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El Weekender

No 74

On becoming White (Part 1)

I was helping a friend in a local campaign when I walked into the office and heard one of the campaign workers come in and explain the problem they were having selling the candidate.  Apparently, someone started the rumor that the candidate was a “sellout”.  Having heard the term before and knowing what it meant disgusted me completely.  This is a value that is learned at home.  I was shocked that young people would be using the term to describe a person of their own race.  It used to be called politics of personal destruction and it shows that even in the Mexican American community some politicians will stoop very low to get elected. 

Our Mexican American community suffers from a cultural deficit.  We do not know our own history.  I am not talking about what we all know about, the “say it in English” times, the hangings in South Texas, the atrocities go on forever.  The cultural defect that we have is that we never had the civil rights icons like Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Jesse Jackson, and the list goes on.  These icons were able to mobilize most of the African American community behind them.  We had four. They were called the Four Horsemen.  They awakened this passion that had been hiding for years and suddenly, we started asking the question “What is going on?”   That was the Chicano Movement. 

Those of us that went through the Chicano Movement remember the White on Brown racism, discrimination and bigotry.  What made the Chicano Movement so difficult was the Brown on Brown racism, discrimination and bigotry. There were Mexican Americans and other Latinos that were comfortable in their crystal palace and did not want to interrupt their daily routine to help out a fellow Brown person that was not well off. 

The rest of us had to be satisfied with “migas”.  Leftovers.  In school, we learned that Davy Crocket and company were heroes.  We did not learn that we had been in Texas since the early 1700’s and much longer if you consider the strolls Spaniards and other Europeans took through Texas.  We did not learn of Spanish Colonial Texas.  Our academia and Mexican American legislators did not press hard for classes that taught us our history. 

We have a proud Spanish Texas history and a prouder Mexican North Texas history.  Our children are entitled know their history.  Perhaps if Rinaldi knew that during the coal mining era Italians and Mexicans lived side by side in Thurber he would have a different opinion of Mexicans.  Perhaps if he knew that they intermarried he would wonder why.

The most iconic figure of the Chicano Movement was Cesar Chavez.  He was not a member of academia but he was a leader.  He helped all Mexican Americans from those that picked the grapes to those that drank the wine. 



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