com .