By Raoul Lowery Contreras
From the third grade through college, I never attended a school where a 98 percent of the student body looked like me or spoke anything but English. I had no Hispanic peers. I was called a “wetback” more times than I could count.
In that I shared in some ways the experience of African Americas of that era. They were referred to as “Negroes,” “colored” or worse. Thankfully that evolved into “black,” and finally “African American,” due to the influence of American media, politics and business.
Now progressives, liberals, and social activists are telling us to stop using “Hispanic” and “Latino” to refer to the 60 million-plus people in America who have ethnic or cultural roots in Latin America or Spain. These language bullies are trying to force us to use the allegedly gender-free “Latinx.”
I reject Latinx, just as I reject those who are trying to convince America to abandon Hispanic or Latino. I am not alone. First, some history.
Before President Richard Nixon’s election in 1968, recognition of the growing population of Spanish-speakers was to round-up and deport Mexicans who managed to live in the United States without a green card or citizenship. Most were in California, Arizona and Texas. Notorious roundups of “illegal aliens” in the early 1930s in Los Angeles were called “repatriation.”
Over-eager Los Angeles Police backed up by Border Patrol agents without orders enthusiastically rounded up thousands of people, loaded them into cattle cars and shipped them 150 miles south to Tijuana, even if they were U.S. citizens. Contrary to legend, President Hebert Hoover never gave orders for these roundups and deportations.
In 1954, “Operation Wetback” was implemented by President Eisenhower’s Immigration and Naturalization Service, which rounded up Mexicans living in the United States without permission. The government lied about the operation’s effectiveness. but some Mexicans were in fact deported. They came back immediately because Mexican labor was prized in California, Arizona and Texas.
It still is. In fact, the National Agricultural Workers Survey by the federal government states that half of all agricultural workers in the United States are here working illegally.
Operation Wetback resulted in a new ethic descriptor. That changed with Nixon when a bureaucrat in his Department of Housing and Urban Development used the word “Hispanic” as a substitute for “Chicano” and it took hold. The Nixon administration’s Hispanic overcame the words Latino and Chicano in the media.
Until, that is, a Los Angeles Times reporter, one of its first Hispanic reporters — Frank del Olmo — convinced Los Angeles Times that Latino was a better choice that the Nixon administration’s “bureaucratic Hispanic.” Eventually Hispanic and Latino became interchangeable.
Now comes Latinx from some elitist academics because it is supposedly gender neutral. Baloney. Latino is gender-less when discussing all such people, men and women.
To many, Hispanic means educated, middle and upper-class citizens who use English more than Spanish. Latino means less educated, blue-collar people whose children are bi-lingual but abandon Spanish by the third generation.
Latinx means nothing, and is rejected by up to 98 percent of the population it is supposed to name. It’s as terrible as “colored.”
Raoul Lowery Contreras is a Marine Corps veteran, political consultant and author of the new book White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPS) & Mexicans. His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.
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