Dear LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens):
I am concerned. In your mission statement, you advise that LULAC’s primary mission is to advance the civil rights of Latinos in America. Among the many important agendas of your organization, civic participation, economic empowerment and education are extremely interesting.
In college, I took an upper level Latino History course and loved it. From Peru to Mexico, from Puerto Rico to Cuba, the histories are as diverse and fascinating as the people. But there are some problems with one nationality.
LULAC is the oldest and largest Hispanic organization in the United States and, among Latinos, the most respected. In that capacity, you have disappointed your constituency. There is a growing trend among Mexicans and/or Mexican-Americans that is unacceptable to our nation’s history, is forever changing the way Latinos are viewed among non-Hispanics, and is disrespectful to our ancestors. As “the voice” to this population, you owe it to all to make immediate changes.
As I viewed your website, I was struck by the urging of Latinos for civic participation. Cubans, for example, have done an excellent job assimilating into American culture and, as a result, have been quite prosperous. This is what America is all about. It is a melting pot, complete with the promise, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” engraved on the Statue of Liberty. People from all nations around the world have come to America, learned English, and assimilated into American society. And by doing so, they have empowered themselves civically, economically, and educationally. These new immigrants, while honoring their own cultural heritages, have melted into this American pot, often times speaking English far better than American born citizens. Indeed, almost every year it is an Asian or Indian child who wins the National Spelling Bee contest in Washington, D.C. These new immigrants, while being proud of their ethnic and cultural heritages, have carried their new nation’s flag with pride.
Not so with millions of Mexican immigrants, who persistently fly the Mexican flag on businesses, residencies and decals on vehicles. Though they were eager to leave their own homeland as they were poor and tired and huddled, yearning to breathe free and hoping for a better life, they fly the Mexican national flag in defiance to all that America and its history has to offer. Television, radio, print, instructions on phones and cooking instructions on century-old products are now suddenly in Spanish. There is nothing and there was never anything for the Russians or Germans or Italians, for the Koreans or Swedes or Chechs.
The fallout is that even the most liberal Democrats, life-long, card-carrying moderate to liberal Dems are becoming frustrated, insulted, impatient and angered by this new we-don’t-care attitude. Recently, a popular Mexican-American DJ on a morning radio show joked that the whites and blacks would have to get used to it because “we were here first.”
This is an interesting point and a quick study of early American colonization and westward expansion reveals a few facts. The Native Americans, Spanish and Mexicans were indeed here first. Up until the mid-1800s, Mexico’s territory extended north of the Rio Grande, into California, Arizona, into what is now southern Utah and Texas. In time, the U.S. annexed that region by military force, taking over a half million square miles of land at the cost of over 40,000 causalities. A quick study of Europe, the African and Asian continents will show similar stories of unfortunate conquest and woe.
To the point, by not encouraging Mexican-Americans to assimilate they are not helping with civic participation, economic empowerment or education. Instead, they are enabling further alienation and distrust of these immigrants by the rest of America – white, black and brown.
Uninsured immigrants have created havoc in, for example, American hospitals which are bombarded with long waits and unpaid bills. Welfare programs that are already under scrutiny are being further drained by a group that, by reputation, takes and takes but does not give back proportionally. This does not further education, economic status and civic participation.
Across the United States, foreigners are coming to America to flee poverty, political coups and extreme crimes against humanity. The first thing most do is take English classes and try to assimilate. They apply for citizenship. We – America – respect this. This is our history. This is our ancestry.
What we don’t respect or appreciate are people coming over our southern border, defiantly flying their native flags and thumbing their noses at a 200+ year-old system. As a child, I lived in Russia. I quickly learned the language so I could go into the shops and take public transportation. At no time did it occur to me to expect Russians to speak English. At no time did I think it appropriate to carry around an American flag. Even at the age of 12, I was made to understand respect of another culture. I understood then that I was expected to adapt or get out.
My question, LULAC, is where are you in all this? Can you not speak to Latino community leaders around the nation and implore them to understand we are a melting pot? We are not OK with being “taken over.” What nation is? This is not race or ethnicity; it is about a shared cultural and national identity. We cannot be one nation without that. While I think it imperative to embrace our distinct heritages, we should always remember which flag we stand under and to what country we pledge allegiance.
Now residing in “the nicest city in Texas,” Alexandra Allred is the author of numerous books, including White Trash, Damaged Goods and the Allie Lindell series. Visit her website, www.alexandratheauthor, or Twitter @alexandraallred but always check out her column the WDL as she ponders all things Waxahachie and beyond its borders.