Maybe Trump has a point this time

As Americans wonder in disbelief at Donald Trump’s comments about Mexican-American federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, they might want to stop and consider one little thing: First-generation immigrants and their children refer to themselves as Greeks, Colombian, Chinese, Mexican or whatever their origins are.

I come from an American family of military and law enforcement, but I have often called one side of my family Germans because of how much of that heritage remained during my childhood. There’s no confusion in my family about who we are.

Donald Trump said the federal judge presiding over a case involving Trump University should recuse himself because he’s a Mexican who might be influenced by Trump’s opinions about the U.S.-Mexico border.

The world has every reason to believe Trump is a bumbling, foolish racist, but I can’t tell whether he is all of that or just working a marketing strategy. I do know that Mexican-American attorneys and others refer to themselves all day long as Mexicans on Spanish-language radio. They do it the way I refer to my German heritage, except I don’t speak German.

When I hear Americans saying Trump is a reckless racist for calling the judge a Mexican, I immediately wonder what they’d say if they knew how many people of other heritage proudly refer to themselves — often — as something besides just American. And if I’m talking to Latinos in Spanish — which I usually do — they and I would refer to Judge Curiel as a mexicano, even though we know he was born here in the States.

Colombianos, Hondureños, Argentinos, whoever — they love to acknowledge their roots, unless they’ve been fully Americanized and psychologically removed from their parents’ origins. I think most people would wonder whether their own court case might be affected by a judge’s heritage if they were in Trump’s situation. Protests about conflicts of interest are commonplace.

Just going by the facts I have so far on the lawsuit against Trump University, I expect the case to be tossed out or settled with a small amount of money. Sensationalized accusations pop up in every election campaign, but they’re usually more slanderous.

This one does seem to be the familiar complaint about results not matching hype. Many, many similar businesses offer hyped-up promises to “triple your earnings” or “double your profits in 28 days” and such. I paid thousands of dollars some years back for training and support that were as skimpy as what we’re hearing the plaintiffs are charging against Trump University.

These complaints probably are everywhere you find would-be entrepreneurs looking for help from rather expensive training programs. The training fails with certain individuals because they shouldn’t even be in the programs but were talked into it, or because — as is often the case — the trainers only know how to help people who already have an established business or a big bank account.

More information can change my views, but the hoopla looks to me like it’s on shaky ground at the moment, even if Cuban-American Marco Rubio was bothered by Trump’s remarks about the judge. Rubio is awful at articulating immigrant-related issues.

If you really believe people are innocent until proven guilty, do the American thing and withhold judgment while you weigh all the facts after they’re in.

Max T. Russell of New Palestine writes for the international business intelligence and nonprofit communities. Send comments to