Who is in charge of the past?
The Spanish language is the second most spoken language here in the United States. Jose just replaced Michael as the most popular name last year in two southwestern states. According to Mireya Navarro, America is home to 31 million people of Latin ancestry, a number that is rapidly growing. In fact, “In the next five years the number is expected to surpass African-Americans as the largest minority group and will most likely make up a fourth of the nation’s population in 50 years”(Navarro, “Latinos Gain Visibility in Cultural Life of U.S.,”Race, Class, and Gender in the United States, 1998, p. 364). The question that arises from all of this is, why don’t we hear as much form the Latin American public as we do the African Americans?
When we think of minorities we immediately assume the group being spoke of is of African descent. In the society where my partner Jennifer grew up, there is only one Latino (Puerto Rican) family and they are by no means on the low end of the social class. They are a very well-respected family. On the other hand, the city in which I grew up, it is crawling with Latinos. They live above and below the shops and restaurants in town, everywhere you turn you can see someone of Latino descent. But still, a minority member in society to us is a Black person.
We have this stereotypical view of minority groups because that is what has been hammered at us through grade school, and even into high school. We learn time and time again of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. We are taught about discrimination and segregation of the Black people, but who or what can we think of related to the Mexican population off the top of our heads? Nothing. Jennifer, I would hardly know anything of the Latin American population of the United States if she did not choose to study Spanish as my second language in high school, and from watching the television show “Cops.” Before we started this critique, neither one of us knew that the word Chicano referred to a rural Mexican Immigrant. We assumed it was the name of someone who was of Asian descent-boy were we wrong! “Chicano came to denote those who fought for the rights of Mexican Americans and fought against Anglo American racism” (Garc?a, Ignacio M, Chicanismo, 1997, p. 8). Even today we still have
very mixed emotions for the Latino minority group. Do we feel sorry for them, or do we feel threatened, and why?
The immigration of Latin Americans is not much of a different history compared to the other minority groups trying to survive in this melting pot called the United States of America. The difference that exists between the Latin American minority group and the others is their way of immigrating into this country. As everyone knows, Mexico is adjacent to the United States. All the Chicanos had to do was pack up a few things and walk over the border. They didn’t even need passports; they could enter and exit whenever they wished. Perhaps this may be a piece to the puzzle as to why we don’t feel as sorry for the Latinos as we do the other immigrant population.
Many of the other minority groups of the time, the Chinese, Irish, Japanese, Jews, had packed up their whole families and some of their belongings, that could be carried by hand, jumped on a boat sailed for days to this promise land and were stuck here. It was too easy for the Mexicans; they could go back if they didn’t think the grass was as green as expected on this side of the river. Some did go back but many didn’t, they stayed in the southern states working on plantation farms, in the fields, and as servants around and within the plantation house. They were not making nearly enough money to survive, and they complained every step of the way. A stereotypical view of their population is that we “…Saw Mexican Americans as passive, unmotivated, and responsible for accepting much of their own suffering” (Garc?a, p.47). The Blacks were brought here by the Whites and forced into slavery; the Mexicans seemed to come and endure the pain by choice. They could have gone back if they
The Chicanos came into the United States at the same time as the Japanese. But when we think of the Japanese we envision a well-dressed man, electronic equipment and expensive cars. On the other side, when the word Mexican is mentioned we envision a dirty old man with a bottle of Tequila. The Japanese worked in the fields right next to the Mexicans, what then is the difference between the two minorities?
The only answer to the aforementioned questions is that the Japanese population Americanized themselves where the Mexicans had elected not to. Latin Americans avoided behaviors and attitudes that associate with the dominant group. “This oppositional identity appears to interfere with achievement. If doing well means you have to ‘act white,’ which feels like a betrayal of yourself and your people, then you are not going to try to excel.”(Arends, Richard I., Exploring Teaching, p.130). It was easier for the Japanese to conform to American society because their homeland was a half a world away. As for the Latino community, their homeland was right next-door. There was a constant flow of news and gossip across the border; perhaps that is why many of the Chicanos did not coincide with the American standards. They did not want to be looked down upon in their homeland. This is what confuses us about the Mexican population: they want to be rich and give their children the so-called “
American Dream,” but at the same time they are not able to give it to them. Latin Americans are not making enough money to make ends meet, and sending their children to school means two, three, or even more, fewer hands to help out in the fields. Losing the help in the fields means losing money in their pockets and food on their tables.
Don’t get us wrong, Mexicans do really want to send their children to schools to receive a better education than the one that they alone are able to give them. The Mexicans are not that bad after all. They want what every parent wants, to be able to better the lives of their children.
You see it is not just the Mexicans holding their children back; it is the White Americans holding the Mexicans back from sending their children to school. Because the Chicanos have come into this country with such a driving force in such a relatively short time span, the Americans who are presently in charge are afraid of the Mexican population taking over. They may be considered a minority in the United States but their large population must account for something. On this aspect we feel pathos towards the Latin American population.
Time and time again, Mexican Americans had attempted to reach out to the mainstream by developing patriotic organizations, serving in the armed forces in large numbers, adopting American ideals, and de-emphasizing their national origins. Yet they remained outside the mainstream and saw the gap widening between them and other Americans(Garc?a, p. 10).
The situation then changes. It once again becomes confusing to us. If the Chicanos are allowed to send their children to the public schools, why then are the parents hesitant? They are afraid that the children are going to change and feel ashamed of their parents, their background and upbringing. The Mexican parents need to decide what they really want from the school system Why do the parents feel scared that their children are going to feel ashamed? Do the parents feel ashamed themselves?
Many of the Mexican families do feel ashamed of their ways of life and even themselves. We guess we would too. This once again causes us to feel pity for the Mexican population. Over and over again our society hears the white population complain about the minority population, and how they should all return home where they came from. But, is this really a possible choice for the Mexicans? As mentioned before, it seems quite possible and easy.
If this is the case, why haven’t they? If all of the Latin Americans returned home to Mexico and South America, who then would do all of the dirty work in the United States? Whites do not want to work endless backbreaking days out in the hot, sultry weather. The truth now comes out: whites have let the Chicano immigrate into the United States but they will not let them return home. If a family wants to return home then it should be able to. Our society obviously disagrees with this notion. Many ethnic groups have been forced to stay here in the United States no matter what the conditions.
Historically, Americans have always been putting people behind walls. First there were the American Indians who were put on reservations, Africans in slavery, their lives on plantations, Chicanos doing migratory work, and the kinds of camps they lived in, and even too, the Chinese when they worked on the railroad camps where they were almost isolated, dispossessed people-disempowered. (Kochiyama, Yuri, Then Came the War, Race, Class, and Gender Issues in the United States, 1998, p. 350).
In reality the Mexican population has in the past,
many times tried to return home and they have tried to fight back against the powerful White members of society, however, to no avail. The White population, or the landowners, who make all of the decisions in the society choose for the Latinos to stay, and to stay miserable. So if this is the case then the tables are turned on to the white population. Why in the world have they always complained time and time
again about the Mexicans if the choice of having them stay in the United States is that of the White members of society who are too lazy to do their own dirty work? Many times we have heard the Latino population referred to as dirty, lazy Mexicans, when indeed it is the white men who have been the laziest of all.
If we have come to the epiphany that it is not really the Latin Americans, or all minority groups who are the bad guys then why does the segregation and discrimination of all minority groups still persist? The answer lies in the truth of who the bad guys really are: us, the majority, the white population. The problem is that we don’t like that answer, we don’t want to realize that we have been the antagonists all along.
One thing that is true, no matter what, the past is the past. Yes, we can dwell on the past but there really is no fixing it. We as a whole nation need to focus on the present and the future. Everyone is different in one way or another. In the United States we choose color of skin in order to separate one person from another. This teaching has served to perpetuate stereotypes and thus kept mainstream
society unsympathetic and often hostile toward minorities. We as a group need to fight against these stereotypes. This though obviously is a very difficult task, even for minorities themselves. We think that it is funny, well, actually sad, in reality that minorities when given the chance will actually discriminate against themselves
We still are not sure whether we feel sorrow for the Chicanos. If we feel shame in our actions towards the African Americans, then shouldn’t we also feel the same for the Latin Americans? We guess the answer should be yes, but for some reason we still do not feel as ashamed or sad. Maybe, as mentioned before, it is because the problems that exist among the Chicano race have not been beat at us for years and years like that of other minority groups. Due to the fact that the “Latinos make up the largest ethnic and linguistic group”(Navarro, p. 365) some attention
needs to be paid.
It seems to us that life is just a big rat race, where everyone is trying to get the largest piece of cheese and we will go to all means to get that cheese.
Another way of looking at the situation is to imagine that we are all looking at life through a mirror. We each have our own mirrors. Many of our mirrors have become fogged by racist stereotypes. We as a group need to defog our mirrors and clear our