Thursday, October 22, 2009

Latinos in America

So CNN is trying to kiss and make up to Latinos because it keeps making money out of Lou Dobbs and his hate speech. I'm not buying it. I only saw the episode on internet about the teenagers who want to commit suicide because their moms don’t want them to behave like gringa sluts and think that girls should be versed in the arts of indentured labor, just like them. So here come the broad stereotypes and the dealing with Latinos in America as if we had all just crossed the border yesterday.  It is amazing to me that the mainstream American media still treats Latinos (who have been here longer than the peeps from the Mayflower, if you think of it) as a sideshow.
But I have to say that being a Mexican Jew, an immigrant (albeit legal and with every possible privilege, including a college degree and already speaking English when I came), I've had it with the stubborn refusal of certain Latinos to adapt to this country. Most of the time, the reason for this is lack of education. Many newcomers have no high school education. They are busy working hard and making money, and can't be too worried about self-enlightenment.
However, if you don't learn English, you are just marginalizing yourself. You can't have come here looking for a better life and expect your kids to behave as if they still were in the old country. This is the story of every immigrant group to America. You adapt to the new country so you can belong and thrive. This is probably the only country on Earth that allows this with immense tolerance, even despite its racist grumblings. This doesn't mean you have to lose your culture if you know how to preserve it. Preserve the best of it. Get rid of the noxious bits. What an opportunity for improvement! It is up to you to adapt your values and your culture to your new environment so that your culture enriches society at large, and does not become a limitation to you, but an asset. And the first step is to understand that you are living in a different culture with a different language. There may be things you don't like about it, but as many love pointing out, you can go back where you came from if they bother you so much. Nobody is asking you to lose your identity. But you need to acclimate.
To me, there is nothing like contact with the others to open your mind, get a grip and progress. Matters are not helped by the Spanish media, which for the most part seems intent on feeding recent immigrants a diet of retarded and mind wasting programming. Univisión and Telemundo should have cultural and educational programming, and even English classes on TV.  If they were worth watching, Latinos would still tune in, because culture is so much more than language.
I have hope in the second generation children, young American Latinos who bridge the gap gracefully without losing their Latino bearings. I know many people like this, smart, educated, ecumenical, and deeply fortunate to have an extra culture, an extra language, and fabulous food. However, these Latinos are absent from the media and entertainment. They are absent from the public eye. All you see is gardeners and illegals and housekeepers and gang members, both in the news and in entertainment.
I am not even going to go into, "but look at all the successful Latinos like Soledad O'Brien and Sonia Sotomayor and that crazy Costa Rican astronaut and Eva Longoria". It is offensive we have to remind people that the majority of Latinos are successful, well adjusted, interesting Americans. Like everybody else.

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