What is the Cost of Sensitivity Toward Immigrants in US?

Earlier, I posted on a strange phenomena of Americans celebrating Cinco de Mayo. During my (brief) research, I came across a May 2nd article in Sacramento Bee about protest of about 100 mostly Latino UC Davis students – claiming that they did not feel safe on campus, because the employees of UC Davis Student Run Coffee House (known as CoHo) promoted an off-campus party Cinco de Drinko.

According to the Sacramento Bee article, The Facebook event page for Cinco de Drinko (now taken down) included a picture of four male students, wearing sombreros, trying to hop a chain-link fence while two female students in Border Patrol attire smile.

KCRA 3 News reported on the event – transcript below:

KCRA 3 NEWS AT 5:00 STARTS RIGHT NOW. [CAPTIONING SPONSORED BY SLEEP TRAIN MATTRESS CENTERS, YOUR TICKET TO A BETTER NIGHT’S SLEEP!] HUNDREDS OF STUDENTS STAGE A PROTEST AND SIT IN AT UC DAVIS OVER ALLEGATIONS OF RACISM. THE STUDENTS CHANTED AND MARCHED INSIDE THE COFFEEHOUSE AND IT HAS BECOME THE CENTER OF A CONTROVERSY. ALL OF THIS BECAUSE OF A PARTY AND DRINKING GAME ORGANIZED BY STUDENTS MOCKING MEXICANS. THOSE STUDENTS WERE VERY VOCAL TODAY. MORE THAN 100 OF THEM MARCHING AT THIS COFFEEHOUSE THAT YOU SEE BEHIND MY SHOULDER. IT HAPPENED AT NOON TODAY AND THEY DEMANDED THAT THEIR VOICES BE HEARD. THE STUDENTS, MANY OF THEM LATINO, WERE OFFENDED BY A PARTY EVENT ORGANIZED BY A STUDENT EMPLOYEE AT THE COFFEE HOUSE ON CAMPUS. THEY CALLED IT “CI NCO DE DRINKO.” THERE WERE DEPICTIONS THAT WERE RACIALLY INSENSITIVE, INCLUDING A BORDER FENCE. PARTYGOERS WERE URGED TO WHERE SOMBREROS AND PONCHOS, WHILE OTHER STUDENTS DRESSED AS A BORDER PATROL AGENTS WOULD CHASE THEM ACROSS THE FENCE. TO BE PICKED IT AS A JOKE IS NOT OK WITH ME OR ANYTHING — ANY OF THE STUDENTS. PROTESTERS DEMANDED THAT THE PARTY ORGANIZERS FACE SANCTIONS. COFFEEHOUSE MANAGERS WOULD NOT COMMENT, SO WE SPOKE TO THE SCHOOL’S VICE CHANCELLOR OF STUDENT AFFAIRS. WE HAD HEARD IT WAS BE COLD OFF — CALLED OFF. IT WAS CALLED OFF. WE HAD STAFF IMMEDIATELY MEET WITH THE EMPLOYEES TO TALK ABOUT CULTURAL SENSITIVITY, RESPECT, AND A BETTER UNDERSTANDING FOR THE DIVERSITY THAT WE HAVE ON OUR CAMPUS. UC DAVIS IS THE ENTIRE INCIDENT IS UNDER INVESTIGATION. WE WILL HAVE THE CHANCELLOR’S RESPONSE AT 6:00. MIKE LUERY, KCRA 3 NEWS. WHAT HAPPENS TO THE STUDENTS WHO ORGANIZED IT? WE WENT LOOKING FOR THEM. THEY WERE HARD TO FIND. THEY WERE NOT AROUND AND ALSO TOOK THEIR FACEBOOK DOWN. WE UNDERSTAND THERE IS STRONG CONDEMNATION FROM THE EMPLOYERS. A STRONG RESPONSE TO THAT. WE HAVE THAT — WE HAVE MORE ON THAT. —

The planned party was quickly condemned by UC Davis officials and student leader and canceled. Administrators are reportedly looking into internal sanctions to punish the students responsible.

You would think that dealing with the students who organized the party would be appropriate response to a mild joke in bad taste. Not in California… Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said that education should be used to prevent similar controversies in the future. She suggested that instructional requirements could be changed to mandate a diversity course.

The idea made me wonder, how much America would pay for Katehi’s attempt to prevent future bad jokes about non-whites. According to UC Davis Tuition and Fees page, the estimated annual tuition for full time student is $13,902 for California residents and $36,780 for out of state students. Assuming 12-units per quarter (and 3 quarters per year), the cost of one unit is about $386 ($1,022 for out of state students). The cost of the proposed sensitivity course to students, assuming it is 3-unit course, would then be $1,158 and $3,065 for CA and out of state students respectively.

UC Davis has about 32,000 students on campus. Assuming (for simplicity) that all of them are CA residents, the cost passed to the future students every four years would be more than $37 million. The taxpayers, of course, would get stuck with even bigger bill. Assuming that the out of state students’ tuition actually covers the cost of the education (I have no idea if that is true), the cost to taxpayers would be over $61 million every four years for the total of over $98 million shared by students and tax payers.  I think that this figure is an under-estimate, because I am not even talking about cost of books or tuition increases. Also, if a student has to stay in school an extra quarter to fulfill this requirement, the cost to the student and the taxpayers would be much higher.

I hope that Katehi will back off the plan because plenty of similar plans have been put to test in all levels of government and they do not and cannot work. If the attempts to use law and forced “education” to eradicate the use of racially charged words, comments and jokes worked, the racism in USA would have been a thing of a past long time ago. The fact remains, that some people are and always will be racist and no amount of legislature and rules and education “addressing” the issue will change them.

By using laws, forced sensitivity classes, one-sided racially over-sensitive reporting, and other social engineering tools, most people are alienated from the process. If you are constantly told how insensitive, racist or unaccommodating you are to any group, how likely is it that you will appreciate that group’s plight?

As an example, look at illegal Mexican immigrants in the US, who were the target of the Cinco de Drinko joke. As an American, through your elected representatives, you allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, you invest in translators in court for them, you pay higher health insurance premiums because they use hospital emergency rooms, the list goes on.

Regardless of all that you are expected to do for the illegal immigrant community, not a week goes by without media coverage of some immigrant having a hard time crossing the border, or of someone who presented a racially insensitive depiction of a Mexican immigrant and has lost a job over it. Regardless of how the story ends, media’s interpretation of the events always seems to be that America is racist and unaccommodating to illegal immigrants from Mexico – and that America needs to clean up its act. So we are being taxed for the benefit of illegal immigrants and expected to treat them in very racially sensitive way, and at the same time, you are being told that you are a racist. By the way, the immigrants (illegal as well as those here legally) are certainly not required to treat Americans with any sensitivity.

That being the case, are you likely to think that illegal immigrants need more protection from insensitive jokes and more millions of your tax dollars, or are you more likely to feel that it is all just a propaganda showed down your throat? Has anyone’s mind been changed by the political correctness?

Bottom line is that most people who think that illegal immigrants don’t need more protection but need to get in the line to get here legally instead are not racist. They feel disrespected by illegal immigrants and duped by the government handling the immigration affairs on their behalf.

I am certainly not advocating for racism or unkind treatment of immigrants (or anyone) but I definitely think that it would help all of us immigrants get along in America better, if we became less sensitive to some (even insensitive) jokes about our culture, and instead became more sensitive to the customs of our host country. We need to appreciative of the tremendous opportunities that America is affording us and not just complain about how hard things are for us.

Here is my personal experience with assimilation. When I first moved to the United States, my sensitivities were offended on daily bases. My English was atrocious, so everyone seemed to have assumed that I was an idiot. I did not challenge their assumptions. I just kept learning and doing the best job I could at work and learn English as fast as I could. In a year, a lot less people thought I was stupid.

Americans also loved to tell me Czech jokes or tell them in my presence. The jokes typically either depicted Czechs as being stupid, as being backward communists, or they were some play on words – Czech versus check (What do you call a Czech immigrant? A bounced check! Ha ha ha!).

A favorite on the Saturday Night Live which I was reminded of often was Wild and Crazy Czechoslovakians in which Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd,  depicted Czechs and Slovaks as complete morons. It did not occur to anyone I know in the Czech or Slovak community to demonstrate and claim that we did not feel safe in the United States because we were made fun of on national TV (not just by handful of students on a university campus).

Thankfully, there were no new laws prohibiting Czech jokes, nobody demanded an apology from Saturday Night Live, nobody thought that Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd should attend a semester of diversity course, or that all future Hollywood actors should spend millions on getting “educated” on the issue. And thank God, no new agency of Czech Affairs was created at Americans’ expense.

Interestingly enough, the people exhibiting the most pleasure at putting me down seemed to be disproportionally those with roots in some other continent than Europe. Even the people I considered my friends happily joined in. Looking back at it today, I bet they did not even realize how they sounded. I bet a stupid Czech joke is really funny if you are a Mexican – or whatever other than Czech.

Eventually, I have earned other people’s respect through how I treated them and how I acted in general. As I earned people’s respect, the jokes and disdain snarls diminished.

Immigrants, ease up a bit, will you? If handling an insensitive joke on one college campus could potentially set Americans back some $25 million per year (if Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s “solution” is adapted), think about how much difference we can make across the US – by just not taking ourselves so darn seriously!

I am The Immigrant – and I love this country.

Cinco de Mayo – Why is it Celebrated in the US?

Last weekend many Americans have celebrated Cinco de Mayo – referred to by many, apparently incorrectly, as the Mexican Independence day. As an immigrant, I am perplexed by the event.

Sure, Mexican Americans (as all Americans) have every right to celebrate whatever they want.  The weird thing to me is that anyone wants to celebrate any state holiday of a country they left behind. I escaped from Communist Czechoslovakia to America. It would seem pretty stupid to me to celebrate any Czech state holidays – I celebrate American holidays. When I looked around the Internet for an explanation, I came across www.history.com, where I found the following information:

First, Cinco de Mayo is not a Mexican 4th of July. The Mexican Independence day is celebrated on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s defeat of the French in 1862, at the Battle of Puebla, one of the battles that took place during Franko-Mexican war. According to www.history.com, Mexico (which was in financial ruins) defaulted on debts to Europe. France, Britain and Spain sent naval forces to Mexico to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain settled with Mexican government, but France went to war over the issue.

Interestingly, not all Mexican provinces even celebrate the holiday – so why is it so popular in the U.S.? History.com reports that the holiday, which eventually evolved to be a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, was made popular in the U.S. by “Chicano activists… in part because they identified with the victory of indigenous Mexicans over European invaders during the Battle of Puebla.”

Even after the history.com’s lesson, I am still perplexed why would someone who has chosen to move to the U.S. because evidently the life is better here, be celebrating a battle over unpaid debt that happened in their country of origin 150 years ago?

I am not suggesting that Mexican Americans (just like any other Americans) should not stand up for their rights. I am questioning why anyone would want to associate their fight for equal rights with a foreign country, whose treatment of all of its citizens, not just minorities, is undeniably horrible. Is it not the reason why the Mexican American’s families migrated here in the first place? It’s like me coming to the U.S. from a communist country and organizing communist May Day parade. Someone of Mexican origin, could you please offer a comment with an explanation?

What seems even weirder to me is that American cities across the nation put up huge events to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, and that many Americans of all backgrounds embrace the holiday – at least as an excuse to get smashed.

Not all celebration is done in a good taste, as demonstrated by some students at UC Davis last week. But when it is not, authorities move quickly to “remedy” the situation. According to Sacramento Bee’s May 2nd article, a Mexican-themed drinking party was promoted by employees of the student-run Coffee House at UC Davis and dubbed Cinco de Drinko. The Facebook page for the event reportedly included a photograph of four male students, wearing sombreros, trying to hop a chain-link fence while two female students in Border Patrol attire smile.

The event sparked a swift demonstration by Latino students, calling for a boycott of the cafeteria. The party was quickly condemned by the university leadership who said that the name “Cinco de Drinko” had strong racial connotation. The demonstrators told the Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi they felt unsafe on campus. Katehi vowed to use education to prevent similar controversies in the future, suggesting that instructional requirements could be changed to mandate a diversity course.

The event is presented as a proof of racism in America, not as a proof of how far Americans are willing to bend over backward to make sure nobody feels offended. Think about it. A few students made a bad joke, so Katehi’s solution is to force thousands of future UC Davis students, who played no part in the event, to take a diversity course. Is that what a country insensitive to its immigrants does?

I am an immigrant. Americans, please do not waste the resources your country cannot spare – and in my opinion should not have to spare – on protecting me from some of your citizens’ jokes or comments I may find offensive. My life is much better because you allow me to stay here, even with some of you making fun of me.

Thank you.