Commentary: A Collective Silence Is A License To Hate

By Jim Estrada

It is becoming clear that too many in our society have reached a level of comfort with overt expressions of bias and racial discrimination towards non-whites, especially among those who feel those “unlike” them are taking over “their” country.  This fear of invading hordes of those who are different or unknown is rearing its ugly head in an increasing number of situations.

This form of xenophobia has manifested itself in a variety of ways, including permissive attitudes and actions among members of a declining white “majority” towards former “minority” groups that are becoming the new “majority” in many parts of the nation. For many xenophobes the fear of losing their “majority” status and historical entitlement of dominance is motivating their behaviors. Their attitudes are frequently expressed by bumper sticker and placard slogans like “We want our country back!”

The vehemence of those espousing such expressions is no longer associated solely with white extremist or supremacist groups. In spite of the many contributions made to the USA by citizens of all races, colors and creeds, these increasing overt acts of hate and bigotry belie the principles of our democracy. For generations, U.S. Americans have supported these principles — many having paid the ultimate price to insure “liberty and justice for all.”

The killing this past November of 68-year-old African-American Marine veteran Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., who was fatally shot inside his apartment by White Plains, NY police responding to a false alarm from his medical alert pendant; the shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin while returning from the store to his gated-community home in Sanford, Florida; the hunting, shooting and killing of Latino immigrants from the U.S. border states to the Northeastern Atlantic states, and recent Tulsa, Oklahoma shootings that left three black men dead and two more wounded are examples of the growing public display of disrespect and prejudice visited on non-white members across the country.

The recent NCAA basketball tournament game between Kansas State University and Southern Mississippi University, where the chant, “Where’s your green card?” — a reference to immigrant status — was directed at K-State player Angel Rodriguez by supporters of the opposing team. Rodriguez, born in the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico, is a U.S. citizen — a fact most high school and college students should have already learned in their geography classes.  Some consider such behaviors as aberrations, actions of the criminal elements or kids just having fun. But consider the examples parents and other adults are providing for their children with the banning of ethnic studies in predominant ethnic school districts, English-language only requirements, voter photo ID laws, and the passage of anti-immigration laws in many states that trample the civil rights of U.S.-born and naturalized Latino citizens.

Add to them the racial invectives and ongoing challenges to our President’s proof of U.S. citizenship, his alleged relationship to Muslim radicals, and the public disrespect shown him by his fellow elected colleagues — actions that are rationalized as political differences and the right to free speech. These aforementioned cases are but a few examples of the xenophobic frenzy and overt prejudice that has become too common in our public discourse. Actions like these have no redeeming value in a society that grows more diverse with each passing day.

A collective silence by law-abiding and moral citizens infers agreement with, and acceptance of those whose hate is based on class, race or religion. Acts of unabashed hatred and aggression toward one’s fellow citizens will survive only in a society where silence is the norm.

As parents and role models, we must become better examples for current and future generations. Our country is undergoing a demographic change. Now is the time for to us to stop what appears to be the polarization of class, economic, political and social distinctions.  The demographic changes in our nation are inevitable; therefore, we must revoke the “License to Hate” before it contaminates our population and destroys the promise of a democracy that was once the model for every other society in the world.

Jim Estrada is the Founder/CEO of Estrada Communications Group, Austin, TX. He is a SoCal native and former TV News Reporter, Corporate Marketing Executive (McDonald’s & Anheuser-Busch), and author of “The ABCs & Ñ of America’s Cultural Evolution” (Fall 2012).

[Photo by sylvar]

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