The League of Latino Educators (LLE) strongly condemns the use of hate speech in our political discourse. LLE urges the major political parties in the state of Minnesota to join us in changing the tone of the conversation by passing platform resolutions against discriminatory and racist language. As educators, public servants and community leaders, we cannot stand for rhetoric that hurts our students and families. We welcome our students with open arms regardless of their family background, immigration status or political ideology. Our political discourse must also strive for inclusion and reject discriminatory language.
In the weeks leading up to the beginning of this school year, we have witnessed candidates for federal public office use offensive language such as “illegals” and “anchor babies” to garner media attention. They have repeated messages about the Latino community that are not true of us or our culture. When addressing a group of Minnesota leaders at the Unidos Votamos gathering in August, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro reminded us that Latinos and immigrants are hard-working people that include not only home care workers, day laborers and farmers but also doctors, lawyers, teachers and business owners.
We come from a strong and loving culture that is driven by a sense of family and community. As President Barack Obama states, “We will always be a nation of immigrants. What makes us Americans is an ideal that we are all equal and all of us had the chance to make our lives what we will.” And Peter Robinson, a former Reagan speechwriter, explains that “it was in Ronald Reagan’s bones — it was part of his understanding of America — that the country was fundamentally open to those who wanted to join us here.”
Latinos are the fastest growing population in the country and are poised to someday become the majority. A Latino youth comes of voting age every 30 seconds.
Our task, as educators, is to prepare our Latino youth to lead the nation. We all must do our part to ensure that our students and future leaders are not stigmatized or marginalized. Our students are the next Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court justice; Mario Molina, Nobel Prize winning scientist; Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist; astronaut Ellen Ochoa; and Alberto Gonzales, former U.S. attorney general. Social and emotional development, cultural competence and a global worldview, as much as academic proficiency, are the skills required to lead in the 21st century. Imparting these skills require a safe and inclusive school climate. Political hate speech promotes the opposite.
Hate speech is already making a negative impact in our schools. As reported by the media earlier this month, students at Erwin High School in North Carolina turned a civics class assignment into posters that read “Illegals, Go Home #notwelcome.” This divisive, hateful rhetoric against Latinos and immigrants and hostile school environment are not conducive to student learning. We may disagree on policy issues, but our students, families and communities should never be used as political ping-pong.
We urge politicians to follow our lead in creating a more perfect, diverse and inclusive union. We ask that they and their parties support and encourage the passage of a platform resolution opposing hate speech at the parties’ conventions next spring.
Paula Yadel Cole is a Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) teacher and president of the League of Latino Educators (LLE). Soraya Valedon-Lopez is an MPS teacher and is the vice president of LLE. Juanita Ortiz is a St. Paul Public Schools teacher and secretary of LLE.
This commentary is adapted from a letter sent to the chairs of Minnesota political parties, signed by 45 LLE members, parents and families, community leaders and student advocates, teachers, friends and allies.
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