The View From 1776
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Hispanic Bill Cosby
A prominent New York City Hispanic leader tells it like it is.
As the following opinion article from the Wall Street Journal outlines, Herman Badillo has had a long and important political career in New York City. As did Bill Cosby, Mr. Badillo, in his new book, confronts the sort of political demagoguery that usually greets anyone who suggests that black or Hispanic culture may be equally, if not more, to blame than racism for the economic gap between them and the white population.
Stalled in America
By Herman Badillo
?December 29, 2006
Wall Street Journal Page?W11
Like many millions of other immigrants, New Yorker Herman Badillo is living the American Dream. His new book, “One Nation, One Standard,” is a call to arms for Hispanics who are being shut out of that dream. So why are some of Mr. Badillo’s fellow Hispanic Americans now calling him a race traitor and bashing his book even before it was published yesterday?
We’ll get to that, but first consider the credentials Mr. Badillo brings to his subject. He arrived in the U.S. as an 11-year-old orphan in 1941 and by 1970 was elected the first Puerto Rican-born U.S. congressman. Mr. Badillo has since been deputy mayor of New York under Ed Koch, run for mayor himself and was former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s counsel on education, eventually leading efforts to reform and restore to excellence the City University of New York system.
Out of this experience comes Mr. Badillo’s blueprint for immigrant success in America. The main focus of “One Nation, One Standard” is the Hispanic community, and his central theme is education, without which, he emphasizes, no amount of work or other opportunity will help a person rise. What’s got his critics in a tizzy is Mr. Badillo’s assertion that Hispanic parents cannot depend on the government to educate their children. Instead, he says, they must push their kids and rise up against a system that steers Hispanic and other minority children into segregated classrooms of designated underachievers.
The critics have focused on a few phrases in the book noting that the Hispanic immigrant community has not always placed as high a value on education as, for instance, Asians have. This is not an insult and does not sound like one when you actually read his book. As Mr. Badillo explains, the Hispanic cultural experience was formed in part by centuries of Spanish colonialism and the feudalism it spawned in Latin America, followed by decades of dictatorships and strongmen. This cruel legacy has imbued many people with a subconscious notion that stations in life don’t change, and a sense that help can only come through the luck of having a benevolent leader.
“One Nation, One Standard” calls on Hispanic Americans to throw off those mental shackles and claim the rights and opportunities that other citizens enjoy. His goal, he told us in an interview this week, is to sound an alarm that what is now the country’s major immigrant group is at risk of becoming the first such group not to follow the path of each generation doing better than the last.
Although his book covers many topics—including immigration—its most important audience is the parents of Hispanic kids, 50% of whom don’t graduate from high school. His advice: Don’t leave education up to the schools, which pursue such failed policies as “social promotion” (said to create self-esteem despite failing grades) or “tracking” with other minority children into deceptively named “academic courses,” while kids marked for success study a more rigorous curriculum. Get involved and demand that your children be prepared to participate fully in the American dream, through college and beyond.
If Mr. Badillo is generating controversy by suggesting that America’s Hispanics are being sidetracked in the name of multiculturalism, or hobbled by bilingual education, he welcomes the attention. “That was the reason” to write the book, he says. “To provoke a recognition that this issue cannot be hidden any longer and has to come to the forefront of a national discussion. Because we can no longer allow this to fester from generation to generation.”