Wednesday, May 14, 2008
When blatant racism passes for patriotism
There's an extremely interesting article in The Nation today that compares the struggles today's immigrants are facing to the struggles of blacks under Jim Crow Laws. I'd never seen it that way before, but it's a spot-on comparison. The struggle for basic rights is similar, but what I found most pointed about the article was its point about how immigrants are made explicitly aware that they are "different" from regular folks. Because, you know, they come from somewhere else....and different is BAAAAAD.
This is a difficult subject for me to take on because my emotions on this subject too oftentimes render me less than articulate. I start talking and find myself too full of rage to continue, so if I seem a little disjointed, forgive me; it's gonna take more than one take to get this out.
11% of Utah's population last time I checked (probably more now because that was a couple years ago) is Latino. They are the largest minority by FAR in our lily white state, and as this epicenter of cultural homogeny starts to gain a little color, Latinos have taken the brunt of the backlash. From making illegal immigrants use "driving privilege cards," to the Utah Minuteman Project, to Senator Chris Buttars shamefully ridiculous inference that
"In order for Satan to establish his 'New World Order' and destroy the freedom of all people a predicted in the Scriptures, he must first destroy the U.S. The mostly quiet and unspectacular invasion of illegal immigrants does not focus the attention of the nations the way open warfare does, but is all the more insidious for its stealth and innocuousness."
it is obvious that Utah is doing its part to make sure that racism extends well into the 21st century and beyond.
The difference between the blatant racism of the Jim Crow days, or the days of the Chinese Exclusion Act, or basically the BAZILLION different instances in US history where racism has been the driving factor behind our actions, is that now it is much more subtle and nuanced. For example, the majority of people no longer find it socially acceptable to be blatantly racist against legal immigrants. This does not mean that they aren't, it just means that there aren't as many public forums that support hate-filled rhetoric against legal immigration as there used to be in the good ol' days. NO, to continue the legacy of our racist agenda, we must turn to illegal immigrants so that when pressed for a reason behind the hatred, we can claim that there wouldn't be a problem if they'd just do things "legally, like everyone else."
*Aside: this particular "compromise" racism is also apparent in Barack Obama's bid for presidency, where a determined group of individuals are intent on proving Obama's Muslim roots. Because, you know, we don't mind that he's black, but if he's a black Muslim, well then there's a DEFINITE excuse to kick the fucker to the curb.
The standard arguments that allow people to continue spouting racist ideafuckologies continue along the boring, overused lines that have been used for literally centuries in our nation to keep out legal immigrants, with a few fun new ones just to mix it up a little. They take jobs, they don't assimilate in our culture, they raise crime, they don't pay taxes, they raise healthcare costs, they STEAL YOUR IDENTITY, they take money from the children (think of the children!!!), etc. etc. ad nauseum.
Hate to burst your bubble people. It's racism. Pure and simple. That's all it's ever been.
If Americans were so worried about rising healthcare costs, they would support a system of universal healthcare that relieves financial pressure on individuals and establishes a system of checks and balances for Big Pharma and the medical system.
If they were so worried about their job security, they would support sound economic practices (things that don't involve giving out an emergency stimulus package because the quick boom from the other one has faded), and they would truly start to examine our current stratified distribution of wealth, the likes of which haven't been seen since the 1920's. Instead of looking to the poorest people in our nation (yes, that would be the illegal immigrants) they would start questioning WHY the richest people in our nation are consistently the ones eligible for the largest tax cuts.
If they were worried about the uprise in crime (actually, other than domestic violence, crime has gone down nationwide), they would look at the long-established reasons that crime is perpetuated.
And if they really gave a DAMN about the children, they would focus more on fixing the public school system, relieving the crushing weight of college debt, pumping more money into teacher education, and ditching the abysmal mess that is No Child Left Behind.
The fact of the matter is that despite how far we've come, we are STILL a country who tries to pass off pervasive racism as patriotism. And sadly, it works.