by James H. Reza
A coworker at General Dynamics once told me, “James, black is beautiful, brown is grand, but white is the color of the ‘Big Boss Man’.” Being an American of Mexican heritage, I was almost always the target of my white coworkers making fun of my ethnicity. Though I would retaliate verbally, we all got along and had fun insulting each other.
Lately, and I’m assuming here, most of us who keep up with the latest news have been made aware that Hispanics are now the largest ethnic group in the United States. And in some areas in the United States, particularly in the Southwest, will soon outnumber white Americans. To some, those are welcomed statistics. To others, concern and maybe even resentment may be brewing.
Political Hispanic activists, I almost certain, gloat over the increasing number of Hispanics in the United States, savoring the much-anticipated political clout Hispanics will soon wield in the political arena. Los Angeles “a Mexican city, within the United States,” (quote by former Los Angeles Mayor James H. Hahn) has just elected its first Hispanic mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, since 1872. Many assume that this is the beginning of Hispanics flexing their voting muscle in our country.
Personally, I’m not concerned that those of my ilk are now the largest minority group in our country, nor should it concern others. “Why?” some might ask. The answer is quite simple. Hispanics have a dismal record at the polls, and are usually found at the bottom rung of the educational ladder. Those two vital and disheartening attributes in my humble opinion, will not only hinder, but also diminish their political influence and block their upward economic status in our society. Census data shows that 58 percent of eligible Hispanics register to vote compared with 75 percent of Anglos and 69 percent of blacks. Even with Spanish bilingual ballots and Spanish political ads, Hispanics have yet to show any enthusiasm to go to the polls.
Just recently, my community at Lake Work has been flooded with a business-building boom. Few if any days go by that ground is not being broken to welcome another business into our city. Just a stone’s throw from my house a large shopping center is being erected, as is a new funeral home, and yet another shopping center close to Loop 820 and Azle Ave. As I drive or walk close to the building projects, I can’t help but notice the vast amount of workers laboring diligently in their given trades (painters, electricians, heavy equipment operators, cement finishers, tile setters, and plain laborers) to erect the soon to be shopping center(s) and funeral home. Almost always, those workers doing the common labor jobs (digging, sweeping, planting flowers, trees, and grass) are Hispanic. Having said that, most of the cement finishers, tile setters, and roofers, are also Hispanic. However, most licensed electricians, licensed plumbers, and large heavy equipment operators are almost always white. “Why the disparity?” one might ask. The answer is simple — you need to read and write English to obtain an electrician and plumber’s license. Likewise, to operate heavy equipment takes a lot of training and the understanding of blueprints, which again are most often written in English.
Herein lies another big problem(s) for Hispanics, especially the immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries. If they don’t learn to assimilate, learn English, and attend institutions of higher learning, their clout politically and economically will lessen more than imaginable. In a recent study, Hispanics accounted for half of the nation’s population growth between 2000 and 2004 elections, but they made up only 10 percent of new voters during the same period — nothing to brag about if you ask me.
Having made these non-positive statements about Hispanics and their shortcomings does not make me someone who does not wish for Hispanics to do better for themselves and their families. In contrast, I would like to witness the participation, in large numbers, in electing our political leaders. And, I would encourage their children to excel in school, stay in school, and increase their attendance at our colleges and universities. With those successes, would lay the key to political clout and economic affluence of the Hispanic race.
Almost all of you have noticed that when there is a building project, there are always mobile office trailers where most of the engineers and supervisors who are overseeing the building project(s) are often found. To this day as I walk where all these new buildings are being built in Lake Work, I have yet to see a Hispanic come out of one of those offices. Almost always, they are white. I guess my white friends at General Dynamics were right when they would tell me, “James, black is beautiful, brown is great, but white is the color of the big boss man!” Hey, I’m only telling it like I see it, not how I dream it.
James H. Reza
4204 Grand Lake
Lake Worth, Texas 76135
Phone(s): 817-237-6287 (H) 817-454-3316 (Cell)