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California: What in its name don’t some people get?
Dennis Wyatt

Santa Ana High traveled to Aliso Niguel High to play football last Friday. The two Southern California schools are 17 miles from each other.

Those from Santa Ana High weren’t exactly overwhelmed by the reception they got. Santa Ana Principal Jeff Bishop said they were greeted with signs such as “Build the Wall” as well as “We Love White.” 

His counterpart, Aliso Niguel Principal Deni Christensen, acknowledged there were signs students posted that were inappropriate for a high school football game such as “Trump 2000”, “Bring Back Obama”, and “We’re going to Trump you”. Administrators that saw the signs immediately took them down. She did not see the “Build the Wall” sign but conceded students may have had one in the parking lot. As for the “We Love White” signs they were mixed with signs that read “We Love Red” and “We Love Blue”.

The theme Aliso Niguel High students chose for the game was “Red, White & Blue” in a nod to Patriots Day that marks the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. 

And to top it off, every time Aliso Niguel scored their students chanted “USA! USA!” after they scored a touchdown.

One would be hard pressed to comprehend the thought process of teens at times especially given they have a tendency to overdue sophomoric humor and to act before they think.

The “USA” chant was seen as a cheap shot by the visitors given Santa Ana High has a significantly higher concentration of Hispanic students with a number of them, according to Principal Bishop, being Dreamers or undocumented children brought to this country by their parents.

What made the entire incident bizarre are the names gracing the sports uniforms and school paraphernalia of both high schools — Santa Ana and Aliso Niguel.

The high schools are next door to Los Angeles as well as being near San Diego and San Bernardino. They are part of California whose state capital is in Sacramento which is the name of one of its two largest rivers with the other being the San Joaquin River. The first state capitol, by the way, was in Monterrey before being moved to San Jose and then Vallejo before ending up in Sacramento.

They live in California where you will find the soaring Sierra and the cosmopolitan San Francisco.

Have you noticed a pattern? There are a heck of a lot of cities and landmarks in California that have Spanish names.

This did not happen by accident. California and a large swath of what is today the southwest United States was a colony of Spain from 1769 to 1821. After Mexico scored its independence from Spain, California was a Mexican territory from 1821 to 1848. The Mexican-American War that started in 1846 and ended in 1848 forced Mexico to give up California. Before the Gold Rush kicked into high gear, California as a fledging United States territory had a predominately Hispanic — read that —Mexican population. In the early days of statehood official documents were printed in both English and Spanish.

Nothing is more bizarre than a Californian mocking Californians for being Californians.

Yes, there is a difference between legal and undocumented Californians whether the undocumented are from Hong King, Mexico, Thailand, Europe, Colombia, Vietnam, Central America, or wherever.

It may not have been intentional, but blanket taunts or innuendoes against what was and is now California’s largest ethnic group is way off base. There is a huge difference between nationality and ethnicity. To equate them as one in the same threatens to send us down the same rabbit hole that the Old World created whether it was in Europe, Asia, or Africa.

Judging people by their names or skin tone is an exercise in futility and stupidity.

One of the first negative encounters I had after being elected to the Western Placer Unified school board in 1975 was with a new resident to Lincoln who had moved from Orange County.

We were standing outside Glen Edwards School and he was on a rant that didn’t want “those people” teaching his kids. I was at a lost until he pointed across the street where Nick Martinez was working in his yard as the guy launched into an all-encompassing tirade about welfare and affirmative action giving “them” an unfair advantage.

Nick had a nice house. He drove an Oldsmobile 88. He worked at McClellan Air Force Base. He also got shot at while wearing the uniform of this country in World War II. The same was true of his father but that was back in World War I.

During the course of our conversation the man who moved to Lincoln from Orange County shared he had moved to Southern California from Ohio during the aerospace boom in the 1960s. His family migrated to this country in 1920s some 45 years after Martinez’ family settled in Lincoln. 

I’m a fifth generation Californian dating back to 1846 on my mother’s side of the family when this state was still part of Mexico. It shouldn’t matter where you or your ancestors are from if you live here and follow the laws. If you are undocumented and have been working and not engaging in felonious behavior a path to citizenship should be made available to you and you should take it if you wish to stay in this country.

And if you are among those who feel free to paint everyone with a broad brush the next time you’re stuck in traffic on the Santa Ana Freeway in Los Angeles you might want to ponder what’s in a name.