POS334-L: THE RACE AND ETHNICITY BOOK REVIEW DISCUSSION LIST
Home | Index | Schedule | Archive | Syllabus | New Books | Publication | Subscribing | Host
Archives: | A-D | E-L | M-R | S-Z |

 Mario Barrera Beyond Aztlan University of Notre Dame Press
 

From Subject
"Kristin Goff" <kgoff@suntan.vid.ilstu.edu> BEYOND AZTLAN (GOFF)
hobbes2@ice.net Response Goff's Aztlan
"Kristin Goff" <kgoff@suntan.vid.ilstu.edu> Re: Response Goff's Aztlan

Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 06:56:28 -0500 
From: "Kristin Goff" <KGOFF@suntan.vid.ilstu.edu> 
Subject: BEYOND AZTLAN (GOFF) 

"Beyond Aztlan"
By Mario Barrera
University of Notre Dame Press
(Reviewed by Kristin Goff, Illinois State University)
 

Imagine walking down the street one sunny afternoon and
complimenting a woman you see who is wearing a blouse just like the
one you wore yesterday. As you continue on your way, a car revs by
you blaring the CD you bought earlier in the day, and you notice a
billboard touting the record-breaking box office totals of the film
you are going to see tonight. Some would not think twice about this.
After all, it is sometimes easier to be like others -- to wear
the same clothing styles, to listen to the same music, to see the
same films. To some, this is the norm.

Yet, there is a fundamental problem here. The people of the
United States, especially young people, are dangerously close to
becoming culturally ignorant. This is something I have come to
understand through friends. One friend, who is Italian, said that
since her grandparents died, the family rarely practices the rich
Italian traditions they once did at family gatherings. Another
friend, who is Cuban, pretended she was white to escape possible
discrimination throughout grade school and high school. It was not
until she began attending ISU and met other Cubans that she became
proud of her ethnic heritage.

In "Beyond Aztlan" Mario Barrera examines ways to
advance the economic and social interests of ethinic groups,
specifically Mexican Americans, while at the same time maintaining
their rich heritage. Barrera separates Chicano political history into
two categories -- goals of equality and goals of community. Goals of
equality involve striving toward equal jobs and equal pay with
whites. Goals of community involve maintaining cultural richness. The
two types of goals have often overshadowed eachother throughout
history. For example, when Chicanos were initially attempting to gain
economic equality, certain organizations were started to help them.
These organizations offered favors and services to Chicanos only. In
exchange, Chicanos could speak only English and had to relinquish
their Mexican heritage in favor of American.

The motive behind this was to allow smoother mixing between
Chicanos and whites and to reverse Mexican stereotypes. If this
worked, the Chicanos hoped it would help them make economic strides.
It did provide economic success for some Chicanos, but that success
was limited to a select group who then separated themselves from the
others. That left Chicanos with a less culturally enriched society
without much economic gain to show for it. This spurred the advent of
several new organizations, all with different messages. Some asked
Chicanos to embrace and be proud of their heritage, while others
asked them to leave it behind. From time to time, one preference would
override the other, but one was never agreed upon.

After presenting this problem, the author looks to the policies
of Canada, China, Switzerland and Nicaragua for some ideas about how
the United States should deal with the problem of allowing ethnic
minorities to retain their heritage, while at the same time
promoting their economic and political interests. Barrera writes that
most countries have stipulations in their constitutions proclaiming
they are "multicultural and multilingual" society. Barrera writes
that if the United States adopted such a clause in its constitution,
that it would lay the groundwork for equality and economic growth.

Barrera writes that everyone would have to acknowledge
multiculturalism if it was written in the constitution, like it is in
other countries. Also, Barrera cites political organization as a way
other countries have achieved both goals. For example, the Quebecois,
a minority in Canada, organized politically and took control of a
large Canadian province. In China there are designations for certain
minority groups and political protection of their rights.

At the end of the book the author decides that it is possible to
achieve the equality and community goals at the same time, with the
provision of "longterm political effort and a reorientation to
political thinking." I think this notion leans toward the idealistic.
For example, in the middle of the book, the author makes the point
that "going comparitive" as he did in comparing the ethnic policies
of other countries, opens us to ideas that we would never consider
otherwise.

The whole problem with comparing the United States with
these other countries is that Americans are typically more cynical
about government, and they tend to want limited government involvement
in their daily lives. However, European countries tend to employ
expanded welfare services for families and healthcare. A good example
of this involving a comparison between the United States and other
countries is the taxation rate. The United States has one of the
lowest taxation rates in the world. Other European nations have
higher taxation rates, but they provide services and take
preventative measures against poverty.

In the United States when a politician says he or she will
raise taxes, they are most often not elected. Also, if a politician
gets elected saying he or she will not raise taxes and then raises
them, this has the potential to ruin a political career. "Read my
lips -- no new taxes." Remember? The indication from this is that
Americans want limited government involvement, so much so that they
will not elect someone who says they will raise their taxes. Yet,
some European nations like the ones Barrera discusses are at ease
with higher government involvement and higher taxation because they
trust their government more.

What does all of this have to do do with Barrera? If Americans
are so adament about limited government involvement in their lives,
why would they advocate more government programs and higher taxes to
accomodate minorities?

Even though it is clear opportunites and economics are not
improving for minorities, I think change will only come in the United
States if the situation deteriorates to the point of urgency and the
governemnt is forced to do something. This is often idicative of the
U.S. government. The United States treats problems, it does not

prevent them. Back to top...


Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 06:13:30 -0500 
From: hobbes2@ice.net 
Subject: Response Goff's Aztlan 

Response to Kristin Goff's reivew of Barrera's BEYOND AZTLAN
 
 

The assertion that Americans are becoming "culturally ignorant" is not
convincing. Instead, many Americans, particularly the young, have taken a
keen interest in studying the histories, music, literature, religions,
languages, and traditions of various ethnic cultures. Although this is by
no means a universal phenomenon, it does indicate an increased degree of
respect and recognition for cultural life that past generations did not, or
could not, come close to approaching. Moreover, even if the cultural
ignorance of Americans could be aptly demonstrated, it need not be a
dangerous trend. Perhaps it would merely signal an end to racial and ethnic
distinctions and the false stereotypes that too frequently accompany them,
promoting the color-blind society to which we should aspire.

Barrera also suggests that a constitutional amendment acknowledging
multiculturalism would help foster equality and economic advancement among
disadvantaged ethnic groups. As appealing as this idea may seem, its likely
impact on American society would be minimal, at best. New constitutional
amendments are only rarely ratified due to significant legal obstacles and
voting requirements for adoption. Furthermore, passage of such an amendment
does not guarantee enforcement. For example, nearly ninety years had passed
before the Fourteenth Amendment was used to demand the "equal protection of
the laws" for African-Americans- its intent when ratified.

--
Pam Ashworth
Illinois State University
hobbes2@ice.net

Back to top...


Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997 19:46:21 -0500 
From: "Kristin Goff" <KGOFF@suntan.vid.ilstu.edu> 
To: gmklass@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu 
Subject: Re: Response Goff's Aztlan 


 

RESPONSE TO PAMELA ASHWORTH'S RESPONSE TO GOFF'S AZTLAN:

PAMELA --

THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENTS. BUT, ALAS, I MUST DISAGREE.

THE INSTANCES OF YOUNG PEOPLE SHOWING INTEREST IN STUDYING
DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF THEIR OWN CULTURE ARE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN. IN
FACT, I THINK MOST OF THESE INSTANCES AT ISU INCLUDE STUDENTS
ATTEMPTING TO SATISFY THE CULTURAL STUDIES REQUIREMENT FOR UNIVERSITY
STUDIES. AND, IT IS ONLY BECAUSE WE ARE PART OF AN ELITE GROUP OF
VERY LUCKY PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN ALLOWED THE PRIVELEDGE OF ATTENDING
COLLEGE THAT WE ARE AFFORDED THESE COURSES OF STUDY IF WE SO CHOOSE.
HOWEVER, THE INTEREST SHOWN BY THESE FEW STUDENT IS NOT SUFFICIENT
ENOUGH TO SAY YOUNG PEOPLE SHOW A "KEEN INTEREST" IN CULTURE IN
GENERAL, LET ALONE THEIR OWN CULTURE AND BACKGROUND. A PROFOUND
BARRIER TO PRESERVING ONE'S CULTURE IS ECONOMIC STATUS. HOW CAN POOR
YOUNG PEOPLE IN INNER CITIES AND RURAL AREAS STUDY "HISTORIES, MUSIC,
LITERATURE, RELIGIONS, LANGUAGES AND TRADITIONS OF VARIOUS ETHNIC
CULTURES," IF THEY DON'T HAVE MONEY FOR THE RESOURCES TO ALLOW THIS TO
HAPPEN? THESE ARE THE PEOPLE I AM REFERRING TO AS IN DANGER OF
BECOMING "CULTURALLY IGNORANT" -- NOT PRIVILEDGED COLLEGE STUDENTS.

YOUR ASSERTION THAT "CULTURAL IGNORANCE...NEED NOT BE A DANGEROUS
TREND" GOES AGAINST EVERYTHING I WAS ATTEMPTING TO EXPLAIN IN THE
REVIEW. NOT BEING AWARE OF ONE'S CULTURE CAUSES ASSIMILATION, AND
ASSIMILATION CAUSES A SINGLE BLAND CULTURE, WITH NO DIFFERENCES TO
ENJOY AND EXPAND THE MIND. IF WE ALLOW OUR CULTURE TO ASSIMILATE,
WE'LL ALL LISTEN TO THE SAME MUSIC, DRESS IN THE SAME CLOTHING AND GO
TO THE SAME MOVIES. THIS CULTURE OF NO DIFFERENCES WOULD ALSO CAUSE
CHILDREN OF DIFFERENT RACES TO HAVE DIFFICULTY UNDERSTANDING THEIR
IDENTITIES AND THEIR SPECIALNESS IN SOCIETY. ONE OF THE THINGS I
LIKE MOST ABOUT MY FRIENDS IS UNDERSTANDING HOW THEY ARE DIFFERENT
FROM ME AND LEARNING FROM THEM. IN AN ASSIMILATED CULTURE THIS WOULD
NOT BE POSSIBLE.

KRISTIN


 

Back to top...