From: Merle Slocum [Email him]
Reading Allan Wall’s recent addition to the Diversity Is Strength!… But Series, about how, “…in today’s America, ‘white privilege’ is a delusion…” prompted my recall of life experiences helping me avoid this dupery.
Back in 1958, while walking a wooded path home from catechism in Los Alamos, New Mexico, I had rocks thrown at me by a little Hispanic boy with whom I’d had no association other than sharing the same air in catechism class. The trees and his poor aim were my allies.
A parental phone call regarding this incident had to penetrate some frail denial. Finally my parents learned that young Hispanic boys might naturally find a vividly freckled, redheaded, blue eyed boy something akin to a three-eyed frog, a creature warranting gut level abhorrence. This was an eye-opening cultural novelty to a family having deep Pennsylvania-New York roots.
My mother arranged my peace visit to this boy’s home in the cause of helping youngsters of mixed cultures heal to mutual tolerance. It had little effect other than my gaining an addiction to fresh, homemade flour tortillas.
I soon found that many Hispanic boys liked to carry pocketknives and was, though never sliced, more than once menacingly offered their business end.
With my older brother’s folding knife in my jeans’ pocket and a wary eye I attended public school locally for over a dozen years: learning, amongs other things, to watch out for dishonorable gang pile-on behavior during playground fights involving Hispanics.
Once, returning in my father’s car from a fishing trip with my brother in law we found ourselves stranded in Chama, low on gas. Seeking a pay phone and a cup of coffee resulted in our being ejected from the only local eatery. “Dis es por your own good,” we were told since Chicano activist Reis Tijerina’s La Raza boys were to meet there that night. Never did two white boys feel so black.
Much later, during a college pause, I sought employment at Los Alamos National Laboratory after finding that Hispanic youths were being employed with little regard to education or experience. Despite learning from my father and brother, both top-notch laboratory technicians, I apparently would need a few years of college engineering.
Earning an associates degree in engineering gained me LANL employment. There I attended employee orientation where it was openly stated that native Hispanics were hired without qualification, per Office of Equal Opportunity guidelines.
My boss, a John Hopkins PhD, requested I build some moderately complex control equipment whose manufacture was then falsely attributed to a Hispanic OEO employee whose promotion from one to two levels above my grade was needed so our research group could meet its OEO quotas.
After a few years amongst ruling class Ivy League PhD’s, humbled staff from lesser colleges and a quixotic mixture of technicians I promoted myself to a real hot bed of Political Correctness, my state university in Albuquerque.
I found the university home to an academically glorified version of what I had always known as the Hispanic culture’s resentment of New Mexico becoming a state. At a ceremony honoring Reis Tijerina Chicano studies professor Charles Truxillo stated,
“Among native-born American Hispanics, there is the feeling that we are strangers in our own land.”
He also suggested that a “Republica del Norte…” will become, “by any means necessary…an inevitability”.[ N.M. Will Secede to New Nation, Prof. Says, By Frank Zoretich, Albuquerque Tribune, February 17, 2000]
A memorable experience regarding this outlook came while I was sipping a 90-cent draft beer at a workingman’s bar called El Ensueño in Albuquerque’s North Valley. A Hispanic patron objected to my presence, yelling “Whose land it this!?” at me loudly, while jabbing his finger into the bar.
The golden sunlight of another Albuquerque evening found myself and a friend in the middle of a Latino low rider procession in my tattered old Subaru station wagon. A very unofficial security guard flashed his chrome-plated pistol and asked if we were a couple of undercover cops trying to, “…join the race?” Some wry diplomacy and my wallet’s single dollar bill facilitated our escape.
Resurrecting my technical skills to sustain me during college I gained employment with a contractor supplying support to the Air Force. On base I met a female data reduction technician who was forgiven her inability to round numbers due to the transparency of her blouse. Another job site required eye protection making invisible a fairly harmless laser beam used to warn of the path of another, very harmful laser beam. Base personnel peeked at their own risk.
Seeking private sector sanity I answered adds for apartment maintenance. I found myself repairing the worst habitats– some even converted chicken coops – in gritty parts of town. My downtown assistant, a gun, knife, tomahawk and any-blunt object collector, recommended I not linger at my job after hours because of the “bad locos” that showed up when local businessmen and police became scarce.
Tiring of playing pawn to the dizzyingly illogical patterns defining post 60’s employment, I attempted what every ex-government employee fears most, self-employment. I traded my skills at teaching classical music and swimming, or by repairing anything and everything economically feasible and legal.
Household repair work, being ubiquitous and vital, thrived. The part of me descended from Colonial era Americans took to independent business like a bird to the sky. A natural benefit was that the rougher neighborhoods avoided me since the homeowners in that part of town were and still are predominately Hispanics who always hire their own kind.
Decades later I’m still in business. The influx of illegal labor causes my rates to stagnate, and the deep housing recession pares down volume. China casts a shadow over my dreams of small-scale manufacturing and labor laws make becoming an employer akin to contracting the plague. And I’m still hired, 100-1, by New Mexico’s real minority, non-Hispanic whites. Hispanic callers even ask me outright if I am Hispanic. Not in this lifetime, amigo.