It is becoming abundantly clear that too many people in our society have reached a level of comfort with overt expressions of bias and racial discrimination towards non-whites, especially among those who feel "outsiders" are taking over "their" country. This fear of invading foreigners -- or things that are different or unknown -- is rearing its ugly head in an increasing number of social and political venues.
This form of xenophobia has manifested itself in a variety of ways involving attitudes and perceptions by members of a declining white "majority" towards growing "minority" groups that collectively are becoming the "new majority" in many areas of the USA. For many xenophobes the fear of losing their "majority" status and their historical entitlement of dominance is motivating their behaviors. Their attitudes are frequently expressed by a variety of bumper sticker slogans: "We want our country back!" or "America, love it or leave it!" Surprisingly, the vehemence of such expressions are no longer associated only with white extremist and supremacist groups.
The latest example of this growing public display of disrespect and prejudice was exhibited during a recent Kansas State University vs. Southern Mississippi University NCAA basketball tournament game. A chant, "Where's your green card?" -- a reference to immigrant status -- was directed at K-State player Angel Rodriguez by members of the Southern Miss band. Ironically, Rodriguez, born in San Juan, Puerto Rico (a U.S. Territory since 1898), is a U.S. citizen -- a fact most high school and college students should have already learned in their geography classes.
The shooting by a white neighborhood watch patrolman of the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida, who was returning from the store to his gated-community home. The questioning of our nation's first black President's proof of U.S. birth, his alleged association with Muslim radicals and the unchecked disrespect from his elected colleagues -- all rationalized as political differences and the right to free speech. These are but a few examples of the xenophobic frenzy and overt discourtesies that are commonplace in public discourse and politically-based behaviors.
Some consider such behaviors as "kids being kids" or "poking a little fun." But, consider what grown-ups are doing across our nation: the banning of ethnic studies in predominant ethnic schools, "English-only" requirements, requiring photo IDs for people to vote and the enactment of profiling-prone, anti-immigration laws in an increasing number of states.
Actions like these have no redeeming value in a society that grows more diverse each day. Our collective silence infers agreement with, and acceptance of, those who based their hatred on race, religion or language. In spite of the many contributions made to the USA by citizens of all races, colors and creeds, these increasing overt expressions of hate and bigotry belie the principles of our democracy. For generations, U.S. Americans have supported these principles, many having paid the ultimate price to insure "liberty and justice for all."
As U.S.citizens, parents and role models, we must insure better examples for current and future generations. Our country is undergoing inevitable change and we will never be able to "go back" to the good old days, such as they were.
Now is the time for to us to stand up together and call for the repeal of licenses to hate.
Founder/Partner of Estrada Communications Group, Austin, TX. A SoCal native and former TV News Reporter, Corporate Marketing Executive (McDonald's and Anheuser-Busch) and author of "The ABCs & ?æ of America's Cultural Evolution." Author's website Email the author