Thursday, April 28, 2011

M.E.Ch.A Viewpoint Article in Its Entirety

"In response to some current debate over the Observer article, "Latino students maintain culture on campus," MEChA would like to clear up a number of the misinformed comments Ms. Lujan made in her Viewpoint, "A different way to be Latino."

First, I would like to thank Amanda Gray from the Observer for providing M.E.Ch.A and Latina/os at Notre Dame with exposure and a positive portrayal of the work that we do here on campus and in the South Bend community. I would also like to thank Jessica Lujan for her views in the “A Different Way to be Latino” letter to the editor—she is right, there are many different ways of expressing our identity. However, I would like to address a few points and challenge several incorrect assumptions that she made about the nature of our club “M.E.Ch.A.” The viewpoint article ignored and so essentially denied the existence of a nationwide attack on the Latino population via discriminatory legislation, police harassment, and the misinformed anti-immigrant hysteria that plagues our country. Allert Brown Gort also argues that in today’s political lexicon Latinos are often associated with being immigrants, who are equated with being “illegal”, and who are then in turn demonized by a society which—at the same time—benefits from their disadvantaged socio-economic status. I am glad that the author was fortunate enough to never experience this type of discrimination, but the truth is that Latina/os, even the majority who are U.S.-born, are targeted and scapegoated everyday by a misinformed population.

M.E.Ch.A., a nationwide organization whose members espouse a Chicana/o identity that can be shared by any individual, fights for the empowerment of all people through education, activism, and the preservation of culture. We “fight” ignorance by educating ourselves and the people around us. We use the aggressive term “fight” because contentious issues require more than pleasant conversation as we challenge ourselves and others to be more tolerant and just. We do not, however, condone violence and we in fact champion the nonviolent protest strategies practiced by César Chávez, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi. To say that our organization is in any way exclusionary is both misinformed and contradictory to our message and goals. Perhaps because she has not been involved in the work that M.E.Ch.A does, the viewpoint author’s commentary on our organization was completely misinformed. Throughout the years we have been a vehicle for students to share and maintain their culture in the face of the United States’ tradition of pressuring immigrants to assimilate and mask their ethnic identities. In fact, our efforts to educate and retain Latina/o culture have been recognized by Student Activities as we were recently awarded the honor of Cultural Club of the Year and Program of the Year for our Diversity Panel event. In our chapter, as in chapters throughout the country, members include ethnic Mexicans, African Americans, Anglos, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Salvadorians and individuals from all ethnicities, races, and socio-economic backgrounds. We encourage all people who share our goals of social justice and equality to participate in our work. At the same time, we are also very aware and supportive of the fact that M.E.Ch.A. is not the only way Latina/o students maintain their culture on campus. We recognize that we have a very dissident style of reaching our goals-one that we are proud of, but that may not appeal to other students. For this reason, other clubs exist on campus that we are either members of or we work closely with them in cooperative event planning.

While Notre Dame has provided an endless amount of opportunity for growth and advancement for minority students, within the student body there still exists a considerable amount of ignorance about different backgrounds and lifestyles that often leads to insensitive remarks and offensive incidents. Again, I am happy that some Latina/o students have not experienced discomfort, isolation, and discrimination, but these experiences are a reality for too many minority students on campus. A viewpoint discussing these unfortunate moments is forthcoming.

Finally, we would like to say that in light of all the work that still needs to be done in support of unity, combating ignorance, and maintaining culture, we encourage all Notre Dame students to participate in and become involved with the multicultural clubs here on campus. Our efforts are futile when only our members attend our education nights, meetings, and other various events. We have successfully worked together with Domers of all backgrounds in the past and we look to continue to foster that unity in the future.

Oh, Birthers...

President Obama released his long-form birth certificate to the press today. In 2008 the president released his state-issued birth certificate, and has faced increasing scrutiny from a faction of conservative birthers who, blinded by prejudice, claim that Obama is not a natural born citizen (I highly recommend you check out the site, linked above. It's fascinating and nauseating).

The president says he released the long-form certificate because the press became fixated on the issue, which distracted from more pressing matters, like rising oil prices, budget negotiations, etc. I'm pretty disgusted that Obama's citizenship became such an issue that he actually needed to take the time to address it. We should certainly blame the media outlets who have allowed this issue to dominate their newscasts. And we can also blame Donald Trump.

In fact, Donald Trump is proud of his role in stirring up a ridiculous controversy grounded in baseless fear-mongering and Palin-esque hysteria. Trump cautions, though, that he still has questions about the validity of the form, and asks why it took so long for President Obama to produce a certificate.


Predictably, people are unhappy. Among the grab-bag of mixed reactions, birthers have already concocted various conspiracy theories, other are angry that the president is catering to crazy minorities, and many think the Obama wasted too much time avoiding the issue, and he should have silenced his critics by presenting this at the very beginning of his presidency. Here's Obama's justification for devoting time to "this silliness."

Hopefully this issue will be put to rest once and for all, but I have a feeling that, in this political climate, any mention of the topic at all is just fanning the flames of craziness. It will certainly be interesting to see what the birthers come up with next.