I have read and heard the most amazing nonsense about the immigration issue lately. Some of it comes from otherwise sane people I respect. Once again I’m reminded of the power of xenophobia, nativism, and bigotry.
- I have no problem with legal immigration. But these people are breaking the law! We shouldn’t reward law-breaking! The law needs to be enforced and they have no business saying otherwise. I’m not a bigot, though! We just have to enforce those LAWS.
The laws as they currently stand are unjust, unworkable, unenforceable, and unrealistic. First of all, Mexico is a very poor country and this is not an accident. We made them poor. We stole their land by force many times. We steal their water. We control their economy and their political leadership with money and force to prevent them from competing with our industries. We practice mercantile economic policies on them just the way the British did to us in the 18th century. This makes the border a sharp line between rich and poor.
People on the poor side of that line can feed their families and survive if they get across the line, and the people on the rich side of the line are more than willing to employ them at a discounted rate. Look at yourself and ask: would you break another country’s immigration law to feed your family? Or would you say “no, kids, we’re not going to eat regularly because it would be wrong to break this other country’s immigration law, even though they stole our land and our wealth.” That was easy, wasn’t it?
We have a necessarily porous border and a huge demand for unskilled labor. Allowing Mexican guest workers across is in the best interest of almost everybody. The only reason that immigration is restricted is that white Americans fear Spanish-speaking brown people. That is not enough of a reason to keep this laughable pretense going.
The only people I think have a legitimate reason to oppose a guest worker program are low-skilled American citizen workers. A two-tiered wage system or just an influx of workers is a disaster for them, and I do not know how to solve that problem. Interestingly I hear almost nothing from them in the mainstream news, probably because it’s not okay to discuss unions, the plight of American low-skilled labor, etc. in the current phalangist political environment.
People who talk like this apparently believe that the LAWS were handed down by Moses, are just, and must not be changed, and that agitation to change said laws that includes civil disobedience is a priori wicked and criminal. If you’ll open a history book, you’ll find that in the 1950s and 1960s American citizens who were being oppressed on the basis of their ethnicity staged marches, demonstrations, and acts of civil disobedience in violation of law that resulted in a gigantic change in our laws for the better. Those people broke the law and marched proudly into jail and today you and I are the better for it.
If the speed limit was 25 miles per hour everywhere and people had to crawl along or risk a ticket, you’d want that law changed. And if ten thousand people got on the road one morning and all drove 35 miles per hour to prove the point, I bet you’d applaud. The laws are only as good as we decide they are. This law stinks; don’t hide behind it.
- I can’t stand those people waving Mexican flags and singing and talking in Spanish. If they want to be American they should wave American flags and sing and talk in English! Otherwise they should go back to Mexico! Why, I couldn’t just go down to Mexico and act that way, why should they think they can do that here?
My great++ grandfather arrived in this country in 1750 as an indentured laborer before it was a country. He didn’t speak the language, but he worked free of his bond and fought in the Revolution. He was German and died a German with citizenship in a new country. On the other side, my relatives arrived in the 1890s also from Germany and spoke German up through the 1920s. They were farmers and owned a store and were pillars of the community. They were very German their whole lives.
Every day I see people with Swedish or Irish or Brazilian or a hundred other nationalities’ badges on their cars. We celebrate days for ethnicities: Columbus Day, St. Patrick’s Day. The flags of foreign countries are waved and foreign languages are spoken and everyone has a great time participating in other Americans’ heritage. These celebrations, many of which occur in cities with a large population from some particular place, are a bland everyday reality here that hardly anyone questions. Your schoolkid comes home and tells you she learned how to make Swedish pancakes today or that people from Scotland eat haggis on Robbie Burns day but they just read a poem at school. This is not a threat.
If people from Mexico wave their flag and march down your street singing and talking in Spanish, deal with it. When I lived in France, our French neighbors invited us over for a Fourth of July dinner. When I lived in Italy, the cool kids were wearing American flag t-shirts that summer. It’s not a big deal, folks. This country has no official language, and anyone can use any language they want for any damn thing they please. If you get lost in some parts of Nevada and Utah the people you hail for directions will know only Basque. Guess what? That’s their right, citizens or not.
If you have a distaste for Mexican people or the Mexican flag or the Spanish language, keep it to yourself. They’re here, and they’re here to work and to share society with you just like the Irish, the Italians, the Russian Jews, the Basques, the Koreans, and us German-American mutts. They’re doing it to survive just the way you would, and their polite and well-organized demonstrations lately have said exactly what I would say if I were in their shoes: We’re here, we’re not going away, and we want to be good neighbors. Don’t call us criminals for doing what you’d do yourself.
27 thoughts on “Dear angry white people”
This is excellent stuff.
The conventional wisdom is that “Americans don’t want those jobs.” At least not the jobs in restaurant kitchens. Anecdotal evidence supporting that theory comes from a fellow I know who manages the kitchen at a high-end supermarket that insists on hiring legally. He has a hell of a time finding anybody who is simultaneously sane, a citizen, and willing to wash dishes.
That is indeed part of the problem. However, Americans are willing to do lots of crummy jobs for a living wage and benefits. Working at Wendy’s or Wal-Mart isn’t fun but you’re legal and they have to pay a minimum age and have worker’s comp insurance and offer you health bennies.
The illegals work without those things, and that’s why there’s a real problem. A guest worker program would no doubt include a lower wage and reduced responsibility for benefits by the hirer, creating a two-tiered system that totally screwed low-wage legal workers, forever.
so enjoying this
Did you not write another piuece about I.I.s doing jobs no one else would do, or this this your only I.I. discussion?
I saw the Duh Vinci Code and all I could think at the end was”Wait, where was Jimmy Hoffa buried?” So I asked that question out loud as I was leaving and actually three people laughed. this was in Glendale, so yo have to consider the crowd to be pleased with even that response.
I have been absolutely astounded by the number of people around me that are so up in arms about this, and I just keep wanting to ask “how does all of this ACTUALLY effect you negatively? Not the stupid reasons you heard on the TV the other day, the ACTUAL way that illegal Pedro’s presence here harms you? And don’t tell me taxes because that’s bullshit and your tax money is being used for far far stupider reasons that than educating Lupe’s children.”
My favorite so far is the 57-year old black woman from Chicago who told a Democratic party telemarketer that she would not vote for them unless they do something about all these illegal immigrants. She’s a friend, so I bite my tongue, but I just want to say “for a black woman, you’ve REALLY bought into the white man’s politics.”
i just want people to please speak english in the supermarket. like the cashier should speak english, not just stand there glaring at me while she hides the total on the register. that’s all i ask. totals. not even please or thank you, but that would be nice. i would also like the supermarket to start carrying fontina. today the cheese guy said, when i asked “uh, i got what you see here.” THANKS.
people have suggested i learn spanish, but then you wait, in a few years i’d have to learn albanian. i’m not that smart.
all my peeps spoke english when they got here. some of them, like my father, badly. but now look at him! a republican and everything.
not criminals, tho. i give them props. i’d be terrified to go to a new country and work.
If you go by a community college around here on the nights they have late ESL classes you’ll see a full parking lot and a lot of people getting off the bus, too. Anyone who can get an English class takes one.
If the employees at the store don’t speak English, it’s because the store doesn’t pay enough to get people who are fluent English speakers. People who get upset with the employee are missing the point.
Seriously, I could kiss you for saying that. You get it!! You really get it!!
Yeah. Basque shepherds come here from Spain and live for a few years working the sheep, and then go home. They rarely learn English and they all live in certain places. Mostly Utah and Nevada, although there’s a load of them here up near Fresno or used to be.
That’s pretty awesome. There were a number of people at my co-op in college who were from the Basque region, but of course they spoke both fluent Spanish and English on top of Basque.
I’m with you.
Nicely done, Conrad.
Oh yeah, and for the record— my candy white ass is descended from illegal immigrants. And I’m pretty sure the immigration laws weren’t the only ones they broke.
Wonderful post! Bravo! I hope you don’t mind if I link to it in my own journal.
I hope it’s ok I add this to my favorites
you expressed my exact thoughts where I to be more professional, academic and/or articulate!!!
mainly I just bitched about the same things and used potty language
Thanks so much!
The worst one for me was a friend of mine who is struggling with legal immigration. He doesn’t think *any* illegals should get green cards until everyone who’s tried legally has been handled. And has no idea how classist and privileged he sounds.
Holy shit, Conrad–be careful trying to use logic and intelligence in your argument here. It only confuses the Fox-news-aholics.
(Brilliant post. Thank you.)
The weirdest reaction I’ve seen so far is “Wow! That was a horrible pulbic relations move! Traffic was great Monday! Way to demonstrate exactly what they bring to the equation. I’ll pay $5 for lettuce if I can drive 100mph on the freeway during rush hour! We’ll build our own fence! Send’em all back!”
No shit. Guy even called his congressman to deliver that opinion. Because *everyone* protesting Monday was an illegal immigrant, you see, and traffic flow is really the core issue here.
Proud of ya, chief. That’s a fine post, finer than I could do, and I’ll be linking people to it from now on instead of flaming them for spouting teh bullshits you refer to.
Intelligent, articulate and insightful as always. I don’t agree with everything you wrote; but I really appreciate hearing an intelligent opinion on the subject.
I don’t think a guest worker program is an acceptable solution because it would create an a deeply dissatisified underclass, as it did in Germany and France. Also, the comparison between this current movement and the civil rights movements of the 50s and 60s really gets me. The two movements are radically different, in my view.
The comparison to the civil rights movement was made to prove a particular point: that “THE LAW!” serves the people, and not the other way around, and that bad laws should be changed and can be changed by civil disobedience.
The guest worker program has exactly the problem you mention, yes. I still think it’s preferable to what we have now.
If we open the border to Mexico, shouldn’t we also open the Canadian border, just to be fair? And if we open the border to Canada, shouldn’t we just open the country to Europeans, and Asians, and Arabs?
Why don’t we just let anyone come on in?
Re: Open borders
The border to Mexico is already open. It can’t be closed. I don’t think you want to pay Iraq War prices for a huge Berlin Wall border.
Re: Open borders
Also the Canadian border is open, effectively. It’s trivially easy for a Canadian to live and work in the US. Indeed, let’s follow that logic another step and ask why, if an open border with Canada is so beneficial to the two nations, would Mexico be any different?
There are differences today, of course, but Canada wasn’t always the affluent industrial nation it is today. In the late 1800s, tens of thousands of Québecois moved down to Boston and environs to escape starvation. And now, over a century later, you have Stephen Colbert to show for it. 8^)
Thanks for such a clearly stated case. I’ve got it bookmarked and ready to use if and when anyone in my acquaintance requires a ‘giflé upside la tête,’ as one friend of mine puts it.
I find it crazy-making that it should be necessary for issues like this to have to be explained more than once. Ever. Homo sapiens is a remarkably and conveniently forgetful creature.