Day Twenty Two: Self-Esteem Blvd.
Local Hispanic community activists in Arlington, TX are attempting to get four streets renamed after several Latino icons. Not very long ago, a similar attempt was shot down in Dallas due to lack of support and resistance from the usual suspects.
I'm not sure what to say about this. I guess I can see why some folks feel that this is important. Since this country's inception, white Americans have patted themselves on the backs by naming everything - from streets to cities to mountains - after their forebears. I also can see how this has implanted a tremendous sense of accomplishment, and entitlement, in those white folks who've been paying attention. This should work for minorities as well, right?
The short answer is, "Not Really." Successful moves to rename streets after Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X all over the country haven't exactly led to the widespread ethnic self-awareness and black empowerment that backers had envisioned. On the contrary, it's become a long-running joke that those streets that are named after our black civil rights leaders are often the most dangerous and violent in the city. The same is true of the Cesar Chavez Drives that are somewhat common to Western and Southwestern American cities.
To some degree, I hope that the Arlington agitators are effective, and convince Arlington's white officials to rename a few of the city's streets. But I don't think I'm being terribly cynical by suggesting that it won't make a great deal of difference to all the Hispanic cats who need jobs, better education and fuller opportunities. It's almost as if minorities are so caught up in trying to be accepted by the dominant culture that we aren't focusing on the real issues. People should know by now that symbolism doesn't trump substance.
Labels: Lost Causes