My mother once told me about seeing a sign in Glendale, California that said, “NO DOGS OR MEXICANS ALLOWED.” She told me this in the late sixties as we were helping her stuff envelopes for an organization that was working with the UFW. She said it casually, but I heard a world of hurt in her voice. At the time, I didn’t really understand, but I felt a burning outrage deep in my soul.
My mother was born here. Her mother was born here. Her father, my grandfather crossed the border at age 15, escaping from the horrors of the Mexican Revolution. My great-grandmother Teresa, my Grandma Lupe’s mother, walked from Abasolo, Guanajuato all the way to Piru, California during the revolution with four pretty daughters and one small son. She was pregnant when she did this walk across a war. She was afraid every single day that she walked. She feared for her daughters. She feared for her son. She feared for her husband and older sons who were working in Piru. Being valiant, she put aside that fear and kept walking.
I am the product of that determination. My great-grandmother Teresa wasn’t known for being nice. She was a hard-nosed, no-nonsense and incredibly determined woman. I’m told I’ve inherited her bluntness, determination and sharp tongue. I’m proud of that inheritance.
Yesterday, I watched a respected reporter and U.S. citizen, Jorge Ramos get hauled off by security from a press conference for asking a question. Whether it was out of turn or not is beside the point. That happens in press conferences. Journalists ask questions. It’s their job. It’s their duty to ask hard-hitting questions. Sometimes they can’t wait to be called upon, especially in a presidential race. What horrified me even more than seeing Jorge Ramos get yanked out of there by security was the fact that no one left with him. Every single journalist in that room should have walked out of that conference and left that blowhard to answer his own questions. They should have left because it was the right thing to do. They should have left to show solidarity for one of their own.
They were cowards. Saying nothing, doing nothing and looking the other way when a wrong is committed is what has caused some of history’s greatest atrocities. How far is this Mexican and immigrant-bashing going to go? The blowhard has already incited violence. A man was beaten with a metal pole on the streets and urinated upon simply for being labeled as Hispanic or Latino, but he was simply a human being. The blowhard’s reply? “People are passionate.”
No, Mr. Blowhard, this was not passion. This was hate, pure and simple. This was racism. What’s next? Will we be rounded up into camps? Tortured and killed?
It is a sad state when something as evil as hatred can move up on the polls masking as patriotism and family values. “Let’s make America great again” doesn’t happen by marginalizing a country’s citizens. It happens when the people in a country feel safe, when they can go to work without fear, when they feel free enough to be creative and entrepreneurial. Crushing the hopes, dreams and spirit of a huge percentage of a population does not make a country great. It makes it sad, it makes it broken, it makes it an object of derision, it makes it a target for war.
Hatred and racism disguised at patriotism has historically been shown to be the cause of humanity’s greatest shames and atrocities. The history books are full of it. Haven’t we evolved enough to stop this? Apparently not.
In my life I’ve been discriminated against quite a bit. However, in the past 10-15 years, it has not happened that much. It’s been years since anyone has called me a “dirty Mexican” which is an bizarrely erroneous thing to say, considering I am third generation American on my mother’s side and on my father’s; well how about 1638? Yes, some of his ancestors came over and landed in Massachusetts. I’m the product of immigrants on both sides. Further, my ancestors have patriotism etched in their DNA. They’ve fought in the Revolutionary War, Civil War (Union), Spanish-American War, WWI, and WWII. More recently (and on both sides of the family) they have fought for this country in Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, and Afghanistan. Oh yes, I bathe regularly as well.
Will I, one day in the future, see signs that say “No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed?”
No! I say no. In the words of the great Uruguayan writer, Eduardo Galeano, WE SAY NO. I stand with Jorge Ramos, though his colleagues did not. I stand against hatred and racism. I will write, use my voice, protest, vote, whatever I have to do to make sure this kind of inciting behavior and hatred gets silenced.
Teller of tales, writing about the Choloverse, short stories, essays, and historical fiction. PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship finalist 2013. Author of stories in Ban This! and Lowriting. Published poet. English major. Medievalist.