Sunday, May 28, 2006

It's the racism, stupid

News Flash: Reiterating white-supremacist talking points is OK if you're talking about immigration, because the immigration debate itself, you see, is innately non-racist.

That seems to be where we are at after Lou Dobbs issued his "regrets" that he used a graphic about "Aztlan" citing the Council of Conservative Citizens, his office telling Greg Sargent:
A freelance field producer in Los Angeles searched the web for Aztlan maps and grabbed the Council of Conservative Citizens map without knowing the nature of the organization. The graphic was a late inclusion in the script and, regrettably, was missed in the vetting process.

Er, OK.

Except, um, as Digby says:
The problem isn't that the map was from the CCC, it's that the CCC is making maps about this alleged issue and you are reporting it as if it's credible. Nobody's alarm bells went off today when they found out that a racist organization was pimping this ridiculous notion that there is a serious movement to take over several western states? No, nothing, just regret that they didn't pull the right map off the internet --- you know, the one that didn't have the words CCC on the bottom. The intention behind the story is just hunky dory.

Alex Koppelman drives the point home:
CNN is trying to play this off as an isolated mistake. Don't be fooled: it's not. The fact that Dobbs and reporter Casey Wian showed the CCC map only makes the subtle pattern of racist fantasies given voice on Dobbs' show more visible. (By the way, relatively unnoticed -- the same night Dobbs was citing the CCC, he was leaving unchallenged, even laughing along with, one guest's suggestion that in order to get rid of illegal Mexican immigrants New Yorkers should order pizza and then arrest the delivery person. Thanks, Lou. We'll get right on that.) For months now, Dobbs and Wian have been reporting on "reconquista" and "Aztlan" movements, movements that exist not in the minds of mainstream Mexicans but in the fever dreams of white supremacists. That Dobbs eventually aired material pulled directly from a white supremacist organization should surprise no one -- when you're subtly citing them on a regular basis, the unfiltered truth is bound to bubble up at some point.

Just for some clarification: There is in fact a Latino hate group called La Voz de Aztlan (discussed here some time back) which does propound a racist vision of a Latino "Aztlan" homeland encompassing the American Southwest. It is a tiny fringe group with no large following and no known influence among Hispanic activists or in the larger Latino community.

Another Latino group, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or MEChA, is often accused of promoting the same kind of vision of "Aztlan." I've discussed the MEChA claims numerous times, most notably here here and here. There is no evidence whatsoever that their talk of "Aztlan" reflects an intent to "invade" the United States and return it to Mexico; nor is there a scintilla of evidence that this is the intent of the Mexican government, as Casey Wians and others constantly imply. What it reflects is a belief that they have a historical right to be here as part of their homeland, and moreover, that they intend to fully enfranchise themselves politically -- as Americans. Their notion of "Aztlan," as numerous documents make clear, is more of a spiritual homeland.

However, what has happened since the late 1960s -- when MEChA leaders produced the "Aztlan" documents in question -- and the late 1980s was that, while MEChA itself evolved into a campus-service organization, white-supremacist organizations began culling these old documents and touting them as evidence of a Mexican plan to "invade" America. As I detailed recently, chief among these was a fellow named Glenn Spencer and his American Patrol organization, which has been clamoring about the "Reconquista" theory for well over a decade. His claims have simarly circulated throughout the white-supremacist right.

Thus, the obsession with "Aztlan" -- which, as far as Latinos are concerned, mostly appears in a few relatively obscure '60s-era documents and among a fringe hate group -- has for most of the past decade and longer been almost exclusively the purview of white supremacists: American Patrol, VDare, American Renaissance, the National Alliance, the CofCC, the Barnes Review, and the like.

So when you hear talk about "Reconquista" -- which has not appeared in any MEChA documents or speeches -- the chances are nearly certain that this is where the talk originates. That's who draws up these maps, and touts the claims of an "invasion" incessantly.

Nonetheless, pointing out that racists are the people promoting these hobgoblins just raises a predictable whine: "Can't we talk about immigration without being accused of racism?"

The comments to Alex Koppelman's post at Huffington were particularly ripe with this. Rather typical was this:
Here we go again. Lou Dobbs is a racist, anyone who is against illegal immigration is a racist and so on and so on. Just goes to show what I have always suspected, Liberals are just as narrow minded and just as big a liars as the Conservatives.

Moderates, Independents and all others who think other than the current Democratic lock-step rhetoric be prepared to be smeared. Some moral high ground you folks staked out.

Let's be clear: We don't know if Lou Dobbs is a racist. But he reported credulously a racist conspiracy theory, citing a racist organization -- which doesn't necessarily imply that he's a racist, but certainly raises questions about both his judgment and his credibility.

What I think critics of the extremist right's involvement in the immigration debate consistently have said is that talking about reforming immigration is legitimate, as is border security. Certainly, there's been a long-running discussion of immigration issues at this blog as well.

However, I haven't heard any of the nativist right's immigration reformers talking about measures that would actually slow the flow of immigrants beyond building fences and deporting Mexicans, none of which are either effective or humane. I haven't heard any of them talking about an effective economic program for Mexico, nor about taking away plausible deniability and light fines for the employers -- especially the big corporate ones -- who are taking advantage of illegal immigrants and the rest of us too, all in the name of cheap labor.

What, in turn, raises questions of racism is how readily the discussion turns to how Latinos are polluting or diluting white culture, how they're bringing crime and disease, turning America into "a third world cesspool," how they're "invading" the country. In other words, it isn't talking about immigration that makes people hear racism; it's talking racist shit that does.

And when you parrot and cite propaganda from white supremacists, well, that just kinda seals the deal.

It isn't just on the ground, talking around the water coolers and over beers, that this is happening. It's happening on a national basis with major media figures -- including not just Lou Dobbs but a whole host of others:

-- Mickey Kaus cites eugenicist Steve Sailer approvingly in comparing the U.S.-Mexican border to the Palestinian-Israeli border.

-- Fox's Bill O'Reilly starts dredging up notions about how a "white Christian culture" is being overthrown in America by a would-be multicultural "rainbow coalition."

-- Every right-winger on the planet (led by the Malkin Brigades) goes apeshit over the Spanish-language version of the national anthem, including President Bush. Er ... Oops!

-- Suddenly, declaring English the official language is an asset to our national security.

-- You can't watch a news broadcast on the immigration debate without hearing some right winger or another declaring, once again, that the current wave of immigration constitutes "an invasion." And what was that about Aztlan again?

The country could stand a good, honest debate about immigration policy. But we aren't going to have one if the whole purpose of the exercise is to scapegoat brown people.

And for those who think that is what the debate's about, well ... you better take a good hard look in the mirror when you whine about other people playing the "race card". Because we all can see who slapped that baby out on the table in the first damned place.

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