Holocaust Remembrance Day and the Latino (Museum) Problem

We learned about rampant discrimination not against blacks in the South, but Mexican Americans in California. We became aware that from the get-go, Americans of different stripes recognized their own stake in achieving justice. So just outside the exhibit area, we put up a wall display dedicated to the earlier Mendez vs. Westminster decision ending discrimination against Latino students in California schools. We showed how this case, years before, led directly to the Brown decision. We demonstrated how others had offered assistance in litigating the case, including a Jewish attorney, followed by the famous black jurist Thurgood Marshall. We were able to expand the impact of the exhibit by showing it in a broader context—and showcase Latino involvement in the eventually successful struggle to exile racism to the fringes of society.

In time, the second of the two strategies we considered above prevailed in the Jewish survivor community. I will guess that it will be the more successful strategy in convincing lawmakers that a Latino museum might well serve all Americans. The use of memory to teach others will be a stronger argument than preserving it for members of the inside group.

5/2/2011 4:00:00 AM