Friday, October 27, 2006



I’m “a disgrace to the Hispanic race” and do not “represent the Latino community”. I am also “a racist”. Those were the epithets bestowed on me after a debate on Proposal 2 at a recent panel at Grand Valley State University. As a Hispanic I have been called many things, but now I am also a traitor to my "race". Only a couple of months ago I wasn’t immigrant or American enough to be part of a panel on immigration even though the conference was titled “Who is an American?”

What did I do to deserve such hurtful comments? I defended Ward Connerly’s right to freedom of speech, to having his opinion without having people question his ethnicity, race or constitutional rights. Mind you, I wasn’t necessarily defending Mr. Connerly’s position on affirmative action, although it was perceived that way. I was questioning some people who where questioning the right of Mr. Connerly to have and express an opinion regardless of how strongly one may disagree with it.

There is one thing the person issuing her verbal assault against me was right about, I do not represent the Latino community. Nobody has ever elected me to any position from where I can do that, nor do I want one. I represent only myself and my experiences, if they happen to coincide with similar experiences of millions of Hispanics that’s another matter. I have never been appointed nor have I appointed myself a “Hispanic leader”.

On another occasion where I was an invited panelist on immigration at the same university, the same person that assaulted me verbally heckled me on that occasion. Although the comments came from another Hispanic I understand how emotional these issues are for some people so I don’t take it too personal. But the fact that some people cannot even hear what you are saying and only what they think you are saying is indicative how emotion rules over reason in these cases.

On that occasion I was explaining how illegal immigration impacts on stereotypes, how they change perceptions. That person interpreted that I was expressing those stereotypes. She could not see the difference between what one says and what one says about what other people say. During the Q & A period she proceeded with a diatribe against me personally for “my’ prejudiced views. Although I explained during her non-stop harangue that I was not saying what she was attributing to me but citing an example, she could not see the difference. Although the audience understood what I was really saying, later I had the chance to confirm that they also understood the difference.

In this recent case I was actually seeking information on this issue of Proposal 2 but now that I see the hysterical and personal attacks not on the arguments of the other side but on the persons who differ, I’m inclined to believe that there are vested interests afraid of loosing privileges.

One can reasonably make allowances for the immaturity of student organizations to express their views in vociferous ways; even when one of their organizations distributes on campus a flyer that depicts a racist and grotesque cartoon representing Mr. Connerly as a puppet. But when an adult lawyer of the ACLU, like panelist Mark P. Fancher, said “I actually enjoy” attacking personally his opponent Mr. Connerly, then the merits of his argument not only diminish but sets a poor example for younger minds.

After having had a warm and high level exchange of ideas and concerns with panelist Mr. Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau, I noticed how members of the audience accosted Mr. Connerly about his right not only to his opinion but to be on campus to begin with. As a taxpayer and lover of freedom of speech I found that troubling, especially since the people involved seemed to be educated persons. The ironic thing is that these are the same people that are always demanding more dialogue and debate, and supposedly they stand for tolerance. But what they need to remember is that emotionalism is the fuel of demagoguery and demagoguery is the road to totalitarianism.

One of the issues raised by members of the audience was that this initiative was brought in from California and that Connerly had no right to do so. Yet, that is how many of the struggles and cases of Civil Rights in states such as Mississippi and Alabama were brought to the national fore, by having organizations from Northern states being concerned for issues in the South. As a matter of fact, as we write, 30 million dollars of Democratic Party funds are being pumped in to defeat an opponent of cloning in Missouri. And such was also the case in the defeat of Sen. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, where out-of-state activists through websites and funding from outsiders like billionaire George Soros intervened in a state election. So what’s new?

If the authenticity of our ethnicity is going to be based on the correctness of our political opinions we are in a heap of trouble. That is why there are political prisoners in Cuba, among them Dr. Biscet, an Afro Cuban who is asking for the same civil rights his brethren struggled for in the U.S. and who recently got a 20 year prison sentence for doing so. But in Cuba it is not only a crime to think differently than the only party in existence, but to express those opinions as well. One man that knows the difference is James Meridith a warrior of American Civil Rights struggle who has recently not only condemned Castro’s regime and those who support it in the U.S., especially some Civil Rights leaders, but has also called for Blacks in Cuba, naively perhaps, to engage in civil disobedience.

As long as we stay on the track of dividing ourselves based on ideological or political affiliation we won’t have the ample vision we need to approach and solve the issues that affect us all. If we are seeking equality of treatment and rights in the larger society we must start ourselves with respecting the right to disagree without having our motives, integrity and persons assaulted.

But of all things what is really troubling is the feeling in some people that to think differently warrants an opponent the right to think one is worthy of being shouted down, excluded from debate and right down have one’s motivations questioned as if theirs was the only correct and moral position deprived of all hidden motivations and intentions.

Of course, I have been apologized to, sort of, I guess. But what I get, when and if I get an apology, it is on the basis of if I “find it offensive”. In other words, some people do not find it offensive on their own if their insults are made against people they disagree with as long as the person attacked is perceived as a “traitor”.

Perhaps the best and most relevant question from the audience was the one asking about the positive and negative aspects of Affirmative Action. Mr. Fancher said that Affirmative Action eliminated the “good ole boy” network and that may be true. But every social movement, idea or revolution goes through various stages of development; birth/innovation, rejection/persecution, acceptance/tolerance, establishment/settlement, corruption/decadence and finally obsolescence/irrelevance. It seems that Affirmative Action as an idea and project for the correction of past injustices and exclusion finds itself between establishment/settlement and corruption/decadence. If the old “good ole boy network” is being replaced by a new one based on one’s ideological or party affiliation we have indeed corrupted the idea and a new one needs to be thought out.


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