Discrimination takes numerous forms in America. Racism is not limited to one group or to one ethnic background. It is a human problem but it is one that we humans have a very hard time addressing with profound honesty in this country. We are far too smug about this and Christians are inclined to go along with the smugness.
Consider the forthcoming production of well-known filmmaker Ken Burns for PBS, a 14 1/2 hour-epic film series titled: "The War." Burns, who produced fantastic series on The Civil War, Baseball and Mark Twain is the best we have at this genre of film for television. But in this new series Burns, and PBS with him, have failed to relate the complete historical story of America at war accurately. This was brought to my attention by a Washington Post Syndicated column this week by Ruben Navarrette. Navarrette notes the absence of Latino participation in this great story. The "greatest generation" that fought in Europe and the Pacific theaters of war included a considerable number of Latinos who sacrificed greatly alongside other Americans. But their story is either ignored or simply not known by most of us. In the case of the new PBS series the story of Latino sacrifice is known to the producers, and even acknowledged when the network was challenged about it, but it is simply left out. Navarrette adds, "It’s a great and wonderfully patriotic story, and it’s a shame that Burns and his associates at PBS missed it."
This dispute with PBS is not about "political correctness" or left wing theory. It is about fairness and truth, about simple historical facts. This experience, says Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, a journalism professor at the University of Texas, ". . . is very important because of what was going on before World War II." Throughout much of the Southwest and Midwest Latinos were forced into segregation much as blacks had been. Yet when the time came to serve their country they did so bravely and faithfully. Medal of Honor winners, as is told by PBS when the black experience is featured, came home to be denied basic services and freedoms in post-war America. To include African-Americans and Japanese-Americans in this story, and to omit Latinos, is a major mistake these critics argue. I have to agree with them, especially when so many conservatives foster a deep dislike for Latinos in our wider culture. (I know, we argue that we don’t dislike Latinos who are legally in the U.S., just those who are illegals. But how do you know who is which most of the time? I see disgraceful actions and hear hateful words about Latinos quite often, especially from angry conservatives who profess to be followers of Jesus!)
The writers who have picked up this story are simply asking PBS to re-edit the story and get these facts right. Simply tell the truth just as they do with African-Americans and Japanese-Americans. That’s the least that could be done right now when this issue would surely help heal some of the distrust and anger that pervades our wider culture. The truth is the truth! Those who love the truth should care more that it be told.