Open Letter to White America (2016)


You can do better.

   As a member of the privileged class in our society, as someone who is likely to suffer the least under the regressive and unjust policies that the Trump administration—if he stays faithful to his election rhetoric—is certain to institute, it falls to those of you with understanding and common sense to educate the rest of “white America.” You must intervene on behalf of anyone whose basic rights are violated, and this is regardless of the victim’s skin color, religious background, or sexual orientation.

   It falls to you to remind the racists and xenophobes among us that some of the remarkable things our country achieved it achieved because of, not despite, our diversity.

   It falls to you to remind the uncultured in our midst of all the sacrifices immigrants and other minorities have willingly made during their service in our country’s armed forces; of their contribution to the advancement of American society in every field of endeavor.

   It falls to you to help white America understand—most of all—that their fears are unfounded; that their fears have no reason for being.

   Help them find a way to extinguish their selfish desire to keep out of the United States anyone who wasn’t born here or isn’t “white enough.” Help them understand that our country stands to benefit from its diversity. The sooner you help them see this, the sooner we can once again continue moving toward progress.

   Your neighbors might tell you that they already heard this one too many times. It doesn’t matter; tell them anyway. Remind them again and again—until they get it—that if their ancestors were not here before 1492, then they do not belong here either. Remind them that their ancestors, too, came here from a foreign land (No country on earth is foreign as far as I am concerned: we, all of us, are earthlings. There are no Martians among us yet—that I know of.) And remind them also that their ancestors, just like the immigrants of today, came to America in search of a better future, in search of a better life. Perhaps they do not understand that this is the reason they themselves were born here.

   We cannot destroy matter.

   Help white America understand that there are plenty of resources in the world—in America. Help them see that there’s enough for us to share with everyone, and then some.

   And, please, tell them not to fret: this is not just “another Latino talking about wealth distribution” (I, myself, prefer a hard-earned dollar to a government handout.) This is just a Latino talking about us not being selfish, about the need for us to be more humane.

   I am not taking about equality either, for every one of us is a different entity, a different person. Which means that we have different wants and needs. To be clear, as humans, all of us have the same basic needs. 

   I am talking about equity and fairness.

   It is not so difficult to do. You already have the power to effect change believe it or not. It lies within you.

   That’s right. In the world we live, being white gives you power. What is more, you do not have to spend a dime to help either.

   Just be fair to the rest of America. I propose to you that we ought to be fair to everyone; however, I am asking you to be fair to African Americans particularly, and to the other minorities in our country.

   Isn’t it just wonderful that equity is easier to give than money? All you need do is give everyone—minorities included—the chance to live in peace; the chance to live a life free from persecution. You have the power to help give minorities and their children the same opportunities you and your own kids have been able to enjoy.

   If you asked me why I am putting so much emphasis on race, or why I am addressing this specific plea to the whole of white America, I would tell you I did it because race is a fact of life—regardless of how many times we tell ourselves otherwise.

   It is a good thing that such diversity exists. Can you imagine how boring this earth of ours would be if all of humanity looked the same? I cannot begin to count the ways in which total homogeneity would deprive us of simple ways to “get some satisfaction”—as the song goes—out of life.

   Had nature’s palette consisted of only one color for, say, hair, what color would she have chosen?

   Black?

   Blond?

   Brown?

   Silver?

   And what about the people who like redheads? They would get no satisfaction.

   And if nature limited itself to one size for height?

   See that girl over there? Well, she likes them tall. This fellow over here lusts for someone with different height attributes. What then? Those were just two issues concerning appearance and look at all the unhappiness mother nature has already caused.

   Do you like assertive people?

   Tough luck. Nature determined that her children, all of them, would be self-effacing. No satisfaction for you there.

   “I am not that great at math” (This is what those of us who prefer words to numbers like to say regarding our deficiency in this area).

   But look! That young woman over there is a numbers genius. She sees angles and symmetry, or the absence of it, everywhere she looks.

   Shakespeare was a genius at building good stories, but I am not certain he would had been of much help to the team who solved the problem that the Apollo 13th encountered during their mission.

   And I doubt that Einstein could have ever moved us as deeply as Maya Angelou. Still, he had—and is still having—immeasurable influence in the world of theoretical physics.

   Do you see what I’m getting at?

   Angelou, Einstein, Shakespeare, and the team members at Mission Control during the voyage of the Apollo 13th. Each one of them contributed to our country and to the world, in a different field of endeavor, because they were, thankfully, different people.

   Racism is pernicious. If left unchecked, it will creep on us. It won’t hurt only the target of our bias: in the long run, this negative emotion hurts us most of all.

   Racism is like a viral infection, one we can transmit to our progeny—and they to theirs. Which is a problem. You see, I am no doctor; I cannot advise you on how to go about ridding yourself of this malady. All I can do is suggest you start with your heart—it is as good a place as any. Search in there; find what makes it tick.

   Why not give it a try?

   In case you missed it, here is a sample of hyphenated-Americans, minorities who have contributed, and continue to contribute, to making our nation one of the greatest on earth (It’d be good if you introduced them to some of your neighbors):

   Adolfo “Dolf” Luque, Adriano Espaillat, Alberto Gonzales, Alfonso “Chico” Carrasquel, Alexa Canady, Antonia Coello Novello, Antonio Villaraigosa, Anthony Quinn, Arturo “Arte” Moreno, Barrack Obama, Ben Carson, Benjamin Banneker, Bill Richardson, Brian Sandoval, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Charles Brooks, Charles Cruthfield III, Charles Modlin, Clarence Thomas, Collin Powell, Christy Turlington, David G. Farragut, Dennis Chavez, Desi Arnaz, Eddy Murphy, Edward Hidalgo, Elena Kagan, Ellen Ochoa, Elwood “Pete” Quezada, Esteban Bellán, Franklin Chang-Diaz, Frederick Douglass, Frederick D. Gregory, Geraldo Rivera, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Granville T. Woods, Guion Bluford, Harold P. Freeman, Henry Cisneros, Horacio Rivero, Jennifer Lopez, Joan Baez, John Christian, John Sanchez, John Ruiz, José Ferrer, José Quintero, Jim Plunkett, Juan Marichal, Keith Black, Lucrezia Bori, Luis Aparicio, Luis Walter Alvarez, Lynne, V. Perry-Böttingger, Mae Jemison, Magic Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Marylanders Harriet Tubman, Manuel J. Fernández, Jr., Marc Anthony, Mark Dean, Mazie Hirono, Maya Angelou, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, Michael L. Parks, Mona Pasquil, Muhammad Ali, Nancy Lopez, Oscar Romero, Otis Boykin, Patricia Bath, Philip Bazaar, Richard E. Cavazos, Richard “Pancho” Gonzales, Richie Valens, Rita Moreno, Robert Martinez, Robert Menendez, Roberto Clemente, Romualdo Pacheco, Rosa Gumataotao Rios, Rosa Parks, Rosario Marin, Scott Gomez, Shaquille O’Neal, Sofia Vergara, Sonia Sotomayor, Steve Wonder, Susana Martinez, Ted Cruz, Thurgood Marshall, Tom Fears, Tuskegee Airmen (the), Wesley L. Hicks Jr.

   • Again, the above is just a sample, an incomplete list. Millions of so-called hyphenated-Americans have literally given their life for our nation.

   Please, do not make the mistake of thinking that the other millions who came to America made that choice only so that they could get up every day at the crack of dawn to go enslave themselves at a factory for meager wages; certainly, did not do it because they hate America (Had that been the case, they would have chosen a different “developed” country.) No, they chose this country for more than the opportunities. First and foremost, they chose our nation because they had always held her in high regards, because they admired her.

   But you can rest assured. Everything is a circle: coming to America may have benefited those immigrants, but you cannot tell me that America has not profited from their having come.

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