You Can't Be Spanish! copyright 2003
by Susana Rosende


"You've got to be taught to hate and fear.
You've got to be taught from year to year.
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear.
You've got to be carefully taught."

"You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a different shade.
You've got to be carefully taught."

"You've got to be taught before it's too late.
Before you are six or seven or eight.
To hate all the people your relatives hate.
You've got to be carefully taught."

Song from the Broadway musical South Pacific
Copyright 1949 (renewed) by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
(To listen, click here.)

When my Rutgers University Creative Writing professor critiqued my story, she asked how I happened to know so much about the Cuban culture and the Spanish language.

I responded that I was Cuban, and her jaw dropped. "I don't believe THAT!" she said. "You're SO fair and blonde!" I laughed and told her I highlighted my hair.

But, she shook her head vehemently, "NO, that's not it."

"You just can't be Spanish!" she insisted. You're MUCH too nice. You're just too sweet!"

Did she really mean I was "too nice and sweet" to be Cuban and/or Spanish-speaking? Apparently, this highly educated woman was completely ignorant of her back-handed "compliment."

But, unfortunately, this professor was not the only one to insult my ethnic background.

Ten years later, I was invited to a birthday dinner at the home of my future in-laws. When I teased my soon-to-be second husband for not giving his mother a birthday hug, he laughed and admitted he never hugged his mother and didn't see why her birthday should be cause for a show of affection.

I shook my head and replied that I hugged my own mother whenever I greeted her, regardless of the occasion.

Then my boyfriend's father jumped to his defense:

"Oh, yeah, well, you Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and're all the same... ...always hugging and kissing and STEALING stuff from my table at the flea market!"

Everyone at the party, including his honeymooning cousins from Kansas, were stunned into silence.

As I rose to leave their home, I quietly replied, "I have never, nor has anyone in my family, ever, stolen anything from anyone."

I eventually married into this family. During arguments, my husband always found it necessary to call me a Spic.

My baby brother (who will be 33 years old this year!) is a 6 foot tall, built, handsome, olive-skinned young man. When he was a high school baseball star, celebrating a win with his teammates at a Houston, Texas restaurant, he was refused service. The waitor blatantly told him, "We don't serve Spics or Wetbacks here."

As a young newlywed and college student at Rutgers University, I was promised a part-time job at a family-owned woman's clothing store. When discussing my hours, the owner explained the store would be closed during the High Holy Jewish Holidays in September and I responded that I understood, as my husband was Jewish. As she scanned my application, she noticed I'd written I was "Bilingual English/Spanish" and asked where I'd studied Spanish. I explained that I'd grown up bilingual and was born in Cuba. When she asked if my parents were in the military, I responded that no, they were Cuban.

To my surprise and dismay, I was promptly told to keep looking for a job. They could no longer schedule me around my classes.

When I worked at Loehmann's Department store in East Brunswick, NJ, the manager (also Jewish) demanded that his store employees follow any black or hispanic customer who shopped in the store.

My own in-laws and their friends found it very difficult to accept my being both a Roman Catholic and a Latina. As my sweet, young brother-in-law explained, I would have made it so much easier, had I converted to Judaism.

It has always both saddened and amazed me that any Jewish person, with the history of persecution against his people for thousands of years, could actually condemn others.

Just as disheartening is the prejudice that can exist between Latinos (Cubans vs. Puerto Ricans vs. Mexicans vs. South Americans, etc.) or between Christians (Catholics vs. Methodists vs. Baptists, etc.)

My eldest son is from my first marriage. His background is half Cuban/Roman Catholic and half American/Jew. He has olive skin, like my father, and dark hair and eyes. After the September 11th terrorist attacks on the US, a few students at his high school angrily demanded to know his ethnic background. He replied, "I am American!"

My youngest son is from my second marriage. His ethnic background includes my Cuban heritage and his father's Italian/German/Belgian background. This son has fair skin, light brown hair, and blue eyes. One of his classmates refused to believe he was half-Cuban. The African American child insisted my son was "just an ordinary white boy."

Photo of my boys and me, September 2002

I have never understood prejudice, whether it be against someone's ethnic background, faith, lifestyle, language, color, or disability.

But, I do understand that prejudice is learned, and have taught my children to never judge others by the color of their skin, religion they practice, sexuality with which they're born, language they speak, gender, age, or socio-economic standing, but rather by whether the individuals are honest, sincere, and caring people.

This tolerant philosophy is especially important in the United States of America, a land that welcomes peoples of all backgrounds:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free..."

I truly believe that if more parents raised their children to love and respect all of humanity, the world would be a better place.

The historian Isaac Deutscher wrote: The political and moral health of a society can be measured by its treatment of Jews. This holds true for the attitude toward all minorities. Not the imposition of majority opinions on society but tolerance and respect for minorities are the hallmarks of a democratic society. Democracy itself is threatened by indifference toward minority rights and political opportunism that exploits prejudices and ignorance in the population.

Minorities must be able to participate in society as equals while giving full expression to their own identity without fear. To accomplish this, minorities are dependent upon the majority - upon the awareness within the majority that it has a special responsibility in actively safeguarding minority rights. Some of these safeguards are:

  • an educational system that fosters awareness of and respect for different cultures or religions;
  • laws and a legal system that protect minority rights;

  • a public discourse in which opinion leaders from politics, cultural life and the media honor their special responsibility in upholding tolerance.

When the Nazis arrested Communists
I kept silent
Because I was not a Communist.

When they rounded up Social Democrats I kept silent
Because I was not a Social Democrat.

When they picked up Catholics
I did not protest
Because I was not a Catholic.

When they arrested me
There was nobody left
To protest.

Poem by Dr. Martin Niemöller, a Protestant clergyman who was active in the resistance movement against Hitler.

Healing Racism, Hatred and Violence

By Margaret Paul, PhD

Inner Bonding

Those of us who have been on a path of healing the wounded aspects of ourselves know that one of the characteristics we often suffer from when we are in a wounded, fearful ego state is that we feel either superior or inferior to others. Because the wounded part of us is based on the core shame beliefs that we are inadequate, flawed, defective, unimportant, and so on, we may feel deeply one-down to others. In order to compensate for these difficult feelings and protect against feeling them, we may deny their existence and move into the opposite position: I am better than others.

This position can take many forms:

  • I am better than others because I have more money.
  • I am better than others because I am thinner, sexier, prettier or more handsome.
  • I am better than others because I have a better car.
  • I am better than women because I am a man, or I am better than men because I am a woman.
  • I am better than homosexuals because I am heterosexual.

Racism comes into the picture when the false beliefs about being one-up extend to race and religion:

  • I am better than Blacks, Asians and Latinos because I am White, or, as is rapidly becoming the case, I am better than Whites because I am Black, Asian, or Latino.
  • I am better than Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims because I am Christian, or I am better than Christians because I am a Jew, Buddhist, and so on.

All of these false beliefs of the wounded aspect of ourselves stem from fear and a deep desire to have control over not feeling the fear. Hate and the resulting violence are always protections against feeling the fear of believing, in a deep, unconscious place within the wounded self, that we are unworthy.

The way I see it, racists are waving a large flag that says: "I feel deeply inadequate, insecure, fearful, flawed. I am terrified of anyone knowing about these feelings, so I will hide them by pretending to be better than others. This will protect me from ever having to feel how defective I really feel." Hitler, with his highly abusive background and his deep self-hatred for the small part of himself that was Jewish, illustrates the extreme of what I am talking about.

The problems of racism and violence will not be resolved until:

  1. Our child-rearing practices change to produce people with high self-esteem instead of deep core shame.
  2. Adults commit to their inner healing work which involves healing the wounded aspects of themselves that resort to hate and violence when threatened.

It is necessary for each individual to practice a healing process on a daily basis, such as the one that I teach called Inner Bonding (see resources below for a free course), so that gradually the fears and false beliefs of the wounded self are healed and replaced by the truth: that we are all children of God, equal in the eyes of God.

When we heal our wounded selves, we will feel our oneness with all living beings, and would never think of harming another person. When we know ourselves to be the love that is God, we will see and feel that love within each person we meet, regardless of what they look like on the outside. When we learn to love our own soul - our own individual expression of Spirit - we will naturally love the souls of others.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight books, including "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?", "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By My Kids?", "Healing Your Aloneness","Inner Bonding", and "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By God?" Visit her web site for a FREE Inner Bonding course: or

This Diversity - The Human Race site owned by Susana Maria Rosende.
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