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The racial situation in all the U.S. states bordering Mexico is very complicated. The black problem is secondary, although the trial of a Nazi thug in Texas found guilty of killing a black shows it exists in eastern Texas. Dwayne Virnau, who is from the Houston area (the fourth largest urban complex in the U.S.), says that the oil industry attracts people from all over the world, and little attention is paid to race.
Blacks generally are rivals of "chicanos," but on our campuses they both make accusations of racism. One problem is that ethnic studies programs promote minority protests, many unjustified. Universities are supposed to encourage students to assemble facts carefully and then to analyze them judiciously, but that does not interest the protesters.
The Stanford Law School has been the scene of such a protest. An unknown black woman professor resigned because a well-known white professor was appointed to head an international program. When I warned that these protests provoke a backlash, a chicana student protested. Literature of protest is the subject of courses which attract minority students, but not orientals, whose appointments are well-earned. These courses have no place in a university.
WAIS is concerned principally with the problem of Mexican-Americans, who, fifty years ago were called "greasers." Fortunately, that term seems to have disappeared. Jaqui White, who lives on the Mexican border, has sent me some fascinating material on the subject. There is now a Spanish edition of that dreadful magazine People. It speaks of "Hispanic" culture, the word being favored over "Latin American." (It is intended for a wider readership than Mexicans.) An advertisement in the largely Mexican area of Harlingen speaks of "Hispanic marketing."
It is not just a question of words. The National Park Service stages "living history lessons" about the Mexican-American War in which Mexican American children learn how to fire a fake canon in Palo Alto National Park (named after the Battle of Palo Alto, not the town blessed with Stanford). The cannon was made by the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio. Whether this is the best way to introduce children of different origins to the conflicting versions of history may be questioned.
In places like Brownsville there is a more peaedful approach. Small children in Mexican dresses dance Mexcan dances. This probably encourages them to think of themselves as Mexican. The same is true of the Charro Days, which feature Mexican horsemen and tortillas
Despite the use of the word "Hispanic," there is no cult of Spain. On the contrary, the 500th anniversary of the birth of Cuauhtemoc, the last Aztec emperor killed by Cortes. The Mesquite Review (February-March, 1999) has a cover with a mask symbolizing "THE SPIRIT OF AZTLAN," proof that this silly myth is still alive. A feature article is entitled "Cortes the Killer." The Guatemalan Rigoberta Menchu is the spokesperson of the movement for alll the Indians of the Americas, including the chicanos, to unite, Cuahtemoc being an important symbol.
In contrast, the same issue has an excellent article by Luis Rodriguez-Abad entitled "What is in a name; Latino(a) or Hispanic?" He leaves it up to each person to choose. He discusses the objections to both terms. One objection to "Hispanic" comes from the feminists who hate Spanish "macho culture"!
Against this is an article from the Valley Morning Star of Harlingen entitled "Your people or your country. Mexican-Americans should remember their loyalty to U.S." The author, an Anglo student, asked a Mexican American what he considered himself to be. The Mexican-Ameerican said that he identified more with Mexico than with the United States. The Anglo replied that he should then go to live in Mexico, a view which the rest of the class rejected with disgust. The conclusion is that these young Mexican Americans have at best a divided loyalty, and, if there were serious trouble between the U.S.nd Mexico, they would probably support Mexico.
Business is also involved. There is a United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington (but its offiers speak of "latinos"!). There are over 200 Hispanic Chambers of Commerce nationally. This first "Hispanic" woman to hold the cabinet-level job of chief of the Small Business Aministration encourages "Hispanic" women to take out business loans. One in California was thus able to open her "Old Pizza [![ Factory" restaurant. The implication is that the Small Business Administration favors Mexican Americans over other groups.
WAIS is devoting so much time to Mexico and Mexican Americans because this is really the most important and complex problem faced by the United States.
Ronald Hilton - 03/02/99