Culture / Immigration / Latin America / Mexico / TV

What is an American?

Immigration seems to have only become a controversial issue in the last couple of years, when in reality this has been an American issue since the country was formed. Recent legislation such as the Arizona’s S.B. 1070 also gave way to hatred against people who looked of Hispanic background, regardless of their legal status in the country. Slogans such as “Keep America American,” were targeted primarily at Hispanic immigrants.  The problem with this kind of racial profiling is that there are many people that look Hispanic in the U.S., but are American born citizens. One reason is that states such as California, New Mexico, Colorado, and some parts of Texas once belonged to Mexico, before the 1840’s. Another reason, the most commonly known, is that people come to the U.S. from Latin America, legally or illegally, in search for a better future. However, being of Hispanic background does not mean a person is an illegal immigrant; the same way that being from the Middle East does not mean a person is a terrorist. But the ignorance seems to be everywhere.

Last week, there were numerous negative twitter posts targeted at Sebastian De La Cruz, a Mexican-American boy who sang the national anthem for the NBA finals. Twitter users posted different hateful comments, such as “why they have this Mexican Django on my screen singing the national anthem,” another user clearly questioned the boy’s immigration status by commenting how an “illegal immigrant is singing the National Anthem.” There was also one user who felt the need to end his comment with the hash tag #gohome, implying the boy’s home had to be outside the U.S. All these remarks were made solely because of De La Cruz’ looks and his traditional Mexican outfit. An illegal immigrant, apparently, is someone who looks like they came from Mexico — end of story.

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These twitter comments show one thing; hatred towards immigrants, especially Mexican immigrants, is going mainstream. People’s conclusions on this boy’s legal status were based merely on his looks, not on the language he spoke, and not where he was born or where he has lived his whole life. De la Cruz politely replied to these comments on a Fox interview by confirming that he was born and raised in San Antonio, adding that his dad served in the Navy. He also went and on stage again, at another finals game. This time he had the support of President Obama who advertised the performance on twitter. De La Cruz gave another amazing performance.

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Supporters of De La Cruz were so appalled by the comments that there is now a public shaming web page displaying all the hateful tweets. Many of the tweets end with hash tags such as #wetback, #americafirst, #yournotamerican. Somehow De La Cruz had to be illegal, and had no right to sing the national anthem.

diversity-and-childrenBut, what makes someone an American? Is it their skin color? Is it their ethnicity? Is it that they lived here all their lives? Is it that they were born in the U.S.? Better yet, which one of a person’s ancestors had to come to the U.S. in order for him/her to be considered American?

The U.S. is a country of immigrants, and has been ever since the British, Dutch, French, and Spanish colonized it. For everyone calling himself or herself “American,” there had to be someone who came to this country at some point down his or her family line. This includes everyone whose families once emigrated from Europe, who are tall, have fair skin and light eyes, and consider themselves more American because of their looks.

Part of American culture is its diversity. It thrives on being the country people go to so they can make their dreams a reality – where people can be free to be who they want to be, free from tight societal structure that is so common in other countries. Having De La Cruz sing the national anthem at such a large sporting event is what makes America great. Trying to change and/or deny this diversity is what should be considered un-American.

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