(Originally Published July 8 2016)
Editor’s Comment: I normally don’t get offended by anything and I’m not now. I feel a bit sad when I see or hear anyone talking about American’s in race or ethnicity terms. For those of you who haven’t read about why I’m an American first. I just posted the article explaining it to anyone who will read it.
My name is Charles Diaz. I am an American of Mexican descent. I am not Latino; I am not a Hispanic; I am not Mexican-American. There is a difference. Congress encouraged the creation of Latinos, Hispanics, and other hyphenated names for Americans. I grew up in South Central LA, in a broken home and as an “ethnic” minority.
I am not a university graduate, but I did graduate from high school. I have lived a pretty good life because I’m not stupid and do not lack common sense. I do have the brains that God gave me. I grew up believing that being American was the best thing that could happen to a person. To my parents, being Mexican only signified the country from which they migrated. They migrated to come to the land of freedom and opportunity.
I remember movies that portrayed immigrants arriving from Europe and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. Actors like Spencer Tracy played characters whose first goal was to learn American English—the language of our liberty. Next, they studied to become citizens, and the day they did was glorious. To be an American was foremost in the mind of the immigrant. Next to being an American, the most important thing was being an individual. Every success or failure in my life is because I, Chuck Diaz, a man, did it. Not because I’m an American, not because I’m of Mexican descent, but because America gave me the chance to succeed or fail. And I did it with America’s blessing!
I began working at age nine in a tortilla factory. From 6 a.m. to about 8:30 a.m. each morning, I counted corn tortillas into stacks of one dozen as they came off the press. I sold newspapers from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. each night until, at age fifteen, I started working in the produce department of a grocery store. I moved my way up the union shop, starting as an apprentice and later becoming a journeyman. One of my jobs was being a trimmer. A trimmer is the person who keeps the vegetables looking as fresh as possible.
I joined the military at age seventeen and, by age twenty, I became staff sergeant and I was performing a job as Intercept Controller, usually reserved for officers. I wasn’t even old enough to drink with them, but I was their equal in ability. After my discharge in 1958, at the age of twenty-one, I joined a company in Los Angeles as a machine shop loader. A “loader” is a guy who carries the heavy materials to the machines. So, basically, I was at the bottom of the ladder.
During the following three years, I was promoted from loader to expediter, to coordinator, to lead coordinator, and finally to production control supervisor. During my sixth year with the company, I was passed over for a promotion that I deserved. So I decided to leave the company. After a short stint in the bar business, I was hired as a manufacturing production control planner and, within three months, I was promoted to management systems analyst. A few months later, I was promoted to inventory control manager.
At that point, my former boss’s boss offered me a job as supervisor of fabrication control for a company that built helicopters. I took the job and, three months later, was promoted to general supervisor of fabrication control. I supervised 350 people. Later in life, I founded and ran a consulting company and published a semi-technical magazine that was read in twenty-two countries. I have traveled extensively to South Korea and Canada as a consultant.
Throughout my life, I’ve never thought of myself as anything but a man who had been given the same opportunity that is given to every American—the chance to succeed. I have never been ashamed of being of Mexican descent and have never felt any prejudice against me. While trying to analyze why I never felt any prejudice against me, I’ve come to some conclusions. When my mother came to the United States, she was only six years old, and my grandparents settled in a part of Los Angeles that was predominantly white. As a result, I learned English as my first language. These factors facilitated the development of my human abilities.
My parents didn’t move into a barrio. They learned and accepted English as their language. They assimilated. Back then, there were no schools that taught in Spanish; the government created that. There were no signs in Spanish; the government created that. I got my first jobs (before and after the military) without equal opportunity employers and affirmative action; the government created that. I was accepted because I wasn’t an adult that walked around saying, “Orale, man, Que pasa?” The government created that too. When I was passed over for promotion, I didn’t claim prejudice or racism; the government created that. No prejudice was ever shown against me because in my heart and soul I was and am an American. I believe prejudice lies in the heart of the beholder.
I have been fortunate enough to travel to South Korea on several occasions. On my first visit, I was the guest of Samsung, one of the largest corporations in Korea. During that visit, I went to a city called Kumi to tour a telecommunications assembly plant. Kumi is about three hours southeast of Seoul by train. In Kumi, I exited the train station and looked out on the streets filled with people. I felt something different. At first it was a funny feeling. Then it struck me; I was the only American in a street filled with hundreds if not thousands of Koreans. This was the first time in my life where I was the only American in such a large crowd.
Later, on the train back to Seoul, I started to reflect on things I had seen but not given any thought to while traveling, like the time I was sitting in the bar of the Shilla, one of Seoul’s finest five-star hotels. I noticed a German fellow and a Frenchman talking to the bartender, who was Korean. I observed that the German couldn’t speak French or Korean, the Frenchman couldn’t speak German or Korean, and the Korean couldn’t speak German or French. They were communicating in English, and I felt a feeling of pride when it hit me—English, our language, is used by the world to communicate.
If you do much traveling, there is another fact you quickly learn. There is only one currency that will never be turned down, no matter where you are: the American dollar, (at least back then). I started comparing the difference between a country like Korea, a homogeneous society with one race and nationality, and America. In America we aren’t the melting pot we used to be, but we are a multiracial, multinational country. I asked myself, “What does an American look like?”
An American can be white, black, red, brown, or yellow. An American can have blond hair, black hair, kinky hair, or straight hair. In short, you cannot identify an American by his or her physical traits. If there is no physical trait that identifies an American, then it must be something else, possibly a frame of mind. It could be an idea or a philosophy we live by, an attitude toward a way of life, with a little conceit and arrogance about being American—a pride.
What amazed me was that it took traveling outside the United States before I really started to think about what was happening inside the United States. If you are anything like me, when you return to the US, you feel a certain pride in being an American. You can feel good, that is, until you get home and listen to the news, pick up the local newspaper, or turn on the TV. There are certain so-called Americans who have become racially motivated minority groups and are tearing at the fabric of America.
Instead of a melting pot, we are becoming more of an egg separator. Factions professing that heritage is more important than being American are unknowingly—or worse, knowingly—dividing America into ethnic or racial groups. It seems some people only care about taking from America and not giving anything back. Not even being proud enough to call themselves Americans first, they hyphenate their nationality by placing an ethnic nationality reference before the word American.
These people are predominantly Afro-American and Mexican-American. They claim ethnic heritage is more important than American heritage. Instead of assimilating the American thought, the American way, and the American dream, they place their ethnicity above being American, and still use all that America has to offer. They reject American heritage. As an American of Mexican descent, I was born in America and I was taught and believe George Washington was a hero.
Today’s hyphenated Americans must reject that premise and believe they need to be taught of some other heroes. They demand bilingual education as a better option for their hyphenated American children. The worst possible thing the American educational system can do is graduate a student who cannot speak English fluently.
When Irish, Germans, French, Jews, Koreans, Chinese, or most other nationals migrate to America, they don’t demand to be taught in their languages. Today, Americans of Asian descent aren’t demanding to be taught in their language, and they are consistently the top performers in our scholastic system. Is it that they think becoming an American is the most important thing in their life, important enough to leave their country in favor of the land of freedom?
Why is there so much support for today’s hyphenated Americans to be brainwashed into believing it’s most important to be a hyphenated American? Why aren’t they being encouraged to assimilate? In doing what they are doing, they not only destroy their children’s chances but also add unnecessary costs to our educational system by claiming ethnic-heritage education is required for self-esteem.
I’m an American with a last name of Diaz, and I have enough self-esteem for a dozen people. But then, I’m proud of being an American. I’m proud of being of Mexican descent. I grew up eating beans and tortillas for breakfast lunch and dinner, right next to steak, meatloaf, and fried chicken. When it comes to teaching a child reading, writing, and arithmetic, it doesn’t make any difference where the child’s parents were born. Yet certain educators say they can’t teach all kids out of the same book.
What does a child’s ethnicity have to do with American history, with grammar, with math, or with science? Being born American or becoming a naturalized citizen should not be the totally free ride it has become. It is said America gives many freedoms to all when it should say America gives many freedoms to all who embrace her. The last time anyone tried to divide America, a civil war was fought and Americans killed Americans to keep this nation intact.
Yet these so called Afro- and Mexican-Americans do nothing but preach division. They and their supporters believe history must be revised to include a point of view other than American. They try to belittle America’s history by making the white male European connection sound chauvinistically racist. They completely forget that the white European male-dominated Constitutional Convention created the very document that allows them the freedom to make those ridiculous charges.
They forget that the white European male-dominated explorers helped carve the greatest nation in the world. If this experiment had not happened, and succeeded, all those who are complaining would be bowing down to a king or sacrificing virgins to some sun god at noon on a daily basis. If we allow them to demean American history, we are allowing them to demean the very core of what it means to be American.
Even though our Constitution is the primary cause of American success, it has been under assault for decades. The more we distance ourselves from the Constitution, the worse America’s future becomes. I decided to interpret the Bill of Rights as I, one of the people, read and understand it. The ruling class, the elites, the intellectuals, and the academics will scoff at me, but this had to be written.