Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Tensions mount over Hispanics

Victor Manuel Ramos:

Hispanics who don't speak English should be deported. They're taking jobs from Americans. Their children are burdening our schools.

They should all get back on their boats and go back to wherever they came from.

Those are not the words of Jan P. Hall, the fifth-grade Sadler Elementary schoolteacher accused of belittling Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Haitians, Middle Easterners and others in a letter to members of Congress.

The comments come from Central Florida residents who have bombarded the Sentinel with several hundred calls, e-mails, letters and online postings since the Orange County School Board suspended Hall last week.

The letter became the latest flash point to divide Central Florida as demographic changes have created a vibrant Hispanic market whose visibility has taken many older residents by surprise. From the cultural to the political, the changes seem to be happening quickly.

Earlier this year, oldies fans were incensed when one Clear Channel Communications radio station switched to Puerto Rican salsa.

Last month, the federal government filed a lawsuit against Osceola County, where Hispanics make up more than a third of the population, charging that the county's at-large election system discriminates against Hispanics. A group of mostly Hispanic residents also has sued Kissimmee on similar grounds.

The letter attributed to Hall seemed to open the floodgates of discontent. Hispanics were horrified at the letter's hurtful words, while non-Hispanic voices rose not only to support the First Amendment right of free speech but also, in many cases, to agree with the letter's divisive contents.

"If a person of color says bad things about white people, it is opinion," noted one posting signed "Learn English" at an bulletin board last week. "If a white person [says] something bad about a person of color it is 'racism.' We WHITE people are the MINORITY in Florida. Where are our groups to fight for OUR rights?"

The majority of Floridians are non-Hispanic whites, but Hispanics are now Florida's largest minority group.

The backlash to diversity is typical of times and places in which people work their way through significant demographic changes. Some historians and social scientists hold that nativist views -- often based on real issues as well as imagined fears -- are not any different from attitudes held against Italian, Polish, Irish and German Catholic immigrants of past centuries or the anti-Asian sentiments of the late 1800s and the early 1900s.

"This is a process in which groups are seeking power and control over their lives," said Robert Adelman, a sociology professor at Georgia State University. "And, because there is a perception that many immigrants, particularly Latino immigrants, have entered the U.S. illegally, many Americans complain about, and fight against, immigrants entering the education or health-care systems."

Yet Central Florida's predominant Hispanic group consists of Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens at birth. The letter's call to close the borders on immigrants would not apply to Puerto Ricans in any case.

The battle about language, however, drives much of the debate.

Diana Andrews, a 32-year-old office worker from Kissimmee, was among those who wrote to support the teacher. America should wake up, she stated, because tensions will escalate, and "we'll end up having a war within this country."

Andrews said she is not speaking out of hatred.

"I've noticed a lot of other cultures that talk down about Americans and can't stand white people, but yet they are here working, taking jobs and getting a better life for themselves," Andrews said. "I can't get certain jobs because I am not bilingual. That's discriminatory to me."

Teacher quits; wrote anti-Hispanic letter


At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An interesting article -- ones like it are pretty uncommon.

I note this passage:

"The backlash to diversity is typical of times and places in which people work their way through significant demographic changes."

So relax -- it's just something we have to 'work our way through'. Well, perhaps this true in the long, long run. But why take the seemingly rather big chance that all will not turn out well?

Not to mention that the changes seem to be occurring against the will of the majority, which is odd in a democracy, considering the importance.

I was reminded of a sign I saw being pulled by an airplane -- someone actually paid out some bucks for this -- above Miami right after the Elian Gonzalez farce a few years ago: 'One down, 400,000 to go'.

At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'One down, 400,000 to go'

Unfortunately, it is a lot more than 400,000 when you count in all the other Hispanic groups.

At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. But I think you shd have posted the entire article... i went and read it on the Orlando Sentinel's website... this is a writer to watch.

At 11:40 PM, Anonymous el hispano said...

modern and tribalist? what an oxymoron...

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Adam Lawson said...

Not at all. People are inherently tribal whatever age they live in.

At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Latina with Pride said...

It really bothers me to read that some people do not realize that they are not native to this country. The only natives to this country are the Native Americans everyone else is an immigrant or their ancestors were immigrants. Please read your history. We Hispanics just like your ancestors did a long time ago are tryng to make a better living here in this country. You should be thankful that you did not have to struggle because it was already done for you. Do not put other ethnic groups down. YOU ARE NOT NATIVE TO THIS COUNTRY ONLY THE NATIVE AMERICANS ARE NATIVE AND THEIR SKIN COLOR IS NOT WHITE.

At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Ahrimahn said...

We Hispanics just like your ancestors did a long time ago are tryng to make a better living here in this country

Then why not enter the country legally instead of breaking our laws?


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