Archive for the ‘hispanics’ tag
In December 2006, Christopher Hitchens wrote a column with the above headline in quotes, which included a sub-headline reading, “The pernicious effects of banning words.” He went on to describe a short-lived interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, in which he explained the evolution of the word “stupid” as it relates to politics, noting that John Stuart Mill once referred to the Tories as “generally stupid.” I couldn’t locate a reference to a quote from Mill that actually used these three words in this sequence — ”the stupid party” — so I’m not sure if Hitchens was paraphrasing or referring to an actual quote in some dusty volume.
In any case, the moniker apparently stuck, since eventually, the Tories actually began referring to their party in this way. The late Hitchens has proven himself prophetic beyond his years in this regard since in November 2012, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal challenged the prevailing anti-intellectualism that had run amok in his own party:
“… Stop being the stupid party. … It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that. It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.
Near the end of his explanation on MSNBC, Hitchens sucked the air right out of the room when he dared suggest that the word “stupid” may have taken a similar evolutionary journey as other words like “nigger” and “queer,” “and I might have added faggot,” Hitchens informs us in parenthesis. For this insult to the sensibilities of the MSNBC staff, he was quickly hurried off camera and told that the interview was “extremely over.” Taking the case of the former word, he said that while white people have not been afforded the ability to use the word, “nigger,” in any context whatever, however benign, and must always defer to the cowardly N-word, black folks have turned the discriminatory and racist undertones of the word on its head:
If white people call black people niggers, they are doing their very best to hurt and insult them, as well as to remind them that their ancestors used to be property. If black people use the word, they are either uttering an obscenity or trying to detoxify a word and rob it of its power to wound them. Not quite the same thing.
Note the distinction that Hitchens makes in this essay between white people calling blacks derogatory names with the intent to harm versus using “nigger,” “queer” or “faggot” in an explanatory or historical context that I am doing right now.
This brings me to more recent news in which the Associated Press has announced that it will no longer use the words “illegal immigrant” to describe — clears throat — illegal immigrants, and it has for years advised journalists to avoid the borderline derogatory labels “illegals” and “aliens.” This step by the AP is one of numerous ways that it suggests people shy away from labels and focus more on behavior. Presumably, we must now refer to undocumented immigrants by the laborious “people who are living in a country illegally.”
Howard Kurtz today on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” called the change “a bit too politically correct.” I have to agree. While I have and do avoid “illegals” or “aliens” because of their derogatory connotations, banning “illegal immigrant” seems like splitting hairs to me, and while words that journalists use to describe immigrants carry nowhere near the malignant baggage of “spik,” “gook, or “nigger” or any other words racists have embraced to disparage our fellow human beings, AP’s change represents the latest example — add censorship on radio and TV to the mix — of language’s power over us rather than the other way around.
Greta Christina has a post up about her experiences from a recent Secular Student Alliance conference. During a portion of the event, participants sat at different tables, at which they discussed various topics as they related to the atheist/freethinker community.
The topic at her table was “Diversity — Minorities,” and Christina related some of the take-away points from the brainstorming session about how the community could be more welcoming to black people and other non-white ethnicities (As it happens, she used the term “people of color” throughout the post, with which I am not terribly comfortable because although it’s apparently no longer offensive to black people and others, it does seem to be, as NAACP spokeswoman Carla Sims has said, to be “outdated and antiquated.”).
Here is a truncated list of what members of the atheist/freethinker community could do to be more inclusive at conferences and meetings of like minds:
- Invite more people of color as speakers, at conferences and for individual speaking events.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about race.
- Do joint events with groups/ organizations of people of color.
- Support appropriate events hosted by groups of people of color, such as service projects.
- Don’t glom onto people of color when they show up at your group or event. (People of color sometimes say that, when they show up at all- or mostly-white atheist groups or events, they’re swarmed by overly friendly people who are SO DELIGHTED that a non-white person has shown up, in a way that’s overwhelming, and that’s clearly directed at their race. Don’t do this.)
- Don’t expect individual people of color to speak for their entire race.
- Listen to people of color — actively. …
- Don’t assume people of color are religious.
- Co-protesting – show up at protests about racism, and about issues that are strongly affected by race, such as economic justice or the drug war.
She then included this addendum outlining a different comment policy for that particular post to which readers should adhere (italics mine):
This conversation is for people who already agree that increasing racial diversity is important to the atheist community and the atheist movement, and who think positive action should be taken to improve the situation, and who want to discuss how to go about that. If you want to debate this core proposition — if, for instance, you think the atheist movement should be entirely race-blind, and that paying any attention at all to race and racism is itself racist — this comment thread is not the place.
I don’t know that I agree with that entire statement, thus the reason I am posting on my own site and not commenting on her blog.
While I think it is highly commendable and admirable to be proactive in welcoming blacks, Hispanics, etc., into the community of nonbelievers, as well as discussing topics of race in an open and respectful manner — if that’s a goal the community wants to pursue — I don’t necessarily think that racism can die — as well it should — until we move past race itself, just like BET or Black History Month, both of which, to me, insult black people by giving them their own special television station and their own special month of the year, as if black history and culture can’t be celebrated and remembered all year and on all television stations. It can, and it should be.
So, while some of the goals in racial inclusiveness are certainly admirable, I think we are approaching a time where the notion of “race” needs to go the way of the dodo and be replaced, simply, with “culture.” For, if we want to learn about how different groups of people live their lives and interact with the rest of the world, we can do that through learning about their culture and about what makes their particular culture unique, and by that token, worthy to be celebrated in its own right. I think when we frame the discussion, admirable as it might be, in racial terms, we may be in danger of taking one step forward and two tentative steps back.
When Evangelicals, who stake their lives on a cobbled together, archaic book that is obsessed with violence, war, slavery and blood sacrifice, are calling you out of touch, you know you’ve got a political crisis on your hands:
Some of the nation’s most influential evangelical groups urged a solution to illegal immigration on Tuesday that defies the harsh rhetoric of the Republican primary race, which continues to undermine Mitt Romney’s appeal to Hispanic voters.
The call by the groups represents a recognition that in one bedrock element of the conservative movement — evangelical Christians — the demography of their followers is changing, becoming more Hispanic, and that Republican leaders risk being out of step with their hawkish talk of border fences and immigration crackdowns like those in Arizona.
Tom Minnery, the senior vice president of policy for one evangelical group, Focus on the Family, said many of the 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants should be free to “come out of the shadows” and “begin the process of restitution” leading to attaining legal residency.
I don’t really read the paper’s website on a regular basis, and while I know The Washington Times editorial board — and the newspaper in general — has a rightist bent, it has apparently jumped on the bandwagon like much of the anti-immigration crowd, recently calling Obama’s leadership, particularly on immigration, a throwback to “19th century Marxism:”
Far from progressive, Mr. Obama’s leadership is a throwback to 19th century Marxism, characterized by the politics of resentment that pits groups against each other – in this case, illegal occupiers against legal Americans. By challenging states attempting to observe immigration laws, the Obama administration hastens the fundamental change that is unmooring the nation from its founding principles. That’s not the change voters wanted when they sent Barack to the White House.
The editorial also had this to say about Obama’s stance on immigration:
This isn’t your father’s America. As promised, President Obama is “fundamentally transforming” the nation with a plan to flood the United States with individuals whose hearts belong to other lands.
First, I missed the connection of Marxism to immigration. If the GOP wasn’t so wild-eyed against immigration — in which many immigrants attempt to get into the nation to provide for their families back home — the Republican Party would probably garner more support from the Hispanic vote. After all, on almost every other issue that matters, Hispanics are actually rather conservative. They enjoy their luxuries (the ones who are lucky enough to “make it,” anyway), and they are, nearly without exception, quite religious. They would certainly, again if the GOP wasn’t so out of touch on the immigration issue, vote for conservative candidates en masse. So, this issue is not about some Marxist class struggle. That would be what we call hyperbole, and it makes The Washington Times editorial board scantly different than any of the other crazed commentators on radio or FOX News who will say anything at all to get Obama out of office. I will admit this much: it takes balls to so vehemently and falsely criticize the policies of the first African American president in American history and at the same time, insult millions of Hispanics, some of whom risk their lives, and the lives of their families, to get here. Do their hearts really belong to other lands? I don’t think so. Their hearts belong to this land, and they prove it in the desert every day. The Times board must have also forgotten that Ronald Reagan gave amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants in 1986. Ah, but I forget: that was at a time when Democrats and Republicans actually worked together to get things accomplished. Those were the days.
Here in Northeast Georgia, plenty of day laborers make their living out in the fields in one of numerous plots of cultivated land, the fruits and vegetables of which support local produce stands in the county. I’ve seen them working the fields, men and women alike, the smarter ones of which wear large-brimmed hats and towels around their necks to prevent severe sunburn and/or skin damage. They make significantly below minimum wage and get paid a certain figure for each bucket picked. That, it seems to me, is a generous system. In other parts of the nation, I would be willing to bet that migrant laborers don’t receive minimum wage (especially if the farm hires illegals) and don’t get the bonus for picking X number of buckets.
Stephen Colbert recently spent a day as a migrant laborer and subsequently testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship & Border Security on the invitation of House Democrat and committee chairwoman Zoe Lofgren. Consequently, prior to the five minute message (Which was much longer than his officially submitted address), Colbert was asked by Rep. John Conyers to “remove himself” from the proceedings, saying “You run your show, we run the committee.”
Colbert then deferred to Lofgren, who confirmed that he could stay and deliver his short message. Here is the video:
In the video, as you will see, Colbert, and in characteristic irreverence, mocked Congress by, first, by saying, in character about the proposed agricultural jobs bill,
I’m not in favor of the government doing anything, but I’ve got to wonder, why isn’t the government doing anything?
Maybe this Ag jobs bill will help. I don’t know. Like most members of Congress, I haven’t read it.
Taking a more serious tone toward the end of the address, he said,
But maybe we could offer more visas to the immigrants, who, let’s face it will probably be doing these jobs anyway, and this improved legal status might allow immigrants recourse if they’re abused, and it just stands to reason to me, that if you’re co-workers can’t be exploited, then you’re less likely to be exploited yourself and that itself might improve paying working conditions on these farms and eventually Americans may consider taking these jobs again … Or maybe that’s crazy. Maybe the easier answer is just to have scientists develop vegetables that pick themselves. … The point is, we have to do something because I am not going back out there.
But the most memorable moment came after the speech during a question-answer portion, in which Rep. Judy Chu from California asked this question:
Mr. Colbert, you could work on so many issues. Why are you interested in this issue?
And, after taking a moment to think, he broke character and said this:
I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and it seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come in and do our work, but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet, we still ask them to come here, and at the same time, ask them to leave. And that’s an interesting contradiction to me, and um… You know, “whatsoever you did for the least of my brothers,” and these seemed like the least of my brothers, right now. A lot of people are “least brothers” right now, with the economy so hard, and I don’t want to take anyone’s hardship away from them or diminish it or anything like that. But migrant workers suffer, and have no rights.
Here’s the video:
In a piece titled, “Arizona’s Real Immigration Problem: Migrant Deaths,” by Byran Curtis adds commentary to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s recently spewed line about how “immigrant crime, drug cartels, ‘bodies in the desert (Brewer’s quote)’ have necessitated that state policemen badger anyone they think looks like an illegal immigrant to hand over their papers, which are supposed to be, according to the new bill, literally on the suspect in question’s actual person. Like in his or her back pocket. Or under his sombrero. We can concoct any number of ridiculous scenarios.
Below is a story of an illegal who actually didn’t make it far enough in the desert to see this dehumanizing bill come to full fruition. As it turns out, the desert is dehumanizing enough, as much or more so than any nonsense Brewer and her allies can hatch from plush government offices:
Diego Gutierrez, a 25-year-old man Mexican man, illegally crossed the border into Arizona sometime around last Friday. Gutierrez was handsome and well built, with big eyes and a head of thick, black hair. In a photo taken by a Pima County medical examiner, he appeared to have a Roman nose. After trudging through the desert on days when temperatures at a nearby airfield reached 106 degrees, Gutierrez began to complain of stomach cramps. He vomited. Gutierrez’s father, who had crossed the border with him, left his son and flagged down a Border Patrol officer. The officer later reported that he and the father found Gutierrez’s body in the wee hours of Monday morning, July 26. Gutierrez was lying on his back under a tree; his head, fittingly enough, was pointed north.
This is not at all surprising to me. This happens every day along parts of the border, and from talking with local Hispanics in the area, it’s been happening for years. A local restaurant owner with whom I speak with from time to time is the living embodiment of the American dream. He crossed the border illegally about 20 years ago (an act that he says was extremely dangerous even then) to support his parents back home in a poor region of Mexico. He has been legal in the states for well more than 15 years, has kids in the local school system here, a wife and successful business in town.
Curtis puts the current immigrant deaths in the desert into perspective:
… authorities are finding many dead bodies in the Arizona desert these days, but they are not the victims of immigrant murderers. They are the immigrants themselves. What 1070 misses is that it’s far more dangerous to sneak into Arizona than it is to live here.
This month, there have been 58 dead migrants, including Diego Gutierrez, delivered to the medical examiner of Pima County, the large southern Arizona county that stretches from Tucson south to the border. One hundred and fifty-two dead border crossers have turned up in the office since January. To compare that number to much-fussed about immigrant crime statistics, 152 is more than the total number of people murdered in Phoenix, by anyone, in all of 2009.
On a related topic, Rush Limbaugh today on his radio program said the Obama administration, condescendingly calling it a “regime,” said Obama and Co. had no interest in enforcing the border.
But as I was listening to Limbaugh’s unending condescension, I couldn’t help but think that it doesn’t matter one wit about Obama administration’s stance on immigration. I’m quite sure Obama doesn’t support overt illegal immigration, but even if he did, it doesn’t matter. If Limbaugh or others don’t like the current administration’s policies, vote the man out. Just because folks might not agree with the current “regime” in power still doesn’t give Arizona or any other state the authority to circumvent federal law. That’s what elections are for. If people think the current crew is being soft on immigration (I don’t know how this conclusion could be reached since the Border Patrol operates every hour of every day along the border), another election will soon be forthcoming and someone else can be voted in. To bitch and moan about the current administration, which was democratically voted into office by a majority of the population, is childish at best, and plucking from sour grapes at worst.
As predicted, Arizona’s recently passed immigration was, indeed, deemed unconstitutional on some counts by federal judge, Susan Bolton, who in a preliminary injunction had this to say about the more controversial portions of the measure:
Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced. …
There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens. By enforcing this statute, Arizona would impose (citing a previous Supreme Court case, a) “‘distinct, unusual and extraordinary’ burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose.”
Yes: “only the federal government has the authority to impose.” This has been the issue, in my mind, all along, and unfortunately, the issue summons the tired, and at this point, almost anachronistic, debate on states’ rights that conservatives like Gov. Jan Brewer have attempted to resurrect, 19th-century-style, and feed off old, now buried, debates.
Brewer had this to say on the ruling, and here is The New York Times’ account:
“This fight is far from over,” said Ms. Brewer, whose lawyers had argued that Congress granted states the power to enforce immigration law particularly when, in their view, the federal government fell short. “In fact,” she added, “it is just the beginning, and at the end of what is certain to be a long legal struggle, Arizona will prevail in its right to protect our citizens.”
And Arizona senator Russell Pearce, a primary sponsor of his state’s bill, said:
The courts have made it clear states have the inherent power to enforce the laws of this country.
Let’s ignore the errancy of this argument for a second (federal jurisdiction does not equal state or county jurisdiction), the one problem here is simply that states don’t actually have the right to go willy-nilly into their own jurisprudence on the topic of naturalization and attempt to enforce federal laws when, in their leaders’ views, the feds aren’t doing their jobs. That’s a usurpation of federal law, and it’s as clear as the night sky. Once and for all, immigration and naturalization are federal concerns. That state officials are dissatisfied with the federal response to immigration is inconsequential and does not give states license, via our Constitution, to go it alone. Or else, we should remake or undo the United States as a collective.
And these are words from the person who ran for vice president in 2008 and who will likely run for president, no less, in 2012:
Notwithstanding the illogical statement that “peaceful Muslims” should not welcome a peaceful place of worship at Ground Zero, try to find ”refudiate” in the dictionary? Of course you can’t because it’s not there. The word Sarah Palin was looking for was repudiate, or simply, refute. Palin has since modified the original Twitter post to read:
Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing.
Yet, she still retained this apparent, yet pitiful excuse for the previous error:
“Refudiate,” “misunderestimate,” “wee-wee’d up.” English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!
“Wee-wee’d up??? Palin is now comparing herself to Shakespeare? And we should celebrate what, exactly? That public figures, past vice presidential candidates and likely presidential candidates scarce know their own language. And yet, these conservatives like to rail against Hispanics for not knowing English? They are ones to talk. Learn your own language, and then we can talk about refuting those who enter this country without knowing ours.
Already, the ill-effects of Arizona’s new immigration bill can be seen, as a conference that has convened for 30 years between governors of states that border United States and Mexico is in jeopardy of not occurring at all or occurring in another venue either in Texas, New Mexico or California.
Today, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a staunch proponent of the Arizona bill, was sent a letter by the six Mexican governors across the border that in effect said they would not be attending the conference if it was held in Arizona. Consequently, Brewer was set to be the chairwoman and host of the conference this year, a position to which she received via rotation.
The Mexican governors proposed an alternate venue for the conference. Their letter said SB 1070
contains provisions based on ethnic and cultural prejudices, which are contrary to the fundamental rights of individuals, as set International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN American Convention on Human Rights of the OAS …
Governor Brewer doesn’t have the authority to cancel the Border Governors Conference. She may not want to host it for political reasons, but that’s not a reason to sidestep the tough issues that border governors must address, including migration and border violence. Governor Richardson will look for alternative sites to host the conference, with or without Arizona’s participation.
More clashes of this kind are imminent if the Justice Department’s legal challenge to Arizona’s bill fails, but I don’t think it will. The lawsuit against Arizona was filed today. More on that here.
This article, which was sent to me by a friend, reports that my home state of South Carolina (and many others) is now considering its own unconstitutional immigration law a la Arizona’s recently passed travesty. Here is the full article from The State.
Scott Huffman, a Winthrop University political science professor, indicated that the subcommittee met to discuss the bill was only making a “symbolic,” gesture because the legislature wouldn’t have time to pass the law in this session:
By doing it when they don’t actually have time to pass the legislation, they get credit for the symbolic stand without having to worry about how to fund the measure.
Yes, and by credit, Huffman means, political points. Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, noted that none of the five on the committee were up for reelection:
We are not playing to anybody. It’s not a pandering-type thing.
Perhaps not as individual politicians, but as a party, it most certainly is pandering.
Regardless, South Carolina already passed an immigration law in 2008, then deemed one of the stiffest in the nation, and which instituted the E-verify system requiring employers to validate potential employees legal status by either drivers license or documentation with the Department of Homeland Security. The Senate bill, according to The State,
would allow state and local police to check immigration status after detaining or arresting a person for another reason. The officer would need reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally.
People questioned would have to provide identification issued by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, a tribal enrollment card or an ID issued by the U.S. government. The bill also includes a provision that would outlaw the hiring of illegal immigrants for day labor.
The words aren’t in quotes, but “reasonable suspicion” is the actual verbiage from the bill, but what on earth does that mean? In my view, this gives big-feeling law enforcement officers too much leeway and power to determine, with all the implications that come from living in the historically anti-brown and anti-black South, far too much license to find “reasonable suspicion” wherever, and on whomever, they choose.
And according to the this story, the public seems to be behind measures of this kind. But, I would argue, it makes no difference what the public supports or not. The “public” does not always have the nation’s true best interests at heart or enough knowledge of anything to make intelligent decisions about anything. After all, 59 percent of Americans say that religion plays an important part of their lives, far greater than any other modernized, wealthy nation.
And yes, immigrants to this country have always had a tough road to hoe, none greater than Africans in the 17th century, later Irish and Italians, and now Hispanics, but the spirit of this country is immigration, and as I’ve noted in newspaper columns, Obama must work to pass meaningful and long-needed immigration reform. These rogue states’ yahoo approach to go it alone is misguided, and by all means, unconstitutional, and at the start, against the spirit on which this country was founded. According to the above linked story by the Christian Science Monitor,
the results of these polls miss the point, says Lara Brown, a political scientist at Villanova University. “There is more consensus on this topic among Americans than most politicians seem to believe.”
“The majority of Americans are not anti-immigrant, pro-illegals, or in favor of a police state,” Brown says. “Instead, they want government to uphold the rule of law (the federal rule of law, italics mine), and they want America to continue to be a country that stands by its long heritage of welcoming those, as the inscription on the Statute of Liberty reads, who are ‘yearning to breathe free.’ The real story is that.”