Last week, right here in our fair city of Denton, someone yelled at me to go back to Mexico. And I was born and raised in Texas.
While walking in my neighborhood, I noticed a beautiful front lawn with an inviting gravel trail, so I followed it onto someone’s front yard. Then I was surprised by a man at work behind a bush. “Hi there,” I said. “Just enjoying your beautiful front lawn. Hope it’s all right?”
“No, it’s not,” he replied in anger. “And you can just go right back to Mexico.” Of course, my first instinct was to teach him a lesson with my fist. But I just left and fumed all the way home. Yes, he was a white man.
Very recently, some friends I thought were near and dear turned on me and called me a “wetback.” (Maybe we should say “the w-word” like we do the n-word?) It made me feel cautious about all white people. I thought: Is this where we have now come? Is this a time for Hispanics to be on alert? Are we walking targets for an AK-47?
Then I realized I know people all over my neighborhood. We talk to each other; we watch each other’s houses. We have a neighborhood Listserv that has been very supportive of Hispanics. We are a community.
I believe it is time for all Hispanics in our fair city to rest assured, rather than rest uneasy. This is our town, too. No person, of any color, does horrible things in our community. That is not who we are. Oh, we argue politics and may even call each other names, but we don’t resolve our issues with a gun. We gossip and backbite sometimes, but we don’t try to kill each other because of our looks. We are not that kind of community.
Thousands of Hispanics live and work in our city. We clean the houses, mow the lawns, repair the roofs. We also serve as police officers, teachers and leaders in the community. We dig the ditches behind those orange cones on our streets. Hispanics teach in our universities, answer phones in our City Hall, and we pray, sing, drink, dance, worship and eat alongside all sorts of Americans all over our county.
Ours is not a town that settles its differences with a gun. We respect our police officers; and for the most part, we observe our laws. We can be proud of who we are: We are Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives and a few of those wild-eyed independents, but we all love our country and watch out for our neighbors.
So I am absolutely certain that I speak for our City Council, our county commissioners, our representatives in the Legislature and in Congress, and everyone in my neighborhood, when I say that here in our fair city, Hispanics can feel safe.
And know that if you break the law you will be caught and punished, but if you respect the law, you will be accepted. We can go to the mall, to our churches, to our schools, our excellent restaurants and know that we are welcome — because we are Americans.
And this city belongs to all of us.