Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Xenophobic and Racist Elephant in the Closet

In the past few months words like -- "Un-American", "Spic", "Mexican", "Immigrant" , "Illegal" have been circulating social media websites, describing people from the Latino community. In response to public appearances of two individuals singing both the National Anthem and "God Bless America". While these words held no effect on both these individuals, it has had an effect on me. It has brought about a pretty obvious problem that in the recent years have come to light towards our community and that is when you add ignorance and fear of the unknown, it equals hostility and violence.

Technology has not only closed gaps amongst societies, it has also brought the cat out of the closet. It has brought about problems people in this country might have neglected to accept. It has brought about issues people chose to sweep under the rug after certain Civil Rights Laws were passed. While policies can be reformed in order to control hate, government cannot so easily erase it from peoples' minds and way of life.

This country was founded by immigrants. Composed of immigrants. These immigrants were European individuals seeking change, acceptance, equality -- a better life. Throughout this country's history, there were different groups of European immigrants who came to this country seeking the same. At first, these groups were isolated, regarded as second-class citizens. However, they shared this status with people of color which quickly incited "Americans" to accept these white immigrants and create an accessible individual mobility for these groups. Their color became key to their social acceptance. And in return this groups quickly left many of their cultural values. To me, that was a heavy price, but as the saying goes, "to each their own", I can respect that.

Fast forward to the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries and you have different groups of immigrants. Immigrants of color, different races, different customs, different religions. These groups seeking pretty much the same thing the first groups of immigrants sought after when they landed in these soils. However, these groups were not of white race. And to make the scenario a bit more complicated, they did not migrate the same way many of the first group of immigrants migrated. No longer could these communities work their way through society as the prior group of immigrants of the 16th, 17th & 18th Centuries. These groups had obstacles both social and economic. These groups were cast aside as second-class citizens. One of these groups are the Latino community.

A community rich in culture & diversity, not even I can say this is how my culture fully functions. But I can full-heartedly say it is a culture filled with acceptance & tolerance. I say this because we are a culture of diversity ourselves. There is no black/white scenarios to our values and way of life. But one thing is certain many of us hold these values to heart, regardless of what number of generations are living in this country. Our language, our history, our values all form our community. And as a large and growing population in this country it is seemingly scary for many "Americans" in this country. Scary when individuals such as a little boy, Sebastian De La Cruz, sung the National Anthem in a Mariachi Outfit. Scary to know that while he is proud to be born in this country, he is also proud to not leave behind who he is just to be accepted and tolerated. Scary that a young boy like him will grow up as himself and will not bullied into conforming Scary as Marc Anthony, a popular singer, native New Yorker who is proud to sing God Bless America and yet identify himself with his community by being famous for singing in Spanish and yes in English.

They don't fully hold blame for their ignorance. Their ignorance silently resonates through fact-less based media sources, peers, family, even the primary-education system. All these resources lack the proper education on a group of people that have contributed and continue to contribute to this country on all facets of its society.

In the recent years I have fortunately or maybe unfortunately faced a rude awakening. Racism, xenophobia, discrimination has not been abolished regardless of the policies in existence.

I constantly read, see or hear individuals speak of Patriotism. Its a word thrown around the national anthem, supporting troops, fighting terrorism. It is also a word thrown around to excuse hate, violence and perpetual ignorance.

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." These words were uttered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a proud Latina, many have labeled and called me un-Patriotic, amongst derogatory names simply because I am part of the community which will not bargain with its values and culture in order to be accepted. What makes this country unique from others around the globe, is it's diversity. A country founded by immigrants, composed of matter what color we are ALL immigrants or have descended from such. The only difference is that some of us choose not to conform to the norm, but to be who we are in a diverse country. And believing that core value is what makes one Patriotic.