Tag: English

You Made Me Do This

Recently, I badmouthed those liberal celebrities who blame themselves for the rise of Donald Trump. Of course, our titans of the entertainment industry have bigger problems to face, like opening the correct envelope, so I’ll leave them alone.

Instead, I’m going to focus on progressives in general — be they famous, infamous or completely unknown — by pointing out a disturbing trend that has emerged since November. This is the tendency of leftists to absolve conservatives of all responsibility for Trump’s election. Even weirder, my fellow progressives are saying it is our entire fault that America has a cackling xenophobe in the White House.

Indeed, many good leftists are bowing their heads and admitting that it is the most malignant of monsters — political correctness — that explains, “more than anything, how the left created Trump.”

Progressives are shouting that the left abandoned the white working class, and that liberal elitism pushed rural voters away, and that liberals became bullies and gave conservatives no choice (no choice at all!) but to embrace Trump.

All this strikes some other liberals as whiny and self-indulgent. But I disagree.

I believe that it is the political equivalent of spousal abuse.

 

It’s clear that some liberals have been punched, degraded, and insulted by conservatives for so long that many progressives now accept the horrible image that right-wingers have created for them.

Just like in cases of spousal abuse, liberals are justifying the repulsive behavior of many conservatives, releasing them from blame, admitting the ill treatment is deserved, and then lining up for more.

Let me be clear. I am not making light of the issue of domestic violence. Some of my friends and family have suffered through this agony, so I don’t employ this metaphor lightly.

But it is eerie how so many progressives, no matter how much they are slurred and ridiculed, turn around and say that we had Trump coming, just be virtue of being liberal.

Remember, right-wingers never blamed themselves for Obama. Hell, they shrieked that liberals were idiots who had destroyed America by voting for a Kenyan socialist who was going to take away all their guns. Obama’s election only increased conservatives’ disdain for progressives, and it lead to zero self-loathing or reflection on the part of conservatives.

So why are liberals prone to accepting blame for the actions of conservatives, even clamoring for it at times?

Well, there are many reasons for this.

First, liberals tend to be nicey-nicey and avoid hurting anyone’s feelings (that conservative chestnut has a grain of truth to it). And in this case, progressives don’t want to get all mean and point out that many Trump supporters are straight-up misogynists and racists.

So progressives imply that Trump supporters are merely misunderstood, and that if we just charm red-state America enough, these people will forget all about their hatred of gay marriage and fear of Latinos.

It’s just that easy. Yup.

Of course, we would have to ignore statistics like this one: “A whopping 39 percent of Trump voters believe that women who get abortions should face legal punishment, an opinion that is otherwise so unpopular that even the anti-choice movement disavows it.”

But of course, they can’t be criticized for that loathsome viewpoint. It’s all the liberals’ fault.

Far too many leftists are saying we must reach out and plead with Trump supporters, who in turn don’t have to change at all. It is the progressives who must alter their worldview. This is despite the fact that Trump lost the popular vote (overwhelmingly) and has one of the worst approval ratings for a president this early in his administration. No, let us — the progressives — drop all our principles and try to understand the fury of a small group of conservatives, even as they deride us as dim-witted, latte-sipping wimps.

This brings up another point, which is that liberals are insulted routinely, and yet, we have not used this as a pathetic excuse to “blow up the system” or whatever euphemism the right wing is using to endanger democracy.

“But wait,” the bruised and battered liberal says. “We made them hate us, because Hollywood skewers them mercilessly in popular culture.”

Hey, here’s an interesting statistic for you. Latinos are the most underrepresented group in popular culture, and when we are shown, it is usually in stereotypical or highly negative ways.

No, the white working class has no idea what it’s like to be mocked.

But let’s accept the argument that the entertainment industry — and by bizarre extension, all of liberal culture — has been vicious to conservatives. Well, liberals don’t say, “suck it up, snowflake,” because that would be, you know, not nice.

Instead, the self-loathing liberal says that this is perfectly reasonable grounds for embracing demagoguery.

Think about that.

We’re basically saying it’s ok to get annoyed that, for example, many black people prefer the term “African American.” And not just peeved, as when one rolls his eyes, dismisses something as silly, and then goes about his business.

No, we agree that the logical reaction is to fly into an eye-popping rage and vote for a narcissistic nutjob. How in the world does A follow B? Why is becoming furious at the idea of women getting equal pay somehow acceptable, and even more so, a solid rationale for voting for an unqualified man-child who is cozy with dictators?

But progressives ignore these reddest of red flags, and they simply say, “Hey, right-wingers, we apologize for asking you not to slur Asians and refrain from throwing shit at mosques. We don’t know what we were thinking.”

Again, this is the political equivalent of saying, “I’m sorry I made you so angry that you punched me in the face. I’ll go get your beer now.”

As a final example of this twisted tendency, look at how many liberals are falling over themselves to proclaim Trump “presidential” now that he has successfully delivered one insult-free, semi-coherent speech. This most meager of accomplishments has convinced many progressives that Trump is a changed man, and will do the right thing, and will be the president for all of us.

And he bought me flowers and didn’t hit me on my birthday and he’s a changed man it’s different now don’t you see he really loves me and it will be better now and…

And…

And…

 

 


Don’t Say a Word

Americans have received more than a fair amount of post-mortem analysis and 20/20 hindsight into how the country got stuck with that malignant clown for president. Despite this, it remains astonishing to note how the media tries to avoid stating the obvious.

For example, CNN recently unveiled its 24 theories why Trump won. Here are a full two dozen rationales — some astute, some questionable — in which the word “bigotry” does not appear.

Yes, a couple of CNN’s theories allude to it in euphemistic terms (e.g., “white male resentment”). But the nearest any of its reasons comes to acknowledging real prejudice among Trump supporters is to discount the very idea. In fact, theory #22 clearly states, “Not because of racism.”

By the way, the words “misogyny” and “sexism” do not appear on CNN’s list at all. So apparently, “Trump that bitch” was just a catchy slogan.

In any case, here we have a major news outlet listing dozens of reasons why Trump emerged victorious, and heaven forbid they acknowledge the well-documented fact that a significant number of Trump supporters are white supremacists. Or perhaps I just imagined that whole thing about the KKK throwing a victory parade.

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Now, racism certainly wasn’t the only reason for Trump’s ascendency, and it probably wasn’t even the main reason. But to imply that it was no reason at all, and to sidestep this most unpleasant of factors, is disingenuous at best and cowardly at worst.

Another CNN piece states “this election was for the forgotten among the American people…. When Donald Trump came on the scene, for the first time, they had a voice.

Yes, thank god someone is finally speaking up for white men!

However, it is not just CNN that is embracing this soothing narrative that bigotry is miniscule among Trump supporters.

For example, a professor at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin — Madison, recently published a book based on her months of talking to rural voters of that swing state. In a Washington Post interview about Trump’s popularity in the heartland, the professor acknowledged that many of her interview subjects expressed bigoted sentiments, but she quickly dismissed this by stating, “it’s not just resentment toward people of color. It’s resentment toward elites, city people.”

Ah, I see. So to the professor, whenever a Midwestern farmer snapped that blacks are lazy criminals, it was justifiable irritation with all those fancy urban types.

Good thing it wasn’t racism.

By the way, I am from Wisconsin and have spent more time in small towns and on dairy farms than the vast majority of “coastal elites.” The people there are overwhelmingly polite and hardworking. But yes, I’ve been slurred a few times. And I assure you that it wasn’t because I was too cosmopolitan.

Again, all this dancing around and justifying and flat-out ignoring is jarring to both our knowledge of the world and our sense of decency.

For some delusional reason, we remain deathly afraid of calling out racism in a large swath of people, as if doing so might acknowledge that bigotry still lingers in our “post-racial” society. And we can’t have that.

Or maybe we just can’t offend white people.

After all, as some writers have noted, “to call out voters for falling for damagingly racist and sexist messages is viewed [as] dangerously snobby by the media, as though working-class people are precious toddlers who must be humored and can’t possibly be held responsible for any flawed thinking.” We should also be aware that “only the white working classes are accorded this handwringing and insistent media empathy.”

It’s all about white fragility, which often mixes with a toxic helping of male insecurity. When that happens, we get the idea that “if white men are not living the American Dream the system must be broken. For everyone else, failure is a sign of individual failure, cultural failure, and communal shortcomings, but if white men ain’t winning, the game is rigged.”

So we remain highly sensitive about making any accusations of prejudice. And we embrace the lie that blatant xenophobia had little to do with Trump winning — anything but that.

By the way, hate crimes against ethnic minorities surged after the election. But I’m sure it was just a coincidence.

To summarize my point on this topic, please allow me to share an email I received the morning after the election. It was from a Trump supporter, identified only as Nmslr1. He had read my articles and was rather displeased with my conclusions.

I have edited his email for length because, quite frankly, it went on and on. But I have not corrected any of the grammatical errors (yes, I’m aware of the irony that this person has a horrific grasp of English).

In any case, here is my fan mail from Nmslr1:

Well, it seems White People have seen and heard about all they are gonna take from the ingrates called hispanics.

Did you really think we were just going to turn the other cheek while you all pilfer our resources and hard work? Did you?

Well you all are going to get whats coming, thats for sure.

The joy! The absolute joy to think we banded together and finally said “enough”. The only solution left is to round them up and send them back where the hell they came from.

Oh, and don’t forget little ole abuela, poor thing.

Now its our turn to gloat.

Get this straight: your raping, thieving shit cultures will respect our culture when you’re on the next bus to the living hell holes you all created and where you all ran from.

Oh, are you an anchor baby? Just to make clear when that insane and abused statute is voided out there will be an amendment to make it retroactive.

Gone. Gone. All gone.


Sympathy, Part Two

Picking up where I left off, in last week’s post I asked the following: Why should we feel sorry for the white working class?

Yes, that’s harsh, but we’re talking about a demographic that prides itself on straight talk and not being politically correct and so on and so on.

Of course, claims about being non-PC usually mean, “We like to talk shit about minorities, who better not say a damn thing back, and watch your mouth when you’re addressing white Christian America.”

In any case, the WWC, by almost any measure, is not doing particularly well.

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However, to be brutally honest about it, these people are white — still the majority in this country — and as such they enjoy the benefits of white privilege. They have more economic clout, more societal influence, and more cultural power (obvious in that we are constantly talking about how they feel and think and live).

At the very least, one cannot argue with the inherent contradiction that their anti-immigrant stance has created. Namely, the white working class prides itself on its deep roots in American society. They have been here for generations, with great-great-grandparents who came from the good countries (i.e., Europe). The WWC is not fresh off the boat.

OK, but here’s my question to them: With such an overpowering head start, why are you struggling so much? You’ve had generations to build up wealth and establish your families. Why are you still slaving away in coal mines? Isn’t that what your ancestors in Great Britain were trying to escape?

Taking this point further, how can a group of swarthy outsiders who don’t even speak English — and are supposedly lazy and stupid — be so thoroughly kicking your ass? What are you doing wrong?

“But they’re stealing our jobs!” the white working class screams.

First, this is not true, as many studies have shown. Second, even if it were true, perhaps the WWC should be annoyed at the corporations that are kicking them to the curb in favor of immigrants (and yes, voting Republican will surely show corporate America a thing or two). And third, if you’ll permit me to use a conservative talking point, that’s just an excuse.

You see, whenever someone tries to explain the cycle of poverty that engulfs many African American or Latino communities, a huge right-wing chorus rises up to dismiss the hard data and sociological theories and economic realities that show why poor communities stay impoverished.

Instead, we hear that all those blacks and Hispanics just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop whining.

I never — and I mean, never — hear this argument applied to the poor regions of Appalachia. Not once have I heard a politician tell laid-off blue-collar workers in white towns that they need to take responsibility for their decisions and stop blaming others.

Actually, I’ve heard the opposite, which is that the WWC should blame immigrants and nobody else.

In addition to this illogical, hypocritical, misplaced blame, there is often a powerful sense of entitlement — supposedly anathema to conservatives — that pervades the white working class. For example, there are members of the WWC who are “sick of hearing in job interviews” that certain positions require Spanish.

Now, as I’ve written before, learning Spanish is not some magical skill beyond the reach of mere mortals. My own fluency is marginal at best, but I can tell you it’s not difficult to learn the basics and, with some effort, become proficient.

But hostility toward a bilingual world is a chief way in which the WWC tries to flex its entitlement. After all, if a job calls for being an expert in Microsoft Word, or knowing how to fix a carburetor, or identifying the cortex after opening up the skull, or knowing whether to snip the blue wire or the red wire, we don’t stomp our feet and say, “But I speak English, and that should be good enough!”

No, we accept that those are the requirements for the position, and the skill sets of the past may no longer apply.

America, as we all know, is evolving rapidly. And the stubborn refusal to acknowledge this — the overt battling to prevent this evolution — is one reason the WWC is in such a messed-up situation.

So again I ask, why are we bending over backward to spare the feelings of poor white people?

Well, an immediate answer is this: Because we should. They are human beings and deserve the support of their nation and their countrymen.

And despite my harsh words in some of this article, I do feel sorry for the white working class (I’m just a bleeding heart that way).

They have indeed been screwed over by politicians, corporations, and a rigged societal structure. And I don’t believe it’s as easy as pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. All that is true.

I’m just asking why our cultural sympathies are so easily tapped into when it comes to the WWC. Why do we feel for a white person mired in the economic misery of dying small town, but we mock blacks and Latinos who struggle in inner cities?

More important, what can we do to lift people of all backgrounds out of poverty, without making them go all Hunger Games on each other?

Well, I know that telling the WWC that they are right to feel rage at immigrants, and are correct to get pissed at a changing world, are not productive ideas.

So now that we’ve embraced the exact wrong thing to do, can we somehow adjust and do things the right way — for all our sakes?


Old at Heart

Like many Gen Xers, I’m pretty tired of hearing how great the Baby Boomers were. Yes, they had amazing music, and that whole civil rights crusade is tough to top.

But as they age, Baby Boomers have made it clear that their bell-bottomed, peace-and-love, tune-in-turn-on idealism was a convenience of their youth, or it was the result of a loud minority that never reflected how most of them really felt.

I say this because recent surveys have shown a generation gap (really a chasm) between older and younger Americans on just about every social issue.

Perhaps this isn’t a big surprise, as people tend to get more conservative as they get older. But even with that caveat, some of the attitudes that Baby Boomers (especially white seniors) hold are alarming to Gen X and Millennials.

For example, more than half of white seniors “view the rise of newcomers from other countries as a threat to traditional American values and customs.” Let’s just say that most young people (many of whom have immigrant parents) don’t see things the same way.

And as anyone who has seen footage of a Trump rally can tell you, “much of the older white population — especially less-educated white males whose anger is being courted — appears threatened by the nation’s demographic change.”

 

Indeed, 60 percent of the white working class believe “that discrimination against whites has become as big a problem today as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.”

In addition to being whiny, narrow-minded, and xenophobic, this attitude is — how should I put this? — fucking suicidal.

You see, the “demographic reality is that America’s youth — and more specifically its racial minority youth — is its future.” That’s because Millennials are the most ethnically diverse generation in American history, and their future kids will be even more mixed. So there’s no going back to a 1950s mythological USA where everybody was white and things were gosh darn swell.

 

1950s

It also means that “because of the growth of Hispanics, Asians, blacks and other races, the United States will be able to replenish its younger population.”

Going forward, this implies that “America will not suffer a European-style demographic crisis as Baby Boomers retire. Young Latinos are stepping into the workplace and paying the taxes that will keep the nation’s fiscal house in order.”

Keep in mind that when it comes to Hispanics, we “are much younger than Americans as a whole, and young Latinos in America are better educated and earn more than ever.”

The bottom line is that “to ignore or wish away the nation’s youth-driven minority growth is short-sighted as a national economic development plan.”

Very soon, old Baby Boomers are going to be dependent on young Latinos to fund Social Security. But try explaining this fact, and you’re likely to be drowned out by a sixty-something cranking up Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock.

Yeah, I guess those were the good old days.

 


Even Better in 2016

For my last post of the year, I thought I would regale you with an amusing anecdote that happened to my mom.

She was standing in line at the post office, talking to my grandmother. As I may have mentioned, my grandmother is pushing 100, so it’s unlikely that she will learn English at this point. Therefore, my mom was speaking to her in Spanish.

Of course, that’s just asking for it.

A blustery man standing behind my mom yelled, “This is America. We speak English.”

Really, he said that.

My mom turned around and said, “Yes, this is America. And that means I can speak whatever I want.”

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The man gasped and struggled for a rejoinder. Either he didn’t think my mom spoke English (and was stunned that she had understood him), or he just didn’t believe anyone would have the nerve to question his simplistic assertion to his face. Or maybe my mom’s statement — with its firm basis in legal, cultural, and historical fact — just flummoxed him.

Regardless, my mom let him have it for another minute or two, using such terms as “freedom” and “civil rights” and “pride.” And he just kept jabbering for a proper rebuttal.

With the dressing down complete, my mom turned back to my grandmother. Before she could resume their conversation, however, the man’s companion — presumably his wife — tapped my mom on the shoulder.

“Good for you,” the man’s wife said. “I keep telling him to shut up and keep his stupid opinions to himself. Now maybe he’ll listen.”

And the man said nothing.

So that’s your anecdote. OK, maybe it’s not as amusing as I implied. But it is funny. Parts of it, anyway.

Happy New Year.

 


Another Option

It was not my intention to create a trilogy about the Latino publishing scene, but that is what has happened. My previous two articles were about big publishing’s snub of Hispanic authors and the rise of small presses. And now I will complete the triumvirate by detailing the virtues and flaws of self-publishing e-books.

But for this analysis, I needed an insider’s perspective. So I sat down for coffee with Pedro Huerta, Amazon’s Director of Kindle Content for Latin America.

[Full disclosure #1: I have recently self-published a novel on Amazon.]

[Full disclosure #2: I don’t drink coffee. I actually had tea.]

Huerta is excited about Amazon’s second annual Indie Literary Prize for Spanish-language authors. The contest, which runs from July 1 to August 31, is open to any writers who upload their Spanish-language e-books to Amazon’s KDP platform. From the presumably hundreds of entries, five finalists will be named. The winner will be published in print by La Esfera de los Libros, and his/her book will be translated into English and published in digital, print, and audio formats by AmazonCrossing.

“Authors can submit a 10-page poem or a 500-page novel,” says Huerta. “We’re open to all genres, and it’s a great opportunity for new writers to get discovered.”

Of course, it’s fair to ask if winning the contest will really help Spanish-language authors further their careers. After all, self-publishing is a crowded, frenzied mob scene where high-quality books struggle to stand out from the waves of semi-illiterate, self-righteous and just plain insane manifestos that wannabe authors hurl at readers.

No, it’s not pretty.

Mosh-Pit-70-Percent.001-001

Now add in the fact that we’re talking about Spanish-language e-books, which have an even smaller audience in America than English-language printed works do.

However, Huerta is undeterred. He says that self-publishing is the democratization of literature, where even the most outlandish writers can find an eager audience. And he says that if anything, this approach is more relevant for people who prefer to read in Spanish.

“Even in the best bookstores in America, the Spanish-language section is limited,” Huerta says. “What we’re doing is bringing the greatest bookstores in Mexico City, in Barcelona, to everyone in America.”

But will Americans be buying? Well, as we all know, the Hispanic population in America is increasing. And bilingualism, once an exotic and politically suspicious activity, is on the rise as well. Thus, it stands to reason that the audience for Spanish-language books is also getting larger.

Furthermore, Latinos are more likely to use mobile electronic devices than the general population. Because Hispanics are so plugged in, it’s pretty easy to imagine Latino readers devouring e-books on their Kindles, Nooks, and laptops.

Amazon is aware of these intersecting cultural trends, and the company doesn’t want to be left behind.

“Latinos love to read,” Huerta says. “And we want them to read. Whether it is a traditional book or on a Kindle, we want reading to be a daily part of everyone’s life.”

So will winning Amazon’s contest set a Spanish-language author on the path to becoming a household name, a sort of Latino version of Dan Brown or Stephen King? Huerta says that’s a possibility, but he adds that this is not really the point.

“There are Latino authors who want to be the next John Grisham, and that’s great,” Huerta says. “But the goal is increased visibility for all good writers. It’s not just about winning the contest. It’s about encouraging authors to get their work out there, and helping readers discover them.”

Huerta imagines a future where authors take wild, experimental chances because no one can prevent them from publishing online. He says that many writers will create books that are aimed at an audience of a few hundred, or even just at their immediate loved ones. And he points out that another advantage of e-books is that they never go out of print.

“What are the stories to be told?” Huerta asks. “Let’s capture all of them, online, and keep them forever.”


Publish or Perish

It may be apocryphal. But supposedly an unnamed New York publishing executive was once asked why there were so few books by Hispanic authors, or novels featuring Latino characters.

His response was a blasé “Hispanics don’t read.”

This is indeed bad news, as apparently none of you Hispanic readers are literate enough to even comprehend this article. And I’m not literate enough to write it, which is quite the paradox.

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In any case, that publishing exec was clearly not familiar with Latin America’s rich literary tradition, exemplified by the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the greatest writer of all time (let’s not debate this). He also didn’t know that one Latin American country, Cuba, has the highest literacy rate in the world.

But closer to home, why hadn’t this exec heard of the brilliant Junot Díaz or the groundbreaking Sandra Cisneros? Or did he believe only white people were reading those authors?

For whatever reason, our anonymous publishing executive refused to believe that the largest ethnic minority in America was interested in books. And in this refusal came justification for the continued blackballing of Latino authors.

“There are several factors contributing to the paucity of published books written by Latinos,” says Marcela Landres, an editorial consultant who publishes the award-winning e-zine Latinidad and co-founded the Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference.

“Primarily, we need more Latinos on the inside working in key positions, such as agents, publicists, sales reps, bookstore owners, and especially as acquisitions editors,” she says.

Landres adds that Hispanic culture itself is another barrier.

“Latinos immigrated to the U.S. so their kids could live the American Dream, which is defined by financial security,” Landres says. “Writing generally does not pay well, so our parents understandably pressure us to choose more sensible careers. In order to be successful as artists, Latinos need to respect our parents but perhaps not obey them.”

As any Hispanic can tell you, disobeying your parents is a tall order. But that is another story.

In any case, some Latino advocates believe that the big publishing houses have hoodwinked us into buying their mainstream books, giving them little impetus to change the formula.

Of course, one strategy to force change is to bypass the big publishing houses altogether. That’s what I did with my novel Barrio Imbroglio.

After some nibbles of interest from the majors, I got the picture that my black comedy tale — about a reluctant detective named Hernandez — didn’t fit in with the preconceived notions about Hispanic literature. Yes, I had the word “barrio” right there in the title, but where were all the undocumented immigrants and magic realism and metaphors using avocados? It was a little too different. So I’ve done what more and more authors — Latino and otherwise — are doing, and publishing directly to Amazon.

But this end run has its drawbacks.

“There are few Latino self-publishing success stories,” says Landres. “I have yet to see literary writers, and/or writers who take years to produce a single manuscript, whose self-published books have sold well. If you write genre and have a bunch of books ready to go, the odds are in your favor. If you’re a literary writer who spends years polishing a single manuscript, not so much.”

In addition to the self-publishing crapshoot, there is the unpleasant fact that — like it or not — the NYC houses still have the most influence on what people read. And they are not packing the midlist with Hispanic authors.

Now, this isn’t just a matter of fairness, nor is it even all about artistic integrity and the myth of meritocracy. A more fundamental reason becomes clear when one considers that “Latino children seldom see themselves in books.” Education experts say, “the lack of familiar images could be an obstacle as young readers work to build stamina and deepen their understanding of story elements like character motivation.”

Basically, there are only so many tales of brave and adventurous white people that Hispanic kids can read. At some point, they disconnect.

And if that is the future we want — a self-fulfilling prophecy where Hispanics truly don’t read — then we should just preserve the status quo.

 


Many Languages, One Voice

When my cousins from El Salvador first came to America, they didn’t speak English. Of course, they were kids, so they rapidly learned it. Today, everyone in my family, except for my abuela, embraces English as their primary mode of communication. My cousins’ children (and mine) will have to make an effort to be bilingual and not leave Spanish in my family’s past.

But other families don’t face the dilemma of losing the mother tongue. In fact, about 5 million children in the United States don’t speak English as their primary language. This constitutes 9% of all US public school students. Now, that number includes a lot of kids who speak Tagalong or Russian or Mandarin or something else that most of us don’t recognize.

But it’s fair to say that many of the children who speak English as a second language (ESL) communicate only in Spanish.

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Because we’re hearing more Spanish than ever in the country’s schools, the Obama administration recently issued the nation’s first set of federal guidelines on the rights of ESL students. The guidelines remind school districts across the country of their obligations under the law.

Among other things, all schools must identify ESL students in a timely manner, offer them language assistance and provide qualified staff and resources to help them learn English. In essence, ESL students have the same rights to a quality education as students who speak English, and schools must avoid segregating English learners from other students.

I know this is a shocker to the nativist crowd, but you can’t just yell, “Speak English, damn it!” at perplexed kids.

The decision makes clear that students who speak Spanish, or other languages, are becoming more common, and the American educational system has to meet their needs. The Obama guidelines are a welcome indicator of that fact.

Of course, it’s a little sad that anyone has to be reminded of this in the first place.


Cogito Ergo Sum

You may remember the big news that the winner of the last month’s Powerball lottery was a resident of Puerto Rico. When I found out, I glanced at my watch and said, “Offensive tweets starting… now!”

Yes, social media got a little more absurd, and a lot more bigoted, when patriotic Americans found out that a Latino had won the huge prize. We got the usual “I thought this was America!” and outrage that “an illegal” had won the lottery and just plain racist insults directed at the winner. Many of these thoughtful individuals were incised that some swarthy person in a foreign country — who doesn’t even pay taxes! — nabbed all those randomly chosen dollars.

But of course, as we all know, Puerto Rico is part of America. Residents are American citizens, and Puerto Ricans pay federal taxes including Social Security, payroll, import/export taxes, and Medicare.

However, those little facts are no match for ignorance, prejudice, and self-rightous rage.

Still, the idiocy displayed over the Puerto Rican Powerball winner was no match for an even more head-snapping display of stupidity, which occurred around the same time.

You see, the state of Vermont is considering adopting a Latin state motto. Plenty of states have one, and Latin flows freely through all kinds of US institutions.

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But when the story broke, one news station was swamped with angry emails and comments from god-fearin’ Vermonters who “were mad not because of the change in motto, but because they believed that Latin was the language of Latinos.”

One truly doesn’t know where to begin.

Should we point out that Latin is not Spanish, but is actually the dead language spoken by the Romans? Or that English derives much of its vocabulary from Latin? Or that, despite their insistence, English is not our official language? Or that the motto “E pluribus unum” is…  oh, never mind, it’s all too overwhelming.

Linguistics, general knowledge, and common sense aside, the main point is that many Americans are prejudiced toward Hispanics to the point of absurdity. And they are more than willing to put that hatred and stupidity on display.

Well, I have one thing to say to this people: “Res ipsa loquitur.”

Basically, it speaks for itself.

 


Summing Up Our Favorite Topic

It’s the end of the year. So let’s address immigration one last time.

Listen, if you don’t know by now that most Americans support a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants, well, I can’t help you.

But I will point out that President Obama’s recent executive decision doesn’t offer an actual route to citizenship. I know, I know. You heard that this was amnesty and the end of America and all that. But the people who are telling you this lie don’t know the difference between amnesty and Amway.

Basically, the administration is deferring the deportation of undocumented immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens or legal residents. The order also expands protection to more children who entered the country illegally with their parents (that’s right — the Dreamers). The president’s decision could mean that up to 5 million undocumented people will be allowed to stay in the country, without threat of deportation.

More than half of the undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America are now eligible to remain in America. But again, they would not be eligible for citizenship.

It’s not surprising that Latinos overwhelmingly agree with Obama’s approach. One poll shows that 90% of Hispanics support the president’s plan. Wow, you can’t even get 90% of us to agree that Shakira is hot (she is, by the way).

shakira 99
Now, undocumented immigrants themselves almost universally desire a way to legalize their situation. But many of the immigrants who are eligible for citizenship aren’t taking advantage of the offer. In fact, less than 10% of the 8.5 million immigrants who are eligible for naturalization have applied so far.

Why is this? Well, some still struggle with English, and they don’t feel confident they could pass the English-proficiency language exam. Others can’t afford the naturalization process, which usually costs $680 and is often multiplied by several family members.

Some still intend to return to their homelands, even if they have been in America for years. And yet others are afraid that it’s all a scam, and that some notario will fleece them. Remember, con artists love to take advantage of hopeful, desperate people who are reluctant to report fraud.

OK, so immigrants — Hispanic or otherwise — aren’t necessarily in a big rush to become citizens. But having the option is more than a nicety. You see, undocumented people who live in constant fear of being deported exist in a perpetual hell. And if you don’t care about that, perhaps you will care about the chain reaction of misery that cascades down upon actual citizens.

For example, many Latinos — born and raised in America — haven’t signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, because they worry that doing so could cause family members to be deported. They’re concerned that giving detailed info online will cause the INS to come knocking on their door. That’s not true, of course, but it’s understandable. And that has a very real effect on the ACA’s effectiveness and our health care system in general.

Oh wait, if you hate the president’s executive order, you probably hate Obamacare too.

Well, that explains a few things.

 


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