Robert Rivard

The Internet has connected the human race around the globe in once unimaginable ways. By doing so, it’s also become a vast echo chamber and trolling ground for every racist, political extremist, homophobe, and pederast on the planet.

The worst of it is found in anonymously posted comments on unmoderated websites, whose owners look the other way, citing vague First Amendment guarantees, but really coveting the clicks that appease and fool advertisers. And more and more, we see such garbage polluting Twitter. Again, its owners are slow to take action. You start addressing every wacko and offending remark and pretty soon you’re affecting growth projections.

This week it was young Sebastien de la Cruz‘s turn to feel the hate. This wonderful 11-year-old San Antonian, the son of Mexican immigrants, is on quite a roll. He’s stolen hearts on national television, performed with the San Antonio Symphony, and he’s appeared in splendidly tailored charro gear to sing the national anthem at an NBA Finals game at the AT&T Center. You can see and listen to his performance here. It was that last gig which produced a storm of racist, anti-Mexican remarks on social media.

Sebastien De La Cruz close up cropped Spurs Anthem
Sebastien de la Cruz sings the national anthem before Game Three of the NBA Finals at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

Sebastien used his own Twitter following at @selcharrodeoro to handle the heat: “Please do not pay attention to the negative people. I am an American living the American dream. This is part of the American life.” Good advice from a boy mature beyond his years.

Even Mayor Julián Castro took to Facebook to express his support and admiration: “I’m proud of our young San Antonio superstar Sebastien de la Cruz for a spectacular rendition of our national anthem at last night’s Spurs game. Sebastien, don’t let a few negative voices get you down. You are a true talent and you represent the best of our nation’s future!”

If I were President Obama, I’d invite Sebastien and his parents to the White House for lunch and photo ops. He’s a talented young singer far beyond his years, and as we’ve learned these last few days, he’s also wise beyond his years, a sensitive little man whose positive outlook on life and its infinite possibilities is not going to be deterred by “the negative people.” He’s a promising young American who exemplifies what immigration reform can do for our country. One generation scrapes and crawls its way into a new life, and one or two generations later, the progeny are changing the world for the better.

Sebastien responded to the insults and slurs that some might find debilitating and distracting by accentuating the positive and, in doing so, again disproving the narrow views of those who would denigrate him for his skin color, his ancestry or his bicultural depth.

In that regard, San Antonio has a few things it can show the world around us. One is how a city thrives on a modern foundation of racial and ethnic respect and unity. Are we perfect? Not even close. But our overall record is an enviable one, and something we don’t talk about often enough when comparing San Antonio to other U.S. cities.

Last week I wrote about how the Spurs unite San Antonio. This week the story evolves into how a young, talented singer who was asked to sing for the Spurs, for San Antonio, for the nation and world, unites us now. No amount of Twitter trash can obscure that.

It’s a story with a San Antonio ending. Kudos to the Spurs for inviting Sebastien back to sing the national anthem a second time on Thursday night for Game Four, and so he did, introduced by Mayor Julián Castro with Erica Castro, and afterwards, congratulated by both Spurs Coach Greg Popovich and Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra.

That’s the San Antonio way, a city on the rise.

Follow Robert Rivard on Twitter @rivardreport or on Facebook.

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Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.