A Hispanic Civil Rights Movement: "A Hispanic Civil Rights Movement
By Juan Williams
Monday, April 10, 2006
"The massive demonstrations by Hispanics across the country have the look of civil rights history. The crowds protesting punitive immigration legislation have been huge, rivaling or exceeding the gathering for the 1963 March on Washington. Is this in fact a major new civil rights movement?
Until now Hispanics have not been a political force or a major factor in national discussions of civil rights, though they have become the nation's largest minority. The politics of race are still dominated by conversations about black-white relations, and blacks remain the gatekeepers of racial representation on school boards and in city halls. In Congress, African Americans have a caucus more than twice the size of the Hispanic delegation (43 to 21), even though they are a smaller percentage of the population.
One big reason Hispanic power has been slow in maturing is that most Hispanics do not identify themselves as such. Their group reference has tended to be to homelands -- Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic. And of course there are racial differences, especially between black and white Hispanics.
But that changed recently, with marches that drew hundreds of thousands and created coalitions across the lines of Hispanic national identity. People from disparate Hispanic nations coalesced around the debate on illegal immigration. It took a radical step by the House -- giving serious thought to dragnet arrests of all illegal immigrants and charging them with a felony -- to achieve this. To some, the level of hatred and racism against immigrants seemed to match that once directed against blacks in this country..."
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