A mostly left, feminist perspective of current events.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ich bin Berlinerin

No, I'm not German, but I could be. As an American, it is important to remember that we all came from somewhere else. Anyone proclaiming loudly "I was born here!" or even "my grandparents were born here," has too short a memory. White Americans on the whole suffer from a short term memory problem, it would seem. But is that just an excuse?

In his article "Red Brown and Blue," Ray Suarez discusses the changing face of who is white in this country. Too soon people forget, willfully, that to be Italian, Irish or Jewish did not always mean white. Celebrated immigrants were the pilgrims on the Mayflower, but some seem to think America ceased to be a nation of immigrants after 1776. How ridiculous would it have been for the travelers on the Mayflower, upon arriving, to turn to the succeeding ships with guns and declare them illegal? How silly this notion of "who has the right to be here" is.

Certainly don't ask Native Americans how they feel about immigration problems. I can only imagine the derisive laughter. But maybe their memory is short as well? I had a boss once whose heritage was half Cherokee and half European descent. She said she felt nothing for the plight of Native Americans in this country today; she had no feelings of loss over her people's heritage. How sad is that? Everyone who calls themselves white is so assimilated into the system that we have no history.

Kevin Powell writes an impassioned article for Huffington Post on how Black America has responded to the rising tide of Latino immigrants. It's a sad case of cycling marginalization that perpetuates closed societies and class distinctions. As Americans, we hold ourselves above the caste system of India; we claim to be better than the culture of monarchy and feudalism we escaped in Europe. But is today's immigration battle not simply the very same entitlement rebranded?

How can we be so shortsighted as to tell hundreds of thousands of people they've come to America two centuries too late? Perhaps it's a problem of space. The Louisiana Purchase was a gamble in its day, but one President had enough foresight to see that people were not going to stop coming to America, and there had to be a place for them all to spread out. Maybe we should look into buying Canada? </sarcasm>

Sarcasm aside, of course a country with a system of taxes based on nation-status must require a system of processing new arrivals. Why does it take months and years to process people? This may be a naive question, but I would counter that the responses on how to deal with a large group of undocumented (I will not say illegal. I did nothing to earn my right to citizenship in this country except be born) people has been equally naive, if not misguided at best to hateful at the worst.

What do laws like the one Arizona has proposed do to a society?

  1. Crimes go unreported & drug dealers operate unopposed due to upstanding community members fears of being caught & deported. Chris Burbank for Huffington Post.
  2. Police officers who walked the line before on venting their frustrations or prejudices on marginalized persons now have free reign to do so. Felipe Calderon in The Guardian.
  3. Businesses that rely on the cheaper labor source that undocumented workers provide suffer. Undocumented workers are not taking away jobs from any legal citizen of America. As Martin Kaste for NPR writes, Americans don't want these jobs. 
The pecking order of race in this country has to stop. Change will come when a bigger crisis unites us, or a catastrophe changes the dynamic enough to allow for attitudes to shift. We could hope for voters to write their Congressperson to vote for tolerance & rewrite the laws that make the path to citizenship such a turmoil. We could hope a mixed race President will signal an attitude shift. Sadly we will probably just have to wait for the earth to fix our problems for us. Bring on the zombies.


Love America's history of immigrants? Watch the waves of immigrants settle here in this interactive map from the NY Times.

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