One of the most insidious things about the Latinx maid/cleaner stereotype is the way it encourages people to exploit us and undervalue our work, whether we work in that field or not.
Kelly Osbourne recently reinforced this stereotype while trying to call Donald Trump out for being an anti-immigrant asshole.
She was trying to support Latino immigrants, I guess?
In her typically defensive white celebrity claiming they’re not racist non-apology, she mentioned wanting to open a conversation about immigration.
Her supposed well-meaning racism is an example of one of the things that most holds Latinos – whether they are immigrants or not – back. There is nothing wrong with cleaning toilets or any of that kind of work. It is hard work and it should be rewarded as such. #FightFor15, yo.
But there is a deeply ingrained assumption, even among white liberals who consider themselves our allies that most Latinos are here to clean or do the work that no one else wants to do. This assumption is the other side of the same coin when it comes to what drives anti-immigrant hatred. It supports a fallacy that we are not good for American workers or the American economy because we are here to steal jobs and work for less.
This attitude that Latinos are good cheap labor, ever ready to clean toilets is also helping to drive the for-profit-detention centers that imprison them, charge the government to house them, and then forces them to clean their prisons for $1 to $3 a day.
They imprison mothers with their babies and force them to clean toilets to feed them while in the process of deporting them.
Osbourne argued that if we were all deported, no one would be around to scrub toilets, but the deportation process itself is a way of forcing Latinos to scrub toilets. Let that sink in.
Outside of detention centers, the attitude reflected by Osbourne’s comments devalues cleaning as labor and ensures that it remains underpaid. It also often keeps Latinos who want to work outside this field from being considered for other jobs.
Writer Aura Bogado asked Twitter followers to respond to Osbourne’s comments using #QueridaKellyOsbourne. And many also tweeted about what they do professionally, including whether or not they scrubbed toilets. Bogado said she once scrubbed toilets herself while others mentioned owing their success to parents who worked as domestics to put them through college.
As immigrants, we come here to work our way up and make our dreams come true. The assumption that we are unsuited to other kinds of work makes it that much harder for us.
This contributes to a devaluing of our work overall and a sense that even when we do get hired for certain positions, our abilities and qualifications are constantly questioned – possibly because employers and colleagues are uneasy when they see us out of what they view as our element.
Osbourne’s attitude is unfortunately so common in professional settings that colleagues often assume that Latina and Black women in the sciences are janitors or administrative assistants. That is the effect of stereotypes. It makes it so that people can’t even imagine Latinas and Black women as scientists.
If your name sounds too Latino – if you send in a resume in as Jose instead of Joe – you’ll be less likely to receive call backs. Those flash assumptions about the field of work Latinos belong in can keep well-meaning racist employers who would never consider themselves racist from even considering your resume beyond your name.
Lupe Ontiveros played a maid 150 times. 150 times. Even when your job is in acting, you can’t get away from the stereotype. When it comes to TV, I can’t even with Devious Maids. I stopped watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt two minutes in because of the maid stereotype. Supposedly it pays off in some joke, but I was already done. I have personally seen how these stereotypes affect Latinos professionally y estoy harta!
Almost every job I have ever had has had some element of cleaning. I recently worked for an insurance company where I handled customer service and sales, but was reprimanded for not mopping. It had never been mentioned as one of my official duties. It wasn’t in the job description, but my ex-employer just assumed I would do it.
I once went on a job interview where I was told that part of the duties involved cleaning. As soon as I heard, I knew that I would be offered the job. That my Latino-ness would cast a spell over my white interviewer without my intending it to, and she would be left feeling, without her being able to articulate why, that I was the perfect fit. And after being drastically underemployed for two years, sending out countless resumes, and receiving few callbacks, I had to take the job.
So yes, let’s have a dialogue. Let’s talk about how these automatic assumptions on behalf of supposedly well-meaning white liberals that Latinos are here to do the work that no one else wants to do – traps us (literally, in the case of detention centers) and keeps us from doing the work that we actually do want to do.