Tag: justice

A Cynic’s Dream

I must admit that I thought, ok, surely this man will be found guilty of something. Maybe not first-degree murder, but certainly a guy who defies police orders, grabs a gun, leaves the safety of his surroundings, and accosts a total stranger who is minding his own business — ultimately gunning that stranger down — well, he clearly did something wrong.

But not in Florida.

zimmerman

I’m not saying the jurors were morons, or the prosecution botched the case, or the law is messed up. It might be all or none of those things. I’m saying that somewhere along society’s sutures, there is a fundamental flaw that allows things like this to happen.

As for Zimmerman supporters, well, it’s one thing to say that legally the guy should not have been convicted. Perhaps you can make a case.

It’s another to smugly prance around with a sign saying, “Self-defense is a basic human right,” while completely (and shockingly) ignoring the fact that this principle should apply to Trayvon Martin just as much, if not more so, than to the adult packing heat who goes out of his way to provoke confrontation.

It’s worth remembering that Zimmerman’s family intentionally played down his Hispanic roots. That’s ok. I doubt many Latinos were insulted, as few of us really want to be associated with him.

Of course, Zimmerman will get his gun back. And now he’s learned he can use it on whomever he wants (especially unarmed teenagers) without fear of legal consequences. It’s apparently his right as an American.

 


Sez Who?

We all know about Martin Luther King Jr.’s resistance to the unjust laws of the Jim Crow South. King believed that achieving justice sometimes necessitated breaking the arbitrary rules that flawed humans had devised.

Similarly, in Latin America, where many of our families originated, priests often took a stand against the repressive authority of the oligarchies. Sometimes, as with Archbishop Oscar Romero, they paid with their lives.

So it’s clear that religious leaders should urge their followers to disobey laws that are unjust or run counter to the principles of their faith…right?

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In the Land of the Blind…

Certain ideas, like getting good grades or believing in God, are portrayed as intrinsically admirable. We tend to not even question their value.

On that short list belongs the concept of a colorblind society, a culture where racial differences are irrelevant. Many people will loudly proclaim that this is the ultimate goal of America. However, as with all ideas that are presented as flawless, it’s worth asking if pursuing colorblindness is noble or misguided.

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Marketing 101

Many thanks to everyone who has recently commented on my posts. You’re all in the running for copies of Raul Ramos y Sanchez’s novels as part of my latest giveaway.

I have to admit, however, that Emmasota’s comment about the Dream Act’s demise conjured up an unpleasant memory for me.

You see, last year I worked with a nonprofit to advocate for the passage of the Dream Act. I knew the odds were long, and of course, the legislation ultimately didn’t pass.

But I would feel better today about fighting the good fight if I hadn’t known, at the time, that our approach was doomed. I had a queasy sensation early on, when I saw one of the video packages that the nonprofit put together (I wasn’t involved with that stage of the campaign).

The video featured kids who would directly benefit from the Dream Act’s passage. Much of it was good, with heart-tugging stories from all-American, clean-cut teens.

But then the bottom fell out. The voiceover threw around terms like “fairness” and “justice.” And one of the teens stated that he “deserved” the rights that the Dream Act would confer.

I knew it was over as soon as the kid said that word.

Americans don’t want to hear that anybody deserves anything. Hell, many citizens will lose their minds if one implies that they deserve basic healthcare (and that’s in their own self-interest!). They certainly don’t want to hear that some whiny kid who wasn’t even born in this country “deserves” his rights.

Sending a video to media outlets and political leaders that featured this tone-deaf tactic just stunned me. Clearly, many advocates of immigration reform haven’t learned the importance of basic marketing.

They continue to push the compassion angle, or back up their assertions with facts that impress no one.

But if the Bush years taught us anything, it’s that sympathy is for suckers. More important, we learned that the truth is irrelevant. Or it’s at least a distant second to proper messaging.

How else do you think conservatives got an overwhelming majority of Americans to embrace a war that made absolutely no sense?

Other progressive movements have learned this tactic.

For example, gay rights are also issue of fairness and basic justice. Yet, advocates of repealing the DADT Policy went easy on this essential truth. Instead, they successfully presented the issue as one that was necessary to America’s well-being.

The message was, basically, “We need all the help we can get establishing a strong military and intelligence network. This will keep America safe, so drop your prejudice in favor of simple self-preservation.”

It worked. DADT is history.

Immigration-reform advocates need to adopt this strategy. Instead of pointing out about how unfair or irrational our policies are — which is true but a loser’s lament — hit people in the wallet by making it clear that a massive-deportation philosophy will cost them money. Or hammer home the idea that policies such as the Dream Act will improve the economy and strengthen the military.

In other words, let’s see more about how immigration reform will benefit current citizens, instead of pleading that civil rights be extended to strangers.

It may not be pretty, or even that principled. But it has to be more effective than what we’ve accomplished so far.


Separate, Unequal, the Whole Thing

I don’t want to forget to thank Ankhesen, Michele, and Steven for their recent comments on my posts.

And speaking of forgetting, let’s take a second to reacquaint ourselves with an overlooked part of Latino history – indeed, an ignored part of American history.

Most of us remember learning about Brown vs. Board of Education, the case that ended racial segregation in public schools. It is justifiably remembered as a mighty blow against legal discrimination.

Like many Americans, I thought that Brown was the alpha and omega of school desegregation in America. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I only recently found out about Mendez v. Westminster School District. Why this case doesn’t even merit a passing mention in history classes is beyond me.

Because I assume most of you are as in the dark as I was, let me recap Mendez for you. Basically, in 1945, a few uppity Chicanos sued a California school district because their children were forced to attend separate “schools for Mexicans,” rather than the nice schools where white kids went.

To the shock of establishment types everywhere, the parents won. The school board appealed, and the parents won again. The disturbing aspect, however, is that the appeal relied on a technicality, which was that Latino kids weren’t specifically mentioned in the segregation laws of the time. Instead, the laws pinpointed “children of Chinese, Japanese or Mongolian parentage” (yikes!).

But a win is a win, and the case seemed destined for the Supreme Court. However, California saw how this was going, got wise, and abolished the law, thus ending the practice of legal segregation in the state.

It wasn’t until seven years later that the rest of the country caught up, in the Brown decision. I will leave it to a lawyer to assess how important the Mendez precedent was to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown. However, I think we can all agree that it certainly didn’t hurt.

In any case, the girl at the center of the Mendez case tells her story here. She may have been an unwilling pioneer, but future generations of Latinos can still thank her and her parents for standing up for civil rights.

And I would add that her place in history is secure, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.


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