The Supreme Court hearing today on Arizona’s retrogressive 1070 law serves to remind us that every HispanicLatino is in the same boat. It is called America, and when states like Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana and Texas begin to subvert the very foundations of democratic governance, we have to hope the Court does not provide additional momentum to a state of affairs that might turn ugly. It has been a little more than a decade since the Court in 2000 greatly damaged the country’s faith in itself by overturning the results of an election that was never fully consummated, thus giving the country a historically disastrous Presidency from which the nation is still trying to recover. And it has been but two years since the Court further eroded the principles of every vote counting equally with its pernicious decision in Citizens United that unleashed the power of corporate greed that distorts the value of an individual vote.
These are not good days for the republic, and they are potentially worse for HispanicLatinos. Still, however the court rules on 1070, possibly in June, America will need as never before new leadership anchored by a new vision that must incorporate the convergence of HispanicLatinos from many places into one, unified population to focus on the immediate future. To help create the new leadership their country needs, HispanicLatinos must forge a new sense of common purpose that incorporates their individual experiences and places of origins to create a new identity – and lay down the foundation to oppose whatever laws stem from a faulty Court decision.
The lack of a HispanicLatino identity for the new century causes many HispanicLatinos at one extreme to give precedence to their former nationalities at the expense of their American identity. At the opposite extreme are HispanicLatinos who engage in cultural self-negation, to the point of scoffing at learning or re-learning Spanish. These same individuals unfortunately do not realize that however they might perceive themselves they cannot escape being lumped into one “Spanish” group by a greater number of Americans than perhaps understood – the very rationale behind Arizona-like laws that will propagate like cancer if the Court in any way affirms 1070.
Failing to grow a new, unified HispanicLatino identity will aid those Americans whose racist impulses could stop the social, political and economic advancement of all HispanicLatinos and, ironically and prophetically, weaken the country itself.
Central to how HispanicLatinos view the future is how they resolve the short-term thinking that has taken hold of American culture. The future requires a long-term perspective at a time when the short term has hijacked the management of institutions and – far more important – the personal lives of so many. Taking the longer view implies the need for unity and an expressed plan or a stated way forward. Short-term thinking – and its cousin, superficial thinking – antagonizes the present and curls the future.
In the process of finding themselves, HispanicLatinos can gain the confidence and self-awareness to grow their tactical, political position. HispanicLatinos immediately and unrelentingly must push to be included at levels of decision-making in which they remain ludicrously absent. They must push constantly to be added to decision-making bodies – if not outright replace individuals who have no sense or understanding of the strategic importance of HispanicLatinos to the country.
It would matter greatly to the future of America if all of its citizens understood fully how fragile America’s position is in the world and why HispanicLatinos must reconstruct their identities and their personalities to fuel their economic advancement. But what others think about how HispanicLatinos develop the new identity that they and the country require is unimportant. Demography slowly is rendering their critics irrelevant. But 1070-like laws could prove fatal to all.
How HispanicLatinos view themselves and how they use their cultural commonality are by far more important than matters of individual differences. It is critical to the world that HispanicLatinos immediately think of themselves as a class of people set apart, called by history to undertake a magnificent task: To help save America, literally, from itself, especially in the face of an errant Court.
Feel free to forward these blogs adapted from previous writings, with additional thoughts published invariably in between.