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Policing The Ethnic Margins

At my old media home, Dallas Morning News editorial board member Ralph De La Cruz criticized Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for being ethnically Hispanic without being “politically Hispanic” — this, because Sen. Cruz takes a conservative view of immigration. De La Cruz wrote in part:

To politically claim an ethnicity, I believe you have to be aware of the issues and challenges facing that ethnic community and show a willingness to address them.

I’m always hesitant to suggest any community is homogenous, or of one mind, on any issue. But if there is such an issue, it’s immigration for Hispanics. It brings together people of Mexican, Cuban, Chilean, Nicaraguan heritage – pretty much all Hispanics. It may not always be this way, but at this point in our history, immigration binds American Hispanics as much as our other common denominator: language.

Ted Cruz, acting white? That prompted my friend and spiritual advisor Mike Hashimoto, the world’s only Japanese-American Tea Partier, to respond like this. Excerpt:

Hey, Ralph, if this is about slapping around Ted Cruz because you disagree with him politically, that’s fair game. That’s why we have this blog. Express your thoughts.

I do have to ask whether you really thought through this part:

To politically claim an ethnicity, I believe you have to be aware of the issues and challenges facing that ethnic community and show a willingness to address them.

I’ve mostly given up on editing, but I think what you meant was, “… show a willingness to address them in the way I find politically acceptable.” Cruz might not approach immigration (or any other issue) the way you might, despite your shared ethnicity, but I don’t think that means, necessarily, that he’s not addressing those “issues and challenges.”

You just disagree, kind of in the way I’d suspect many American blacks disagree with Clarence Thomas, to quote your example.

But since we’re on this path — Hey, maybe it’s part of our national conversation on race! — could you help me determine whether I’m qualified to politically claim an ethnicity like Japanese-American? Are there specific issues and challenges to our community? What, exactly, are the sanctioned positions I should take to qualify?

I think this was a great response by Hash. I’ve got a thousand problems, but one of them is not white ethnic political enforcers policing the margins of crackerdom telling us what real Caucasians are permitted to believe politically ain’t one.

And yes, Hash is not kidding when he says he can take a Pearl Harbor joke. Every December 7, I would stick my head into his office and give him the finger. And every December 7, he would respond with, “Hey, we had you guys, but then you went and cheated with that atomic bomb thing.” It’s great to be a conservative in a newsroom, because you can get away with black humor like that with each other without being referred to human resources for rehabilitation.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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