Here’s my politically incorrect thought of the day: Are critics of Meg Whitman’s employment of an undocumented immigrant as her housekeeper of nine years trading in ethnic stereotypes?
Before you scream, stay with me for a couple minutes and consider the following mental exercise.
Whitman, her critics say, should have known that she was employing an undocumented immigrant. There’s even talk (which Whitman foolishly encouraged) that she should take a lie detector test about whether she had suspicions.
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But why should she have known? Diaz Santillan was hired through an agency. She submitted paperwork that showed her to be in the country legally. Much has been made of a Social Security administration letter about a paperwork discrepancy that appears to have reached Whitman and her husband. But the letter made no judgment about Diaz Santillan’s legal status, and didn’t seem to make an impression on Whitman.
It’s perfectly reasonable to believe that Whitman and her husband, who did far more to check out their housekeeper than most Californians do with domestic workers, didn’t know their housekeeper was undocumented. So why have her critics been able to make such hay and suggest she should have known?
I hate to be the one to say it, but here goes: The unspoken suggestion underlying criticism of Whitman is that she should have had doubts about her housekeeper because she was Mexican.
Does that seem outrageous? Well, think about this question. What if Nicky Diaz Santillan wasn’t brown-skinned? What if she wasn’t Mexican at all? Heck, what if she was an immigrant with phony papers (as Diaz Santillan was) but looked like Elin Nordegren, the blue-eye, blonde Swedish nanny who became Mrs. Tiger Woods?
I would submit that Whitman simply wouldn’t be in the pickle she is in – or at least she would be in a very different pickle – if she had hired an undocumented Swede and former underwear model. (Now, there’s a story that TV would have loved even more than this one!)
Would Whitman’s critics be so quick to suggest she must have known? Or would there be more understanding if Whitman were fooled by someone who didn’t fit the stereotype of the undocumented immigrant?
It says here: At some level, Whitman’s critics – particularly those on the right (who want her locked up for employing an illegal) but also some on the left -- are suggesting she should have harbored – and acted upon – suspicions that would have been based on ethnicity and national origin.
And they’re appealing to a prevailing bias that there’s something not quite acceptable -- not quite American -- about Mexicans.
OK, now that I’ve detonated this stink bomb in the middle of this messy controversy, debate amongst yourselves.