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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

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The First Sign of Mexican Sovereignty over U.S. Soil

Students Prohibited from Showing Stars & Stripes in U.S. School, but Mexican Flag Okayed

By Marco A. Roberts

Because of the sensitive nature of this topic, and the necessities of political correctness in the current political climate, this Forecast & Review brief is written exclusively from the personal perspective of the Chief Editor, who has a Mexican mother and a Puerto Rican father, and whose first language is Spanish.


Cinco de Mayo US Flag vs. Mexican Flag Showdown in 2010

In one of the most unreal civic issue spectacles in memory, on May 5, five students at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, California, (70 miles south of San Francisco) were told by an assistant principal, Miguel Rodriguez, to turn their t-shirts inside out, and remove bandanas, that displayed the U.S. flag or colors, stars and stripes.  Mr. Rodriguez explained that he was concerned that fights might break out, since he felt that displaying the U.S. flag or colors on May 5 was “incendiary.”  Live Oak High School’s student body is 40% Hispanic.  Three of the students refused and were picked up by their parents.  Two others stayed, but it is unclear if they reversed their shirts.  Students wearing the Mexican flag or colors were not asked to reverse their shirts.


One of the boys’ mothers said they were told they “could wear it on any other day, but today is sensitive to Mexican-Americans because it's supposed to be their holiday so we were not allowed to wear it."  Later, the Morgan Hill Unified School District reversed the assistant principal’s stance, and issued a statement that said "The Morgan Hill Unified School District does not prohibit nor do we discourage wearing patriotic clothing.”  It added that “The incident on May 5 at Live Oak High School is extremely unfortunate. While campus safety is our primary concern and administrators made decisions yesterday in an attempt to ensure campus safety, students should not, and will not, be disciplined for wearing patriotic clothing. This matter is under investigation and appropriate action will be taken."


The next day, in televised interviews, the mothers of the boys who went home expressed not outrage, but discomfort.  Interviewers asked them ‘why did the boys have to wear the U.S. flag on that particular day?’  They responded that the boys often wear those shirts, but were not trying to upset anyone.  That same day (May 6), Hispanics students outside the school were chanting “Mexico! Mexico! Mexico!” at Anglo passersby.


Cinco de Mayo No Day of Independence Today, or Freedom Tomorrow

Of course, May 5 is, as most Americans improbably know, a Mexican day of celebration referred to by the Spanish words for May 5: Cinco de Mayo.  What most Americans have not known until recently (the Internet does spread knowledge), and that includes most Mexican-Americans, is that Cinco de Mayo is not a day of Mexican independence, nor is it in any way related to Mexican independence or cultural heritage, and is not even a Mexican federal holiday – not that any of this should matter. 


What is striking about this episode was how muted the reaction has been to this event, even from those on the right.  The mothers of the boys seemed almost apologetic.  Meanwhile, many of the Hispanic students felt that displaying the US flag on May 5 was ‘disrespectful,” and that it was correct to ban any patriotic displays (U.S.-patriotic, that is).  Nowhere else in the world, including Mexico, would anything like this be tolerated at any level.  People would be incredulous at being asked to justify “why” they would display their own flag on any day in their own country.  Only in the United States does it seem okay to grant some sort of official acknowledgement of what is perceived to be a foreign national holiday (not that this is one).  And only in the United States can you go to the next step, and actually have an American school official tell American students on American soil that they do not have the free speech rights to display their own flag or its colors, while those displaying the flag and colors of a foreign country do.


While in this instance the school district restored sanity to the situation, the underlying trends exposed by this incident are alarming, and in my assessment, portend of future incidents that will gradually erode.  The sight of self-identified U.S.-born Americans of Hispanic descent chanting “Mexico!” and waving a foreign flag should be disturbing to anyone concerned with our national sense of shared identity and destiny.  Regardless of our separate national, ethnic, cultural, and racial heritage, we all as Americans should be joined under one flag representing one Constitution, one ship of state, one people.  Any people who lose that sense of a common national interest and identity invariably fail as a nation-state – no exceptions.


In all cases of sovereignty contests throughout history, where large migrations of people that do not assimilate – do not share in the idea of a shared national identity and purpose - begin to change the ethnic, cultural, and political balance of a state, the numbers ultimately win.  In the interim, there may be periods of accommodation by the declining majority, punctuated by occasional strife, followed by more accommodations by the majority that becomes a minority, and so on, until ultimately, the former majority members become the strangers in what use to be their own lands.  Forecast: There will be 100% chance of more instances like these in the coming years, and with the current population growth and immigration trends continuing, they will come with increasing frequency.  Eventually, one school district will uphold the outrageous. 


I’ll Be Okay, But What About You?

In this new world, people like myself, of Hispanic background and fluent in Spanish, will do fine.  We will even benefit from better treatment from comadres and compadres in position of service or authority.  Already my sisters get better pay as bilingual teachers than do their Anglo counterparts, as even illegal aliens get preferential treatment in school tuition.  Even now, I have an easier time at restaurants, mechanic shops, and government offices that have a surprising number of Spanish-accented personnel.  Instead, it will be the fair-skinned Anglos, and those of African ancestry, that will find themselves encountering English less and less as the language of private and public business.  That may not be so bad.  At least they won’t hear the expressions of contempt for the “stupid gringos” (I get to hear them now).  What will be bad is if these Anglos and Afro-Americans find themselves increasingly amongst people that defiantly chant “Mexico!”, people that are offended by the sovereignty of the Stars & Stripes, and who have not internalized the American ideal of freedom of speech and assembly.


An Added Personal Note from the Chief Editor

Rejecting Racial Solidarity; Choosing Solidarity of Purpose


Cinco de Mayo at the IRS Betrays Real Bigotry

Years ago, when I worked as a manager at the Internal Revenue Service, before the Internet became widely available, I was made aware of Hispanic Awareness week during the May 5 week, in honor of Cinco de Mayo.  One of the big activities was an essay contest on why Cinco de Mayo was important to Mexican independence.  That this was even a subject for a contest in a U.S. government office building that was supposed to be staffed only by U.S. citizens (no legal foreign workers) was odd enough to me.  However, I was annoyed that the subject made no sense as, as noted above, Cinco de Mayo IS NOT MEXICAN INDEPENCE DAY!


I promptly informed my management colleague who was chairing the committee overseeing these special week activities.  I told my well-meaning platinum-blond, liberal Anglo friend that Cinco de Mayo was not Mexican independence day, and so, the essay contest was not appropriate.  He did not believe me.  His condescending, patronizing attitude betrayed a slight undercurrent of real bigotry that refused to believe that I, of Hispanic descent and raised in Mexico, would know more about this subject than he.  I also suspect he did not want to confront the idea that all his good intentions on behalf of people like me might actually be misplaced.  No doubt, he was also probably irritated that I did not appear particularly grateful for his efforts – I wasn’t.


After strongly insisting on my claim, I explained what it really was about: a battle near the city of Puebla, where Mexican forces miraculously beat back an invading French force.  “So, it led to Mexico’s independence!” he exclaimed.  It didn’t I explained, because, this battle happened in 1862, decades after Mexico gained independence.  “Ah, but it led to a new independence from France!”  Actually, no, because though they won the battle, France eventually came back with more forces, and took over Mexico.  Still reluctant to accept what I was telling him, we ended our discussion.  He must have eventually done some research of his own because later, when they made an official announcement at one of the activities, they clarified that while May 5 was not Mexican independence day, the essay would be about why Mexican independence day was important to the author. 


In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a happy historical note of pride of an event that did not change history.  In the U.S. it has become a focus of ethnic solidarity of Hispanics, an opportunity for some white Anglos to expunge a little guilt, and a chance to for major brewers to sell beer.  Educated Mexicans look to the north at this time of year, and ask themselves “what are those people doing?”


A Solidarity of Purpose, Not Background

Throughout my years, mostly when I was younger and less so now, I have occasionally encountered the lily-white Anglo-liberal who cannot understand why I do not want his special help, special consideration, or special understanding of my background. Frankly, I find it insulting.  I don’t want to take pride in “my race.” There’s no such thing as the Hispanic race anyway.  I don’t want to be identified as a Mexican-American or Puerto-Rican American, or Hispanic or Latino or Chicano.  I don’t believe in “La Raza” solidarity anymore than I believe in White Supremacy.  I want to simply be American, and I know many other Hispanics who feel the same way.  Yes, I take interest and value my heritage.  It is part of what shaped me, and informs me on who I am.  I should know it and understand it.  But it does not determine who I am.  I choose that, and I choose to live here of my own free will, as a citizen of the United States.  I choose to be part of this country, and to preserve and improve upon for others, everything it has afforded me.  I choose to join with people of all races and backgrounds from around the world, under one banner, in a common national purpose that was first formally outlined in one American Declaration of Independence.  And I will not now or ever join with anyone because of skin color or ethnic heritage, against it.




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