Thursday, October 8, 2009

Honoring Hispanics

Even though it seems quite under-publicized, this is Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM). Unlike most special months, HHM starts on September 15 and goes to October 15. In 1968 Congress authorized President Johnson to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week, and the observance was expanded in 1988 to a month long celebration.

June and I are members of Vital Conversations, a monthly book discussion group that we enjoy. The group meets from 1:00 to 2:30 on the second Wednesday afternoon of each month, and next week Geraldo Rivera's His Panic: Why Americans Fear Hispanics in the U.S. (2008) is one of the books we will be discussing.

I have never seen Geraldo on TV, and somehow I had negative ideas from what I had heard about him. I checked out his book and began reading it with some reluctance, but I have found it to be highly interesting and informative. He describes well the considerable anti-Hispanic racism extant in this country.

In his book, Geraldo deals, of course, with the problem of Hispanic immigrants--both legal and illegal. It was refreshing, after hearing so much negative rhetoric about "illegals," to read of the many contributions Hispanic immigrants have made and are making to the U.S.

Geraldo's thirteenth chapter is "Immigrants and the Church," which is largely about what is called the New Sanctuary Movement which began in March 2006 when Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony called on American Catholics to defy attempts to criminalize illegal immigrants and those who help them.

Earlier, in December 2005, Cardinal Mahony wrote a letter to President Bush condemning an attempt to require churches and public services to verify the status of parishioners and only serve those legally in the U.S. In that letter, Cardinal Mahony wrote, "Our golden rule has always been to serve people in need--not to verify beforehand their immigration status."

It is becoming clearer to me that those of us who seek to follow Christ should not only support universal health care but immigration reform as well.

In another vein, during this final week of HHM, I will be cheering for Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and the other Hispanics who play for the St. Louis Cardinals, the baseball team I have followed for the past sixty years.


  1. Albert Pujols and HHM? The KC Star has a front page spread on the growing awareness of and acceptance of the Muslim community in Kansas city? The first black president of the US wins the Nobel Peace Prize? And, Leroy, you warm to all of those events intellectually. Yet you still operate out of an intellectual model that affirms something like absolute truth?

    The contradiction seems to me to grow from whether you appeal to absolutes as foundations or not. And your own awareness of the difficulty of doing so comes in your statement in your post on "Personal Knowledge," that you don't know the absolute truth absolutely. Clever, indeed. Why not just gradually let your notions of absolutism go they way they already seem to be going in your own writing and adopt something else? For instance, when I hear "absolute," I think foundationalistic thinking; I dismiss this, because of postmodernism's serious challenge to the foundations of modernity. And, you seem yourself very relationalistic in the sorts of things you seem to appreciate.

    The pragmatic outcomes of dismissing a category that does not even function well for us (you cannot know absolute truth absolutely to make it function, etc.), is it liberates one to suspend judgment: practice the liberty that comes from loving all; of embracing Richard's Rohr's notion that "everything belongs." There will be time for absolutes after you've actually lived a life and learned. And, your philosophy will not be at odds with the way you actually live your life.

  2. I'm with you on this issue, Leroy. We are a nation of immigrants. Unfortunately we have let fear generate too much of our thinking about the rapid growth of the Hispanic population. Hispanics contribute much to our culture in the same way other groups of immigrants have--the Irish, the Germans, the Swedes, the Koreans, the Japanese, and hundreds of other. I'm with you, too, on the Cardinals and sad today that a fielding error caused them to lose a game they had in the bag last night!

  3. Immigration is far from a Hispanic/Latino issue. There are issues of open borders on all sides, economics (positive & negative), the politics of visas, religion & culture, the injustice human rights issues here and around the world directly related to immigration, the civil rights of 1st naturalized citizens, homeland security, and a tragically inefficient, bureaucratic nightmare overseeing the immigration system. Immigration Reform is one of my passionate issues.

    Most Americans are uniformed or misinformed the issues. I do not favor "illegal" immigration to the country. But there is so much more to full understanding of immigration. As we have recently seen in the news "legal" immigrants have been foiled in there plots to terrorize the nation. We don't need terrorists, drug dealers, or free-loaders immigrating here.

    I for one would much rather have a hard-working, tax-paying, family-oriented, Catholic, undocumented Mexican in the country than a legally documented trouble maker.

    Indeed the Department of Commerce has determined that national economic growth of the past 15 years was driven by immigration - it certainly wasn't the aging white population which is beginning to strain the Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid funds. Only with significant, working immigration will those programs remain viable.

    My ancestors, the LaFont's fled for their lives the religious persecution under Cardinal Richelieu of France - refugees who migrated to North Caroline in colonial days. This is still a land of immigrants. Refugees are still brought in by the government, approved political and religious assylum seeker are allowed, Permanent Resident (Green Card) status is still granted to those coming work (along with their immediate families) as well as to the Diversity Lottery winners (a program to initiated under Nixon to more diversify our country with employable population groups unrepresented in our land).

    There have recently been Americans (natural born citizens) detained for up to a month for not having their "immigration documentation" on their person. And we have a Bill of Rights?

    I have several "legal" immigrant friends and acquaintances who have come from countries such as Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, UK, Belgium, Germany, Serbia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, India, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Japan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Mauritania, Morocco, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi,and South Africa. (Once one opens his eyes, ears, and befriends, it is amazing how many 1st generation immigrants one finds.) They are here. And good hard working people who want the American Dream.

    A Republican friend running for Congress reversed his position on immigration reform when his research revealed that about 40% of the "illegals" in the country were actually legal residents attempting to update there immigration status paperwork, but the bureaucracy had mishandled the paperwork.

    Our system of immigration needs to be scrapped and re-done with an intentional purpose - all aspects.

  4. I appreciate those who have posted comments above. The long posting by anonymous (whom I, happily, know who is) gives strong support for immigration reform, with which I agree.

    I appreciate Dr. Hinson's support--and his commiserating with me over the Cardinal's loss Thursday night. I didn't get to see the game as June and I were receiving our 50 year medallions from William Jewell College during game time. (We along with eleven others of the graduating class of 1959 received medallions.)

    MPH's comments were thoughtful and challenging, as always. But rather than commenting here on what he wrote, I plan to make a response in a new blog posting-- probably after making two others before it.

  5. I was happy to see that the National Association of Evangelicals on Thursday endorsed comprehensive immigration reform, saying new policies should reflect "biblical grace to the stranger."

  6. Craig Dempsy, a good friend who lives up the street from me in Liberty, sent the following comments by e-mail:

    "Your HHM blog made me think of the new Baptist Ethics post titled, 'The Separation of Church and Jesus.' If you have not read it, it is at
    [Thanks to Craig, I did read it, and I thought it made an important point.]

    "We Americans cheerfully eat our way around the world, from Swedish meatballs to Chinese noodles, and Mexican tacos to Belgian waffles. Why do we have some much trouble with the people who go with the food? Why do we have so much trouble understanding that John 3:16 does not say, 'For God so loved America?'

    "I am optimistic, because the denial, anger and fear that dominate so much of our political debate also happen to be the first three steps of the grieving process. Slowly, and painfully, we are letting go of the old America."