Hispanics' Challenges and Opportunities
Daniel Morcate Knight-Ridder Newspapers, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Many U.S. Hispanics are justified in suspecting that they could become the sacrificial victims of this country's swerve to the political right. The assault on affirmative action and on welfare is directed as much against Hispanics as it is against women and blacks.
At the same time, the campaigns against legal immigration and bilingualism emit an anti-Hispanic stench. This isn't surprising. Paradoxically, the United States is a uniquely pluralist nation but rejects the results of pluralism. At the moment, Hispanics are pluralism's most important agents contributing to ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity.
To overcome the bigotry that this arouses, Hispanics must understand why some groups deeply resent them. Such knowledge provides some protection against prejudice and anti-Hispanic campaigns. It also allows Hispanics to contribute to a general understanding of the nation's collective need to benefit from "Hispanicization."
The first thing that we must all understand about America's Hispanicization is that it is irreversible and that Hispanics are also undergoing the no less important process of "Americanization."
According to a study that the Office of the Census and the Hispanic Publications Association recently issued, 62 percent of U.S. Hispanics were born here. Another sign of Hispanics' Americanization: More Hispanics are taking part in civic and community life, particularly in political affairs. Fifty-nine percent of eligible Hispanics registered to vote in the 1992 presidential elections. Also, between 1987 and 1992, the number of Hispanic elected officials increased by 25 percent.
The League of United Latin American Citizens, the country's largest and most influential Hispanic organization, recently announced that it is launching a campaign to register Hispanic voters for the 1996 elections. The league is also urging presidential candidates to define their positions on issues of importance to Hispanics. Nothing Americanizes a minority more than the exercise of political power.
The country's Hispanicization is already a "fact on the ground," as the Israelis say about the territories. …