LatinaLista — A common denial heard a lot these days is I’m not racist!
Whether it’s CNN’s Lou Dobbs or Arizona’s Sheriff Arpaio or every other supporter of punitive measures targeting undocumented immigrants, the denial is the first argument used to provide credibility to an already weak justification — the rule of law.
Yes, it’s true that the law should be obeyed but it’s also true that no law is infallible or perfect. Laws are as imperfect as the men and women who create them. It’s been seen time and time again throughout history.
Why can it not be seen now?
Have we reached the point in our society where racism is so institutionalized that it can’t be recognized?
The short answer is “Yes.”
There are signs of it everywhere, if we’re willing to open our eyes.
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines racism as
1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2 : racial prejudice or discrimination
The first part of the definition is what many people automatically deny and truly believe that they don’t feel themselves superior to others. Yet, it’s the second part of the definition that counters the first part and the denial that racism exists in this country.
Every day, there are new litmus tests for racism.
The most obvious one deals with the presidential campaign between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. There is no clearer evidence than in the results of Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary.
Latina Lista colleague, Richard Prince, on his site “Journal-isms,” did an excellent job of detailing how racism is being underplayed as a factor in the election.
“Sixteen percent of white voters said race mattered in deciding who they voted for, and just 54 percent of those voters said they would support Mr. Obama in a general election; 27 percent of them said they would vote for Mr. McCain if Mr. Obama was the Democratic nominee, and 16 percent said they would not vote at all.”
Of course, people will say that they will not vote for Obama because they don’t feel he’s qualified enough, and that may be true. But it could also be true that they don’t want to vote for a black man.
A California reader to the Politico Web site wrote this a few days ago:
“I have a theory that the reason pollsters are finding so many ‘undecideds’ this late in the game in PA is that they are people who don’t feel comfortable saying to a presumed liberal PC pollster that they plan to vote for Hillary (instead of the black candidate) and so they say they are ‘undecided.’ Then when Hillary wins by a bigger margin than the polls predicted, pundits will say the undecideds ‘broke for Hillary’ on the day of the election. But the truth is they were for her all along, but not willing to say so to pollsters for fear of being looked down upon. You might call it the ‘”undecided” Bradley effect.’”
The reader was commenting on a piece by Roger Simon that noted, “An AP-Yahoo poll conducted April 2-14 found that ‘about 8 percent of whites would be uncomfortable voting for a black for president.’” That’s the percentage who actually said that to the pollster.
Another sign that racism, particularly against Latinos, is on the rise is the latest crazy news coming from Arizona. It seems state Rep. Russell Pearce wants to prohibit students at the state’s universities to form any groups based on race.
In other words, any Hispanic, black, Asian or Native American fraternities, sororities or student groups would be prohibited from campus.
According to Pearce, such student groups are used to “indoctrinate” students with “anti-American or seditious thinking.”
I wonder what he thinks of the Skull & Bones Society.
If Pearce had done his homework, he would know that all of these fraternities and sororities, regardless of the ethnicity of the name, admit anyone who wants to join. Far from being groups that indoctrinate students with anti-American sentiments, they indoctrinate their members with the belief that they can achieve their dreams, succeed in school and attain the American Dream.
Pearce’s intention is clearly racist. There is no justification for what he proposes and it’s frightening that he holds elected office.
However, we know too well that he is not the only one in an elected capacity to hold such views.
This week, Colorado State Rep. Douglas Bruce was ordered to leave the podium of the state House of Representatives after he said:
“I would like to have the opportunity to state at the microphone why I don’t think we need 5,000 more illiterate peasants in Colorado,”
Bruce made the comment during debate on a bill that would allow the state to help immigrant workers get temporary federal visas. The measure is intended to ease a shortage of farm workers in the state.
Thankfully, the Chairwoman of the debate had the good sense to immediately “unrecognize” him as a speaker.
The latest example of how racism has infiltrated our thinking is the story out of Edgerton, Wisconsin.
Every day, as in every high school in America, the Pledge of Allegiance is broadcast over the school intercom. The school’s Spanish Club went to the Principal and asked if they could recite the Pledge in Spanish.
The Principal saw nothing wrong with the request. After all, he said, President Bush had the Pledge of Allegiance recited in Spanish at his inauguration and it was a way for the students to practice what they had been learning — trying to speak Spanish.
Unbelievably, the incident for what it was — an innocent attempt to practice a club goal — struck a nerve with some students, parents and community members.
Former Vietnam vet, Al Decker, plans to bring several of his veteran friends to next Monday’s school board meeting to protest the incident.
According to Decker, “It’s disrespectful and it’s unpatriotic. The pledge was designed here in the United States, and it was designed in English, and I believe that’s the way it should be.”
Parent Todd Dix, a veteran and father of an Edgerton High School senior, told the local newspaper that the action made him “sick to his stomach.”
Dix protested so much over the incident that he and the Principal came to an understanding:
If the school says the pledge in Spanish in the future, it will make sure to include an English version before or after.
But Decker isn’t so easy to placate.
“(Saying the pledge in Spanish) kind of goes against those who have supported their country and have fought for their country and things like that, especially those who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” Decker said.
Decker obviously doesn’t know the history of Latinos in the military. It sounds as if he thinks all Latinos are recently arrived immigrants.
It’s another sad case of how deeply “indoctrinated” racism has become in our country. The mention of Spanish or talk of Hispanic immigrants evokes immediate unreasonable reactions.
Is it unreasonable to want our laws obeyed? No. But it is unreasonable to target Latinos with legislation and public insults that denigrate Latino presence and contributions to this country.
For the most part, these examples are blatant examples of racism but there are subtle examples that don’t immediately catch our attention unless we’re aware of what different groups have suffered throughout history and in present times.
By now, everyone has heard the story about the polygamist compound in Texas and how the state has removed over 437 children from the compound for reasons of sexual and physical abuse.
What strikes me odd about this situation is the following:
Children’s homes and shelters across Texas prepared to welcome 437 youngsters from a polygamist sect by turning off TVs, serving a lot of bland chicken and vegetable dishes, setting up home schools and accommodating twice-daily devotionals.
State officials and foster agency leaders said Wednesday they’ll try not to fling the youths from the barrens of Schleicher County into a pulsating pop culture – one they have been taught is the devil’s handiwork.
…Now that the children are in state care, though, foster care providers are being told: Please cushion the shock. If you can.
“This is a unique population that has already been through quite a bit,” said Ed Knight, president of Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services, which expects 14 of the children at its Waxahachie campus. He said the agency will “bend and stretch” its policies and usual practices.
“We are not planning to integrate these children into our normal population,” Mr. Knight said. “They will in fact be isolated.”
We’ve either come a long way from the times when Native American children were forced to live in orphanages and punished in forgetting their native tongues and Mexican children were punished for speaking Spanish on the playground or it’s easy to accommodate children who are white and look like the majority population.
I would like to think we’ve come a long way but when we detain children with their parents in immigration detention centers and will only “accommodate” their needs when a public protest forces the issue then it’s hard to say how far we’ve come as a tolerant society.
What’s certain is that we have a long, long way to go.