By Leonard Adame
Sebastian De La Cruz has huevos this big! He’s the boy who sang the National Anthem at a San Antonio Spurs playoff game. To be sure, the little singer has a resonant and confident voice, a voice as clear as a Notre Dame church bell. And he looked resplendent in his Mariachi regalia, signaling to all that he’s a future star. As he said later, he was “born and bred” in San Antonio and he’s an American. Again he spoke confidently, pride in his voice and stature, his eyes glistening with the emotion of singing in public his country’s National Anthem.
But the boy’s pride and talent weren’t good enough for some Texans, the kind that think they have a right to call people “spic” and “beaner.” Those terms constitute the worst kind of offensiveness, but they became even more so when, through the magic of a social network, they were aimed at young Sebastian as if they had been fired from an AK-47. On their network sites, people said that Sebastian should go back to Mexico and that he was probably undocumented. Of course, the people firing the racist comments had no idea where Sebastian had been born, who his parents are or that his father served in the U.S. Navy.
What we shouldn’t lose sight of is that Sebastian has the temperament and patience of a saint. In his responses to the racists, his comments oozed no anger as had those of the bigots. His views were inclusive and positive and even patriotic, unlike those who called him terrible names, people who think themselves more American, superior Americans, people who somehow have decided they have the right to attack a person of color as if it were a Christ-given, and right-wing, mandate. These days, the caliber of racist epithets has become a template one must follow to be considered an American in good standing.
The 4th of July is on the horizon, a time to celebrate freedom and to reflect on what it costs all Americans to survive in a country becoming more and more divided by immigration issues. But here’s the thing, my fellow patriots: This country owes its existence to immigrants from all over the world.
Long before seafaring Europeans awoke from their stupor, caused by weeks at sea as they supposedly fled political and religious persecution, people of color had created a sophisticated civilization in this area of the world. It was made up of communities full of people from all over the world, people who for the most part got along, who created an economy and established social norms and cultural practices.
The same is true in what is now Mexico, where pre-Columbian people established extensive trading routes on land and sea, where people became astronomers, doctors, lawyers, poets, teachers and agronomists. All was going good until the arrival of uninvited sojourners, people to whom monetary enrichment, no matter who had to die, was the highest prize in all of Christendom.
In short, the arrival of Europeans signaled the end of the world for indigenous people, who were nearly all decimated by the invaders. Ruthlessness and inhumanity and the belief in one’s superiority were inherent in the Europeans, so much so that they immediately thought they had encountered not human beings, but savages. This, of course, led to genocide, a pattern and practice of annihilating an entire civilization and believing that God sanctioned the devastation.
But most of this history has been ignored by our school systems, by our national leaders, with the exception of a few scattered celebrations perpetuated not by White people, but by people of color who have somehow survived despite the hatred and intolerance and racist invective that still thrive today, especially in some areas in Texas.
Still and all, little Sebastian bears the racists no ill will. He flings only a song, the notes and words of which are supposed to ensure that we never forget the meaning of sacrifice, freedom, justice, equality and the profound recognition that the country’s foundation was created by people of color, from slaves, to Chinese laborers, to Mexican campesinos, to women of color who were forced into prostitution. The money made from these people’s labor and unimaginable suffering allowed this country to grow economically, to make some, like Rockefeller, Carnegie and other robber barons, unbelievably rich.
So as we look forward to another 4th of July celebration, wouldn’t it do us all well to remember what we owe people of color? Wouldn’t it be a good thing to appreciate Sebastian De La Cruz, who has yet to learn of the bloody hardships his ancestors faced at the hands of European imperialists, and his innocent views of this country? Maybe, now that I think of it, we should all re-acquire those views, relive the times before we were socialized into categorizing people based on their color and, so it was often thought, the inferior content of their character.
It’s been a long while since I’ve felt good about this country. Hearing Sebastian sing the National Anthem wholeheartedly, and seeing that the San Antonio Spurs welcomed him back for an encore, has helped me to feel pretty good these last couple of days, despite Texas politicians who are conducting a pogrom against immigrants of color, and despite racists who, like the cowards they are, send inhumane messages to a little boy who by his singing actually gives the 4th of July more meaning than most of us can imagine.
Leonard Adame has retired from teaching college English. He now plays drums in various bands, takes photographs, reads mystery novels to a fault and has published poetry in college anthologies. He most enjoys re-learning about human beings from his grandkids. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.