Today, we live in a post- 9/11 era where being an American means to be
patriotic. But what does it mean to be patriot. Does it mean to agree with our
“representatives” and their leadership? Does it mean to sit back and allow the
“enlighten” ones to make decisions for our “good?” Ronald Takaki, Cornel West,
Elizabeth Martinez, and the film we saw in class take a position in the definition of“American” while presenting the barriers Ethnic Minorities have to face. Three identifiable barriers are racism, education, and criticism if they want to keep in touch with their own culture.
Many minorities in the US have to struggle against racism. Intolerance by white people and among minorities generates a tense relationship when we have to face interracial situations. The roots ofracism come since very early American history. As Professor Ronald Takaki stated, “Race has been a social construction that has historically set apart racial minorities.”(8) Black people were brought to the US in 1619 and kept as slaves until they were liberated as a result of American Civil War, but segregation among blacks and whites continued until the 1960’s and 1970’s. Japanese immigrants wereput in internment camps during World War II. Chicanos were colonized and still are considered immigrants. Indians were took out of their lands and put in reserves. Irish immigrants took advantage of the Nationalization law of 1790, which reserved citizenship for “whites”. But, in contrast almost 100 years later the Chinese were prohibited the entrance on basis of nationality under the 1882 ChineseExclusion Act. These episodes of American history show that even though minority groups have been deprived of their recognition as “founding fathers,” they have been part of American society for centuries. Elizabeth Martinez in “Seeing more than black and white” explained that- except for African-Americans- minorities have been ignored as part of American society as consequence of the bi-polarmodel of racism. “We don’t need more competition among different social groups for the gold medal of the most oppressed. We don’t need more comparisons of suffering between women and blacks, the disable and the gay, Latino teenagers and white seniors, or whatever.” (24) This makes clear that the lack of knowledge about the history of non African-American minorities has originated a society whereracial issues are seen only in terms of black and white. So, instead of creating a strong group make up of minorities that fight for the same goal we have been damaging each other.
Education is another obstacle that minorities face in America. As consequence of the lack of investment in public schools located in lower class neighborhoods, children of minorities are confined to go to schoolsthat do not offer the same academic opportunities than schools where children of whites go to. In Cornel West speech “Race Matters,” while talking about the daily life of most black people, Mr. West stated that, “the vast majority of black folks are hard working people who get up every morning, fix that cereal for their kids, and send them off to school with a prayer, usually to some decrepit publiceducational system that doesn’t have enough resources in order to seize their imagination.” This shows that the daily life of African Americans is not that different than the life of white Americans. So, why do children of minority groups have to receive a poorer education? Those children are being punished when they are denied high quality education. Professor Ronal Takaki in his speech alsotalked about the difficulties minorities have faced in themes of education. Mr. Takaki described the case of 800 African American and Hispanic students who were rejected from UC Berkley. Those students had a 4.0 GPA, but they had to competed with white and Asian students who got 4.2 and higher GPAs because they were able to take advanced placement courses. Those courses were given in wealthy...
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