Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.
By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor
San Diego (CNN) - It never occurred to me that the chant "U.S.A, U.S.A!" - something you might hear from enthusiastic sports fans at the World Cup or the Olympics - could be used as an insult. That is, until I saw (and heard) it for myself.
Before I tell that story, let's be clear. Chanting "U.S.A, U.S.A!" is fine; what matters is the context, the intent behind the chant. And that isn't always easy to discern.
It's great if the people chanting are just trying to celebrate a magnificent country. Part of what makes the United States so special in the first place is that we're also an extremely diverse country. The national motto may be "e pluribus unum" (of many, one), but Americans should always strive to cherish and celebrate those cultural differences that make us unique. This means respecting one another as equals.
So it's not so great if the idea of raising one's voice in a group display is to try to put another group of Americans in its place by implying - solely because of race, ethnicity, heritage or skin color - that they're not real Americans or "not American enough." Whatever that means.
That is when the chanting can become really offensive. Patriotism is one thing, racial or ethnic putdowns are another. In recent years, we've seen far too many examples of the latter.
In fact, recently, a group of students at Camarillo High School, northwest of Los Angeles, were ejected after leading a rally at a basketball game against a rival school. The students first showed up at the game wearing American flag bandanas, but school officials asked that they remove them. When they refused, they were told to leave the auditorium. They did, but defiantly returned soon after still wearing the bandanas. Then they whipped the crowd into a frenzy by chanting "U.S.A, U.S.A!" That's when they were asked to leave the premises, and report to the principal the next day.Read Ruben Navarrette's full column