May 20, 2010

Immigration foes are liars

On Illegal People...and Forgetful Ones:  Reflections on Race, Nation and Immigration

By Tim Wise"What part of illegal do you not understand?"

As it turns out, I understand every part of it. I understand it all too well. Its meaning is inscribed on the cell memory of my ancestral line, burned into our familial DNA. For it is the label that was, for a while, placed upon my great grandfather. Not because of anything he had done, but merely because he had been born in a place that, in the eyes of those filled with hatred, rendered him suspect. After all, McKinley was killed by an anarchist whose parents were from modern-day Belarus, and so naturally, it made sense to treat a boat full of Minskers as though they were criminals. Just like today, the killing of a rancher near the border, supposedly at the hands of a Mexican drug smuggler, means that Arizona must crack down on other Mexicans, or anyone who might be a Mexican, in the country without permission.

What I understand is that racists are not very original. The targets change, but the game remains the same: it is forever and always about stopping the dangerous and "polluting" other. It is about the dominant group telling some group with less power that they are not as good, not as clean, not as moral, not as wanted, not as human in some way. It is about oppressing others in the name of protecting the self, failing to realize in what can only be considered one of the saddest spectacles of modern history, that in the end, the oppressor neither fully cows their target nor obtains the security they sought. Indeed they undermine it, along with any remaining pretensions to the national greatness that made the so-called "other" want to join them in the first place. The degree to which it is ironic is only exceeded by that to which it is pathetic.

And yes, I know, the voices that clamor for securing the borders insist they are not racists. But they are liars. There is no other word for them. They are liars. They said the same thing no doubt, or some version of it a hundred years ago. Even as they were using bogus intelligence tests to "prove" that Jews and Italians were intellectually inferior to real white people. There was no bigotry. It was just that certain people were less assimilable, don't you see? Yes I see. I see very clearly thank you.
Comment:  Wise is obviously right. If he were wrong, each new wave of immigrants--Irish, Japanese and Chinese, Eastern European, et al.--would generate a different response based on its unique characteristics. Instead, the response is always the same: racial hatred disguised as "law and order" talk.

This is perhaps most obvious in the response to the Irish immigration in the mid-19th century. These people were almost indistinguishable from the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants already here. Yet Americans treated the ancestors of Henry Ford, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Walt Disney, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan as if they were barely human.

Americans have demonized immigrants for the same reason they demonized Indians. Again, to maintain the white power and privilege they claimed ever since the Pilgrims. "This land is our land, so get out before we hurt or jail you for trespassing."

For more on the subject, see They Keep Coming, and Coming, and Coming... and The Political Uses of Stereotyping.


dmarks said...

This is a "white power" item, and I'm surprised you didn't close this off for comments!

As an immigration supporter, I largely agree with you. However, I do run into many who oppose immigration on entirely non-racial grounds. Yes, so many do oppose it on racial grounds, but there are many who do not. I can respect their views even if I disagree with them. I have no such respect for the racists.

Anonymous said...

There never seems to be a shortage of fodder coming out of Arizona. You can read the Feathered Bastard's Blog at the Phoenix New Times. In yesterday's posts, a new political party is seeking legitimacy--"The Third Position" or A3P, which is btw, a "White Power" mantra true to its form. It seems that the Oppressors is becoming more bold these days. I believe its act of desperation on their part.


Anonymous said...

Immigration policy racist? Surely you jest. I mean, yeah, for most of the 20th century, immigration policy was based on eugenics, and this led to many Jews trying to get out of Germany in the 30s being stuck there, but it wouldn't be racist today. Would it? Oh wait, yeah, it would.