I am a half-Latina, half-white, lifelong Ohio citizen. Having grown up in southwest Ohio, I was used to being called derogatory names because of my ethnicity. This should be no surprise, given that Ohio is not new to the fight against hate (our state has had a troubling history of discrimination against African-Americans, new immigrants and even Appalachian migrants). However, I fear that hate is becoming more elusive under the guise of anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Nationwide, hate crimes against Latinos have increased over 40 percent in the past decade. It is no coincidence that these crimes correspond with the steady rise in the anti-immigrant movement in the past decade. In Ohio, there are 27 hate groups and eight nativist extremist groups, all of which are designated as such by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Sadly, Ohio ranks fifth in the nation for hate crime incidents.
As these organizations continue to control the immigration debate with falsehoods about immigrants, the real message is more subtle; that is one of fear of "the other." This threatens not just immigrants, but all Americans. The foundational ideology of America is that "all men are created equal." Yet these hate groups are testing this ideology by advocating the singling out of groups that are "undeserving" of constitutional protections and the American dream. As a Latina, I am disturbed by the increase in public buy-in to the anti-immigrant messages. But as an American, I am even more disturbed by the erosion of the very values that have made this nation great. History teaches us that America's strength is our diversity, and our weakness is the fear of diversity. These hate groups jeopardize our progress as a nation and a state by playing on those fears.
Florentina Staigers, Columbus
Published: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 - See Cleveland Plain Dealer Post Here with Comments