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By Carmelo Delgado
Published February 20, 2008
Re: Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite's recent statement that Puerto Ricans are "foreign citizens"
Here we go again: A member of the U.S. House of Representatives, sworn to represent all U.S. citizens, making another insensitive, uninformed careless statement that offends a large group. It shows not only irresponsible leadership, but the statement also has the color of bigotry, inappropriate for a person in Ginny Brown-Waite's position. This was followed by her arrogance when questioned about her statement, and accompanied by the arrogance of her underling, Charlie Keller, for calling it "nitpicking" when there was a public outcry.
For Keller's insensitivity, we could care less. He is an unknown who does not represent us. But she does, though not for much longer, if we can help it.
Some people would be willing to hear an apology from the representative. I suspect many of us will not be satisfied with one. The reason is simple: Bigots and arrogant people do not normally apologize, and when they do everyone knows it's not coming from the heart, thus not sincere. If we remember her earlier statements regarding Muslims, and her arrogant demeanor following them, we have a better idea of whom we are dealing with. That time she showed not only cultural insensitivity, but also the same degree of arrogance.
I would like to remind Brown-Waite that members of this group of "foreign citizens" are moving to this county every day. The group is growing by leaps and bounds with almost all of us taking residence in District 5. We are mostly of voting age and thousands of us "foreign citizens" with a higher degree of education than those of us who came to the mainland in the early 1900s to work the farms and factories in different Northern states. I cannot say much about the Guamians, for I have not enough information about them, except that they obtained their citizenship in the 1950s. Nor do I know how many of them live here, and for me to make comments without enough information would be just as ignorant as anybody else doing so about Puerto Ricans or any other group.
Brown-Waite's caustic comments about Muslims, the French and Puerto Ricans, together with her stance against immigrant workers, make it clear that our congresswoman does not represent all in her district. Immigrant workers come here like all of us came - to make a decent living doing work that, for the most part, North Americans are not available or willing to perform.
She wants a wall erected at the Mexican border to stop men and women who come to work for North Americans who employ them. They are the ones who put fruits and vegetables on our dinner table (at lower prices, by the way). With their honest labor they not only help to feed us, but they also feed their children back home.
Culturally, our representative is a failure, along with her spokesman Keller. I respectfully recommend to Brown-Waite that she inform herself about the subject when she is about to issue a statement. Culturally, as well as historically, a person of her stature should have not allowed an ill-informed, insensitive source to speak for her.
First, she should have looked for Puerto Rico on a map. Then she should have followed by studying its people, its history, etc. She would have learned how Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory (1898) and how (in 1917) Puerto Ricans, not necessarily by choice, became U.S. citizens. Since that time those "foreign citizens" have fought and spilled their blood defending the U.S. flag.
Brown-Waite has become an embarrassment to her political party, to the U.S. House of Representatives, to her congressional district and to herself. I call on my Muslim friends, Hispanic brothers and sisters and all immigrants from any Hispanic country who reside in District 5, to please remember her name and her attitude the next time you vote. Let us stand together and say "never again."
Carmelo Delgado is a native of Puerto Rico, the author of a book of poetry about Martin Luther King Jr. and a retired New York State parole officer. He lives in Brooksville. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.
[Last modified February 19, 2008, 20:03:11]