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posted: 8/28/2011 5:00 AM

Drop the labels; we're all Americans

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In testimony to the Illinois House of Representatives Redistricting Committee just a few months ago, Angel Garcia, a self-appointed "Latino Leader," said in regard to the proposed districts: "Latinos are still way underrepresented ... We really do need districts where Latinos can actually run and win ... It is of much importance to keep it together as much as we can to be able to attract Latinos to run and when they run that they can have a chance to win and that the community can have a voice."

I personally believe that Latinos, like any other race, are smart enough, strong enough and charismatic enough to get elected on ideas, philosophies and principles, and I do not believe Latinos need to rely on ethnic ties to see results.

Garcia ignores the fact that Latinos have in fact been elected in districts across the country -- and I strongly disagree that only Latinos can properly represent Latinos. Latinos seek the same things -- access to good education, to good jobs, to opportunity for themselves and their kids -- as everyone else. We are more alike than we are different and I believe we should all start championing that. If we want to see racism halted, if we want a future where all races and ethnicities are represented well in local, state and federal government, we need to stop pitting one ethnic group against the other through our words. We must not create a culture of "us versus them." that can only lead to anger, hatred and discontent.

We do not consider ourselves to be a Latino, Hispanic or any other adjective that attempts to describe our skin color, ancestor's language or culture. We are Americans, and we believe that all people, regardless of color or race who seek the American dream through hard work, sacrifice, are Americans.

Jesus Alaniz