Sunday, November 12, 2006

New American racism

America now boasts 300 million citizens, a quarter of the number of legal residents in China. Whether you see that as a positive achievement or a detestable one is not relevant to the matter at hand. My focus is on out status as Americans.

What does it mean to be American? 20 years ago, 50, or even 80 years ago, anyone would tell you that America is a mixing pot of different races and cultures, barring the anti-immigrant sentiment that was present a century ago. But despite all our different ethnicities, America isn't really like a melting pot; America is like a fruitcake. It's comprised of many different chunks, each quadrant featuring a unique mix of individual flavors with little in the way of blending.

But now there is a new fear, a fear of Spanish. Bluntly, America is losing its whiteness. I'm pro-diversity, don't get me wrong. It is in recent years that good, honest Americans, especially Americans in Arizona; New Mexico; Texas; and California have begun to show anti-Mexican tendencies. Groups that support making English the official language of Arizona and border protection groups like the Minutemen are clearly examples of this. Some might see the Minutemen as nothing more than border patrols, but there is an underlying racism present; if there was no social issue with Mexicans entering the country illegally, would the Minutemen exist? There is a real and present dislike and distrust of Mexicans, legal or not, by the white majority.

Now that the population has reached 200 million, I've begun to hear this joke being told in one form or another:

"Congratulations! You are the 500 millionth American!"

There is a genuine fear that illegal immigration will cause a culture shift. There is a whisper in the wind that whites are on the way out. There is a general, subtle fear of it - and why not? Why wouldn't the dominant race fear its supplantation? Indeed, who wouldn't be afraid of waking up to find their language no longer in use and their culture frowned upon? The status quo is continuously arming itself against anything that isn't the status quo.

But is there anything to fear? Besides the fear of irrelevancy, is there a reason to fear the new immigrants? Remember United States history; a long time ago Americans were immigrants. A long time ago Protestants were suspicious of their Catholic neighbors. A shorter time ago NINA. A short time ago America was whites-only. Fear and loathing of Spanish-speaking immigrants is the new wave of immigrants to see marginalization. I predict that there is actually no need to fear the growing minority. Some will argue that the primary difference between Mexican immigrants and the Ellis Island immigrants is the fact that many Mexican immigrants aren't assimilating. But of course! When immigrants in the 1920s came to America, they didn't assimilate either - Their kids did. That's why there's no cause for alarm; if history repeats itself, the children of the Mexican immigrants will learn English and be Americans, separated only by skin color.

Seventy percent of Arizona voted in favor of a bill that would make English the official language of Arizona on election day 2006. Arizona voters also passed, among others, a proposition that barred illegal immigrants from seeking compensation if they or their property were damaged in Arizona. Voters apparently failed to realize the harmful implications of such propositions. Those propositions will do absolutely nothing to keep Mexicans from crossing the border illegally. Instead, they will end up being demeaned and dehumanized as a result. The worst conditions in the United States are better than what the Mexican poor will see in Mexico. These new laws threaten to make illegal immigrants less than human beings. They are already strangers in a strange land; shouldn't they at least have some dignity?

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