Today Governor Schwarzenegger again showed his complete lack of understanding of the realities facing Latino immigrants in California when he singled out immigrants of Mexican descent as not wanting to "assimilate into the American culture" because they are trying to "stay Mexican." Here's what Schwarzenegger said:
And you have to become part of America. And that is very difficult for some people to do especially, I think, for Mexicans because they are so close to their country here so they try to stay Mexican but try to be in America so there's this kind of back and forth and what I'm saying to the Mexicans is you've got to go and immerse yourself and assimilate into the American culture become part of the American fabric.
That is how Americans will embrace you. That was my, I think the secret, if there is one, to success. I was embraced by the American people because I love America, I learned the language and I made every effort to become an American. That is I think what this is all about.
It's true that Mexican immigrants, other Latino immigrants, Asian immigrants and other immigrants of color are not fully embraced in California or America. But it's not because they aren't working hard enough to "assimilate" into "the American culture."
For the most part, it is large-scale xenophobia and racism that makes life difficult for these populations, as well as the failure of our current crop of leaders -- including Gov. Schwarzenegger -- to confront the economic realities facing this country and our closest international neighbors. These very real problems are only furthered by the kind of nonsense rhetoric on display by Gov. Schwarzenegger today. Schwarzenegger's comparison of his experience as a European immigrant to that of Mexican immigrants is very telling, as it ignores the reality of racism in the daily lives of Latinos and all people of color.
The fundamental problem here is that the Governor is still operating from a "melting pot" fallacy that pretends America can or should be one homogeneous culture. The beauty of the American ideal, in fact, is that it is a tapestry of cultures. "The American culture," then, is the sum total of the cultures of all the people who have made their home here over the last four or five generations. Schwarzenegger's Borg-like vision of the future runs counter to that basic American tenet.
The America I dream about, and am working toward in supporting leaders like Phil Angelides, is one in which so many diverse people and cultures come together under the shared value of democracy, to live and flourish in a thriving, multi-cultural society based in equality and mutual respect.
Our current Governor has shown again that he does not understand this larger goal. His comments today, coming after he publicly apologized for previous comments which showed a lack of respect for the Latino community, prove that he is not even interested in trying to give this incredibly large and difficult problem more than 15 seconds of crude thought.
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