Obama won the last presidential election, but Latinos are facing the political backlash from conservative whites, who see, more clearly than ever, that their days are numbered as the ethnic majority in this country. That’s one conclusion I can draw from recent news and events. I am felled by an awful spring flu, with a fever and an achy body and a nose that gushes as if it were the well of the Deepwater Horizon. But this is too important a day to be a bystander.
Arizona’s new law, SB1070, has been given an acceptable façade with the argument that it’s only against illegal immigrants and that it won’t result in racial profiling. But what is ‘reasonable suspicion’ that someone is an illegal immigrant? What does an illegal immigrant look like? Like John McCain? Sarah Palin?
It’s a law that the rogue cop who already hates all things Mexican, illegal or not, will easily abuse to jail a poor mother and father who don’t happen to be carrying their birth certificates in their back pockets. I suspect that even if American Latinos have their birth certificates when they sleep, that the Arizona birthers will assume these documents are fraudulent. They simply don’t like Mexicans, whether they are here illegally or not.
I conclude this not because I am paranoid, or because I see every political issue through an ethnic or racial lens. I do not. Read my blog, witness my marriage, see how I raise my children, examine my voting record. What you will see, I hope, is a person who was given great opportunities in this country, who is conservative on some issues and liberal on others, who is proud of his Mexican heritage, yet still criticizes and tries to change practices within our community to make it more successful, more powerful, more open-minded.
But when I see that yesterday the Arizona state legislature also passed a bill that “prohibits a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that promote the overthrow of the United States government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals,” I know that this legislative majority in Arizona does not like Mexican-Americans. Imagine, a Mexican-American studies program in Arizona is being compared to treason. What kind of mentality makes that irrational link? The Arizona Department of Education is also trying to fire teachers with accents who teach English classes. What is happening in this crazy state? This weekend, the ‘education’ bill is awaiting the governor’s signature.
So I don’t draw my tough conclusions on anything but the evidence of idiocy that are the actions of the Arizona state legislature. I can only wait for those legislative Caesars in Texas to also take up racist and xenophobic causes, or Oklahoma and Alabama. Are we about to start a new Confederacy in the South? What happened to giving opportunity to new strangers to this country, to helping them become Americans, which they so desperately want? What happened to being open-minded about someone who doesn’t look like you, who doesn’t sound like you?
For Latinos, we must organize. We must protest. We must register to vote in huge numbers, and then vote with our neighbors and friends at the ballot box. We must get involved in politics locally, seek alliances with those who will help us. We should never stay silent, and allow others to do the work of fighting for causes we care about. That’s what this country is about: getting involved, gaining our voice, getting a chance to fulfill our highest potential. These days should prompt a new grito for freedom, respect, and self-determination.