Identity politics has led politicians to say some pretty ridiculous things, but billionaire real estate tycoon Rick Caruso elevated virtue signaling to a new level on Tuesday when he attempted to claim while debating his black opponent, Democrat Karen Bass, that he isn’t white, he’s Italian.
Caruso’s grandparents came to America from Italy, which, he insisted to the Honduras-born debate moderator, makes him “Latin,” not white.
The awkward moment came in the first few moments of the debate when Telemundo anchor Dunia Elvir opened the debate by saying, “The next mayor of Los Angeles will be either an African-American woman or a white man.”
“I’m Italian,” Caruso shot back.
Elvir, in an attempt to smooth it over, corrected herself with, “Italian-American.”
“That’s Latin, thank you,” the cocky Republican replied.
And just like that, before a single one of the many issues facing folks in the City of Angels– including soaring crime and the horrifying homeless problem — could be addressed, Caruso was buried online.
The comment “floored” the president and CEO of Community Coalition, South Los Angeles, Alberto Retana.
“Wow, did Caruso just say he is Latin? That he is not a white man?” Retana tweeted. “We cannot let him do this. Terrible.”
“Can’t wait for Rick Caruso to claim Columbus was a Latino immigrant,” commented comedian Nick Jack Pappas.
“After consultation with the Italian American delegation,” tweeted activist Jessica Burbank, “we offer to trade in Rick Caruso for 3 cannoli.”
Wow, did Caruso just say he is Latin? That he is not a white man?
I am floored. We cannot let him do this. Terrible.
— Alberto Retana (@aretana) October 12, 2022
Can’t wait for Rick Caruso to claim Columbus was a Latino immigrant https://t.co/eiNk47CJ6b
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) October 12, 2022
After consultation with the Italian American delegation, we offer to trade in Rick Caruso for 3 cannoli. https://t.co/3gGPnOmSVd
— Jessica (Ka) L. Burbank, MPA (@JessicaLBurbank) October 12, 2022
One user even likened the comment to a “Rachel Dolezal” moment.
“Rick Caruso pulled a Rachel Dolezal this evening,” the user tweeted. “‘White? Me?’ ‘I’m Italian.'”
Rick Caruso pulled a Rachel Dolezal this evening. "White? Me?" "I'm Italian"
— Alex Sanchez ✊🏾 (@LALiving213) October 12, 2022
Now, absolutely everyone watching the cringeworthy exchange could plainly see with their own eyes what was happening.
The race card was played by the moderator and, like a fool, Caruso didn’t just take the bait, he gobbled it down and regurgitated it on live television.
In any sane world, the well-deserved mocking he received should have been a bipartisan effort.
But this is 2022, so naturally, there was a flood of responses fact-checking Caruso’s statement as technically true.
“Latino comes from the word Latin & Italians are 1 of the original Latin people,” tweeted one user online. “Italians were never considered white in USA until the 80s/90s. Before that Italians were called every name inc the N word. Italians had plenty of racism thrown their way. They just don’t [sic] play victim.”
“Latin originated in Italy, genius,” wrote another. “By definition he’s more latin than any Latin American.”
Latino comes from the word Latin & Italians are 1 of the original Latin people. Italians were never considered white in USA until the 80s/90s. Before that Italians were called every name inc the N word. Italians had plenty of racism thrown their way. They just dont play victim
— Snax (@ItalainSnacks) October 13, 2022
Latin originated in Italy, genius. By definition he’s more latin than any Latin American.
— goddfadda (@goddfadda1) October 13, 2022
And, again, the users aren’t technically wrong.
The derisive term “wop,” once liberally used to describe Italians in America, stood for “Without Papers,” and it was considered by many to be every bit as offensive as the “N” word.
But, it bears repeating, this is 2022, and no one in the States considers Italians to be “Latin Americans,” least of all Italians.
This was a clear case of pandering, and to pretend otherwise does a disservice to us all, as a few Twitter users noted.
“This is disgusting period!” one user exclaimed. “If we have got to a point where we have to deny being white to get votes then it is over. I love every race period all Gods people I mean all!”
As yet another user noted, “We are living on the stupidest of timelines.”
Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso declares he's not white because he's Italian https://t.co/a56sWNVvS9 This is disgusting period! If we have got to a point where we have to deny being white to get votes then it is over. I love every race period all Gods people I mean all!
— MARK (@MARK6953) October 13, 2022
We are living on the stupidest of timelines
— Peg Manley (@ManleyPeg) October 12, 2022
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