Opinion: Carolina Journal Opinions

Gonzalez: Hispanic Ethnic Unity a Government Myth

• Mike Gonzalez, A Race For The Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans, Crown Forum, 2014, 230 pages, $26.00.

RALEIGH — In a recent appearance on C-Span’s “Booknotes,” Heritage Foundation senior fellow Mike Gonzalez told host Niger Innis that the ethnic classifications of the federal government bore “no relation to reality.” In A Race For The Future, the author expands on that theme.

Some readers might be surprised to learn that “Hispanic” is a creation of federal regulators. That’s right, says Gonzalez: “Hispanics do not exist as such before the 1970s. The term is a bureaucratic contrivance invented by the federal agencies to co-opt the growing numbers of Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Central Americans, and others in the Great Society affirmative action programs created by the Johnson administration.”

The so-called “Hispanics” do not think of themselves as a single ethnic group, and the term is not used in Latin America, where people call themselves Cubans, Guatemalans, Mexicans, Colombians, Dominicans, and so forth. Gonzalez does a good job outlining the differences among nationalities and shows readers why “Hispanic,” as currently deployed, is even more inaccurate.

In government hands, Hispanic also became a racial designation, a protected group with access to benefits such as affirmative action in a country that became newly divided between whites and “minorities.” This government scheme places WASPs, Poles, Italians, Jews, Irish, and others on one side, and Latin Americans on the other side with African-Americans. This designation has been imposed even though “there is nothing in the Hispanic experience that compares with the repulsive system of slavery,” and most Hispanics identify as white. Gonzalez, a Cuban immigrant, calls “Latino” a silly term and does not use it.

Any policy at odds with reality is bound to be disastrous, and that applies on the economic side of the dynamic. For example, in 2013 in Puerto Rico only 41 percent of adults were working or looking for work, and 37 percent of the people were on food stamps, the “gateway drug” of government dependence. As Gonzalez sees it, the Obama administration is now mounting a surge to extend that dependence to Hispanic immigrants. The author shows how the U.S. Department of Agriculture has even crafted radio soap operas in Spanish to persuade Hispanics to drop their natural resistance to being a public burden and accept food stamps. The USDA website notes that Mexico will help disseminate information through its embassy and consular offices.

The message is: “Since you are not like previous waves of immigrants, don’t aspire to the same experience.” Instead new immigrants get the benevolence of Big Government.

Gonzalez makes a strong case that the welfare state has been destructive for African-Americans and is worried that those negative effects will spread to Hispanics, a group expanding more rapidly than any other.

The author sees the way forward through policies that strengthen the family, through education, charter schools, entrepreneurship, and so forth, all along the lines of the material that proceeds from the Heritage Foundation. The ideas are good, but the prospects of success have to be balanced against the fact that people can vote a better standard of living for themselves. As the author notes, in Puerto Rico it’s a simple matter. You vote for the candidate who promises the largest increase in government benefits, such as food stamps.

A Race For The Future contrasts California and Texas on their respective approaches, but Gonzalez passes over California’s attempts for reform through the ballot box. In 1986, Ronald Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act turned 3 million former illegal immigrants into legal residents, and every one was allowed to bring in relatives. That same year 73.2 percent of Californians voted to make English the state’s official language. In 1994, Proposition 187, which cut state benefits for illegals, passed by 58.9 percent. In 1996, Proposition 209 signaled the first time American voters could determine the racial and ethnic preferences of affirmative action policies. Californians duly rejected special preferences by a 54.6 percent vote. And in 1998, 61.3 percent of voters, including many Mexican-Americans, dumped bilingual education. All these voter-approved measures have been ignored, nixed by the courts, or assailed by politically correct politicians, academics, and bureaucrats.

Oddly, Gonzalez does not say much about illegal immigration, a problem for Americans who hold in esteem the rule of law, as opposed to rule by a dictator, as in Cuba, or a single political party, as in Mexico. He seems to deny that massive illegal immigration could pose any kind of threat to American self-government, the theme of Samuel Huntington’s 2004 Who Are We? The Challenge to America’s National Identity. Gonzalez acknowledges Huntington’s argument and says he got a few things right, but fails to name the book. The index excludes Huntington’s name. Perhaps this was for fear of offending the politically correct Hispanic lobby, which can deploy powerful media allies to its cause.

At points in A Race For The Future, Mike Gonzalez wonders if there is a political purpose behind welfare state expansion. Of course there is. Statist politicians are importing an electorate, and bureaucrats are importing clients to expand their power and justify their positions.

This is the new colonialism, and it has a lot going for it: government power, an entrenched bureaucracy, an endless supply of other people’s money, a grievance dynamic, a collaborative media establishment, and a client base from nations whose traditions are more paternalistic than entrepreneurial. That is why the race for the future will be a close call.

Lloyd Billingsley is author of Hollywood Party: Stalinist Adventures in the American Movie Industry, which recently was released as a Kindle e-book and is available at Amazon.com.