What have you told your children about Latino unity?

by Viktoria Valenzuela

The concept of civil rights and deciding which is the best way to educate our children about this country’s history as it pertains to race feels like a virtual minefield.  My children are nearing their teen years and becoming curious about their place in the world.  Civil rights comes into play in this equation since the time they are taught to share toys with their friends and respect one another as equals.  Children are already taught human rights.  So what happens when they become teens and can recognize what the news headlines are actually saying?  My son, nearly thirteen years old, is aware of the movement happening against and within the Latino culture both documented and undocumented.  It seems counter-productive when adults do not respect each other with  human rights in mind.

In the shadow of Black Civil Rights Movement was the Latino struggle, I attempted to discuss the history with my boy.  Our schools were separate, our people denied entry into certain restaurants, The Zoot Suit Riots, etc…  Eventually, my son asked me who Malcolm X was.  This question, I felt, had to be answered carefully. On one hand, he spoke so extensively about Black supremacy during his service to the Nation of Islam, before 1965…  I was apprehensive about explaining the sort of hatred existed back then (lynchings, cross burnings, etc)… on the other, I consider Malcolm X to be a great American hero as he created the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

The truth is, some of the old racism still exists.  I think perhaps not as blatant, but definitely just as damaging.  Teaching kids empathy for everyone is specifically challenging since laws like 287(g) are in place that specifically invite local police and officials to check for document status based on the race of people. Secure Communities employs technology to identify immigrants who may be “deportable.” “ICE has, in effect, outsourced the identification of immigrants for enforcement actions to local police agencies and jails. However, programs such as Secure Communities and 287(g) undermine ICE’s priorities because they are designed in such a way that leads to the deportation of immigrants with minor criminal offenses or no criminal history at all,” but how can we be sure they are unbiased in who they are keeping a record of? How many of the people in the system are Latino?

Latino unity and civil rights activists are prevalent in our generation and it is important to educate our babies on the past because history tends to repeat itself.  As a Chicana, I am painfully aware of what may be pointed at my brown skin because I remember a story about my Grandpa Romo (R.I.P.), a U.S. citizen who was arrested and nearly deported for looking like a Mexican even though our family had been raised in Texas since the beginning.  He did look more Mexican than a tortilla and so do the rest of us in the family.

My children aware of what the temperature is in America this year and they, like the rest of us, are searching for unity within our community just as Malcolm X did when he broke from the Nation of Islam.  The point is, we don’t have to be separate from the the entities that would jail people that look like us, just educate and foster unity for both the documented and undocumented, because in my opinion, we are all in this together.  I thank you and Being Latino, Inc. for being a part of that unity.  What have you told your children about Latino Unity lately?


To learn more about Viktoria Valenzuela,
visit her blog at http://viktoriavalenzuela.wordpress.com.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


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2 Comments to “What have you told your children about Latino unity?”

  1. I think it’s imperitive that every parent bring up this issue with their children. Race is a huge component of our identity and it’s where a lot of the family traditions and our culture comes from.

    Growing up, I saw a lot of kids being embarrassed about their background, ashamed to admit they were Latino for fear of becoming an outcast. They tried so hard to be white. The reason I bring this up is not because I’m judging them. Your teen years can be really hard and everyone wants to fit in.

    What bothers me is how this shapes them into adulthood. Nothing angers me more than to see Latinos in support of racist and divisive policies and politicians, like Arizona’s SB 1070. How can anyone that is Latino perpetuate this type of hate?

    How? Because they don’t think of themselves as part of those who will be discriminated against. They think of themselves as accepted. The reality is, it’s not like this everywhere. There are places in this country where you will be harassed and denied services just because you are Latino, just like it was 1950.

    As Americans, our votes are so powerful. I cannot, as a Latina, put into office a person who would like to revoke the Civil Right Act, just because I want to run with the rich and powerful. Kids need to be reminded of thier roots and that their decisions not only affect them, but their race too.

    You can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’re coming from.

  2. With family time (holidays) right around the corner, what a timely blog. Other than general history, I had not touched upon the hot button issues until my daughter came home one day and asked what a spic was. Apparently, one of new neighbors threw the word at her, she was eleven years old. That’s when the hot button education commenced. This was twenty years ago and she still stays current on the issues. Teach them when they are young so they will always be able to protect themselves.
    My reverend/activist father regales the kids in our family with tales of struggles and near arrests. Our grandparents, while they were with us, also told the old tales. Each generation has to know what went on before.

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