No social touchdown for USC’s Mark Sanchez

While a "tricolored" mouthpiece by itself should not offend the public, the commentary by race-baiting authors such as Gustavo Arellano ("Quarterbacking while Mexican," Oct. 26) contribute to the conflict in America.

As an American (and proud of it), and a Hispanic equally proud of my heritage, I regret that a young, talented athlete like Mark Sanchez displayed such poor taste by politicizing his heritage. What is truly of concern to many Americans such as me is the lack of recognition of what our great nation offers all of us.

Like Sanchez, I am a third-generation American of Hispanic roots. The difference is that I am aware of my roots and the fact that had my family remained in their native land, I would be living in poverty. Like many Americans, I am sick of hearing of the great Mexican culture and heritage as professed by the academic liberal elite and the politically correct media. The truth is that Mexico has bragging rights on two cultural issues: poverty and corruption. For those of us who have traveled to Mexico City and other areas below our borders, what we see is poverty and a corrupt governmental system.

I have the honor of being a professor at a community college in Los Angeles County where the majority of my students are of Hispanic and Mexican origin. Each new class, I have my students introduce themselves to the class, and the majority always identify themselves as "Mexican Americans." When they do, I reply: "So you were born in Mexico and then became a United States citizen?" Their response: "No, I was born here." Then I correct them by stating, "Then you are an American of Mexican origin." My question to everybody is what's wrong with being an American first?

Arellano in his Op-Ed article referred to other great quarterbacks who celebrated their ancestry. He commented on Joe Kapp, who was called "The Toughest Chicano" after the Minnesota Vikings' Super Bowl success. Kapp was born in New Mexico, and if you are culturally knowledgeable about the those born as New Mexicans, they do not refer to themselves either as "Chicanos" or Mexicans.

As for Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys, Arellano describes him as "Latino," even though his heritage reportedly includes being "1/2 Mexican, 1/4 Italian, and 1/4 Irish." (No mention of Romo's mom, who is of Polish-German descent; I suspect that his mom's half of the family does not count. Might this be the male Hispanic macho heritage exposing its ugly little head?)

Mark Sanchez's "tricolored" mouthpiece and his "inside joke" with the Trojans' team dentist serves no purpose other than to drive a greater wedge into our society. Mark's explanation that the mouthpiece was "a portrayal of my love for my race" tells me he needs to spend a little more time cramming with his books, because Mexican is an ethnicity, not a race.

I would wager that Mark is instead a member of the Caucasian race with a Mexican heritage. May sound picky to some, but if we ever hope to do away with "race-baiting," we need to educate our young people to correctly describe who they are.

Young people like Mark Sanchez are Americans and culturally Angloized in every way. There is nothing wrong with having pride in one's heritage, but I would ask that our academic elite and left-leaning media please stop poisoning our young people with ethnicity issues that are not part of our common American dream.

Mark Sanchez is a talented young athlete from behind the "Orange curtain" (County) and has no concept of the trials and tribulations of the undocumented Mexicans fleeing their country by the millions. His cultural understanding of life is that of an upper-class American born into a system that allows us to succeed in obtaining the American dream if we work hard and play by the rules. Had Mark's grandfather remained in Mexico, we would not be debating his success as a quarterback at USC.

I commend Mark for his attempt to make a cultural statement, but I would rather had seen him do so with a tricolored mouthpiece of red, white and blue; the stars and stripes that depict our true pride in our country, which provides us all with the opportunity to live the great American dream.

Robert Feliciano is a professor of public safety at Rio Hondo College. Click here to read more about The Times' Blowback feature.