Why do I let this bother me? Part 2

Or, the one where Mel sounds like one of those people who take offense to everything, even if she really isn’t.

As alluded to in yesterday’s post, I have a few hot button issues. A few of them revolve around Hispanics and issues related to immigration and assimilation. My other big hot button is stereotyping. The only time I don’t mind it is when it is taken way over the top, like the Simpson’s or Carlos Mencia or something like that. But you have to be careful, because stereotyping can be insidious.

What started it off was poor little Handy Manny, a (mostly) innocent little show about an Hispanic handyman. Actually, it was the commercial for the new Transforming Truck that got my attention. Thing 1 came home from school early* and was watching TV. When he saw the commercial, he asked me if all laborers were Mexican.

Sigh.

And this sent me back to another conversation I had recently where a friend of mine confided to me that whenever she ran into a Hispanic laborer, she immediately questioned whether or not they were a citizen or even here legally.

Sigh.

Ok, Mel, so what’s your point? What does this have to do with the Pledge being in Spanish?

Plenty.

I believe that the immigrant experience has fundamentally changed over the past forty years. Before then, when someone immigrated here, it was pretty final. There was no internet, no way to send money home easily, no easy way to pop home for a quick visit. You were HERE and you were going to have to make the best of it. But because of our modern conveniences, those ties don’t have to be cut, giving some no real reason to become “Americans”. That doesn’t mean giving up cultural identity. What I’m talking about is having a vested interest in the success of your community HERE. And if your community is still in another country, that won’t happen.

And here is where the stereotyping comes in.

Too many people see Hispanic immigrants not as people who come here to make a new life for themselves, but as people who are going to leech off our society by “taking” jobs (the laborers) and not becoming part of the community. When these are reinforced by our cultural institutions (although Manny is a small business owner, which is cool) it just fuels that fire for debate. Having the pledge in both languages seems like a good idea from a certain perspective, but in the long run, it isn’t. It keeps people from having a vested interest in learning English. This causes two things. First, it keeps them in the types of jobs that create that stereotype in the first place. Second, it keeps them from becoming part of the larger community of “Americans” by learning English. If the schools themselves aren’t encouraging students to learn enough to even say and understand the Pledge in English, why should they try on their own?

And I guess that’s what set me off. We’re never going to get anywhere in this debate until we agree that these people are HERE and we’re all going to have to make the best of it. We have to include them in our community, not exclude them. We have to give them a vested interest in their lives HERE. And keeping them separate, by not encouraging them to join the community in something as simple as our Pledge, isn’t helping.

*He’s fine now. It was just a case of Nocturnal DSitis. But now that the DS has been removed, I don’t expect a relapse.

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