It's About Being Human

“This year we’re going to march together into the Promised Land,” Dallas anti-violence activist Blanca Martinez told a group of young, mostly Latino pilgrims recently at a peace summit in Washington, D.C. Her statement may be prophetic indeed, for after years of wandering in the American political wilderness, Latinos are poised to ford the mainstream and make a stronger political impact than ever before.

For some time now the political juice of the Latino community has been boiling around issues such as April’s video-taped beating of undocumented immigrants by Riverside County police, California’s Proposition 187, affirmative action rollbacks, and sharp new punitive measures that are applied disproportionately to people of color. Left with few alternatives, the diverse—and, at times, antagonistic—political, racial, and cultural factions of the U.S. Latino community are taking advantage of this election year to defend their rights—and perhaps some of America’s most preciously held values as well.

Adding fuel to the fire is PBS’s four-part series Chicano!, which, since its original airing last spring, continues to be shown by Latino community groups and students. Chicano! reminds us of the important contribution that Latinos made to America’s civil rights movement in the era before the movement splintered into camps competing with each other on the basis of ethnicity, class, gender, or sexual orientation.

“Latinos of that period thought of it as one movement for the civil rights of all Americans,” said Raul Yzaguirre of the National Council of La Raza. “An assault on any people is an assault on all people.”

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1996
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