July 5 2002

Commentary

Coping With Racism and Discrimination in America

By Daniel L. Muñoz

There is a little known organization exists in the County of San Diego named the Association of Iranian-American Professionals (AIAP). Its members consist of former citizen of the nation of Iran who immigrated to the United States when the Ayatollah Khomeini ousted Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi as Shah of Iran in 1979. The exiled Ayatollah -Khomeini had stirred up opposition to the Shah and was instrumental in arousing the youth into taking extreme actions. The Ayatollah returned to Iran from exile and formed the extreme “Islamic Revolutionary Government” in 1979.

Unfortunately the Reza Shah was dying of cancer in 1979 and was in no condition to fight off the insurgency. He left with his family, during the revolution and came to the United States seeking treatment. He found no cure. Upon his death, his son Reza Pahlavi, became the successor to the Peacock Throne. He is now 41 years old and is waiting for the call from Iran to return and ascend the throne.

World events have set in motion situations in the middle-East which soured relations between the U.S. and Iran. The President of the AIAP, Ramin Moshiri, became concerned over the increased attacks against members of his community, especially since the President of the U.S. labeled Iran as a member of the “Axis of Evil.” He initiated communications with La Prensa San Diego seeking advice as to how to combat the extreme racist attacks that members of their community were suffering.

An invitation for the Publisher of La Prensa San Diego to speak before the group.The topic: How the Mexican American, Latino, Hispanic people have coped with being treated as 2nd class citizens, inferior, even though Mexican history in the Americas goes back for a far longer time than their European descendents.

Funny thing about this is that Moshiri struck a responsive chord within me, because we, as Mexican-Americans have been through all the phases of racism and discrimination, even though our people were the Conquistadores and were the ones to settle the Americas. Yet, we still feel “Que no Somos de Aqui Ni de Allá!!! (We still feel like we are neither from here U.S.A. nor from there Mexico)! North Americans Euro-Anglo Saxons still try to make us feel as outsiders!

It was worse in the 20’s and 30’s, through the end of WWII. Then things began to change as G.I. Mexican Jose came back from the war. That’s when we decided that enough was enough! We were not going to be used just to fight America’s wars…If we were good enough to die for this country we should be good enough to be first class citizens. Group and individual decisions were made “that we would no longer be second class citizens”. We fought back ….at every opportunity.

Derogatory terms and labels are being used within the public discourse to describe Farsi speaking citizens (Iranians) as Camel drivers, Rag Hats etc. We also were labeled as Spicks, Tio Tacos, Wetbacks, Beaners etc. It took the leaders of our communities a while to learn that to label you in derogatory terms are a means to control, defame and demeanor your ancestry, race, or culture.

“The power to label” you is the power to control you! The White Anglo-Saxon-European community controls the majority of power in this country whether it’s economic, political, social, or the governing institutions of this country. The Mexican, Latino, Hispanic, have been systematically excluded from the ability to gain the power to redefine AND MAKE IT STICK! Though there has been some measure of change since the 50’s, he who has the power to define holds the power to control!

“At every opportunity, speak out on propaganda that demeanors you, your culture or your religion, USE THE BILL OF RIGHTS; FIGHT DISCRIMINATION OF ANY KIND. IT IS YOUR RIGHT AS CITIZENS, OR LEGAL IMMIGRANT. Create organization to speak out on actual or perceived abuses of you community. Mexican-Americans have created the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, The G.I. Forum, The VFW, and the League of United Latin American Citizens to name a few. White America is governed by a Constitution that includes the Bill of Rights that you can demand its protection all the way to the Supreme Court of this Country. I know we have used it and will continue to do so until we eliminate all vestiges of racist discrimination in this country.

“It is necessary for you to use THE INHERENT POWERS WITHIN OUR CONSTITUTION AND BILL OF RIGHTS TO DEFEND YOURSELVES. America is not a homogenous nation of one race, one color, one culture, or one language. It is a nation of immigrants that have only one thing that binds them together AN IDEOLOGY of a DEMOCRACY WITH A REPUBLICAN FORM OF GOVERNMENT, which is held together by a Constitution and a Bill of Rights. It is the political governing structure that binds and holds us together as one nation. That is your strength. Use force such as political pressure, legal attacks, media pressure, police support, to insure that U.S. Citizens abide by the highest law in the land the…the Constitution. You don’t have to be a citizen to enjoy the protections of our Constitution …Nowhere does it say you have to be a citizen to enjoy its protections. The Constitution protects all persons who are within its border”

 Munoz can be reached via e-mail at laprensapol.wire@aol.com

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