Friday, June 14, 2013

Bigotry IS the American Way

By Brody Levesque | WASHINGTON -- An eleven year old native of San Antonio, who happens to be quite a talented singer- a former contestant on America's Got Talent- was invited by his favorite team, the San Antonio Spurs, to sing the national anthem before game three of the NBA finals Tuesday. 
Sebastien De La Cruz was booked to sing as a last-minute replacement for Darius Rucker, the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the rock band Hootie and the Blowfish who was forced to make a last minute cancellation.
Sounds like a pretty special moment for a kid right?
De La Cruz, a fifth grader and mariachi sensation, was honoured to give his rendition of "The Star-Spangle Banner"  but the touching performance set off a torrent of racist comments targeting the boy online.
Apparently, some “Americans” were not pleased that a “Mexican” was performing the national anthem, a privilege they consider solely theirs.
A collection of 30 racist tweets outraged that De La Cruz was allowed to sing the anthem, were collected by the Public Shaming blog on Tumblr. De La Cruz happens to be a natural-born American citizen as well a San Antonio native.
One has to give this young man credit in the face of all that vitriol, he remained unflappable in the face of blatant bigotry later explaining to reporters that those who have been saying negative things about him are entitled to their own opinion.
"It's not hurting me. It's just their opinion," De La Cruz said.
During a brief press conference, on Wednesday after the controversy went viral, De la Cruz said that those who speak ill of him known nothing about him, nor the fact that his father served in the U.S. Navy for a long time.
"People don’t know, they just assume that I’m just Mexican. But I’m not from Mexico, I’m from San Antonio born and raised, a true San Antonio Spurs fan," he said.
On Thursday, he was given a rousing reception at San Antonio's AT&T Center before a sellout crowd along with an introduction by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. President Barack Obama weighed in on the events as well, sending out the following from his official Twitter: "Don't miss @selcharrodeoro's encore performance of the national anthem at the #NBAFinals in San Antonio tonight."
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich spoke out about the incident as well.
“Well, I would like to say that I would be shocked or surprised by the comments. But given the fact that there’s still a significant element of bigotry and racism in our nation, I’m not surprised. It still plagues us, obviously. And what I was surprised by was how proud these idiots were of their ignorance, by printing their names next to their comments. 
He’s a class act. Way more mature than most his age. And as much as those comments by the idiots saddens you about your country, he makes you feel that the future could be very bright.”
Here's the thing, what happened to this child is no longer the exception in the United States, it has become the rule.
Bigotry IS the American Way, and one does not have to look any further for proof than the treatment of this nation's LGBTQ youth and community. What happened to young De La Cruz happens to hundreds of LGBTQ youth and other LGBTQ people everyday.
This is not a peculiarity nor an isolated incident. This week, the teenage sons of two top Republican lawmakers faced a firestorm of criticism for posting offensive comments on their Twitter accounts.
U. S. Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Congressman Joe Heck, R-Nev., were both forced to issue statements of apology when Buzzfeed unearthed a series of homophobic, racist and socially insensitive tweets posted by each of their teenage sons. 15-year-old Tanner Flake’s twitter account came under scrutiny because of a series of slurs brought to light by Buzzfeed. Flake threatened to beat the “faggot” who stole his bike, went by the name “n1ggerkiller” in an online game and joked about someone else's being Jewish.
Another Buzzfeed report focused on Congressman Heck’s teenage son, Joey, who used similar offensive terms for gays and blacks, and denigrated other groups such as women and immigrants. The teenager also racially ridiculed President Obama, such as when he asked after the Oct. 3, 2012 presidential debate how the president felt “when [Mitt] Romney raped [him].” He also tweeted that Obama was good at “spear chucking.”
As long as Americans continue to be accepting and tolerant of those on the far right, particularly the so-called "Christian" Americans who believe in their peculiar brand of religion and belief in how "their" country should be, then incidents such as this will continue to flourish.
Americans need to speak up and when necessary shout down these bigots. This behaviour cannot continue to be tolerated, winked at, or ignored. What happened in San Antonio is a symptom of a much larger disease that is rapidly eating away at the vestige of what is decent about the American culture and instead, making it a mockery of a civilised society to the rest of the world who watches.