Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Houston CM Toni Lawrence—Not In My Country/ Houston CM James Rodriguez—Not In My Backyard

Houston District A Councilwoman Toni Lawrence said that the small child from Mexico who died in a Houston hospital last week  from Swine Flu should not have been treated here because the child was not an American citizen.

Here’s what she said—

“The last thing I want to do and I may be overreacting, I will be the first to say. But we had a situation in their pediatrics department now, Children’s Hospital. This child was not a United States citizen and to me we have jeopardized the Hospital District and possibly conventions. I know tour boats are not leaving Galveston now because they are not going to Mexico.”

Now I realize that Ms. Lawrence is not a fully coherent person based on this statement,  but the part about the kid not being an American citizen is clear enough.

Ms. Lawrence also said this—I’m very concerned that someone died here in Houston with (swine flu). I’m very concerned that council wasn’t told of this in a prompt way. Again we could have got an e-mail this morning. We did not. So that is a very big concern for me. I think it’s a real reality and we need to be aware of this and continue to do things for Houston and not for anybody else but what’s best for Houston.”

Houston District I Councilmember James Rodriguez offered a fair and useful retort to Ms. Lawrence’s views. Here is what Mr. Rodriguez said—

“During our City Council meeting this week, my colleague, Council Member Toni Lawrence made reference to the 23 month old child who died of Swine Flu in a local hospital. She emphasized that “The child was not a United States citizen” and added that “we need to do things for Houston and not for anybody else.” Consequently, those comments have negatively alarmed many residents throughout the city. Now is not the time for rhetoric that could potentially have a negative impact on public health. Now is not the time to inject a person’s immigration status in this very critical issue. If an individual is showing symptoms, we want them to seek immediate medical treatment without fear of being questioned of their immigration status….”

However, Councilman Rodriguez has not been so welcoming of a new home for the homeless in Houston that has been planned for construction in his district. He asserted the following position after the murder of a homeless person near where the home has been proposed.

“I am not against homeless initiatives. I do support them. I just think this area and this part of my district has enough on its plate right now,” said Rodriguez.”

Councilmember Rodriguez has in the past argued that his district has a number of these type facilities already.

I’m sure Mr. Rodriguez is fair to say that his district has many of these homes. Yet a frequent argument about our undocumented population and about further immigration to the United States is that we have enough of those folks here already.

I don’t think compassion stops at our borders and I don’t think compassion stops at the lines of Mr. Rodriguez ‘s district.

Below—Councilman Rodriguez and the singer Rihanna. Each have umbrellas.

photo

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May 5, 2009 Posted by | Houston, Immigration, Politics | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Real Feelings Of Houston-Area Residents Towards Immigrants

File:Ellis Island in 1905.jpg

Below in italics is a report that deals with the views of residents in the Houston-area on the subject of immigration as recorded by the 2009 Houston Area Survey.

You can read the full post here. It is taken from the Houston Chronicle immigration blog.

Above–Ellis Island 1905.

You can read it for yourself but the upshot is this—Most people in the Houston-area support just and reasonable policies towards the many immigrants we have around here. For all the right wing noise and all the mean and horrible things that are said, what you see below are the views of the people.

While the half of people who would deny health services to illegals are short-sighted, the numbers here are pretty good when you think of all the invective directed at these folks in Texas and in our local area.

Let’s hope our local elected officials see this information and let’s hope our eligible Hispanic voters in the area realize that if they would vote in greater numbers that they could make a difference.

From the survey—

The numbers of area residents who believe that the new immigration “mostly strengthens American culture” increased from 39 percent in 1997 to 57 percent in 2005, and then dropped to 44 percent in 2007, before recovering to 49 percent in this year’s survey.

The percentage of area residents who favor “granting illegal immigrants a path to legal citizenship if they speak English and have no criminal record” dropped from 68 percent in 2007 to 56 percent in 2008, and then recovered to 61 percent in this year’s survey.

The numbers saying that the increasing ethnic diversity brought about by immigration is a “good thing” dropped from 67 percent in 2005 to 62 percent in 2007, and remained unchanged (at 61 percent) in 2009.

In the 2009 survey, 64 percent agreed that, “The children of illegal immigrants should have the right to attend the public schools,” down from 71 percent in 2007.

68 percent today are in favor of “imposing fines and criminal charges against employers in this community who hire illegal immigrants,” up from 56 percent two years ago.

In 2007, 44 percent were in favor of “a law that would deny health and welfare services to il-legal immigrants in Texas.” In 2009, 50 percent were in support of that proposal.


April 21, 2009 Posted by | Houston, Immigration, Politics | , , , , | Leave a comment

More Of Our Colonized Low Wage No Rights Labor Force Dying In Desert For The Chance To Mow Our Lawns

The article below was in the Houston Chronicle today. It is about the increased number of folks dying in an effort to reach the United States from Mexico. They die so they can work in our restaurant kitchens, our construction projects and on our lawns and gardens for poor wages and no benefits. We don’t thank them for it very often. Though we do complain about them very much. 

(Above–Work by a Thomas Castelazo noting border deaths at Tijuana-San Diego border

They are really the perfect workers for a place like Texas. They are good for employers who get what is in essence a colonized labor force that will accept any wage you pay (when employers come through with the money which is not always) and will not stick up for themselves when abused because of fear of deportation

These workers are also good for the political majority in Texas, those Texans who vote, because they are just the kind of low wage and no rights workers that we seem to be asking for when we vote as a state for John Cornyn, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Rick Perry and John McCain. 

When will a solution to all this be found that is decent and human? 

From the Chronicle— 

BROWNSVILLE — The number of unauthorized immigrants who died trying to enter the U.S. from Mexico declined border-wide except in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, leading Mexican officials to conclude that increased Border Patrol presence has channeled migrants to the valley’s most dangerous river and brush routes… While notoriously rugged U.S. Border Patrol sectors such as Tucson and Yuma in Arizona, and El Paso, Texas, saw a marked decline, the number of deaths in the valley grew by 72 percent last year…The tallies also count bodies recovered on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande that are not recorded by U.S. officials. They do not include bodies with identification from Central America or other places. …“What we’re thinking is that people decided to cross from this part of the border because they think others are more dangerous,”…. “Then they come to this side, they see more deployment; they go to riskier places, more isolated places. They cross from ranches that are more apart from the highways.”… Many drown because the Rio Grande in the upper valley can have currents swirling under the surface from recent dam releases. Others fall ill in the brush and are left behind. Still others die in vehicles that crash and overturn while drivers attempt to flee authorities.

March 4, 2009 Posted by | Art, Immigration, Politics, Texas | , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Will Never Vote For Kinky Friedman For Any Office

The Houston Chronicle reports that Kinky Friedman is considering running for Governor of Texas as a Democrat in 2010. In 2006 Mr. Friedman ran unsuccessfully for Governor as an independent.

I would like to say here, for the record, that I will never vote for that libertarian leaning, testosterone poisoned, immigrant hating, Hurricane Katrina evacuee bashing, no good bully no matter what.

If by some awful occurrence Mr. Friedman were the nominee of the Democratic Party for Governor of Texas in 2010, I would sit that race out as a voter.

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Immigration, Texas | , , , , , | 3 Comments

U.S. House Democratic Leadership & House Hispanic Caucus—A Two Way Street

U.S. Representative Joe Baca of California, chair of the House Hispanic caucus, is telling the Democratic House leadership to address immigration issues in a meaningful way, or risk alienating Hispanic voters.

The Houston Chronicle story suggests that this sentiment is echoed by other House Hispanics and by Hispanic leaders outside of elected office.

Congressman Baca represents San Bernardino and surrounding areas.

You can’t blame these folks. Democrats specialize is taking minority votes for granted. Hispanics have every reason to fear being used based on how the Democratic Party treats Black voters.

It’s little different from how Republicans use rural voters.

But, of course, this is a two way street. ( Above is a two way street sign from Japan.)

The House leadership could tell Hispanic Congressman that it’s time to generate some turnout in their districts, and to work hard to cultivate a deep bench of Hispanic politicians for the battles ahead. 

Congressman Baca says Democrats want to do ” what’s easy, not what’s right” on immigration.

No doubt Mr. Baca is correct.

A way Mr. Baca and the Hispanic Caucus could show commitment to the broad platform of human and civil rights that immigration policy is part of, would be to work in California to urge Hispanics to reject efforts to appeal to prejudice in the recent California gay marriage ruling.  

Opponents of gay marriage intend to place a referendum on this issue on the California ballot this fall. The New York Times reports sponsors of the ban hope Hispanics will vote heavily against gay marriage.

I know this is all crazy.

Democratic leaders regarding minority voters as something more than a never-ending fountain of support that merits little in return?

Minority legislators seeking to expand participation in their districts in a way that might challenge their fiefdoms?

People speaking out for justice in all regards instead of looking the other way at their own prejudices?

You must think I’m on LSD as I write this post. You must think I’m seeing something like the image below instead of the world as it is.  

I’m not on LSD though—Never touch the stuff.

I’m just saying how it could be if people would get with the program. 

May 19, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Immigration, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Victimized People Possess No Inherent Nobility

The Financial Times reports that some South Africans are brutalizing and running off immigrants from troubled Zimbabwe.

From the story (Here is the full article)— 

Isaac Moyo fled to South Africa from his impoverished and repressive homeland Zimbabwe six years ago. He has carved out a new life as a painter in the Johannesburg township of Alexandra, enabling him, like many other Zimbabwean exiles in South Africa, to send home much-needed money to keep his family going.

But on Monday night his new, more hopeful, life came to an abrupt end when a mob of machete-wielding South Africans yelling xenophobic slogans smashed down the door of his shack and forced him and his three brothers to run for their lives. Clutching a small mirror and a bucket of old clothes, all he could grab with him as he fled, he is now camping at the local police station and planning to return to an uncertain future in Zimbabwe

“We were preparing food [on Monday evening]. Then we started hearing guns and shouts of people celebrating they’d been chasing foreigners back to Zimbabwe,” he said. “They came to our house. They took everything, our bicycles, sewing machines, blankets, saying: ‘You didn’t get this from [President Robert] Mugabe. This is our property.

“They were shouting: ‘Go back to Zimbabwe. We don’t want to see you here. You’re taking our jobs’

I read this while eating lunch today. I just shook my head. You’d figure longtime victims of Apartheid would know better than to harass and attack people.

But the truth of the matter is that down-and-out people and victimized people possess no inherent nobility. 

We saw this in economically messed-up West Virginia this week where many Democratic primary voters openly cited race as a factor in their votes.

Everybody counts in this world. Yet this does not mean we have to romanticize people or patronize people with the idea that suffering brings some sort of wisdom or dignity.

I think sometimes liberals are guilty of this. 

People of all kinds are good and people of all kinds are lousy.

May 16, 2008 Posted by | Immigration, Lousy People, Politics | , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Support Mass Arrests Of Anyone Benefiting From Undocumented Labor

A recent surprise immigration raid in Houston at a Shipley Do-Nuts facility is leading to the deportation of undocumented persons.

Will anyone from the company who hired these people be locked up?

What do you think?

It is the vulnerable we punish.

Do people in Houston want cheap doughnuts more than they care about immigration laws?

I bet it’s a close call in many cases. 

How about rounding up people in Houston who gain from the lower prices immigrant labor allows?

We could conduct surprise raids at malls, churches or at an Astros’ game.

We could arrest anybody who has benefited from undocumented immigrant labor.

To see if people are guilty, we could ask if they have purchased anything in the last 10 years.

Anyone saying yes would be detained. 

We could charge them with some kind of aiding and abetting.  

We could pump the stomachs of people who have been rounded up to see if they have been eating doughnuts.

Doughnut eaters would be forced to the border to help build the border fence and in so doing work off the calories from the doughnuts.

It’s time to get tough on the causes of undocumented labor. 

May 1, 2008 Posted by | Houston, Immigration | , , | 4 Comments

America Welcomed Pope With Resumption Of Death Penalty & With Immigrant Raids

Pope Benedict was welcomed to the United States over the last week with a Supreme Court decision opening the way to resumption of the death penalty and with stepped up immigration raids.  

Both these actions are contrary to Catholic teachings.

The church has long been opposed to the death penalty.

The Pope spoke about the need for humane treatment of immigrants in his recent visit. 

This is a sick country in many ways.

We seem crazed with violence and war. 

We use vulnerable and desperate immigrants for cheap labor when it suits us, and as political fodder when it suits us.

The Pope got a sense of this sickness on his trip here. 

April 22, 2008 Posted by | Immigration, Politics | , , | Leave a comment

Conflicting Immigration Policies From Different Levels Of Government

A recent Houston Chronicle story discusses the possible impact on the local ecomony from increased enforcement of immigration laws.   

The story says some local employers have formed a group to lobby for, in essence, non-enforcement of immigration laws.

They won’t put it that way. But that’s what it is.  

I’ve long had the view that immigration is good and I welcome immigrants to the United States.

Immigrants bother me far less than the native population. The native population is often annoying.

Still, I was struck in the article by the suggestion that road construction work would be slowed by a crackdown on undocumented workers.  

I noted this for two reasons.

First is that we have one branch of government–at the federal level—conflicting with government at the more local level.

Talk about a policy mess. I know this road work is being done by contractors hiring undocumented persons. But can’t we get some policy coherence?

The federal government can say what what it wants. Still, if a big place like the Houston-area is not on board, federal policies, to the extent they exist, will have limited meaning. 

The other thing, despite my support of immigration, is why are people breaking the law getting jobs funded by taxpayers? Public money should not be used to help break the law.

In this case, the laws should be changed to allow an easier path to citizenship for undocumented people.

At the same time, government-sponsored work should come with good wages and benefits. If these things were offered, the native-born population would want these jobs in the first place   

I’m not going to solve the immigration question in a blog post. 

What I feel can be said is the current setup leads to exploited immigrants, low-paying jobs for the American-born population, an absence of respect for the law, and big profits for business places that will do whatever they can get away with doing.           

April 4, 2008 Posted by | Houston, Immigration | , | Leave a comment

Japanese Immigrant Poem About Working In Hawaii Canefields

 

Here is a poem from around 1905 by a Japanese immigrant who had come to Hawaii to work in a sugarcane plantation. (Photo above is of sugarcane in Hawaii.)

Hawaii, Hawaii

Like a dream

So I came

But my tears

Are flowing now

In the canefields.

Here is a history of Japanese immigration to Hawaii.

While the poem tells the story well enough, here is information about working in a sugar plantation in Hawaii.

February 19, 2008 Posted by | Immigration, Poetry | , , , | 3 Comments

History Of The Texas Primary

The Texas Presidential Primary, to be held March 4, is a big deal.

Democrats Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton are working to the take the largest share of the 228 delegates to be awarded.

( Photo above is of Galveston at sunset. If you live near the Texas coast, this might be your concept of Texas.)

Mike Huckabee hopes Evangelical Christians in Texas will help him add to a number of Southern victories gained so far against John McCain. 140 delegates are up in the Republican race.

32 of the Democratic delegates will be superdelegates. (Please click here for a Texas Liberal history of the superdelegate idea. )

I maintain that the superdelegate idea is undemocratic and goes against the idea of an open and fair Democratic Party.

( The process by which Texas delegates are selected is mind-numbing and not the province of this post. Here’s a link to part one and part two of an explanation of this system by the Texas political blog Burnt Orange Report.)

Not surprisingly, given the lack of enthusiasm for democracy found historically among the Texas political class—-and from many of the Anglo voters who have dominated Texas politics—the Texas Presidential primary does not have a long history.

The first Texas presidential primary was held in 1980.

( Here is a concept of Texas some might have—An oil rig in the middle of town.  I’ve never seen this in my nine years in Texas. Though I have seen oil rigs within the city limits of Houston.)

Texas was for many years part of the one-party “Solid South” that anchored Jim Crow segregation in America.

This system had multiple parts.

The two-thirds rule at the Democratic National Convention assured that the South would have a veto over any presidential candidate who threatened progress on Civil Rights. It took two-thirds of all delegates to ratify a nominee.  That rule is now gone.

On Election Day in November, the South, including Texas, would almost always vote for the Democratic nominee.  A Texas exception to this was in 1928 when Republican Herbert Hoover defeated Catholic Al Smith. (Some Texans  must have sat around the dinner table deciding if they disliked Catholics or black people the most.)

( Here is Al Smith with Babe Ruth. You can likely figure out who is Smith and who is Ruth. )

This Southern unity prevented the Democratic nominee from pushing Civil Rights during the campaign (If he had any inclination to do so to start with.) since he could not alienate such a large block of states.

In Congress, Southern Democratic Senators and Representatives, often reelected without opposition, built seniority and gained control of important committees. This also stopped any progress on Civil Rights.

Here is a link to a history of the “Whites Only” Democratic primary used in Texas for many years to determine nominees–and certain November winners in a one party state–for the great majority of Texas offices.

In the U.S. Senate, the filibuster rule allowed Southern Senators to block Civil Rights legislation.  This may all seem a bit off the topic of the Texas Primary, but it gets at the political climate in Texas for many years and how it was that the Progressive-era reform of the presidential primary did not reach Texas until 1980.

Today Texas, along with Hawaii, California and New Mexico, is a state where the majority of people are not white. That’s amazing when you think of the John Wayne/roughneck image of Texas.

Many of these non-white folks are immigrants.

(The Port of Houston is immense and it connects Houston and Texas to the world. Many immigrants come to Texas today and they are–for the most part so far–accepted.)

Most of these immigrants are accepted. Even undocumented immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere have not  been disturbed much as of yet. If this has to do with the role these immigrants play in the Texas economy, or the possible–mostly unrealized– political clout of Hispanic voters in Texas, I could not fully say.

Roughly one-third of Texans are Hispanic. Though many are not legally here. And of those that are here legally, many do not vote. Texas is just over 11% black. Almost 24 million people live in Texas. Here is a link to some basic facts about Texas.

(Below is the border between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Hard to see any distinctions between people from this perspective.)

George W. Bush won Texas with 61% of the vote in 2004. Republicans are in firm control of Texas politically.

That first presidential primary in 1980 produced an interesting result. Ronald Reagan of California defeated George H. W. Bush of Houston, Texas by a 51%-47% margin. This was on May 3, 1980.

Mr. Reagan had mostly wrapped up the nomination by that point, but it still shows the strength conservative in the Texas Republican party against a strong home-state candidate.

On the other side, President Jimmy Carter beat Ted Kennedy 56%-23%. I think today the liberal would do somewhat better.

Texas was a Super Tuesday battleground for Democrats in 1988. Mike Dukakis rook first place with 33% against 25% for Jesse Jackson and 20% for Southerner Al Gore. This win helped confirm Mr. Dukakis as the front-runner, though it would take another round of primaries to make it more certain. (Please click here for a Texas Liberal history of Super Tuesday.)

Vice President Bush was an easy home state winner in 1988.

Though as an incumbent President, Mr Bush’s 69% against 24% for Pat Buchanan in 1992 was not so impressive.

The son, George W. Bush, beat John McCain 88% to 7% in 2000. Not a close call. Mr. McCain may do better this time.

In 2004, while Bush was unopposed among Republicans, John Kerry won two-thirds of the vote on his way to the nomination.

2008 promises to be the most interesting and most relevant Texas presidential primary yet held.

Texas Liberal is leading the way in political history blogging in 2008.

February 9, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Elections, History, Houston, Immigration, Political History, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Maybe We’re Afraid Hispanic Immigrants Will Treat Us The Way We Treated Native Americans & Others

I’ve been reading A Different Mirror—A History Of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki.

This book is an account of the different races and ethnic groups that have lived in America.

In detaling grievous British abuse of the Irish in the 15th and 16th centuries, portrayed in Different Mirror as a precursor for the mistreatment of blacks and native Americans by British colonists , Takaki uses the following poem from the period written by Angus O’Daly

O body which I see without a head,

It is the sight of thee which has withered up my strength.

Divided and impaled in Ath-cliath,

The learned of Banba will feel its loss.

Who will relive the wants of the poor?

Who will bestow cattle on the learned?

O body, since thou are without a head,

It is not life we care to choose after thee.

Takaki also uses the following quote from a Sioux tribesman named Luther Standing Bear—

The white man does not understand the Indian for the same reason he does not understand America…Continuing to troubled with primitive fears (he has) in his consciousness the perils of this frontier continent…The man from Europe is still a foreigner and an alien. And he still hates the man who questioned his path across the continent.”

Maybe the hostility some feel towards rising numbers of immigrants in the United States, reflects an awareness of the brutality of our forefathers. We know what we did to conquer the United States and we know that this violence has a history that goes back even before the settlement of the Americas.

Maybe what some are afraid of is being treated the same way.

Or maybe the fear is  we will somehow over the years be erased from the collective memory, just as was attempted with Native Americans.

In any case, many new people are coming to the United States. Nothing is going to stop that process.

We can find ways to live with these new folks. Or we can operate from fear and anger.

The choice is ours collectively. 

January 16, 2008 Posted by | Books, History, Immigration, Poetry | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Is Houston A Sanctuary City For Immigrants?—I Sure Hope So

Is Houston, Texas a so-called sanctuary city for illegal or undocumented immigrants?

This is an ongoing subject of debate in Houston.

The core of the matter is do police and other officials ask people they come in contact with, if they are legally in the United States.

It seems that on the whole, whatever city officials might claim, the basic policy of Houston and much of the surrounding area conforms with the idea of a sanctuary city.

Though here is a conflicting view from the Houston Catholic Worker.

From the Catholic Worker article, here are some proposed immigration policy guidelines from the Catholic Bishops of California.

–Easily available temporary visas for those willing to work

– Improved border security and enhanced humanitarian training for border guards

– Fair and equitable rules and reasonable time frames for processing applications to become legal permanent residents

– Compassionate rules and practical time frames for family reunification for legal resident aliens and naturalized citizens

– Reasonable requirements for legal residents to become citizens.

– Recognition of the impact of globalization and free trade on patterns of migration.

I support the idea of  Houston being a sanctuary city for the following reasons—

1. It is the job of the federal government to police immigration. The federal government can’t come up with a coherent policy.

2. Allowing immigrants to go about their affairs reflects the fact that much of our local economy turns of the work these people do, and that Houston residents don’t complain about cheap prices brought about by cheap labor.

3. It would inject a measure of humanity into a city that has, justifiably, pollution, massive freeways lined with billboards, and longstanding poverty, as a large part of what it is know for across the country.

Of course the promise of sanctuary is only as good as the people making the promise.

Here is an example of a pledge of sanctuary in 19th-century American history from a book called Sitting Bull and the Paradox of Lakota Nationhood by Gary Anderson.

From the book—

“Several hundred Cheyennes and Arapahos had settled at Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado after the army had assured them of the regions’ safety. Unfortunately, a vengeful colonel in the Colorado militia, John Chivington had no intention of honoring this sanctuary. He attacked the village and killed several hundred people.”

I’m not suggesting city officials in Houston or elsewhere in America will shoot undocumented people. You don’t have to shoot them when they die crossing the desert or sink while coming to America on a leaky boat.

Who cares how they got here as long as we can get cheap labor when needed, or have a ready made political issue when that is what is required?

Promises of sanctuary are as good as the political needs of the politicians, and as good as the morality of the electorate when they feel under economic stress.

Which in short means that Hispanic folks and other immigrants from across the world had better start registering to vote and taking part in the political process.

January 10, 2008 Posted by | Houston, Immigration, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mean Immigrant-Bashing Sign In Office Of Harris County, Texas Republican Party

photos 

Above is a picture of Harris County, Texas Republican chair Jared Woodfill.

Houston is in Harris County.

Notice the sign under the cut-out of Ronald Reagan.

America is “ours” while Mexico, it seems, is “yours.”

Did signs like this exist when America was stealing parts of Mexico with armed force?

If so, they were ignored.

The Republican message seems to be that if you are Hispanic or an immigrant or have a basic spirit of human decency, that your vote is not wanted.

Based on the outcome of the 2006 elections, the public seems to be getting the message.

The photo was taken by the Houston Chronicle.   

Thank you to loyal American Carl Whitmarsh for circulating this picture.

January 2, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Houston, Immigration, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Living In Harris County, Texas Has Made Me Hispanic

The Harris County, Texas Clerk’s office reports that nearly 150,000 voters with Hispanic sounding surnames are likely to vote in the county in 2008.

Houston, where I live, is in Harris County.

I’m pretty sure I’m one of those so-called Hispanic voters. My last name is A-Q-U-I-N-O.

I once worked with someone in Houston who after knowing me a year blurted out “You don’t seem Hispanic at all.”

Right she was—I’m Italian. At least I am everywhere except the Harris County Clerk’s office.

Or when I get an occasional piece of junk mail or a phone solicitation in Spanish.

My wife and I once went to Italy. Over there they thought she was the Italian. Really she’s Jewish. The dark curly hair tricked the Italians.

(Above is a picture of my homeland—Naples, Italy. I’m glad to report that the wife and I once made it to Naples.)

Growing up on the East Side of Providence, Rhode Island, I recall many teachers who would trip over the pronunciation of my name at the beginning of the school year.

Uh-queen-o is how you say it. (The little cruds I went to school with never tired of pointing out the “queen” part. In Houston I’m a Hispanic Italian. In Providence I was a straight queen.)

The East Side had fewer Italians than other parts of Providence.  So I had clueless teachers and kids who could not help but comment on my name, despite the fact I was part of the largest single ethnic group in the city.

My elementary school and middle school years were in Providence. I went to high school in Cincinnati, Ohio. The high school I went to was 95% black.

Nobody took me for black.

My father once told me to trust people with many vowels in their last name. He meant Italians, but I’ve expanded it to include anybody who fits that bill.

(My wife, who is in fact the best person ever, has kept her two-vowel maiden name. You can’t have everything)

I was in a store last week. I noticed on the name tag of the man ringing me up that he had every single vowel in last name.

All of them!

I praised him for this. I said–“Man, you have every vowel in your last name. That’s great.”

He said, “You noticed.”

I think he was proud of the fact.

Justly so.

I asked the ethinicity of his name.

He said “Persian.”

I said, “Iranian?”

He said yes. He was friendly about it all.

Of course he was friendly—His name was loaded with vowels.

The man seemed somewhat hesitant say Iranian because America is at odds with Iran right now.

Iran is defined as the enemy.

If Iran is the enemy, why did that guy have so many vowels in his name?

I’m not Hispanic. My wife is not Italian. That man at the store was no enemy.

When other people define who you are or what you are, they will most likely get it wrong.

December 30, 2007 Posted by | Cincinnati, Houston, Immigration, My Wife Is The Best Person Ever | , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments