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Seneca on LATINO LEADERSHIP: WHERE ART THOU?

June 7th, 2010 · 24 Comments

Lately, in many Latino or Hispanic gatherings to celebrate a Latino milestone or a high-level appointment or laud our heritage, it is usually noted that we are now over 45 million strong in population in the US. This means it is now the most numerous minority group in the country. At times in the uplifting commentary uttered by the Latino speakers, it is stated or suggested that the ‘sleeping giant is about to awaken’. The suggestion is that we will not be ignored because of our growing numbers. This implies that on any election day the Hispanic community will come out monolithically in force and reward its allies or punish its foes. Moreover, in political terms this awakening colossus will galvanize or become one enormous force on the political landscape. Is this indeed a dream or wishful thinking? It is unclear at these unsettling moments of sputtering attempts at immigration reform along with racial profiling, the reports on the Latino community having the highest educational dropout rates, the socio-economic indicators revealing that not all is well among the undocumented and documented population. The reports and studies are easily obtainable from the organizations like the Pew Hispanic Center which gather these facts. Some facts are encouraging like the steady increase in numbers of Latino college graduates, Hispanic household income inching up and several other indicators which suggest that the community is not stagnate. Yet the overwhelming evidence demonstrates that the Latino community could rapidly become the biggest underclass in the country. And to add insult to injury, now the State of Arizona is certain to be joined by a dozen other states in targeting as a whole the Latino community as suspect law violators. So the question becomes “where are the helmsmen of this potentially most dynamic group to steer it and guide it away from such a dreadful fate?” Their presence is not felt nor are their voices heard on these monumental issues at hand.

One might ask where and who are the Latino national leaders? Indeed at the local level, there are scores of activists, volunteers, politicians, clergy and other admirable folk seeking relief for the Latinos in their communities. Yet rarely if ever do we see Latino political or national civil society leaders on the Sunday TV network talk shows addressing the Hispanic agenda or plight while offering some ideas for consideration or treating these problems. Perhaps the traditional media finds the Latino story or journey uninteresting. Even more disconcerting, if one watches Spanish-language network talk shows like Jorge Ramos‘ Sunday morning hour, the compelling question is: where are the Latino leaders or even more specifically, how often does Ramos interview a Mexican-American (which is the overwhelming majority of Latinos in the country) to comment on the national or international issues at hand affecting the Latino community? It is widely and sadly known that Ramos and his colleagues are most hesitant to interview Mexican-Americans, especially those born here. Perhaps it is the Spanish language competence or is it worse than that: maybe Mexican-Americans are not viewed as telegenic (perhaps these TV personalities feel Mexican-Americans are too dark or not clever enough for their tastes). The spokespersons for Latin American countries and many of the recently arrived well-heeled immigrants do seem to fare better in getting on the Spanish language networks. Another discouraging fact is: where are the US Latino public intellectuals? If they exist, who are they? And why are they not heard or known? Do they publish? Are they pundits? It appears that at high holidays for the Community like the Cinco de Mayo, Hispanic Month and September 16, the only hero consistently quoted is Caesar Chavez, who was truly a saint in many ways yet his anti-illegal immigrant stand is not mentioned. As a labor leader at the time, it was normal for him to take this position since many undocumented immigrants were used as scabs to break up strikes. Yet the Community thirsts to hear and get to know a national political leader and read thoughtful insights from our own public intellectuals and social critics. Perhaps this might explain why the dominant white population has no interest or fear of Latinos in concrete terms: Latinos have no one who rallies them or lack a truly defining issue that brings them all together. Is this valid?

The current discernible white backlash against immigrants is fast becoming plainly anti-Latino: legal or illegal or native born. This is serving ironically in many instances to further divide us: the native born Latinos from the immigrants and the legal from the undocumented; the white versus non-white Latinos; the wealthy from the have-nots and separate one Hispanic nationality from another.The sad fact is that Latino community is disunited, scattered, divided and often frustrated. But the yearning and hope for real and effective leadership remains among the community. But be certain that to be accepted as the real leaders, he or she must be sprung from the loins of the community. They cannot just be ‘designated hitters’ chosen by the dominant white mandarin class. These higher circles seek Latino leaders who have punched his and her ticket in all the white dominant institutions like the Ivy league, hallowed law firms, the correct political appointments, passed muster by the bankers and the real estate developers, be a media darling fabricated or cultivated by the white liberal or conservative establishment to be virtually a Latino Manchurian Candidate. The Latino community is consistently being underestimated in many ways. Yet, the community must begin to understand that political unity which implies being politically monolithic, possessing social cohesion, expressing one big vision leadership, attempting to cobble together a forceful amalgamated national group will all be largely illusive. We will continue to be a defused and diverse group to be certain but the label Hispanic or Latino which stems from being linked to the Iberian peninsula’s language or culture does have a real effect of making us part of a great and rich heritage as Hispanics/Latinos. But as Americans we are loyal and patriotic and earnest believers in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and justice and fairness. The Latino Community merely seeks genuine national leaders who will guide, steer and comfort them through these troubled waters. Just where are the Hispanic Congressional Caucus members, the Latino Academicians, the pundits, the artists, the Hispanic captains of industry and banking, the Latino clergy and high Churchman like the soon to be the first Latino Cardinal of the Catholic Church? These are the voices that need to be heard and become pathfinders to this awakening giant.

Tags: Civil Rights · community organizing and activism · Congressional Hispanic Caucus · diversity · Economics · Education · Government Accountability · Immigration · Media · racism · Seneca

24 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Michaelr // Jun 8, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Before the U.S. Latino community can move upward and elevate itself, it has to rethink its priorities, its attitudes, and view the world with different eyes. We will never obtain political empowerment worshipping Kobe Bryant, the Oakland Raiders, or the New York Yankees. All that tells the WASP community, that we wholeheartedly believe everything Network television spews out of its box, and have totally embraced the religion of consumerism. The Latino community has to wrap its arms around higher education. It has to make that the ultimate priority. So many of us have sold our minds and given our money to religious enterprises, who have assisted WASP culture in embedding this self-loathing colonial mentality that has inhibited our emotional insecurities, and blinded us to our own political charlatans (Henry Cisneros, Antonio Villaraigosa, Joe Baca, Silvestre Reyes, Loretta Sanchez, Fabian Nunez, etc., etc, and more etc.), and political charlatan groups (Anheuser Busch’s MALDEF, LULAC, NCLR, and the CHC). Cisneros and Baca and a host of others have profited from the whole subprime mortgage scandal, and are preparing themselves for the next fiscal exploitation of the Latino community. Hilda Solis and Raul Grijalva have distinguished themselves as selfless leaders of the Latino political community at the Federal level despite the media’s attempts to ignore them. There are other potential leaders working themselves at the grass roots level, but they don’t get any press. And there’s a reason for that.

  • 2 india blanca // Jun 8, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Most insightful…I enjoy Seneca because his criticism points out essential facts and leaves plenty of room for improvement…but most of all his thoughtful analysis is fertile ground for motivation and inspiration…As a Latina female I hope that we allow this sort of eye opener to cultivate a culture where we build our self- esteem and sense of responsibility to our community. Much time is spent wondering who is sleeping with whom or whether someone is fashionable, hence, cultivating our morbid obsession with gossip …We must strive to hold our public figures accountable for the way they conduct themselves while performing their duties, and we must demand the transparency required of their demeanor as our representatives…My humble opinion is that we are in dire need for people like Seneca who are proud of their heritage, who are comfortable in their skin even when realizing we are not welcomed in many quarters and who understand that until we cultivate our own leaders we will continue to be represented by Latinos who are handpicked and made by outsiders who simply use us to build up their image…Congratulations Seneca, as usual you hit it right on the nail!

  • 3 Anna // Jun 8, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Re: “There are other potential leaders working themselves at the grass roots level, but they don’t get any press. And there’s a reason for that.”

    That’s actually a good thing. They haven’t been able to stop the Arizona boycott because there is no one leader they can buy off, eliminate, etc. It’s coming from everywhere, in every part of the country, fueled by many organizations and leaders. That works well for us.

  • 4 theKaiser // Jun 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    If there is a so-called Latino Manchurian Candidate, you must be referring to Henry Cisneros. However, there’s no need for elaborate brainwashing and a deck of cards to set him off. All you need is a smiling middle-aged blue-eyed white woman and some promises from wealthy, white developers and Countrywide executives, and he is comfortably on his way to betraying his very own political community.

    Michaelr is right about higher education being the top priority. Our Latino politicians, with the exception of Raul Grijalva and Hilda Solis, lack intelligence as well as standards to lead the Latino community upward. And no one flaunts this dubious lack of IQ more than Antonio Villaraigosa, who has been grubbing for Laker tickets here in Los Angeles while being on the prowl for much younger news anchors.

  • 5 El Cholo // Jun 8, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Michaelr touched on the effect of Network Television programming and its ability to kill brain cells. Spanish language television programming is even more lethal when it comes to killing brain cells and numbing one’s reality. The Latino community’s first step forward would be to disconnect the television and go online for its information. That telemundo programming compares to reading the National Inquirer for all your news.

  • 6 Richard Alcorta // Jun 8, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Then who can we look up to. If all are political Hispanics are not smart enough to know when they are being used by the white man, then what chance does the less educated drop out Hispanic have. We need Minority groups, not just Hispanics to join together in unity to make our voices heard. There are so many issues that affect us that can be addressed at a National Level. But instead they are swept under the rug. We need leaders that will represent our minorities. It does not matter what color. We must solicit them at a political level that will have an impact on issues that affect us the most. Issues like out prison system does little to rehabilitate prisoners coming out. The alarming drop out rates of minorities. This is the area that we need to focus on. Our chidren are going through the education system barely being able to read. That is wrong at so many levels. There are so many of us that have so many ideas that if given the chance to express ourselves can and will make a difference. Open up the minority lines of communication. Give us a chance.

  • 7 Anna // Jun 8, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Re: ” Issues like out prison system does little to rehabilitate prisoners coming out.”

    How about not going to prison in the first place? People have too many children without the money to provide for them. Nobody should have any children before age 30. Spend your 20s going to school, working, and saving money.

    Many of the issues you describe are not going to be solved by any elected official. Nobody is going to come and “lift you up.” That sounds like the 19th century. Turn off the TV, stop eating fast food/sugar, exercise, study, save your money, and use birth control. Get therapy if you are battling depression, etc.

    That’s the “secret.”

  • 8 india blanca // Jun 9, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I think we are missing out the point that Seneca is trying to make. A lot of us can identify the issues that concern us but we need leaders to forge a path so that our voice is not only heard but provides results. He is not speaking of activists or social workers who do a wonderful job alleviating some of the burden on our community. Seneca is speaking of true leaders who can lead us, if this is not accomplished we will as Seneca said become this country’s largest underclass. Our numbers will have no significance. Moreover, ths issue is not that we do not have the intelectual ability to be our own people and hence we take on a white master. The point is that too many of our so called leaders are simply looking out for themselves and their rhetoric about the ails of our community is just that rhetoric. They knowningly sells their souls in order to gain status with the white establishment and gain social visibiity and why not acquire personal wealth. We need leaders committed to our goals, public sservants who understand what it takes to shake up the white establishment and solidify our power.

  • 9 webmaster // Jun 9, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    I agree that this is the key India Blanca:

    “Seneca is speaking of true leaders who can lead us, if this is not accomplished we will as Seneca said become this country’s largest underclass. Our numbers will have no significance. Moreover, this issue is not that we do not have the intellectual ability to be our own people and hence we take on a white master. The point is that too many of our so called leaders are simply looking out for themselves and their rhetoric about the ails of our community is just that rhetoric.”

    Fernando Espuelas had a similar piece in the Huffington Post that came out on the 8th, just a day after Seneca posted this blog here:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fernando-espuelas/the-latino-11th-commandme_b_599772.html

    Espuelas says this, “My supposed sin? To point out that Latinos are generally badly served by opportunist “activists” and the politicians aligned with them.”

    Often, we are told to get in line and support whomever, whether it is Villaraigosa or someone in the Hispanic Caucus just because they are Latino and supposed to have our interests in mind… and many times they don’t.

    They key is to have public servants who are true role models. People who fight the good fight without being on the lookout for only themselves or who shamelessly enrich themselves while in office…or who effortlessly embarrass us with scandal. There are so few of us in these leadership positions that it stings us terribly when someone decides to do something shady.

    I also think Seneca’s observation about Spanish language television is interesting, especially in regards to the pictured news anchor, and same goes for the traditional media Sunday shows. Why aren’t the leaders of our civil right orgs on the traditional talk shows or more members of the Hispanic Caucus, etc.?

  • 10 Chicano future tense // Jun 9, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Seneca on LATINO LEADERSHIP: WHERE ART THOU?

    Interesting
    (and extremely important question…)
    And may I add extremely complex as well …
    such as is the Latino community ..
    One person’s leader can be another’s misleader,traitor or opportunist sellout depending on one’s political and social views of course..
    the spectrum of Latino political thought runs all the way from the conservative right to the extreme left wing..with most inhabiting the center with bias towards a liberal tendency..
    political power for Latinos as a people will come from a leader (or leaders) who have an advanced development.. a profound understand which is capable of capturing the spiritual “essence” of the Latino imagination and psyche..it’s dreams,fears,hopes and aspirations…
    a great leader shall be someone who discovers and synthesizes the critical common denominators of all these combined forces.The leader interprets and communicates these same dreams,fears, hopes and aspirations and transforms them into power..a mass movement which will unite the greatest numbers around a united front of unity based on shared goals and principles..such as civil and human rights,sane and just immigration reform..etc etc..
    such abilities make great leaders..
    ..good examples of great leaders who were successful in capturing the national imagination of people of color would be Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez..
    Latino power..once you get tens of millions of Latinos all rowing their ship in the same direction in a united front then you will have created tremendous political momentum which will transform itself into political power..
    Latinos will disagree on specific issues and ideas ..I’m sure most of us have differences..that’s normal for all peoples. we must find the political nexus which will help us to be able to unite around an “accord” of shared goals ..a commonality of purpose..having accomplished that we will have gone a long way into forming Latino power and making it into a true force to be respected and reckoned with on a national scale..
    The ideas,aims and goals which can unite the greatest numbers of Latinos will be the engine of future Latino power..unity is power..

  • 11 chalan // Jun 11, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    I too, have joined the Spanish language T.V. is brain numbing and irrelevant bandwagon. They don’t come anymore insulting then Don Francisco and his Sabado Gigante. Next in line is Jorge Ramos and his weak interviews of supposedly leaders in the Latino community, half of whom aren’t recognizable in the Latino community. Those people don’t represent those large numbers of us born in the United States into long lineages in the USA. I have believed for many years that Jorge Ramos is intimidated by us because we clash with his image of Latino purity. Jorge needs to realize that there are many of us who are educated, experienced in many arenas, who speak Spanish not only to order a burrito but to negotiate a peace treaty if need be…, Y somos muy guapo(a) tambien. Come on Jorge we are photogenic and smart. Have some of us on your show and ask us relevant questions not softballs like you throw your “Latino community leaders”.

  • 12 Reyfeo // Jun 12, 2010 at 9:14 am

    So, Marco Rubio doesn’t do anything for you? Or are you not qualifying conservatives in this conversation?

  • 13 Beto // Jun 12, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Reyfeo,

    This article isn’t about Marco Rubio. I don’t see Marco Rubio rallying Latinos around a cause or issue. When does he ever address the high drop out rates, high teen pregnancy rates, the unjust immigration policies, etc.? Oh wait, he’s Cuban — he has a special exception where people from his country can become legal just by reaching shore… smells like amnesty to me. Maybe we should give amnesty to people from Venezuela too since their leader behaves a bit like Castro (so Venezuelans who reach shore get legalization too). I wonder how Cuban Americans can continue to justify giving people from their country amnesty. Care to explain that one. Anyone?

    Seneca is not talking about conservatives or liberals. He’s addressing Latino leadership more broadly. If you are too narrow in your thinking and have to see everything through a right or left lens, then you really are as stupid as you make yourself out to be in posting comments on this blog.

  • 14 Reyfeo // Jun 12, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Ok Beto relax, we get it you hate Cubans and Thank You for making my point that there are qualifiers to making the “it” list as far as Latino leadership is concerned…but just to make sure, you can’t be Cuban (or better said you need to be Mexican-American…I suspect being a Mexican recently US Naturalized really qualify you? LOL), you need to address every single thing you (Beto) listed up above and make sure Amnesty is part of the overall Resume.

    Does that about do it Beto?

    You see folks, Beto is a perfect example of why we as Latinos will never garner a true leader (I would say like Obama for Black America but I don’t like his policies but you get what I mean)…for even when a young rising leader like a Rubio (like him or not, and or what heritage he is from: in this case Cuban) makes the scene, you aren’t/won’t be happy. And you complain about the abyss we have in Latino Leadership? Good luck with this one folks. If we keep letting the “Beto’s” of this world tear the few Latinos leaders that are trying to get some things done we’ll be right here having this conversation a decade from now (yes I know that some of you hate that).

    Back to you Beto…the difference between you and I is that I am willing to listen to any Latino leader (yes even Liberal ones) in the hopes they will at minimum ascertain that I am a conservative and perhaps we can find a middle ground to all the things that separate us (Cisneros was this type of individual, up until he slept with everybody and got caught)…you see, your rhetoric is the very poison that keeps us from nurturing and grooming future Latino leaders despite their left or right leaning philosophies.

  • 15 Beto // Jun 12, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Reyfeo,

    I never said I hate Cubans (there you go again making stupid assumptions — I never said that in my original response). As a matter of fact, I admire a lot of what they have accomplished, and they have done that through having the benefit of amnesty. They get to become legalized faster than any other group. I’m not tearing down Latino leaders. I just said that Marco Rubio and his family (his parents) have benefited from amnesty. What is wrong with that?

    And seriously, your point about Cisneros meeting people in the middle until he slept around… how do you know he wasn’t sleeping around before he got caught? People on both the right and left engage in deviant behavior…

    I’m not unhappy that Rubio is Cuban. I’m pointing out that his family has benefited from amnesty (they didn’t have to wait in line). When you don’t have to wait in line for years or lifetimes, you can live life, be productive, send your kids to college, etc.

    Rubio has decided to become more of a tea party candidate, and even the Cubans I know aren’t in tea parties… and Rubio has some questionable spending habits when it comes to the GOP credit cards that are given to him. Maybe that’s typical in his circles, but I care for a leader who isn’t so blatant in his thief like behavior.

  • 16 Reyfeo // Jun 13, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Good post Beto…but that’s code for “he’s conservative and doesn’t qualify”. Sure, amnesty for Cubans who simply reach US shores seems unfair and perhaps needs to be re-looked and yes I see your point about families getting on a faster track to being more productive US citizens. But why must we fight for the millions of Mexicans who want to come here when we need to focus on the millions of US Citizen Latinos already here…our drop out rates suck, our pregnacy rates although down are still high etc etc. Why? But I digress.

    Still, will you admit Rubio is a viable rising Latino leader? Or must he be more Liberal to qualify?

  • 17 Anna // Jun 13, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Re: “Often, we are told to get in line and support whomever, whether it is Villaraigosa or someone in the Hispanic Caucus…”

    Or Obama. That’s the only time I have ever felt pressured to vote for somebody. How many articles did the media run calling us racist for supporting Hillary? I have never felt pressured to vote for anybody Hispanic.

    Obama clearly did not and does not have our interests in mind, and we are paying a huge price. Many of us already knew this, which is why we voted for Hillary is such big numbers during the primaries. I can see now that it’s stupid to cast all of our votes with one party, especially if the head of that party does not care about your rights. I will not succumb to any browbeating in 2012, that’s for sure.

  • 18 Anna // Jun 13, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Re: ” I don’t see Marco Rubio rallying Latinos around a cause or issue. When does he ever address the high drop out rates, high teen pregnancy rates…”

    No male politician is going to have any effect whatsoever on teen pregnancy rates. There is sexism in many Mexican families and girls are not steered towards education and careers. If you see yourself having a career and earning money, the last thing you would want to do is wreck your future with a teen pregnancy. The culture needs to change. That’s the key to many of the problems you list here, but you seem to think that some politician can change it. Not going to happen.

    As for Rubio, he won’t even win.

  • 19 Reyfeo // Jun 13, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    He and many like him will win if we start supporting them. It’s false to assume that male politicians don’t care about the very issues you discuss here. My point in general however is the likes of Rubio, even if he was a Democrat/Liberal would not win, because many on the other side (like me) would say the same thing you just did. We need to stop that and counter the very point this post makes–where is the Latino leader? Answer: never to be had if we can’t at least vote for our own with some mutual understanding that we demand some things to change, specifically in our culture. That’s how Obama got in, the Latino vote was compromised–unfortunately we haven’t gotten a thing for it yet.

  • 20 Bruce D. // Jun 14, 2010 at 11:41 am

    It is a good question, “where are the Latino leaders?” There do not seem to be any in Mexico. I suppose if they did have good leaders 45 million would not have needed to come to the U.S.

  • 21 Anna // Jun 14, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Re: “He and many like him will win if we start supporting them.”

    Rubio supports the interests of white supremacy. We will never support him or people like him.

    To change the subject back to Espuelas, I don’t agree with his article. First of all, who is he, and what does he know about us? Secondly, I don’t think you can call immigrant rights activists “failures,” because they haven’t been able to get immigration reform passed.

    What they need to do, though, is address the real reasons why people are immigrating in such big numbers: NAFTA and the war on drugs. They also need to criticize the Mexican government, which for some reason they have always failed to do.

    So far, their very lame ass argument is that immigrants will do the jobs that nobody else will do. A slogan like that just perpetuates the notion that Mexicans are meant to be cheap labor. Furthermore, it totally ignores the human rights issues at play.

    We need leaders who aren’t controlled by corprations or the Democratic Party or the MSM.

  • 22 Jaango // Jun 15, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Back in the election cycle of 2002, we, here at the Chicano Veterans Organization, went out and identified five candidates for Congress, and after doing so, raised over $200,000 for these five. Sadly, none got themselves elected.

    And I have long argued that when the ‘nexus’ of Neo-conservatives and Neo-liberals ‘connected’ back in the early to mid seventies, they became the Kissing Cousins of American politics.

    Consequently, under the able leadership of the late Senator Scoop Jackson, they terminated the military draft, and its at this point, that America started on its downward spiral into Hell, and it has yet to recover. Moreover, Bush’s War of Choice and all that has followed, the majority of white Americans turned themselves into a Society for the Criminally Stupid, and which reconfirmed for my this Hell is physical and emotional.

    And this can be easily ‘assessed’ from here in Arizona and where I reside. The majority of white Democrats favor SB 1070. The majority of Hispanics oppose SB 1070.

    Furthermore, I ask myself daily the following question: “Who are my friends and political allies” since the First Rule of the Sonoran Desert is: “You can piss-off your friends, but can you afford to antagonize your political allies?”

    Jaango

  • 23 Rudy // Jun 19, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    I think what we really need to do is top pretending like all “Latinos” or “Hispanics” are one people with common interests. I am 100%American. My great grandparents were naturalized citizens, coming from Mexico on both my mother and father’s side; I don’t speak a lick of Spanish. My grandfather served in WWII, my father in Vietnam, and I’m writing to you right now from Afghanistan serving in Operation Enduring Freedom X. No I’m not a right-wing, brainwashed shoot first and ask questions later guy. I’m a pragmatist and a family man, a college graduate and a student of history (albeit a C+ student, I must admit). I’ve had my awakening. I went from an optimistic kid growing up in L.A. County, to a failing student, to a wanta-be tagger, to real-life gang banger, to – of all things – a registered and loyal republican, to a democrat, to a true independent. My eyes were opened in college, through world travel, and by living and working with people from all over the country for well over a decade. And you know what? Being “Mexican” feels like a stain sometimes; I’m compelled to feel ashamed of it all the time during intellectual – and often not so intellectual – discussions about immigration, crime, poverty, the decline of our education system and standing in the world, high unemployment and low wages. The “Mexican” is always the bad guy in these “scary stories,” and I always feel like the the elephant in the room, like I represent this “problem” in America. Never is the bad guy the Cuban, or the Colombian, and god forbid is it ever our true red, white, and blue Puerto Ricans. No, it’s the “Mexicans.” And what am I? A college grad, no, a Captain in the U.S. Army, no, a devoted father who votes in even the smallest local elections, no – I’m a just another Mexican. And what’s most disconcerting (and that’s the biggest word I’LL use here folks), is that my kids will carry the same stigma and burden, regardless of how American they feel inside.

    Am I a “coconut” or a “white-xican,” someone who’s ashamed of their heritage? Let me tell you straight up – hell no. I grew up in L.A.! I listened to Lighter Shade of Brown, participated in sit-ins in high school during the prop 187 call to action, cruised Whittier Blvd, grew up going to swap meets, and always felt like part of the majority, not a “minority.” I couldn’t have been prouder then to be “Mexican.” But now, as a professional, as an adult and person who’s plugged into the mainstream media and feels personally responsible for being part of the solutions to our Country’s challenges, I’m not aloud to feel the same way. We need to unify as Americans who will no longer be marginalized, chastised, or stigmatized because of our Mexican heritage. We need to stand up against all who freely demoralize and ignore us; we need to stop being put into a “one-size fits all” group of people, which is comprised of different segments of our society who don’t share our history, our struggles, and our goals. I am proposing that we proudly and definitively separate ourselves from Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and any other Hispanic groups not of Mexican decent; and I encourage them to do the same so that their voices are more potent and attuned to their own issues and objectives. This is not a call for an unhealthy rivalry; it’s a necessary measure to bring clarity to each group’s distinct message and call to dire calls to action.

    By being all clumped together we are tremendously weakened and our voices distorted and agendas greatly discombobulated. Mexican is the dirty word here, not Guatemalan, Panamanian, or Honduran. It’s not “Hispanic,” or “Latino,” both terms I despise; it’s Mexicans who are under attack here. Whether just detained by a minuteman in the Arizona desert, or a 4th generation American, right now a Mexican is a Mexican – the named enemy of the state from within, born here or not. We must come together and get ourselves out of this mess, and bring along our brethren whom need us desperately; the “illegals” in the shadows whom whether you agree with how they got here or not, are not going anywhere; and whom are a people who will continue to define who “we” are in this country, no matter how educated, wealthy, or accomplished we become. Coming together as Americans no longer willing to tolerate being punished or stigmatized for our Mexican heritage is the first step in solving this problem and finding our highly sought after leaders, one of which I’d proudly be; but I wouldn’t be just some other NCLR exec/Latino activist. Being another one of those wouldn’t help anyone; they’re a dime a dozen. We need to stop hiding behind fuzzy labels like Hispanic and Latino to clearly unify and magnify our voice, and to push our collective agenda so as to give ourselves and children the right to achieve their fullest potential, and become successful, responsible Americans who are productive members of our society. That is the first step in this crisis.

    Seneca: brilliant piece, by the way.

  • 24 NCLR’s Janet Murguia Engages the Blogosphere // Aug 4, 2010 at 6:54 am

    […] engaging with bloggers will help get her message out. Seneca has often blogged about the issues in Latino leadership and has noted that we don’t have Latino political or national civil society leaders […]

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