Quotes I live by:

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity"~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

"Not to know is bad. Not to want to know is worse. Not to hope is unthinkable. Not to care is unforgivable"~Nigerian saying

"I don't want you to do it because you're weak, I want you to do it because you know I'm right"~Dabney Coleman as Mark Winslow in the film Modern Problems

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Hispanicity" - Perceptions of Race in Immigration Politics (from comment thread for Politics Daily Facebook cartoon link)

Arizona-Mexico Border, 2020

I couldn't help myself, I clicked "view all comments." I should know better, but it's a compulsion whenever a link scrawls down my Facebook newsfeed that addresses what I know will be a very controversial and/or emotionally charged issue. (Note to readers who may be out there, I use "and/or" an awful lot. I also start off sentences with "And...") And this was on one of my most yakked about topics, that of Mexicans and immigration opponents.

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, I'm going to start posting excerpts from threads like this that I've contributed to with lengthy and/or what I feel are particularly good comments. After my last post announcing my intentions, I'd planned to edit and summarize my and others' comments from these threads, but I don't have the patience and concentration to do that right now, and as it's been awhile since that announcement, I've realized I'll end up just not posting at all, so if I have a chance to go back and clean it all up later, or at least have it all in one place to compile and compose as a separate, more readable piece, then groovy. And as this is a still-active comment thread, I may be updating this post with more, if and when it's directed at or added to by me, and you can consider this fair warning.

So here it is, starting with a few comments from others that prompted my jumping into the fray (using other FB users' first-names.)

From Kathleen: "There is a border. Good fences make good neighbors! Can I come down to your Mexican community and sell my wares? Without papers? Without permission? Without Questions? Would I be safe?"

This was preceeded and followed with mostly mainstream cliches about dang-ferners and pro-Arizona Gov. Jan "Boleyn" Brewer blather, but I had to answer her specific question, even though I knew it was rhetorical.

From Me: @Kathleen, yeah, you don't need permission to enter Mexico if you're American or Canadian. Canadians also don't need permission to enter the US, just Mexicans. Americans and Canadians only need to carry their own government-issued passports as ID and to re-enter their home countries, but only Mexicans are required to get permission by applying for a Visa, issued by US or Canadian consulate. And these are routinely denied, even to family members like grandmothers wishing to visit US-citizen grandchildren, because the Consulate admits the burden of proof is on the applicant against the default assumption she will overstay and not return at the end of the Visa period. When they are approved, it's only in very limited circumstances, usually only to the very rich, powerful, and/or very famous. A small number of people sponsored by companies as temporary workers, but which still have to hire many more without this permit as the quota falls far short of the workers needed, and the required posts advertising the jobs to US citizens first go unanswered. The rules are already unfairly weighted against people from Mexico.

I received some support.
From Aidee: "Laura's right. If the Federal Government was worried about securing our borders to prevent terrorists from entering the country. Why is the Visa Waiver Program still in effect??? Currently, 36 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program which allows nationals of 36 participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Most are European countries and a few Asian. Ironically one of the 9/11 terrorists obtained a visitor's visa in Berlin, Germany in May 2000."

Among other anti-immigrant sentiments, this next gal had more to say than most. Excerpts of comments
From Margie: " Whenever there are comments on this issue, I see about 95% of liberals who want to let everyone in to the country ("compassion", "love", "what Christians should do", etc.) and use the "race card" every time a conservative suggests that the borders be made secure or that our country is in GREAT danger with ILLEGALS pouring in. Then I see at least 95% of conservatives who want the borders secured...so, how do you choose who is to be legalized? A lottery perhaps? How should all the LEGAL immigrants who had to wait, pay, learn the language, have background checks, and take the citizenship test feel when ILLEGALS are just given citizenship?... The politicians on the left, right, middle are all to blame for the mess this country is in and so are we for letting them get away with so much. I hope everyone remembers that in November and we can get some true representation of the people in Washington, DC. I'm not looking to fight with you or anyone - I just want my country back!"

More lobs back and forth from her and many others, and I'm sure you all are familiar with the talking-points, so I'll go straight to my next comment.
From Me: "I've noticed on many threads like these that there is a lot of ignorance and confusion about "amnesty," voting rights, and citizenship. There are several levels of legal presence before becoming a full citizen able to vote, which takes years, no matter which political party hopes to gain their vote. Really people. Amnesty does NOT mean citizenship, and that means they can't vote for anyone, so the rhetoric about Dems wanting more voters for themselves is bunk and only shows a complete lack of knowledge of the immigration system. But most of what I see in these discussions are continuous repetition of the same misinformation and misunderstandings on the issue.

It's like the "anchor baby" thing -- a minor cannot sponsor a parent to be legally present in the US, so that would mean some grand scheme to duck and hide, evading arrest and deportation for almost 20 years, hoping IF that child grows up to make enough money to qualify as an immigrant's sponsor (yes there is an economic test for those wanting to bring someone up) AND their documentation is sufficient AND they can pass the interviews, background checks, and health screenings, THEN they may be granted legal resident status, which is still not citizenship, still no voting-rights. And besides Karl Rove's disastrous-but-successful long-term vision for Dubya's political crowning, neither political party seems to have much of a plan past the upcoming November elections.

But in a separate box, I had to speak specifically to Margie's last sentence.
From Me: Margie - "I just want my country back!" Yeah, no need to read any more to know where that's coming from. What's so ironic is that Mexicans are overwhelmingly Native American, especially the ones coming in illegally to work, but they are being called the invaders. They have more right to be there than any other ethnicity in Arizona. The same brown skin and black hair that gets them profiled also testifies to their Native American heritage, and many have ancestors who lived in what is the southwest US, going back long before there were any European-imposed political borders. But Operation Wetback in the 1950s rounded up and forcibly removed many of them, including US citizens whose families had already been there when the land first became American territory. So who wants their country back? Racist Whites a-feared of the uppity Black man in the White House and the scary Brown people multiplying so fast, WASPs wiil be a minority! Oh NOES! This country was built with the blood and on the backs of ethnic slavery, subjugation, and genocide. Maybe the ones who sacrificed the MOST for this country would like to have a say in running things for awhile.

So she answered.
From Margie: "Laura - since my tax dollars pay for all the services that are given to people who are in my country illegally, I certainly have a right to be frustrated and to voice my opinion. If you want to believe that people coming into the country have more of a right to it than you do, well - that is your opinion and you are entitled to it. While you go on and on and on about racist whites being afraid of the black man in the White House and scary brown people, I'm just laughing. I am sick to death of hearing it. I am not a racist, I am not afraid of black people or brown people - I am afraid of the ignorance of people. A land without law CANNOT stand, and we are suffering as a country right now. As a nation, we do more for other nations than any other, we're always there in times of crisis to help everyone, so if you want to spend all your time going back in history and dwelling on the injustices that were done, you go ahead. You cannot FIX past offenses - you can only try to do better in the present. I personally did not abuse the American Indian, nor did I own slaves. I try to be a good person by helping others and by obeying the law. I'm so sick of people taking some moral high ground by calling others racists when it has NOTHING to do with race and everything to do with the LAW."

From Me: Margie - US immigration policy has been racist from the beginning, and is still evident in the fact (posted in this thread earlier, but apparently you missed it) that people from Mexico, even those just trying to visit their US CITIZEN family members, have different rules and barriers than those from Canada. The reality is they ARE treated differently, more restricted than people coming from predominantly "White countries." Of the countries in North America, only Americans and Canadians can travel freely between all 3 with only a passport from their home countries. Mexicans, however, have to apply for an entrance Visa, which are routinely denied, even in the circumstances I mentioned above, and detailed in an earlier post of my own direct experiences.

Whether or not you personally are racist does not counter the fact that the LAW is racist, and to continue supporting it after knowing this is like supporting Jim Crow laws and segregation, once also "The Law," and still claiming that "separate-but-equal" conditions upheld by the Supreme Court should be enforced, on the grounds of it BEING "The Law." An earlier Supreme Court upheld the Fugitive Slave Act as "The Law," criminalizing Abolitionists in Free states who didn't return people escaping slavery to their "masters," and also the actions of Harriet Tubman and others of the Underground Railroad. No thanks, I'd rather side with the logic of Dr. King on this one, identifying when laws are unjust themselves, and striking them down.

"The History of Racial Exclusion in the US Immigration Laws" --

Speaking of ignorance, illegal immigrants DO pay taxes, not only in property taxes, sales taxes, fees related to vehicle licensing and operation, and payroll taxes that, unlike citizens and legal residents, will NOT be partially refundable to them, so much that the Soc. Sec Administration estimates they subsidize the support of citizens like us to the tune of BILLIONS of dollars.

"Illegal Immigrants Are Bolstering Social Security With Billions" -- http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/05/business/05immigration.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all&position

"Illegal Immigrants are Paying a Lot More Taxes Than You Think" -- http://reason.org/news/show/122411.html

From Wayne: "Whoever wrote "The History of Racial Exclusion in the US Immigration Law" cherry-picked only those points that supported his goal in writing this piece, leaving out about 95% of the facts that should have been included to make it a bona fide history...Since the begining of the US, more Hispanics have immigrated into the US than any other group... Hispanic is considered an ethnic group not a race...Through most of US History, my ancestors were non-white. Now all of a sudden, I'm white. At least that's what people call me."

From Jan: "Hispanics include Spaniards though, correct? I haven't read "The History of Racial Exclusion in the US Immigration Law" yet, but when I searched for the word "Hispanic" it was not in there, also, I can't find an instance where someone has used the word Hispanic as opposed to Mexican (in the last 40 or so comments) except in the case where you just brought it up now, Wayne.
Mexicans can be Hispanics but not all Hispanics are Mexican. I don't know how that may change your claims, but it's a completely different statistic when groups from Europe and Mexico are counted versus Mexicans only. It inflates the numbers and is generally misleading, also Hispanic individuals do not necessarily have to be from Spain or Mexico, they could be citizens of another country but be Hispanic, and like you said, it's an ethnic group, not a race, so there may well be Hispanics from Canada, Europe, Asia, virtually every continent and country any Hispanic resides in, immigrating to America and not all of them will necessarily look the same.
Also, just curious, but what facts did the author of "The History of Racial Exclusion in the US Immigration Law" leave out exactly?"

From Me:  Hispanics are not from Spain, though their ancestors may have been. Below are several more links that may be helpful. But the charge of racism applies because the Hispanics being profiled are the Mestizos of Mexico and Latin America, with mixed European and Native American ancestry. That heritage gives them the black hair, brown skin, and other distictive features that profile and prompt ID requests of
this guy -- http://dbacon.igc.org/Imgrants/limonerosbig/13

this guy -- https://www.asmp.org/images/members/2181/12665-lg.jpg

this guy -- http://www.interfaithact.org/sites/interfaithact.org/files/images/ScottRobertsonImmokalee61.jpg

and these guys -- http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2323/2267853457_e2c4b8cd78.jpg?v=0

but NOT this guy -- http://www.kennesaw.edu/ur/test/pages/jb%201585-388_jpg.htm

"Chicanos as a Racialized Minority" -- http://academic.udayton.edu/race/01race/hispanic01.htm

"Directive 15 and Immigrant Analogy" -- http://academic.udayton.edu/race/01race/race07.htm

"Definition of Hispanic" -- http://www.rice.edu/projects/HispanicHealth/Courses/mod1/hispanic-sk.html

And people, quit with the whole "Mexicans/Hispanics aren't a race, there ARE no races" BS, were not talking about repudiated biological constructs and DNA, this is about perception. You can't argue the KKK isn't a racist organization because "there is no such thing as race."

From Wayne: "@Jan Our founding fathers considered anyone that was not AngoSaxon were non-white. The definition of the word race has changed numerous times in history and several times in the author's book without telling the reader of that fact. If he had used the word bigotry instead of race, it would have been more straight forward. Everyone is bigoted against change, people who look or talk different. Not all people act on this bigotry, but we all have it. Using the word bigotry gives power to everyone to stop these policies. Using the word race makes it a case of us vs them, rendering everyone powerless. Using the word race puts the power into someone else's hand. In the case of AZ's policy to check on whether a person is an American citizen if stopped for another crime has led everyone to call each other names. We are pawns, distracted from the real purpose of this legislation. The politicians have control of our minds; they are manipulating us. We are their puppets. We are suppose to be watching them, voting for the right candidate, but we are too distracted to be rational. The politicians win, we lose a war we didn't even know was happening. Everyone suffers and we then think it is only our "race" that is suffering."

From Jan: "Laura-- "A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish Culture."
Spanish culture includes those of Spain. Wayne is right though, race isn't the point, it's physical appearance of the individuals and bigotry works a lot better as the main issue. Phenotype--not origin. That's one of the issues of the bill, that people might get stopped based on what they look like--it doesn't matter what race they actually are. Your links show that not all Hispanics (they don't necessarily have to have Native American roots) look the same. They have varying appearances--thus, the ones who look the general stereotype in their appearance are the ones targeted.
And yeah, we're always the politician's pawns in some way or another...at least as long as we try remembering that when we're voting, we might be able to make good decisions."

From Wayne: "@Laura..This is about perception. Race is a fuzzy set. I live in a concrete world. You live in an abstract world. I learned race as a scientific theory. It's hard to change. I need something tangable to work with. I would agree that the KKK is a racist organizaton. I would also say that anyone who believes that there are different races would be a racist. This term for racists would be a benign definition of racist, different from your definition of racist. I actually don't know your definition of racist and I probably wouldn't understand your definition because it is from your perception...I grew up in New Mexico. I was, when walking alone, routinely accosted by hispanics and their primos. They never really hurt me, just pushed me around, punched me a few times, said words like gringo, puta, chinga. Were they racists? Nah, they were just having fun. They could have really hurt me if they wanted. One day someone punched me in the face in the cafeteria line. On reaction, I broke his nose. I didn't mean to. It just happened. From then on, these same hispanics were my best buds. That's perception...Also, I heard words that sounded like "shingle edie." Maybe you would translate these words for me. Maybe they thought I was a "WASP." I'm not white. I'm not Anglo. I'm not Saxon. Most protestants tell me I'm going to Hell. What is my race? Maybe I don't have one...I had the police come up to me in AZ because someone thought I was fat, ugly, unshaven with long hair hanging out in a place where someone like me shouldn't be, next to a bank. Is that perception or profiling?...@Laura.. All six of my grandchildren are of a different race than me if I go by your definition of race. Perception... Maybe if we quit belaboring our differences and look to our similarities."

And this is my last comment on this thread as of this blog post, but it's really, REALLY long, so I may go back and break this whole damn mess up into separate blog entries.

From Me: Jan, thanks for checking the links I provided, many people don't even bother. But it did specify the Spanish are considered like the French, Germans. etc., and that "Hispanic" as a demographic refers to those from a Spanish CULTURE of the "New World." Like how European French aren't Creole. It basically distinguishes people who are from regions originally under Spanish rule vs English colonies, French Colonies, even Dutch colonies like Aruba. I used the pictures to back my point of perception, because Dominicans like Sammy Sosa are Hispanic, but people that look like him aren't the ones that pop into the minds of most railing against "Illegals." Neither would be the blond Juan Hernandez whose photo I gave the link for. The overwhelming majority of people coming from Spanish-culture regions in the western hemisphere, as I said, are Mestizo with significant Native American ethnicity, especially those coming from Mexico and Central America as the "unskilled" labor desperately looking for work. I know we need another word to replace "racist" but bigot won't do, as it's too generic and can apply towards homophobes, sexists, anti-Semites, and a host of other villains.

Wayne, I'm not sure exactly what you're trying to say. I live in a in an all too hard, brains-splatter-when-you-hit-the-pavement concrete world, not abstract, but just because I know there is no biological basis for the concept of race, doesn't mean others most likely to have problems with people of color understand that. And they are the ones causing all the turmoil. Most sane people in the US now agree that there is nothing biologically different about Jewish or Irish people, but that wasn't always the case, proven by the political cartoons and rhetoric from publications 100 years ago. That's why I said it was about perception.

I know there's no such thing and YOU know there's no such thing as race, but when my father and his wife saw a photo of my daughter with her prom date, now my son-in-law, they both clucked about "race mixing," that my grandparents would turn over in their graves, and that it could lead to the introduction of Sickle Cell Anemia to White folks. It's that same perception that kept "inter-racial" marriage illegal in many states, including mine, until the Supreme Court had to overturn laws against it. It's what get's my son-in-law pulled over by cops when my daughter is in their car, to demand proof that he isn't corrupting a minor. They had to show both their IDs because the cops refused to believe them when told she was 19 and they were married. (She's 22 and the baby in the back may curb that now, but they still get pulled over.) It's why my my fair blue-eyed blonde daughter has people question whether or not my new granddaughter is really hers. It's why people gave my very dark, very Native American Mexican husband weird looks when he went places with my daughter, and why people are surprised to find my big White red-headed carcass produced my 2 younger browner kids.

The point is it's not MY definition of race, it's my acknowledging that others' behaviors and opinions are based on THEIR definitions of race, which is why I said PERCEPTION. The Inquisition PERCEIVED that they were justified in torturing and killing people as God's work, and even thought WE know it was complete bunk, those people were still just as maimed and dead. It was the Nazis' PERCEPTION that Jews, Gypsies, Gays, the disabled, and anyone else they deemed "inferior" were a danger to "polluting" the German "master race," and this PERCEPTION, though absolute batshit, was shared by enough people to lead to the horror of the Holocaust. And there are still people alive who lived through segregation; whether THEY perceived race didn't matter, enough people did that kept separate-but-equal and white-only water fountains the law of the land in many placces until, once again, the Supreme Court had to step in and declare it unconstitutional, but even then, not on the grounds that the concept of race isn't based in biological fact, but simply that the maintenence of 2 systems resulted in inequality.

I wish we did have another word besides "racist," but I can't think of one that would be universally recognized. Colorist? But that means the gal who touches up my gray roots. Even xenophobe isn't always applicable, as it's not the bushey-blond 'stache of Juan Hernandez (linked in previous post) that is in the mind of people using language like "hoard" of "invading aliens." It includes people born and raised here in the US that have been wrongfully "deported" to Mexico, or many more routinely held on suspicion of being illegal-immigrants because of their brown skin and black hair, usually, but not always with a Spanish name. And it's not ME that would say the members of my family are different races, but a majority of Americans do, which has a big impact on our environment, laws that govern us, and therefore impacts our lives.

The vast majority of Americans would look at us and see my oldest daughter and myself as White, my son-in-law as Black, my husband as Mexican, Hispanic, and/or Native American (here in VA they always ask if he's Cherokee!), and our younger kids they aren't sure about unless they see my husband or hear their names. My granddaughter is only 4 mos. old, so it's hard to tell how her features will develop, but with her parents' good looks, she's already gorgeous. Like Halle Berry, Vanessa Williams, and Prez Obama, she may choose to identify as Black or African-American, as do many here that have mixed ancestry that also includes European and Native American. But I agree with you, I hope that 2 decades from now, when she enters adulthood, these labels are as antiquated and obscure as "mulatto", "quadroon", and "high-yellow."

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