Movie Walkout an inspiration to all

A new film that premiered on HBO by the end of March, Walkout, chronicles the 1968 “walkouts” organized by thousands of students in East Los Angeles to protest the treatment of Latino students in the city‚s public school system. What these students wanted was to be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness, and as individuals with unlimited potential rather than as a faceless “problem.”

We were reminded of the heroic and courageous efforts of these students by the actions in the last few weeks of a new generation of Latinos who also wish to be treated with respect, dignity, fairness, and recognition that immigrants are human beings contributing mightily to this nation, not chess pieces in some perverse game being played in Congress to see “quién es más macho” when it comes to cracking down on immigrants.

It started small, earlier this month, with a rally in

Philadelphia which drew nearly 5,000. Washington, DC followed, with 30,000-50,000 marching to the U.S. Capitol. By the end of the week, Chicago experienced the largest march in its history as more than 100,000 people gathered in the city’s loop. This unleashed a host of other events in Atlanta, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Denver, and other cities, culminating in the largest protest march in Los Angeles and Dallas history where nearly a million people, many dressed in white, marched through each the city.

This is the march that has finally gotten the mainstream media’s attention. It’s about time. The barbaridad is that while the smallest of this month’s pro-immigrant rallies has dwarfed even the largest gathering of Minutemen and their ilk, the Minutemen have received a tsunami of media attention that far exceeds coverage of these marches. However, after more than a year, the “tip of the iceberg” spin on the Minutemen is ringing far more hollow these days.

We hope that the hype surrounding the Minutemen reflects the English-language media’s hunger for new “man bites dog” stories rather than a much more troubling but unfortunately plausible explanation ˆ that the Minutemen finally gave the mainstream media‚s Latino-challenged newsrooms the excuse they needed to discuss their own anxiety over the growing immigrant population.

To those who might be “anxious,” we would note not just the size and the energy of these marches, but the tone and atmosphere. These marches have been resolutely peaceful. The flags displayed were overwhelmingly American, and the signs were filled with slogans like “We are America” and “I want the American Dream.”

Despite the considerable anger that anti-immigrant legislation has stirred up, marchers are asking for dialogue, not immigrant bashing; a constructive debate without rancor or scapegoating; and a sensible, reasonable, and humane answer to this vexing issue. Contrast that with the Minutemen.

Marcela Salazar, National Council of La Raza
National Council of La Raza

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