Originally published at Hip Hop Lives: Traditions of Filipino Performance.
Dear Mr. Obama,
I swear I saw you dancing perreo to "Gasolina" during your inauguration ball, despite Daddy Yankee supporting McCain for president. Does that mean you support energy independence through off-shore drilling?
On another note, thank you for nominating Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice. We all hope she gets confirmed by the Senate, even while we all know Republicans will try to do everything to block her confirmation--from criticizing her judicial opinions regarding the sanctity of life to scrutinizing her American citizenship.
Wait, what is that? Judge Sotomayor is of Puerto Rican descent? Does that mean she is assumed U.S. citizenship, even though she is subsumed under the homogeneous legion of Latin hoards crossing the boarders to invade America?
Nice one, B-HO, a Brown woman who is quintessentially Americana. What is that? Critics are still going to scrutinize her because she is Latina, and not "one of us"? But hasn't Puerto Rico (along with the Philippines) been a part of the United States longer than Hawai'i, your own home state, and Alaska, the home state of America's beauty queen Sarah Palin? So what is it! Is Judge Sotomayor going to be accepted as a loyal American, or not?! Is she "Sonia from the block" or "Sonia extranjera"?
The Hispanic causing panic is a default U.S. citizen due to Puerto Rico's status as a U.S. colony. This can't get any more interesting. Cruz Bustamante must be squirming with angst and Lou Dobbs must be scratching his nasty little head.
You must have been spending your free time watching re-runs of America's Best Dance Crew, especially watching these guys:
I know the G.O.P. moniker makes you flinch, but these San Juan, Puerto Rico bad boys really made an impression for ABDC fans, especially since they battled foos from Alabama, Brooklyn, and other unmistakably "American" locales. When you finished watching this episode, did you immediately whisper, "Sotomayor..." and the rest is Supreme Court history? Will the public vote her as America's Best Justice?
Your nomination reminds me of a book I am reading called Reggaeton. El hip hop has made a lasting impression globally, as you know, and this book gives a glimpse into its form, pleasures, racial/gender politics, and multiple/contested origins. Hate it or love it, reggaeton, I am reading, is going global and experiencing the same backlash as hip hop because of racial, sexual, and class issues. But one thing is distinct with reggaeton: it uses Spanish.
Now we haven't heard Judge Sotomayor bust out in Boricua vernacular, but I know que l@s herman@s de la isla are just waiting for her to curse uno gringo out in Spanish. Are you waiting for that too, B-HO?
So maybe we are getting closer not to the reality of "energy independence," but independence from a hegemonic, homogenizing discourse that constantly defines who is "American" (read: White) and the language an American speaks (read: English-only). Puerto Rican people are usually quite Brown and often Black, and, like Reggaeton, usually signify in Spanish. Your Sotomayor nomination (along with Ricky Martin...SIKE!) could be part of a series of changes to the U.S. public imaginary on debates surrounding citizenship and membership. Maybe the U.S. can one day be a nation that recognizes its coerced colonial acquisitions, whether from the Caribbean, Pacific, or continent?
Or maybe not. And isn't that the Great American Irony?