Green Room

The Soft Bigotry of Insulting Chicanos’ Intelligence

posted at 9:27 pm on May 6, 2010 by

Yesterday was May 5th, which in Spanish is Cinco de Mayo… which Mexicans do not celebrate as their Independence Day (that would be September 16th, 1810), but which Mexican Americans (Chicanos) celebrate all across the American Southwest and probably elsewhere as well.

On May 5th, 1862, the nationalist militia of Mexico, under the command of Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza, defeated the imperial French forces at the Battala de Puebla. While this didn’t end the war with France — the French fought on for another five years, abandoning their Mexican “colony” only after the United States joined the war on Mexico’s side — Cinco de Mayo is a major Chicano holiday, celebrated primarily by gorging on Mexican food, swigging tequilla, and shooting pistols into the air (kind of like an NBA Finals victory celebration). One hopes the rituals are different in high school.

Yesterday at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, in the Santa Clara Valley of California (“Silicon Valley”), school officials celebrated Cinco de Mayo by sending five students homefor wearing American-flag t-shirts.

Principal Nick Boden called the t-shirts “incendiary,” according to one of the students. His rationale for threatening the flag-wearers with suspension and then sending them home was that wearing red, white, and blue on Cinco de Mayo was somehow insulting and disrespectful to Hispanic students, which constitute a very large portion of the school’s population; however, the school district is unhappy with Boden’s action:

Officials at the school chose not to comment on the situation Wednesday, but one student said an official called the T-shirts “incendiary.”

“They said we were starting a fight, we were fuel to the fire,” said sophomore Matt Dariano.

The Morgan Hill Unified School District issued this statement: “In an attempt to foster a spirit of cultural awareness and maintain a safe and supportive school environment, the Live Oak High School administration took certain actions earlier today.

“The district does not concur with the Live Oak High School administration’s interpretation of either board or district policy related to these actions.”

I get the sense that the problem has far more to do with the adults involved, from Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez (who first ordered the students to remove the flag t-shirts) to Principal Boden to some of the parents of the Chicano students:

A parent of two Live Oak students, Teresa Casillas, said the American-flag wearing students were yelling “We live in America!” at the brunch break. She said her children were upset by their behavior at school, calling it disrespectful.

“We’re all offended by it,” Casillas said. She said parents of all ethnicities she spoke with felt that way. “Morgan Hill is too small of a community to start any racial wars. This is just bringing it out a little bit more.”

Does anybody really believe that “parents of all ethnicities” were offended by five students wearing red, white, and blue, rather than red, white, and green? And does anybody really think the students yelled “we live in America” out of the blue? I think it far more likely they yelled it (if at all) in response to anti-American verbal attacks on them by Hispanic students for daring to wear the colors of their own — and the Hispanic students’ own — country.

The saddest part is that the vice principal and principal don’t even realize how it was they, not the five flag-wearers, who insulted and degraded the Mexican-American students yesterday. What could have been a teaching moment was instead warped by rampant political correctness into an incitement to racism and bigotry… against white students.

Let’s suppose some Chicano students complained that the five were wearing American flags on “the only day [Mexican Americans] celebrate their heritage.”

  • Think what a revelation it would have been had Miguel Rodriguez explained to them that, while their heritage may be Mexican, they themselves are American citizens… so the American flag is not insulting or disrespectful to them. (I doubt a single one of the protesting students is actually a Mexican citizen.)
  • Imagine if Rodriguez had told them that celebrating a victory by Mexico over France does not require them to attack the United States… which allied with Mexico in that very war.
  • Imagine if he had lectured them about showing civility themselves: The five students didn’t tell anyone else not to wear the colors of the Mexican flag; why should Hispanic students demand that their classmates not wear the colors of the American flag — which is, of course, also the flag of the Hispanic students?

But he didn’t.

Instead, the Hispanic assistant principal told all the Hispanic students at Live Oak High School that the American flag is insulting, offensive, and disrespectful… and that they have every right to demand it be excluded from an American school.

Good heavens, could a more bigotted, racist message have been sent if they had deliberately aimed for it? Ergo today, surprise, surprise, 200 Hispanic students marched through Morgan Hills chanting “We want respect!” and “Si se puede!” Oh yes, marching and chanting will get them loads of respect; how could we fail to respect children cutting class to demand we cater to their prejudices?

But it’s the subtext that really damages the Hispanic students: Beneath the outspoken charge of “disrespect” is the whispered insinuation that Hispanics are too emotionally fragile to understand that ethnicity is not the same as nationality, and neither is equivalent to identity; the implication that they are Mexicans, not real Americans; and the disconcerting suggestion that other people don’t enjoy the same First-Amendment right to freedom of speech as Hispanics themselves.

In other words, it’s what George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of low expectations” all over again. Telling Hispanics they can suppress contrary opinion because it hurts too much is just as bad as telling blacks they should get extra “Negro-points” on their university applications because they’re not smart enough to compete fairly with whites, Orientals, and Jews. It’s an insidious form of “affirmative action”: Whites must tolerate contrary speech — but not Hispanics, because they can’t handle it. What a vile, oppressive, and lying meme to inject into the brain of an adolescent.

Hispanics do not need to be coccooned from the marketplace of ideas. They don’t need to be coddled, cradled, sequestered, or sealed in an ideological bubble. There is no reason Americans of Mexican and Central or South American heritage should be less able to handle alternate “truths” than any other ethnic or racial group. If everyone is held to the same standards, kids will understand:

Over at Gilroy High School, Mexican and American patriotic colors commingled peacefully Wednesday, Principal Marco Sanchez said.

“Kids were in good spirits,” he said. “I was out on campus most of the day and didn’t see anything that was abnormal.”

He reported no disciplinary issues as a result of Mexican or American patriotism. Plenty of students donned both both countries’ national colors but none were [sic] sent home for wearing green, red, white, blue or any combination thereof, he said. Doing so would be “outrageous,” he said.

“We’re not going to be sending kids home for wearing American flags or wearing patriotic colors,” Sanchez said. “That’s discriminatory.”

Muchas gracias, Principal Sanchez, for the breath of fresh sanity.

Cross-posted on Big Lizards

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School uniforms for schools on public dole

macncheez on May 6, 2010 at 10:12 PM

May 5th is Karl Marxs’ birthday.

What a coincidence….

percysunshine on May 6, 2010 at 10:41 PM

May 5th is Karl Marxs’ birthday.

What a coincidence….
percysunshine on May 6, 2010 at 10:41 PM

macncheez on May 7, 2010 at 2:19 AM

Outstanding, eloquent post. Thanks, Dafydd ab Hugh.

inviolet on May 7, 2010 at 7:06 AM

New development. The school district does not support Rodriguez’s response. A couple hundred hispanic kids walked out of school because the district decided not to punish to flag wearers further.

Disturb the Universe on May 7, 2010 at 8:32 AM

Excellent post. Now if only students could wear Confederate flags as comfortably as the Mexican one.

GnuBreed on May 7, 2010 at 9:01 AM

Think what a revelation it would have been had Miguel Rodriguez explained to them that, while their heritage may be Mexican, they themselves are American citizens

Maybe the problem was that they’re NOT American citizens. ;)

Daggett on May 7, 2010 at 9:50 AM

“Chicano”

A long, long time ago, in a place far far away I worked with a Mexican National (in San Jose and San Francisco, California) who was deeply offended by the term Chicano, which was the PC term of the day.

He said it has the same root as the English word “chicanery”.

I prefer terms like “Mexican”, or “Brazilian”, or “American”, or (if it adds useful information) “Naturalized American from Guatemala” or American of Honduran descent”.

But then I am a mongrel of largely unknown (and uninteresting) heritage.

lsheldon on May 7, 2010 at 4:17 PM