Lubbock: The Giant Side of Silence
From the east to the west coast and places in between, the mall in Washington, DC to LA; from Dallas to Austin, Houston to San Antonio, El Paso and even Amarillo, the mostly Hispanic voices rose to a deafening roar heard round the country. It was as if we were witnessing a mass cry of civil disobedience. Could it be that the proverbial “sleeping giant” had finally awakened?
Over this past weekend and on Monday, April 10, a day billed as a Day of Action for Immigrant Justice, Hispanics, Latinos, people of all ethnicities; shouted in unison: “Latinos Unidos; jamás serán vencidos”.
And this other ominous refrain which is sure to raise the anger level of those in this country whose greatest fear may one day be realized: “Today we march, tomorrow we vote”: but not on the giant side.
Organized rallies or demonstrations even took place in the least likely of cities. In Atlanta, 50,000 people gathered in protest and in the farming community of Garden City, Kansas, population 30,000, about 3,000 people gathered in a show of support.
But what about in this city; a city whose large Hispanic population is nearing 30%, what was heard here?
From all accounts, nothing but a silence that was deafening to some not so much by its volume, by what it said about this city’s Hispanic community.
In this area, no demonstrations, no student rallies organized at Texas Tech like the ones at UT San Antonio or The University of Texas in Austin; no voices heard from local civic or civil rights organizations. No voices of solidarity from local churches; no voice of support from Lubbock’s Catholic Diocese Bishop, Placido Rodriguez, echoing the comments of Catholic Archbishop Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles who has been very vocal in support of immigrants. And where were the social service organizations that traditionally help people who find themselves needing help after arriving in the area illegally.
Aside from a 2-3 minute news story which aired Monday on the local Fox Channel and on Telemundo, regarding why there were no demonstrations staged here, silence ruled the day. The local paper carried their usual AP wire stories about the national and statewide demonstrations and perhaps the other 3 network television stations might have made mention of the story; but local coverage was at the very best minimal.
The fact is that when this issue is studied and viewed in historical terms of what impact the marchers, who collectively numbered in the millions, had on Congress, on national politics, on the immigration legislation pending in the Senate, and on the very social and moral fabric of this country, will Hispanics in this city be judged or criticized for their non participation?
The question becomes; why is the Lubbock community, which enjoys a larger Hispanic population percentage than some of the other cities where demonstrations were held, so out of step with a large number of this country’s Hispanic population? Have we become as conservative as the city that we live in? Do issues such as these represent a philosophical place where we choose not to go?
Perhaps there are a number of reasons why local civic organizations and even civil rights organizations like the local LULAC Council have not taken steps to be more of a vocal influence. By contrast, the National LULAC Organization led by its national president Hector Flores, was responsible for organizing the marches in Los Angeles and just this past Sunday in Dallas; where marchers numbered between 350,000 and 500,000. Whatever the reason the legislation pending in Congress will have a direct impact on this community both in terms of families being directly affected and in economic terms. According to former District 1 city council member Victor Hernandez, and current candidate for the District 1 city council seat presently held by Linda DeLeon, “Of course it will! Depending on the legislation, it will have the impact of continuing to further push Mexican Nationals into the shadows of our city or of mainstreaming this group into the light of day.”
So if Mr. Hernandez is correct in his assessment, why didn’t Lubbock see any similar demonstrations?
According to Bill Brooks who is Public Information Officer for the Border Patrol in Marfa, Texas which has jurisdiction for the Lubbock region, they do not have any numbers or clear estimates of how many people are here illegally in this region. Perhaps a number cannot be agreed on, but most people would agree that illegal immigrants do live here and that the number is probably in the thousands; otherwise, why would a regional office be needed here? Mr. Brooks went on to say that their (Border Patrol) “job is to catch them, and (they) would if they knew where they (the people here illegally) were”. He also speculated that people in this region may be afraid to come out of the shadows for fear of being caught.
Another group that demonstrated their support were students on university campuses across the country; but not here. Minerva Alaniz, who is a librarian at Tech and who has her Masters in Library Science and is treasurer of the Tech Latino/Hispanic and Staff Association thinks that it is because “there is no unity between the various Hispanic organizations on campus”. She also speculates that “there might be a sense that students might see opposition from the administration or possibly suffer repercussions of some sort”.
Consequently, all we are left with is speculation as to why Lubbock Hispanics, so far, have decided to keep silent on this issue while other cities witness demonstrations and rallies of historical proportions.
Perhaps the issue of illegal immigration along with all the effects that people who are here illegally have on this area has not been realized yet? Or perhaps, no one organization or individual is willing to stand up as that lone voice of dissent which only grows louder as the number of voices grows? For now we are left wondering.
But as we wonder, we might consider the words of a relatively unknown German Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller, who is quoted as saying in 1945:
“First they came for the Jews. I was silent. I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists. I was silent. I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists. I was silent. I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn’t speak up because I was Protestant, Then they came for me. There was no one left to speak for me.”