Jojola further states that the notion of having to get further public input "reminds me of those neo-colonial fascists who made binding treaties with Indians and then reneged in the face of their non-ratification at the Congressional level." Haozous says: "I gave them the best piece I've ever done. They want to hide things in the closet, but compare the borders with Canada and Mexico," he says. The disparate treatment on the borders shouldn't be allowed to happen, he says. But it happens because the people coming across the Canadian/U.S. border are white whereas those those coming across the U.S./Mexico border are brown. Walsh says that the other changes are understandable and permissible. One change involves replacing a star with an 'end of the trail' cowboy. Also, a horse was replaced by three rings, which Walsh says probably represents the old Mayan ball games. "Those are allowable. However, the wire on top is totally a new element. It goes contrary to the spirit and letter of the contract. It's not just a legal document. It's a social contract." Haozous says he is convinced that the issue has to do with expectation of what is Native American art? "They want art that is quaint," he says. "I want to make an honest statement." In the meantime, Haozous says, "Everybody's talking and I'm hungry."
We've all heard the adage that if you expect failure, it will find you. Sometimes as a society, we get hung up on words, and sometimes words or labels become self-fulfilling prophesies. We thought about this recently while discussing what it means to be "at risk." The topic came up in the context of Philadelphia's plan to label some police officers as "at risk" of being violence-prone. Somehow, it didn't seem right. Any officer that is "at risk" of being violent doesn't belong in uniform. Today, the term is normally applied to youth. We figure that if some people think "at risk" officers don't belong on police forces, others may think that "at risk" students don't belong in school or college. Yet nowadays, everyone seems to fit that category. In fact, according to some think tank types, our entire nation is "at risk." But of course, the question is, at risk of what? The pat answer is gangs, getting pregnant while young and unmarried, getting killed, dropping out of school or going to prison. Failure in general. As a society, we never seem to view these same youngsters as "at risk" of becoming professionals or raising wholesome families. Or, as a friend remarked, "at risk" of being loved or of smiling. A generation ago, as a society, we looked at youths from troubled background and viewed them as having a high potential. There was an expectation that they would, or at least could, succeed. Now, unless there's intervention, w expect failure. This labeling and expectation begins even before the child has started school.
What accounts for this change in expectation?
Despite the different terminology, the definition of being "at risk" or having "high potential" is the same: anyone who is poor, from a large or a single-parent family, someone who lives in a poor neighborhood, an immigrant a student whose first language is not English, who did not attend preschool, and whose parents did not go to college. That describes virtually every person of color we went to college with. Yet none of us viewed ourselves as potential failures. We all believed we could succeed. And virtually all of us did, partly because we believed that society expected us to fail. One program that exemplified this attitude was the High Potential Program (1969-1971) at UCLA. Roberto Sifuentes, professor at California State University at Northridge and one of the cofounders of the program, says that they recruited and admitted Chicano/Latino and African American students to UCLA from the ranks of ex-prisoners and gang members and those who had dropped out. "A high school diploma was not a requisite. We recruited people who were active in their community and who had the ability to lead." Sifuentes says that they mentored these students for a year, but the key to their success was believing in them. "We expected them to succeed and they did." Today, they're engineers, professors, teachers, social workers and bankers, says Sifuentes, proving that the "regular" admissions criteria of the university served only as a barrier to education. "It takes a lot of intelligence to survive in the streets," Sifuentes points out. While the UCLA program was unique, similar programs sprouted around the country in the belief that no one was hopeless and everyone could succeed. Sifuentes says he could replicate such a program today. When he hears the term "at risk" applied to students, he says he gets "the feeling that they're about to fall into an abyss of ignorance. People who call them that don't understand the reality of human beings. The potential of all human beings is incredible." Today, we run into youths all over the country whom society has deemed "at risk," yet we don't view them as such. We're thinking of students such as those from Bell Multi-Cultural High School in our nation's capital. It was they who ran the national office of the recent Latino march on Washington. We see them as individuals with great leadership capabilities. A bureaucrat somewhere probably considers Andrea Serrano, a senior at Valley High School in Albuquerque, N.M., at risk. She doesn't accept that designation and neither do we. She is a member of the El Puente Raza Youth Leadership Institute at the University of New Mexico, comprised of some of the brightest students in the state. Yet their brightness stems, not from their grades, but their commitment to better their community. Serrano, who plans to be a journalist, says that being labeled "at risk" is like categorizing people as being part of throw away society. Sometimes, youths who are labeled "at risk" start believing it, says Serrano Perhaps it's time we dropped this view of the world--and the label--lest we come to believe in the hopelessness of society, rather than the infinite potential of all human beings.
* Amnesty for undocumented immigrants who entered before 1992 and the speeding up of the naturalization process
* Enforcement of labor laws and a $7 minimum wage
* Establishment of Civilian Police Review Boards
* Health care for all
* Quality education for all
* Equal opportunity for all and support for affirmative action
* Human and Constitutional Rights For All
Against all odds and lacking a tradition of national marches in the nation's capital, Coordinadora '96 -- made up of human, civil and immigration rights organizations -- organized the march without the support of most major national Latino civil rights organizations. In fact, despite a unanimous, but late endorsement from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, only four Congressional representatives spoke at the event. The four Congressional representatives who spoke were; Rep. and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Ed Pastor (D-Arizona), Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-NY), Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois).
While the march was billed as a Latino and immigrant event, it was more than that. It was a day which celebrated the fruits and labor of those men and women who pick the crops, place food on our tables, clean the offices, ten to other people's children and who literally help sustain our nation's infrastructure and economy. Most people also saw it as a prayer and pilgrimage. Itzel Andrea Salazar, one of the coordinators of the ECCSF conference held at Georgetown in Washington DC, summed up the march this way: "It was march of solidarity and reaffirmation. It was spiritual and it touched peoples hearts. It has inspired me to go forward." The day began with a prayer in front of the Benito Juarez statue. Benito Juarez is the only full-blooded Indian (Native American) president in the history of Mexico (or any other government. The prayer, which was held at daybreak and began with the beat of the sacred drum, served as a reminder that it is not Latinos -- most of whom who can trace their Native American ancestry thousands of years to this continent -- who are this nation's real immigrants. During the prayer, Nathan Phillips of the Omaha nation, noted with irony that it is those of European extraction who are questioning the loudest the right of those who are anciently connected to this continent, toshare in the bounty of their own ancestral lands. While marchers and the students at the ECCSF conference took Phillip's message to heart, the major media did not report that message. Instead, they focused simply on the immigration debate and its attendant legislation. The media concerned itself with numbers, polls and generally missed the "soul" of the march. The sea of mostly brown faces waved flags from all of the Americas. Very prominent were student banners from organizations such as the Mexican Students of Aztlan from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) from universities across the country. The one which seemed to encapsulate thier spirit most was the which read: "W didn't cross the borders. The borders crossed us." "As I was walking to the park, there was this nervous excitement, seeing flags from all over the world, said Villareal.
Almost one thousand students attended the conference sponsored by ECCSF, an Eaast Coast organization of close to 30 East Coast colleges and universitiest. However, because of limited facilities, the conference received, but had to turn away many students from across the country who also wanted to participate in its conference. As Frank Arrellanno, president of Georgetown MEChA noted: "For every one of us here, fifty of us couldn't make it. Our objective now is to channel it [energy] to our communities and to the country." The purpose of the conference, titled "Proactive Latino Leadership for the 21st Century," was to go beyond the anger and analyze problems that afflict the Latino community and to focus on solutions. In an analysis of the march at the ECCSF conference, students attributed the lack of support from the national organizations and the politicians to a generation gap. Some found it bothersome that other Congressional representatives did not speak, particularly those from California. While some said that the politicians were campaigning for reelection, most found that inexcusable, saying that it simply appeared that they did not want to be associated with "illegal aliens" and that some didn't want to damage the president's chances at reelection by being closely associated with the issue.
Additionally, many of the students felt there were a number of shortcomings. While viewing the march as inspirational, Adriana Cadena, a senior at Georgetown said: "As happens in Latino culture, women's issues were marginalized. Women's issues are seen as private, not public. I would have also have liked to have seen more emphasis on student/youth issues." Participants also engaged in discussions of recent anti-immigrant legislation which has gone beyond targeting undocumented immigrant and now affects permanent residents. The recent welfare bill prohibits permanent residents from receiving welfare. Recent proposals have also called for overturning the 14th Amendment -- which guarantees birthright citizenship. Another discussion was held regarding the recent Hopwood decision involving the UT law school and "reverse discrimination." JT Gonzales & Robert Garza of UT Austin stated that the notion of "reverse discrimination" is completely false and maintain that UT has always been segregated and continues to be segregated today. They noted that the court decision did not call for an end to alumni preference admissions. "People are frustrated because it's a white defense team that's defending the University," said Garza, who does not believe they represent the interests of people of color. Gonzales & Garza says they are bothered by the fact that Hopwood is discusse in black and white terms when it also affects Asians and Native Americans, especially in a state in which Mexican Americans are the predominant "minority." They say Hopwood has caused genuine fear and has united student of color like no other issue before. Terms such as pride, rebirth, renaissance, passion, love and unity were used to describe the way they felt about the two-day event. Veronica Narvaez, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison summed it up: "By this, some people's dreams were fulfilled -- and other people's nightmares."
These Articles are Reproduced with Permission from the Authors.
Compiled by: Glenn Welker
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