A relative of mine who lives in Texas was venting about Mexican-Americans. We had been writing back and forth about immigration reform, and she expressed frustration particularly over issues of language and national identity.
At one point it dawned on me to ask, “How many Mexicans do you know personally?”
My point is not to single out my relative. I haven’t befriended any Tea Partiers, and they make my blood boil in the same way. No, this simply came to mind with the enactment of the immigration law in Arizona and the firestorm surrounding it. The point here is to ask a question:
Who is talking in the Southwest? More important, who’s listening?
What would they find out? If they talked with my relative, Latinos would hear why Texans’ ardent patriotism—perhaps a product of their unique history—makes it hard to swallow Mexican-Americans’ self-identifying as Mexican (and not American). They might hear about the Anglos who can’t find work in the Southwest because they don’t speak Spanish.
On the other side, Anglos might hear how extraordinarily difficult it is to learn English, how the economic hardship that brought many Mexicans here plagues them still, how humiliating it is to be stopped for DWL (driving while Latino).
These are guesses. I live in the Northeast, so I don’t see the struggles of these folks every day. What I have seen, in my own life, is how my preconceptions of a group melt away when I come face to face with a member of that group. My friendship with Frank changed my thinking about gay people. My friendship with Jane cleared away misconceptions about born-again Christians.
I ran a cursory Google search to find out who’s talking in the Southwest, but it came up empty. What have you heard? Are you aware of dialogue between Anglos and Latinos in Arizona, Texas, California, New Mexico? What kind of progress are they making? Click on Comments beneath this post and let us know.