Thursday, May 21, 2009

Renaming street after Latino leader important

Chavez street name is about a permanent recognition of the Hispanic community
by Lawrence J. Maushard, Oregon Live, May 18, 2009

My, The Oregonian's editorial writers, as evidenced in "Cesar Chavez: A divide, or a bridge?" (May 15) are especially prickly these days.

The idea isn't to inflict pain, no matter what you believe one person says on the matter.

No, the idea is ensure a very obvious and public demonstration of demographic presence in a particular community. A permanent and constant recognition of the Hispanic community in the city of Portland. That's what this is about.

Doing so by renaming a major urban boulevard is a time honored and important gesture domestically and around the world.

Hey, when one side comes out on top after a revolution, or one generation takes its rightful place in serious power politics, then they eventually validate the changes by renaming a few streets to some of their champions.

Street renamings are a bit old school, for sure. But tradition obviously has its place. And this is certainly one of them, I feel.

The generation that now takes a seat at this bounteous Cascadia table has every right to leave behind its calling cards in our collective communal psyche.

Moreover, when people and institutions, like The Oregonian, actively attempt to deny the reasonable recognition of an ethnic or cultural group's presence, then you have to wonder, Why?

Racism, xenophobia, nativism, Know-nothingness. Take your pick. They all apply.

Let's never forget that in the heyday of the all too real Oregon Klan, The Oregonian famously took a noncomittal head-in-the-sand position, according to many serious historians.

Also, during the round-ups of the entire Japanese-American community, U.S. citizens included, in Portland in 1942, The Oregonian facilitated the ethnic cleansing with propaganda photo features of faux pleasant living conditions in the city's barb wire and guard-patrolled detention camp, located on the site of the present day Expo Center.

The Oregonian has a lot to live down and learn from. And it really has a lot of nerve to advise any minority group about the rights and wrongs of honoring its heroes.

One more thing. Cesar Chavez was a labor leader, a union man fighting for civil rights. How can anyone therefore trust The Oregonian, an infamous union-busting company, to offer any valid editorial discourse on the proper means to honor the people who devoted everything they had to improving the living standards of the poor and working class?

When push comes to shove, this publication is not on the side of the vulnerable people in this community. This editorial is just another example of how The Oregonian proves that maxim every day.

Lawrence J. Maushard is a journalist and author who lives in Southeast Portland.

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