As I was scrolling through my Facebook home page, I noticed NBC Latino’s cover photo. It was a collage of prominent Latino artists, such as Jenifer Lopez, Selena, and Zoe Saldana. All of these names would probably sound familiar to most people in the U.S. What really called my attention, however, was seeing Sebastien De la Cruz in the picture.
Sebastien De la Cruz is an 11-year old boy popularly known as El Charro de Oro (the golden mariachi) around Texas. He was born in San Antonio and came to the spotlight through America’s Got Talent a couple of years ago. He has been playing mariachi music since age six, when he told his parents he wanted to be a mariachi singer. Sebastien has fought for his dream and is a shining star with amazing talent.
Very recently, Sebastien was criticized nationally for having sung the Star Spangled Banner dressed on a mariachi outfit. Especially notable is the heat this caused on Twitter, where there were racist comments such as “9 out of 10 chance that kid singing national anthem is illegal (user @UcleD37)” and “This kid is Mexican why is he singing the national anthem #yournotamerican #gohome (user @Gordon_Bombay24).” Despite the terrible comments the kid faced from the online community nation-wide, support for the kid’s act of pride and courage came from President Barack Obama, Eva Longoria and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro.
When I stop to think about the racist anger that this caused at a national level, I can only recall many of the terms I have been learning in one of my Mexican American Studies classes this semester. For instance, take the concept of whiteness, which is refers to the specific dimensions of racism that elevate white people over people of color and other races. Whiteness comes with many privileges, among one is the idea that white people are “raceless.” Related to this concept is the idea of white supremacy, which is the assumed superiority and power that is given to whites. These ideas are so deeply engraved in American history that most of us don’t event question it. Being American, or at least a “true” American, is almost a synonym of being white.
San Antonio, Sebastien’s native city, is 63 percent Hispanic. People like to forget, or maybe never even learned, that Texas and the Southwestern U.S. territory once belonged to Mexico. Many of its inhabitants are of Mexican descent and that is a fact. Sebastien is proud of being an American, but he also carries Mexican pride in his heart and he has all the rights to show it. The problem is that people like to think of the United States as a nation of whites. Being a Mexican American, Asian American or African American is not the same as being just American—or white American.
It is sad to see that, after years of fighting for equality in this country, Mexican Americans –just as other minorities—continue to be seen as foreigners because of the color of their skin and their “alien” culture. However, it is also very inspiring to see there are great Mexican Americans like Sebastien De la Cruz who show who they truly are without fear of being criticized by the mainstream. This boy has gone far, and I have no doubt that he will continue to grow to become a voice for equality in this country. Sebastien es, sin duda, un gran orgullo para todos los mexicanos en este país.