Yearly Archives: 2014


Racism: A Social Disease with Cure

 

Once more we see the ugly side of the american society when it comes to dealing with race. It has happened so many times since I moved to the US, almost twenty-five years ago, that eventually creeps on your nerves. When I moved here, quickly learned that the scale of skin colors is not really the issue, but instead it is the social background attached to each color, each complexion, each eye shape, each hair type. I was born white among browns, in a third world (approaching fourth world some say) country. In America, my Latino whiteness was not white enough to be considered a white person — I still remember the day when a co-worker told me “if you were white…” for the first time. It surprised me because my mom always referred to me as the “catire” of the family (“catire” means white skin is Spanish).

But again, the issue here in America is not the color, but the social message you display of yourself, even with the way you walk, talk, and glance at your surroundings. If you think more about this, you realize that we all discriminate. We want to be with people that we like, admire, and respect, rather than with people we dislike, criticize, or disrespect. So, we make choices every day and hang out with the first group, and avoid the second one. I would dare to call this a ‘positive’ discrimination (almost an oxymoron). However, the line is crossed when we harm –intentionally or by omission– those who we dislike, and this is what happened in the deadly shooting of Michael Brown this week. The line was, once again, crossed and have generated the response of the people in that community. This is definitely the negative discrimination we want to cure. Are they entitled to protest? Of course. Are they entitled to act with violence, break windows, damage property? Of course not. But I wouldn’t blame them for this reaction, as there have been too many Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown type cases that keep building anger silently in the black community. The president of the country, and the attorney general, both of black race have been relatively, and sadly, quiet so far.

Society needs to address this problem as a disease that has lingered in our lives for too long. We the “browns”, “blacks” and “Asians” will become majority by 2050 according to the US census projections, which means we could become an apartheid country with privileges for the minority at expense of the majority. The potential for more violent responses will increase with the number of shooting like the one that happened this week. So, the big question is how do we cure this social disease? I have two ideas, one radical and one fundamental. My radical idea is to create a mandatory two-year travel requirement for every american when they turn eighteen. It must be to another country whose people is of a race different to the traveler. It is like a mandatory military service, but instead of traveling with guns, you travel with the purpose of learning, for instance, another language, culture, trade, etc. Can you imagine the effect of this travel to every single american? Americans would become caring humans that see others as friends, respect differences, embrace languages, care for nature, and many more benefits. The second idea, more fundamental (and perhaps also radical), is to make higher education a gratuitous right to every american. Many countries around the world have this right in their laws. I personally received a full engineering career education paying the incredible amount of one dollar per semester (needed to print the ID card). As people become more educated, the field becomes flatter, opportunities increase, inequalities diminish, and racial discrimination becomes less and less predominant. Those are my two cents.

In the same line as in my previous writing, we are in the search for a better world without frontiers, religions, racism, with more humanity, and more caring for our planet.

Ciro A. Soto Aguirre©


Immigration

In my opinion, the solution to the immigration problem is known, but we need politicians to execute it. Before discussing it in more detail, I repeat one line of John Lennon’s song: “Imagine there’s no countries.” Yes, all these problems of immigration, and many other problems that have caused disputes and wars around the world are based on the existence of countries and its boundaries. Only religions may challenge geographic boundaries as the most used reason to attack your neighbor, but religions deserve a whole essay that is not the subject of this writing. Going back to the immigration problem, there is a second point to make: we all are immigrants. There is not a single community that has not migrated. No matter what ethnicity, geographical birthplace, or religion, we as a group of humans on earth have been migrating forever. The proof is simple and obvious: scientist have identified, based on mitochondrial DNA in fosils, that all modern humans came from east-south Africa more than 60,000 years ago, therefore, we have to conclude that we all are immigrants wherever we live today (except for the Africans that remained in that original birthplace). Now, if we put together these to points, having no countries and being all immigrants, why are we so obsessed trying to keep people outside the US? Or outside any country for that matter. In any case, being realistic, we know that in our life time we won’t see boundaries disappear, nor religions disintegrate, nor the sense of ownership of the place where we live vanish from our cultures. This bring us to the the immigration issue in a more realistic and practical way, here or in any place on earth.

First, let’s understand why people migrate. This answer is simple: we migrate because we want a better life for us or our descendants. But in the process of making that decision, we ponder pros and cons, and the decision is taken only if the pros are bigger than the cons. When a person (or a child) from Central America decides to leave his family, to pay a high dollar amount to a coyote, to cross Mexico illegally risking being killed or raped in train wagons, to cross the Rio Grande risking to drawn in the currents, to cross the desert of Arizona risking being bitten by snakes, to become an “illegal” without knowing the language, and finally reach a destination in the US with a 1 in 10 chances to make it, it is because all these obstacles are not yet enough to surmount the prospects of a better life in the US.

A bit of history, in 1948 USA gave $13 billions for the European Recovery Program (a.k.a. the Marshal Plan) after World War II, to help the devastated European countries. Assuming an yearly inflation of 3%, we are talking $90 billions in today’s dollars. Can you imagine if the US government gave such much money to Central American countries to build factories, hospitals, bridges, schools, roads, and everything that is needed to eradicate drug lords? Just for comparison, all central american countries combined have a government national budget of less than $30 billions. Now ask yourself this question, if your country is prosperous, has good schools and universities, good transportation, good hospitals, low crime, and well paid jobs, would you leave your family and country to face all obstacles mentioned above? The answer is a rotund no.

This idea is not new, and not even hard to implement, but requires the will of congressmen and the president. If Europe could recover, so Central and South America. US does not have to pay $90 billions, just a tenth of that would do it, and would be much, much cheaper than building a tall fence along borders, paying billions in order to patrol them, being seen as barbaric people who throw back children to the arms of narco-traffickers. We are better than that, and when I say “we” I mean we humans, not just Americans.

Retaking Lennon’s song: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
Ciro A. Soto Aguirre©