By Chris Jennewein
Drag racing is a dangerous, highly technical sport, pitting two massively overpowered vehicles against each other on a short strip of pavement.
Its history in San Diego coincidentally speaks volumes about the ugliness — and stupidity — of President Trump’s remarks Thursday about immigrants from “shithole countries.”
Last month an East Coast publisher of historic photo books released “San Diego Drag Racing and the Bean Bandits,” a history of Joaquin Arnett and his largely Hispanic club of motorsports aficionados.
They named their club after a common slur from the period. As men of Mexican ancestry, Anglo San Diegans referred to them as “beaners.”
No, Trump didn’t include Mexico in his “shithole” list on Thursday. But he began his presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists and murders,” and continues to demand a “big, beautiful” border wall to keep them out.
The photos in the “Bean Bandits” book show an obviously Hispanic crew gathered around their machines. Their opponents look more like the Norwegians that Trump singled out Thursday as more desirable, but Arnett and his club won the races.
It turns out Arnett was a mechanical genius. And a master welder. He won the first ever National Hot Rod Association championship in 1953, and was inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1992.
Bigots like Trump are convinced their race, their country and their religion are the best, but time and time again we’re reminded that human ingenuity, drive and creativity are universal.
Stereotyping everyone from a “shithole country” is a sure way to miss out on the best and brightest the world has to offer, and prevent the rise of future Intels (Hungary), Googles (Russia), Amazons (Cuba), Teslas (Africa) and Apples (Syria).
Trump’s comments on Thursday were ugly, but more significantly for America, they were stupid.
Chris Jennewein is editor and publisher of Times of San Diego.
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