Immigrants' Son to Spin Columns With Common Thread

I noticed early on how fearful my parents were of authority.

At first I thought it was simply the language barrier that caused
my parents to speak and walk softly before all of officialdom.

My mother spoke English, but haltingly and with little confidence.
My father spoke English remarkably well under the circumstances, but
with heavy accent and tortured malapropisms.

One day, my parents – after parking us with my grandmother for a
week – came home with a story startling to my 7- or 8-year-old mind.
My name wasn’t Rivera, the name on my birth certificate. It was
really Pimentel. My father’s name wasn’t Frank or Pancho. It was
Rodolfo.

I didn’t quite understand what it meant to be illegal, in the
parlance of that day and today, but it didn’t sound good. Not to
worry, my parents said, they were now officially legal residents and
had the papers to prove it.

My father, a tailor, had been using his cousin’s green card, hence
his name, to work here. No one apparently ever asked my mother for a
green card at any of the laundries where she toiled. My folks kept
the secret even from their children. They had visions of deportation,
taking along three U.S.-born sons who would have been strangers in
their parents’ homeland.

They knew also that their youngest in particular had a big mouth.
That would be me.

Hi, I’m The Arizona Republic’s newest editorial columnist.

I share this story simply to offer a glimpse of who I am and where
I’ve been. It’s said that we are products of our experiences. If
that’s so, you will be getting a mixed bag of commentary and analysis
from me.

Yes, I’m the son of Mexican immigrants, but I’m also a product of
public schools, a U.S. Navy veteran, a college graduate and an
author.

As a reporter, I covered homicides, prisons, courts, city halls,
county government, cable-television franchising, agriculture, health,
an earthquake, a space shuttle explosion, local and national
politics, the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress.

I’ve been an assistant city editor, city editor, managing editor
and executive editor. If you ever get the opportunity to be editor of
your hometown newspaper (I was, in San Bernardino, Calif.), do it.
It’s a blast.

Put all that together and you’ve got a lot of varied experiences.
But, make no mistake, my experiences as the U.S.-born child of
Mexican immigrants have indeed helped shape some of my deepest held
beliefs, including a concern for issues of social justice, equity and
fairness.

This doesn’t mean I will be a one-note Carlito on Latino and
minority affairs in this column space, but it does mean that there is
likely to be a thread running through much of my commentary and
analysis. I just come at things from a little bit different place
than a lot of you, but not so different, I suspect, than another
growing number of you. If that upsets you, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to
offend.

I know it’s a genuine privilege to be one of your columnists. I’m
honored.

I’ll try to do it with fairness, accuracy and balance. Fortunately
for columnists, the world is often unfair, folks are often off the
mark on a number of issues and balance does seem to be in short
supply in so many debates these days. That means there is no shortage
of material.

I’m not a gotcha journalist, so you won’t see much, if any, of
that. But I do hope to provoke thought.

And, let me leave you with this one. I’ve just come from a state,
California, that transformed xenophobia into public policy via voter
initiatives. There is looming in Arizona an initiative, patterned
after one approved by California voters, that would ban or limit
bilingual education here.

I submit for your consideration the notion that it is mostly fear
that drives these sorts of efforts. Boiled down, folks fear people
like me.

Trust me, I’m not all that scary.



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