Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Immigration and the racial pot

One of the ways that the nativist right has historically succeeded in America is by using race as a wedge issue: setting up interracial competition in a way that drives apart and isolates various groups so that particular "out" groups can be scapegoated.

So it is with the current crop of nativists agitating against Latino immigration. They're also doing their damnedest to recruit African Americans to their cause by claiming that all these Latinos are hurting them when it comes to getting work. And so far, they're having at least some level of success:
Several black activists plan to join members of the Minutemen Project to protest illegal immigration, which organizer Ted Hayes touted as the "biggest threat to blacks in America since slavery."

The protest, organized by Hayes' Crispus Attucks Brigade and the American Black Citizens Opposed to Illegal Immigration Invasion, is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.

Hayes, a homeless activist, alleged that most homeless people in Los Angeles are black and illegal immigration compounds the problem since blacks refuse to accept the "slave wages" that many illegal immigrants accept.

... "While all Americans are suffering from this invasion, we blacks are suffering the most," Hayes said. "We feel like the leaders promoting this issue are being insensitive. This country wasn't built on the backs of immigrants like (Villaraigosa) says. It was built on the back of West African slaves."

If there is angst about illegal immigration among blacks, it's not very well grounded. As a recent New York Times report explained, illegal immigration's actual impact on the wages of American workers has been slight at best, including at the lower end of the pay scale.

Moreover, as Earl Ofari Hutchinson explains, the chief employment problem for young black men is not competition from illegal immigrants, but persistent discrimination against them:
But several years before the immigration combatants squared off, then University of Wisconsin graduate researcher Devah Pager pointed the finger in another direction, a direction that makes most employers squirm. And that's toward the persistent and deep racial discrimination in the workplace. Pager found that black men without a criminal record are less likely to find a job than white men with criminal records.

Pager's finger-point at discrimination as the main reason for the racial disparity in hiring set off howls of protest from employers, trade groups and even a Nobel Prize winner. They lambasted her for faulty research. Her sample was much too small, they said, and the questions too vague. They pointed to the ocean of state and federal laws that ban racial discrimination. But in 2005 Pager, now a sociologist at Princeton duplicated her study. She surveyed nearly 1,500 private employers in New York City.

She used teams of black and white testers, standardized resumes, and she followed up their visits with telephone interviews with employers. These are the standard methods researchers use to test racial discrimination. The results were exactly the same as in her earlier study, despite the fact that New York has some of the nation's toughest laws against job discrimination.

As Hutchinson explains, Latinos are being scapegoated as a way to divert attention from the real problem:
Dumping the blame for the chronic job crisis of young, poor black men on undocumented immigrants stokes the passions and hysteria of immigration reform opponents, but it also lets employers off the hook for discrimination. And it's easy to see how that could happen. The mountain of federal and state anti-discrimination laws, affirmative action programs and successful employment discrimination lawsuits give the public the impression that job discrimination is a relic of a shameful, racist past.

But that isn't the case, and Pager's study is hardly isolated proof of that. Countless research studies, the Urban League's annual State of Black America report, a 2005 Human Rights Watch report and the numerous discrimination complaints reviewed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the past decade reveal that employers have devised endless dodges to evade anti-discrimination laws. That includes rejecting applicants by their names or areas of the city they live in. Black applicants may be incorrectly told that jobs advertised were filled already.

The nativists' appeal to black Americans will continue to be very limited, however, for one primary reason that Tom Grayman laid out at MYDD:
Conservatives -- particularly white conservatives -- often cite the current incongruity between black attitudes and black leadership actions on this issue as a sign that the national African-American leadership is "out of touch" with its own constituency.

They are wrong. Even though blacks -- particularly lower-income blacks -- may not be comfortable with seemingly unchecked immigration, they're even less comfortable with the crew agitating most vocally against it. You will not see blacks kickin' it down on the border with the Minute Men, or in the streets outside Tom Tancredo's office showing their support. There's one simple reason, and it is not that these activists are Republican.

It's that the current anti-immigration movement reeks of racism.

It's not just an odor, either: It's a hard reality, as a new four-part report from the Anti-Defamation League explains in considerable detail:
Spurred in recent weeks by the debate on Capitol Hill and the groundswell of grassroots activism in support of America's immigrant community, extremists have become increasingly emboldened by, and fixated on, the controversy over immigration policy, encouraging their supporters to capitalize on the issue by encouraging anti-immigrant activism, and even violence against all Hispanics.

While white supremacists have for many years attempted to exploit rising anti-immigration sentiments in the U.S., the level and intensity of their attacks against Hispanics has reached dangerous new highs, with right-wing extremists joining anti-immigration groups, distributing anti-immigrant propaganda and holding frequent anti-immigration rallies and protests.

As a result, Hispanics, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status, increasingly are becoming the targets of hatred and violence from hardcore white supremacists.

The report goes on to explore the kind of targeting that's been occurring:
White supremacists have not simply expressed racist convictions, but have urged each other and white Americans generally, to "fight back" against the perceived invasion of the "white" United States by Hispanics from Mexico.

The rhetoric in such pronouncements has grown increasingly radical. "Beaner Brown Supremacist Militias of Latino Communist immigrants firmly intend to conquer [the southwest]," suggested a topic heading on the white supremacist Legion of Saints message board recently. "Will White Americans sit back, watch it happen & let them do it? Or will White Americans 'remember the Alamo!?'"

The execrable Hal Turner (Sean Hannity's pal) gets his own section in the report, which details some of his radio-show pronouncements:
October 31, 2005: "Slowly but surely we are headed toward the solution that I have been advocating for years: KILL ILLEGAL ALIENS AS THEY CROSS INTO THE U.S. When the stench of rotting corpses gets bad enough, the rest will stay away."

October 11, 2005: "For years I have been publicly advocating on my radio show and this web site, that Mexican illegal aliens be SHOT DEAD as they cross into the U.S. illegally…I plant the seeds verbally and the seeds grow in the minds of others…I am proud to advocate even MORE killings!"

July 15, 2005: "I once again advocate EXTREME VIOLENCE against Mexicans…Once they're dead, their heads should be cut off and put on pike poles as a warning to others."

May 17, 2005, responding to news that a restaurant owned by the mayor of Denver had employed an illegal alien who allegedly murdered a police officer: "…his policy of affording sanctuary to other illegal aliens makes Mayor John Hickenlooper worthy of being KILLED. I sincerely hope that someone takes a rifle with a scope and puts a bullet through [his] head."

May 15, 2005: "I advocate extreme violence against illegal aliens…I think it would be terrific to trap them by their ankles in steel bear traps then beat them to death when you return and find them in the trap…Oh, if any American sides with the illegals—like a bigmouth politician or a politically correct, ass-kissing local sheriff, lawyers, judges, or the like—it would be a real public service to kill them too!"

We heard similar rhetoric recently in communications between a "border patrol" organizer and a group of neo-Nazis, advising the latter to engage in a campaign of violence and harassment against Latinos.

This kind of rhetoric isn't going unheeded, either. As night follows day, there has been a spike in hate crimes against Latinos nationwide.

Finally, the report explores the activities of supposedly "mainstream block watch" operations like the Minutemen:
The vigilante border patrol groups have operated for several years but have expanded greatly in the past twelve months, spurred on by the media attention given to the so-called "Minuteman Project." In April 2005, Chris Simcox, who founded the Arizona-based Civil Homeland Defense, a border vigilante group, and Jim Gilchrist, based in California, joined forces to create the Minuteman Project, whose purpose was to gather thousands of volunteers for a month-long watch for illegal border crossers in Arizona. The project, which was highly publicized among right-wing extremists and white supremacists, attracted far fewer volunteers, many of them armed, during its first week. However, the publicity generated by the event resulted in numerous Minuteman chapters and spin-offs forming across America, even in states such as New York, Virginia, Vermont, and Illinois. These groups use the same radical rhetoric: that the United States is being "invaded" by Mexicans who must be stopped.

That message was clear at a three-day summit, "Unite to Fight Against Illegal Immigration," held in Las Vegas, Nevada, in May 2005. More than 400 anti-immigration activists gathered at the event to hear speakers describe illegal immigrants as "the enemy within" and "illegal barbarians," while suggesting that America was "at war" with illegal immigrants and urging people to "take America back."

That isn't just an odor of racism. That's what you call a pervasive stench.

And it isn't just African Americans who can smell it, either.

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