Steve's Soapbox

Friday, October 21, 2005

....same hateful attitudes expressed on Brownwood's "Hate Radio" !

Macarena Hernández:
'Go back where I came from'? Hey, that's South Texas
12:01 AM CDT on Friday, October 21, 2005
Wow, who knew I had so many readers? At last count, I believe I've heard from 87 percent of you, give or take a few thousand. Many of you hated last week's column. Some of you hated me. So much for thinking that we'd always agree.
My column dealt with violence against undocumented immigrants, hinged on a brutal Georgia crime in which six men were beaten to death with aluminum bats as they were robbed.
As an aside, I noted that it doesn't help that there are people out there stirring the pot of hysteria over illegal immigration. "It is one thing to want to secure the borders and another to preach hate," I wrote, "to talk of human beings as ailments." My message: Such talk dehumanizes.
10/14: America, stand up for justice and decency
When I took this job two months ago – the first Latina to write a regular editorial column at The Dallas Morning News – I imagined that it might be hard for some readers to get used to my voice and perspective. But until Bill O'Reilly denounced me on his radio and television shows Tuesday, no reader had called me a "wetback," "beaner," "spic" or "stupid Mexican."
(When I told my mother that strangers were calling me a mojada – wetback – she was quite amused.)
Thousands of e-mails and phone calls poured in. In fairness, a few were complimentary and others were critical but rational – many sharing their frustration over our government's inability to come up with a solid immigration reform plan.
Those messages were swamped by the ones radiating anger.
Some critics compared me to New York Times plagiarist Jayson Blair because I inadvertently referred to Mr. O'Reilly's nationally syndicated radio show, The Radio Factor, by the name of his top-rated cable television show. That was a mistake – and it breaks my heart to put an error into the newspaper – but I hope you won't let that obscure my larger point.
Hey, it's not like I said we should adopt Spanish as our national language.
Ironically, many of the harsher critics hadn't even read the column they were criticizing. How do I know? This was typical: "I wouldn't read your column or newspaper, but I'm a regular viewer of The O'Reilly Factor , and ..."
One woman, who echoed the "You're biased!" sentiment of many e-mails, wrote that I should look for a job with the National Enquirer. Ouch.
"It is obvious that you are an opinion journalist," she wrote.
Well, yes, and that's probably why my column appears on a page called Viewpoints.
But really, now, to suggest that my column was evidence that The News has turned pinko-liberal? The newspaper that twice recommended George W. Bush for president? That advocates balancing the budget without raising taxes? That often sides with big business?
I have to admit, the most stinging notes came from some fellow Latinos, who offered variations of "You don't speak for me. I love Bill O'Reilly." I won't argue. I probably don't speak for you, but I do speak with you.
The ones who told me to "go back where I came from" were kind of funny. What, back to South Texas? Believe me, it crossed my mind.
Many called me "anti-American," another irony. I think of myself as the product of the American dream. My parents, like most immigrants, came here in search of the hope that eluded them at home. Today, I straddle two worlds: immigrant with a history and citizen trying to make things better. Mr. O'Reilly is the child of immigrants, too, as he likes to remind his audience.
Why can't some folks understand that I can have cariño for Mexico and also love the United States?
"Coward! Face him!" Mr. O'Reilly's fans demanded.
No, thanks. I have my own platform, and with it the responsibility to offer mis verdades, my truths. Thank God for a country where each of us – me and Mr. O'Reilly included – get to say what we think. No Jerry Springer showdowns for me.
If I could make one small suggestion: Those of you so clearly concerned about our nation's immigration policy could channel your anger toward our president and your other representatives. Turn your rage into something positive.
Much of our anti-immigrant sentiment starts with people who don't know the border or understand Latin American poverty. They don't realize that a geographical boundary will never keep out the hungry and the desperate.
When Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist visited the U.S.-Mexico border for the first time last week, he saw what you can't see from a television studio or an office on Capitol Hill.
"You see the river itself and the footprints," he told the San Antonio Express-News, "you see the humanity that that represents."
Macarena Hernández is a Dallas Morning News editorial columnist. Her e-mail address is