News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A "Class H" citizen named Schwarzenegger

Governor Schwarzenegger's son with his Latina housekeeper is a Class H citizen. Allow me to explain.

In my cautionary tales, AMERICA LIBRE and HOUSE DIVIDED, a near-future US is wracked by widespread unrest in Latino communities across the nation, leading to violent clashes between right wing extremists and Latino separatists. In response to the unrest, a US Senator (of the same ilk as today's Arizona legislature) succeeds in passing legislation to divide the warring factions. Among the draconian measures enacted is a new legal classification: Class H -- (H for Hispanic).

Class H designation is given to anyone with a Spanish surname or at least one parent of Hispanic origin. Anyone with a Hispanic spouse is also included. Class H status comprises two categories: citizens and non-citizens. Immediate deportation awaits anyone designated Class H who is not an American citizen. To expedite their relocation, Class H citizens are required to register their home addresses within thirty days with the CIA. Failure to comply will bring a ten thousand-dollar fine and three years’ imprisonment.

Like former New Mexico governor Bill Richards whose mother is of Mexican origin, the son of Governor Schwarzenegger and his housekeeper would be classified Class H under this system.

Yet, in many ways, we already have a Class H system in place.

In the media, news reports and even some academic circles, the US population is divided into four demographic categories: White, Black, Asian and Hispanic. The inherent presumption of these categories is that "Hispanic" is a racial group separate from the other three. The truth is much more complex.

The U.S. Census Bureau states "persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race." Still, it's common even for Latinos to identify themselves as part of "La Raza." But no matter how widespread, the idea of a Hispanic race has no basis in fact. Like the United States, the nations of Latin America have been populated by a mix of people from all over the world along with their indigenous populations. Latin American is no more a race than North American.

My novels serve as a warning to the dangers the US faces when demagogues demonize illegal immigrants -- and alienate the entire Latino population in the process. Another of the problems we face is a colossal misunderstanding of what it truly means to be Latino.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

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