Hol­i­day sparks mixed feel­ings in mi­nori­ties

Many peo­ple of color in no mood to cel­e­brate U.S. birth­day dur­ing trou­bling times

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Rus­sell Con­tr­eras

AL­BU­QUERQUE» As many in the United States cel­e­brate the Fourth of July, some mi­nori­ties have mixed feel­ings about the rev­elry of fire­works and pa­rades in an at­mos­phere of ten­sion on sev­eral fronts.

How do you cel­e­brate dur­ing what some peo­ple of color con­sider trou­bling times?

Blacks, Lati­nos and im­mi­grant-rights ad­vo­cates say the af­ter­math of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, re­cent non­con­vic­tions of po­lice of­fi­cers charged in the shoot­ings of black men and the in­creased de­ten­tions of im­mi­grants and refugees for de­por­ta­tion have them ques­tion­ing equal­ity and the prom­ise of life, lib­erty and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness in the United States.

Film­maker Chris Phillips of Fer­gu­son, Mo., says he prob­a­bly will at­tend a fam­ily bar­be­cue, just as he does ev­ery Fourth of July. But the 36-year-old black man says he can’t help but feel per­plexed about honoring the birth of the na­tion af­ter three of­fi­cers re­cently were cleared in po­lice shoot­ings.

Po­lice shoot­ings

Since the 2014 po­lice shoot­ing of un­armed teenager Michael Brown in Fer­gu­son, of­fi­cer shoot­ings — of black males in par­tic­u­lar — have drawn scru­tiny, spark-

ing protests na­tion­wide. Few of­fi­cers ever face charges, and con­vic­tions are rare. Despite video, sub­ur­ban St. Paul, Minn., po­lice Of­fi­cer Jeron­imo Yanez was ac­quit­ted last month in the shoot­ing of Phi­lando Castile, a black man. The 32-year-old school cafe­te­ria worker was killed dur­ing a traf­fic stop July 6, al­most a year ago.

“Jus­tice ap­par­ently doesn’t ap­ply to all peo­ple,” said Phillips, who saw the protests that roiled his town for weeks af­ter Brown’s death. His un­re­leased doc­u­men­tary “Fer­gu­son 365” fo­cuses on the Brown shoot­ing and its af­ter­math. “A lot of peo­ple have lost hope,” he said.

Un­like Phillips, Janette McClel­land, 65, a black mu­si­cian in Al­bu­querque, said she has no intention of cel­e­brat­ing July Fourth.

“It’s a white man’s hol­i­day to me. It’s just an­other day,” McClel­land said. “I’m not go­ing to even watch the fire­works. Not feel­ing it.”

McClel­land, who grew up in Los An­ge­les dur­ing the ur­ban un­rest of the 1960s, said she fears cities may see more vi­o­lence amid a feel­ing of help­less­ness. “I’m pray­ing and try­ing to keep pos­i­tive,” she said.


Im­mi­gra­tion was a key is­sue dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign for both par­ties. Since then, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has in­ten­si­fied en­force­ment and in­sti­tuted a scaled-back par­tial travel ban that places new lim­its on en­try to the U.S. for ci­ti­zens of six Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries. The tem­po­rary ban re­quires peo­ple to prove a close fam­ily re­la­tion­ship in the U.S. or an ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ship with an en­tity such as a school or busi­ness. The ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced Fri­day that Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment would ar­rest peo­ple — in­clud­ing rel­a­tives — who hire smug­glers to bring chil­dren into the U.S. il­le­gally.

Patricia Montes, a Bos­ton res­i­dent and im­mi­grant from Hon­duras, said she is grate­ful for the op­por­tu­ni­ties and se­cu­rity that Amer­ica has given her. Yet this year, she doesn’t know how to ap­proach the Fourth of July.

“I fell very con­flicted,” said Montes, an im­mi­grant ad­vo­cate. “I mean, what are we cel­e­brat­ing? Are we cel­e­brat­ing democ­racy?”

Montes said it pains her to see chil­dren flee­ing vi­o­lence get turned away and de­ported back to Cen­tral Amer­ica with­out due process. She also is dis­turbed by re­cent im­mi­gra­tion raids in Latino and Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties that spark more fear and un­cer­tainty.

In Texas, Latino ac­tivists have been protest­ing a state law that forces cities and towns to co­op­er­ate with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties. In New Mexico and Michi­gan, im­mi­grant ad­vo­cates have been ral­ly­ing on be­half of Iraqi refugees fac­ing de­por­ta­tion.

“There’s a lot not to be proud about when cel­e­brat­ing the Fourth of July,” said Janelle As­torga Ramos, a Univer­sity of New Mexico stu­dent and daugh­ter of a Mexican im­mi­grant. “Even though it’s a time to cel­e­brate as a coun­try and (for) our unity, it’s def­i­nitely go­ing to be on the back of our minds.”

Despite those prob­lems and con­cerns, Ramos said her fam­ily will rec­og­nize the hol­i­day and visit Ele­phant Butte, N.M., a pop­u­lar sum­mer desti­na­tion. “This is our home,” Ramos said.

Is­abella Baker, a 17-yearold Latina from Bosque Farms, N.M., said she’ll cel­e­brate the hol­i­day based on her own views of patriotism. “More peo­ple are stand­ing up be­cause of the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate,” she said. “That makes me proud.”

Pipe­line protest

For months, mem­bers of the Stand­ing Rock Sioux were at the cen­ter of a protest against an oil pipe­line in North Dakota. A protest camp was set up. The tribe said the Dakota Ac­cess oil pipe­line plan could pose a threat to wa­ter sources, if there were a leak, and cause cul­tural harm. Po­lice made more than 700 ar­rests be­tween Au­gust 2016 and Fe­bru­ary 2017. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­proved the fi­nal per­mit for the $3.8 bil­lion pipe­line, which be­gan op­er­at­ing June 1. The pipe­line moves oil from western North Dakota to a dis­tri­bu­tion point in Illi­nois. Four Sioux tribes are still fight­ing in fed­eral court to get the pipe­line shut down.

Ruth Hop­kins, a mem­ber of South Dakota’s Sis­se­ton Wah­peton Oy­ate tribe, said Amer­i­can In­di­ans al­ways have viewed the Fourth of July with am­biva­lence, and this year will be no dif­fer­ent.

How­ever, there will be cel­e­bra­tions.

Her Lake Tra­verse In­dian Reser­va­tion holds an an­nual pow­wow on July 4 to honor vet­er­ans as a way to take the hol­i­day back, she said.

“Also, a lot of peo­ple up here use fire­works and the hol­i­day to cel­e­brate vic­tory over Custer for Vic­tory Day,” said Hop­kins, re­fer­ring to Sit­ting Bull and Crazy Horse de­feat­ing Ge­orge Custer and his U.S. 7th Cav­alry at the Bat­tle of the Lit­tle Big Horn.

Still, the hol­i­day comes af­ter tribes and oth­ers gath­ered in North Dakota to sup­port the Stand­ing Rock Sioux tribe and its fight against the pipe­line, Hop­kins said. Be­cause of that, wa­ter and land rights re­main on peo­ple’s minds, Hop­kins said.

Gyasi Ross, a mem­ber of Mon­tana’s Black­feet Na­tion and a writer who lives on the Port Madi­son In­dian Reser­va­tion near Seat­tle, said all the ten­sions this Fourth of July are a bless­ing be­cause they have awak­ened a con­scious­ness among peo­ple of color.

“The gloves are off,” Ross said. “We can’t ig­nore these things any­more.”

How­ever, Ross said he wants his young son to be hopeful about the fu­ture. They likely will go fish­ing on the Fourth of July.

“I still worry about get­ting shot or some­thing like that,” Ross said. “All this stuff is so heavy to be car­ry­ing around.”

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