Hinojosa describes ‘two Americas’ in Ware Lecture

Maria Hinojosa

Ware lecturer Maria Hinojosa

Maria Hinojosa, National Public Radio broadcast journalist, presented the Ware Lecture at General Assembly Saturday night, telling several thousand Unitarian Universalists there are two Americas.

Places like Arizona, she said, are “an America where people live in fear of any kind of authority. Imagine looking at officers and feeling fear because the police have the capacity to tear your family apart.”

She has felt that fear, she said, noting that when she was in second grade she remembered hearing presidential candidate George Wallace talk. “I did not truly understand what George Wallace was saying except to know that he did not like people like me or my best friend at the time, a little Jewish girl. She and I talked about our plan about what basement we would hide in if Wallace became president.”

She added, “I remember at one point in my career when I was producing for NPR on the Salvadoran guerilla war, I stared at my green card and said, hmmm, maybe one day someone might decide to not let me back into the U.S.”

She went on, “For me, Mexican-born, it is not enough for me to have my New York driver’s license. I have to be able to show any official of this state my U.S. passport. How many of you said to your selves as you were packing for this trip, hmmm, let me bring my passport because I am going to Arizona and they might ask me to prove my citizenship?

“And that is the core of the issue. You see now we do have two Americas, one where some people feel like they have to be able to prove themselves as real Americans and where others don’t even realize this is even an issue that happens.”

She took the Obama administration to task for not delivering on the president-elect’s promise to fix this issue. She applauded Unitarian Universalists for being committed to people often described as “the other.” She added, “What you do with this information is your job as members of the greatest living democracy.” We have the capacity to create a new America, she said.

The first person who made her believe that she did matter to this country was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., she said. “A black man made this little Mexican girl believe that my voice mattered.”

Hinojosa is anchor and managing editor of NPR’s Latino USA.

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