Posted: December 16, 2010 02:26 PM
On July 2nd, 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination based on "race, color, religion, or national origin" as it pertained to employment and public accommodation. This watershed legislation was met with ample opposition. President Kennedy proposed civil rights legislation during his office, but the bill was stymied by threats of filibuster from southern senators. When Johnson resurrected the bill, his office endured 54 days of filibuster in the Senate before the bill was eventually passed. Of course, there was also the century of systematic discrimination and disenfranchisement of African Americans and the decade of concerted civil rights efforts leading up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Why the staunch opposition? Well, they didn't want Black America. Fortunately for us, that's exactly what happened. Everything that southern senators and their constituencies feared in the 50s and 60s has come to pass. African Americans have taken "white jobs." Interracial couples and families have become more and more common, blurring the lines of race and making those superficial distinctions less relevant. African Americans, no longer fettered by the constrains of oppressive laws (although still dealing with the reality of residual racism) have also had a profound impact on American culture in the last 50 years, in music, art, business, science, and, of course, politics. If you don't think America is better for it, then you probably oppose the DREAM Act.
Make no mistake of it: opposing the DREAM Act is bigotry. It is bigotry on the part of the American people and political maneuvering on the part of Republican senators intent on keeping acculturated Latinos disenfranchised lest they become voting Democrats. The difference is that this brand of bigotry is cloaked with policy positions -- excuses for forestalling a future in which America is overrun with Latinos. Whether or not the DREAM Act passes now, that future is coming. Latinos form the fastest-growing segment in the United States. As the Latino population continues to grow, we will become increasingly represented in Congress, which, in turn, will affect America's laws and how we Americans view immigrants and children of immigrants.
It's the latter group that the DREAM Act addresses -- people like my sister. My sister was born in Spain but raised in the United States. She is a published writer, an author, and a fiercely proud American. But she wasn't always American. The daughter of immigrants trying to make a better life for themselves, my sister lived under the pall of deportation until she was in high school. She was a fully assimilated American living under the threat of being deported to a country that would have been foreign to her. In fact, under the current legislation, it is possible for a person to be deported to a country whose language he or she does not speak. We can argue all day long about immigration policy. It's a multi-faceted issue that can be debated on many fronts, but if you support expelling de facto Americans on a technicality, you are sorely lacking compassion and, I'm sorry to say it, humanity.
No matter what you do, no matter which laws are passed (or aren't passed), fifty years from now acculturated Latinos, happily married gay couples and most other Americans will look back to this day and age and wonder how we could have been so prejudiced.