Fabiola Santiago: Despite Jindal, U.S. needs “hyphenated Americans”

08/30/2013 6:33 PM

08/30/2013 6:34 PM

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal doesn’t care for our contemporary salad bowl culture and its “hyphenated Americans.”

He thinks we place “far too much emphasis” on our “separateness” by talking about heritage, ethnic background and skin color.

He bemoans what he considers an overdose of stories in the media about race, racism, ethnicity and race relations.

We ought to erase from our lexicon, he says, “Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Indian-Americans, and Native Americans, to name just a few.”

“Bring back the melting pot,” the Louisiana-born son of immigrants from India writes in an op-ed piece in Politico this week to mark the 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King-led March on Washington.

No tossed salads with its distinct flavors, textures and aromas for him.

Cook the pot till it burns, dulling the sensational taste of that otherness he fears.

And — bring out the trumpets now for his triumphant line, the one that will arouse the tea party masses and rally them to his Republican presidential candidacy in 2016: “How about just ‘Americans?’ That has a nice ring to it, if you ask me.”

It certainly has a nice ring for the Dreamers, young people who were brought here as children, feel Americans — are Americans — yet have been denied a pathway to residency and citizenship by Congress.

It has a nice ring for their parents, surviving their shadow existence as our under-the-table gardeners, caretakers and exploited farm hands.

But they’re not what Jindal is talking about when he thinks “American,” is he?

If he were, he’d know that in an increasingly complex and interconnected world, we “hyphenated Americans,” as he calls us with disdain, are the bridge-builders and the translators the U.S. desperately needs to remain safe and prosperous.

He would know of the dangers of sweeping under the rug matters of race and ethnicity because racism does exist, and only through conversation and information do we have a shot at overcoming our demons and becoming better Americans and better human beings.

Luckily, what makes this country great is that Jindal has no right to define me or shame me — or to question my value as an American because of an additional identifying feature that honors where my ancestors and I came from.

Love of country runs much deeper than a label, hyphenated or not. Jindal is an American my birth, and I, by choice. One isn’t better than the other.

That Jindal would seek to bring back a provincial definition of society — one that caters to the right-wing of the country — shouldn’t surprise anyone.

He was in Orlando Friday speaking to his choir, the conservative Americans for Prosperity’s “Defending the American Dream Summit,” not surprisingly in the company of Gov. Rick Scott and other tea party favorites.

It’s safe to say that since Jindal doesn’t like salad — and here, we serve them accented by mango, avocados, crunchy noodles, and yes, apples and grapes, too — Jindal won’t be making it to Miami for the long weekend.

About Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago


Fabiola Santiago was born in Cuba. She was exiled to the U.S. in 1969 on one of the historic Freedom Flights. She has been a Herald reporter and editor since 1980.

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