Google Doodles have become a popular source of cultural validation in America over the years. Whether it be a commemoration of Copernicus, who conceived of the Sun at the center of the solar system, or in celebration of Chinese New Year, Doodles are contemplated for their significance by hundreds of millions of people each time a new one appears on Google’s search engine.
So it was with curiosity and resentment when some Christians noticed that the Google Doodle for March 31st did not celebrate Easter, but the birth of Cesar Chavez.
But the anger over Google’s Doodle, which has not celebrated Easter since 2000, is rooted in something beyond Christianity, but in the Christian AmeriCan fetish to dominate the historical narrative of this country. And this often has a racial tint to it. The push to ban Mexican-American Studies in Tucson, Arizona, is nothing more than an assertion of cultural dominance over the interpretation of history.
The Ku Klux Klan recently protested in Memphis for the city’s decision to rename three parks named in celebration of the Confederacy. Conservatives at the Texas Board of Education pushed through a history curriculum in which they continued to disregard the importance of Latino leaders, and where one conservative was able to win approval for a requirement to teach “the importance of personal responsibility for life choices” regarding teenage suicide, dating violence, sexuality, drug use and eating disorders.
Chavez is an iconic figure in the human rights movement for his establishment of what would become the United Farm Workers union.
To some, Chavez was a tireless organizer who sought greater respect for workers in the agriculture industry. And Latinos were a central cultural component of the farm workers movement, as was Catholicism. In Cesar Chavez’ pilgrimage to Sacramento in 1966, he laid out the Plan de Delano, stating the UFW’s case for better work conditions. In this plan, they said, “At the head of the pilgrimage we carry LA VIRGEN DE LA GUADALUPE because she is ours, all ours, Patroness of the Mexican people.”
Yet Chavez is also vilified by those on the Right who not only dislike unions, but whose Latin flavor seems to attract the ire of the Right’s culture warriors. A brief look at Ann Coulter’s forums is filled with resentment and it was Michelle Malkin’s website, Twitchy.com, that first called Google out for their “insult” to Christians.
It’s bad enough that these so-called Christians are ones most likely to support government policies that are hostile to these farm workers who suffer under difficult conditions for a meager pay. Or that these folks who want to revive programs like Operation Wetback, an aggressive deportation program that made a mockery of Christianity, let alone human rights. But the reflexes are less about Christianity and more about the sense of ownership these people have of the country, in which the imagery of our iconic leaders is an important aesthetic in maintaining that ownership.
However, since the 2012 Presidential Election, another narrative has begun to emerge; that of the looming demographic shifts of the country. California, Texas and Colorado each officially celebrated Cesar Chavez day yesterday, or, if you plan on running for president, 102 electoral votes recognized the birth of the United Farm Workers union leader. That’s almost 40 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
Texas is a solid red state who will soon learn, as those in California did, that narratives are harder to maintain when they are supported by dwindling numbers. Welcome to Democracy. Latinos have known it for a while now.
Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.