Joseph C. Phillips

If it is an educator’s job to promote critical thinking among his students then the administrators at Live Oak failed miserably. Here was a “teaching moment;” here was a real opportunity for Rodriguez and Principal Nick Boden to provide a lesson in patience, priorities, and the true meaning of tolerance. But multi-culturalism has turned people into thin skinned grievance junkies—babies that cry at every cross-look or unkind word and must be coddled lest they toss themselves on the floor and begin kicking and screaming. So, rather than suggest to the aggrieved students that they ignore the red, white, and blue t-shirts, enjoy their day, and get back to class, Rodriguez and Boden indulged the multi-cultural temper tantrum, which ironically, played into the worst stereotypes of Mexican people. "You had better take those shirts off. You know these Mexicans; they will pull their knives at the drop of a hat!"

The following day some 200 Mexican students walked out of class in protest. As they marched down the street waving the Mexican flag they demanded the boys’ suspension. And once again, rather than demand maturity from the Mexican students, the protest was greeted by the district superintendent with promises to hold a rap-session, where the students would be encouraged to express their feelings. I would like to suggest that rather than encouraging cross-cultural understanding, the school district should instead encourage a cross-cultural Algebra tutoring session. Given that Live Oak is underperforming the state average on both the California Standards test and the California High School Exit Exam, such an endeavor seems far more necessary and certainly more practical.

Responding to the ongoing drama at Live Oak, a young Latina declared that wearing the American flag on Cinco de Mayo was akin to Mexicans wearing the Mexican flag on the Fourth of July. The essential point that this young woman misses is that should she be strolling the streets of Mexico City on July Fourth her donning of the Mexican flag would indeed not raise many eyebrows. We are, as it happens, not in the country of Mexico; rather we reside in the United States of America.

The sight of the American flag in America—even on Cinco de Mayo—should not be a source of offense to Americans of Mexican descent, but pride, providing of course that one sees him or herself as an American first. And here is the point that this young woman, the school administrators and a handful of sympathizers seem forever not to grasp. Americans do not want to be an extension of Mexico! Indeed many of us have had a peek south of the border and do not like what we see. The political culture and the values that support it hold little interest for those proud of our flag and “the republic for which it stands.”

Among many Americans, there is a growing sense that immigrants to this country have no interest in becoming Americans. Illegal immigrants are largely seen as people who disrespect our laws, our language, and our traditions. More significantly, they are viewed as taking advantage of everything this nation has to offer and yet refusing to assimilate into our American culture. The political class says that these fears are unfounded, and the elite label such thoughts as bigoted. And yet we are treated to stories like this one, wherein American children are sent home from school for wearing an image of the American flag. Should we believe the political elites? Or our lying eyes?

Joseph C. Phillips

Joseph C. Phillips is the author of “He Talk Like A White Boy” available wherever books are sold.