One of the most important criticisms that I have received for writing columns primarily about racial oppression between blacks and whites has been that I do not address Latino issues. After all, Latinos are the fastest growing minority population, and whites oppress them. This nation’s social and economic progress depends on Latinos. And certainly, all oppressed groups and their unique social struggles deserve more attention in popular media.

For every racial struggle unique to black Americans, there exist comparable oppressive forces against Latinos. Latinos in the U.S. must bear being stigmatized continually because they are seen as people who don’t belong in the U.S. — with illegal immigrants, with stupidity, with people who want to strip our nation of American values and impose their inferior language. Rush Limbaugh, host of America’s most listened to radio show, weighed in when speculating as to why a Mexican won the New York marathon: “An immigration agent chased him for the last 10 miles.” Racism against Latinos runs rampant, when perhaps they have a greater claim to our land than whites do.

Limbaugh’s sentiments are echoed in hate crime cases across the nation. This year, on May 1, two men were acquitted of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, ethnic intimidation and third degree murder for the death of Luis Ramirez, according to a May 3 CNN.com article titled, “Some satisfied, others outraged with verdict for immigrant’s death.” Ramirez died of blunt force injuries after a confrontation with Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky. They were both only found guilty of simple assault.

The legal leniency given to these whites, from an all white jury, echoes countless court cases where the law doesn’t protect minorities with guarantees of justice. Why was anyone satisfied with a verdict that put two racist, violent men back on the streets when they are obviously a danger to society?

There are countless examples of oppression against Latinos in every nook of white America, from education disparities to dehumanizing immigrants, legal or otherwise. But rather than fret about the depressing status quo of our nation’s racial track record, I have two recommendations that will increase cultural understanding and Latino acceptance and thus decrease racism and the numerous disparities Latinos face.

First, immigration reform should include mandates to empower respectable, racially conscious, Spanish speaking officers, who seek the best interests of Latino immigrants while acknowledging the difficulties of overcrowding in important immigrant cities. Immigrants should not be treated inhumanly — we should instead understand that they are either looking to be with their families in the Land of Freedom or trying to escape their own country’s evils, like whites did when they came to America. Conversely, Latinos are not looking to enslave or massacre anyone. Rather, they have populated our workforce to the point where the survival of most Americans depends on Latinos in the U.S. going to work everyday. Legalization should be a prospect possible for all Latinos who want to live a respectable life, which is, of course, the vast majority.

Second, Spanish should be made an official language of our nation, alongside English. Despite the cultural differences between various Latin American people, their language unites them. If all schools in the U.S. were required to teach a comprehensive Spanish curriculum comparable to the English curriculum, we could better identify with Latinos. In addition, intelligent children who are held back in school because they don’t understand English could advance in classes alongside American children who struggle with Spanish. This is better than letting our Latino children fail and be stigmatized as stupid and lazy, which perpetuates the cycles of educational disparities in which Latinos live. These children need proper preparation for our nation’s leadership positions.

An Aug. 13, 2008 CNN.com article titled “Minorities expected to be the Majority in 2050” reported that the Hispanic population is expected to triple, making Hispanics 30 percent of our nation’s total population. They are the fastest growing minority, and rather than framing the relationship as “us” and “them,” learning their language will allow Americans to gain cultural understanding through being able to talk to one another.

Matthew Hunter can be reached at majjam@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.