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Too many Americans have been wrong about immigrants since Benjamin Franklin

The reaction to some of what I’ve written recently has been colorful. Reading about how tough it is to be brown has some white folks seeing red.

A reader offered this advice: “I strongly think you have to get beyond this ‘ethnicity factor’ that you’re eaten up with.”

What eats at me is ignorance, prejudice, dishonesty and blindness.

Do some people really not see that President Donald Trump’s opportunistic rants about how there is an “invasion” of “bad hombres” who are coming to rob, rape and ruin have put a target on the backs on the nearly 60 million Latinos in this country?

Six weeks after a massacre in El Paso, Texas, that killed 22 people and injured 24 more, the alleged assailant was recently indicted by a grand jury for capital murder. Patrick Crusius drove 10 hours from North Texas to El Paso so that he could — as police said the 21-year-old told them — “kill as many Mexicans as possible” and fend off what he called in his manifesto the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

The ghastly events of Aug. 3 will forever haunt that border town. The city some affectionately refer to as “El Chuco” could teach the rest of the country a thing or two about bringing together people of different races and cultures.

The reader who was eager to play psychologist and diagnose my mental ailments got lit up by a column I had written bashing Stephen Miller. The White House adviser wants to kick undocumented children out of public schools in defiance of a 1982 Supreme Court decision that prohibits that sort of thing. Trump’s anti-foreigner hatchet man is also cracking down on legal immigration by trying to scrap the refugee resettlement program and end so-called birthright citizenship, which is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

So much for respecting the rule of law and defending the Constitution.

Move over, Montezuma — this is Miller’s revenge. I don’t know what happened to him when he was growing up in the mostly-white city of Santa Monica, California, which lies west of heavily Latino Los Angeles. But something obviously did. And now he seems to be itching to get even.

I say these things and poke at the powerful because that’s my job. But then, in the minds of some of my white readers, I’m the one who’s hung up on race or plagued by an “ethnicity factor.”

I might believe it, too — if I hadn’t majored in history in college. You see, while skittish and fragile white folks like to whine about identity politics and accuse people of color of having a chip on our shoulder or being consumed by race and ethnicity, none of it is very original.

When we group people together by skin color and generalize about them — or even when we ourselves cluster together with people who look like us and share our backgrounds — we’re doing our part to carry on a long-standing American tradition of drawing color lines.

It’s why Benjamin Franklin, an Englishman born in Boston, hassled German immigrants in the mid-1700s because he considered them “aliens” who would never assimilate. It’s why there’s a Little Armenia in Los Angeles, a Little Italy in New York, a Little Saigon in Houston, a Greektown in Baltimore, a Little Bombay in Jersey City, and on and on.

Since the founding of the United States, Americans have done all this grouping and regrouping, and no one complained much about it. That’s because, for the most part, the game was being run by white people. Only now that nonwhites have suited up and taken the field is it the end of Western civilization.

Maybe you think ethnic enclaves are harmless, and they are. But you freak out when I call myself a Mexican American?

It’s the demographics, isn’t it? You can tell me. It’s one thing to wear a button on March 17 that says: “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” It’s quite another to confront the reality of a future where, by 2030, roughly a quarter of the U.S. population will be Latino. You want to know where all that will leave you, and whether your “white privilege” card will be honored by all major corporations, universities, media companies and government institutions. Right?

Calm down. You’re good. We’re not looking to take over or get even. But some respect would be nice. The first step to welcoming a new day is not treating everyone else like they were born last night.

Now, I’ll play psychologist. Amigo, you have a problem. Don’t project and make it mine.

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