Thursday, October 20, 2011

Guest Blogger Brittany N. Chavez on Hispanic Heritage Month

Do you know the term ‘dichotomy’? It means division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups. This is what it sometimes is to be a Hispanic in the United States, and specifically in Arizona.  

Hispanics, in law school and in the general public, walk a fine line between American and Hispanic cultures. We are forced to represent two sides of ourselves. Our American side is grateful for a free country that is, in theory, ran by the people. We should be proud of a country that protects and fosters individual freedoms and equality. We should be good American patriots, upholding and carrying on the American tradition. However, we sometimes see this American view as skewed to protect a particular segment of our diverse society; unfortunately, Hispanics are not always high on this priority list. Therefore, our Hispanic side is often on the defensive, wondering why our culture is seen as such a threat in this assumed free and equal country.

Where should our loyalties fall? We need to represent both sides, conform to both cultures, speak (or attempt to) both languages, merge two religious faiths, and hold on to both individualism and community practices. While doing this, we are also being held to a higher standard: Americans want us to assimilate and conform to their practices, while our Hispanic community is urging us to hold on to our culture and beliefs.

Where do we draw the line? Do we leap onto the American train that supports policies against our larger community? As law students, we are learning to uphold the American law system and protect our Constitution. Does this mean we unquestioningly support every bill and law that is passed? To quote Martin Luther King, Jr. : “There are two types of laws: There are just laws and there are unjust laws.  I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’" We have a duty to uphold the just laws of our country; however, as Hispanics studying the law, we have an equal obligation to defend our community against unfair laws and treatment.

We are constantly walking a fine line as Hispanics in this country. As law students, we are learning to value and uphold the American legal system, and ultimately contributing our education back into the American system. This does not have to be at the expense of our cultural heritage and larger community. Hispanic Heritage Month is our way to recognize and represent our Hispanic traditions and legacy.  It is possible to change the dichotomy that is our existence in the American system. We can take the good and beneficial qualities out of each culture and merge into a stronger, more united, and diverse America.

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