Friday, January 18, 2008

Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric as a Vehicle for Bigotry

Someone sent this article to a child free list that I belong to. They sent it because of a couple of list members who started out voicing their opposition to illegal immigrants (fine, everyone is entitled to their opinion), and quickly crossed over into blatant bigotry. Turns out their opposition wasn't to illegal immigrants after all, it was just to immigrants, period. Legality didn't make a difference to them.

The specific target of their venom turned out to be Mexicans. I don't know if they live in an area with a large Mexican population, but this person sent an email to the list saying that Mexicans are dirty, filthy, and just keep having babies. When people responded and said hey, that's a gross generalization, the sender replied by asking "Have you ever seen a clean cut, decent Mexican?"

Nice, huh? In this day and age, there are still people filled with such blind hate. It was disturbing, but I was glad to see that the people spewing the venom and bigoted statements were far outnumbered by those who disagreed with them. Of course, at that point the list moderators jumped on it and we haven't seen any emails from the hate mongerers since.

I don't know, maybe it's because I've done volunteer work in Nicaragua and Mexico and have met intelligent, well educated, and hardworking people who were out of jobs due to policies like NAFTA, or the dictator of their country (which the US supported). I've seen people living in abject poverty, with no shoes, in shacks, gathering glass, metal and plastic for recycling to earn some extra money. And these people didn't end up in that life because they were drug addicts or just didn't try - they were born into it. There was no system in place to help them out of it.

All I know is that nobody deserves that. Every human being deserves a chance at a decent life: food, shelter, education, and safety.

There are no easy answers. But it really pisses me off when I hear US citizens go off against illegal immigrants taking advantage of our country's resources, saying that it's up to the other countries (Mexico, for example) to solve their own problems. Maybe so, but the US certainly helped to cause a lot of Mexico's problems, so don't we have some culpability?

But this was my favorite quote from the article:

I ordered my coffee and the Nepalese woman prepared it. The 60 year old woman was manning the register. As the Nepalese woman was making Mr. Metal's drink, she told the older woman what I was having so she could ring me up, but she spoke rather quietly and the woman at the register didn't hear her the first time.

"What was that?" she asked.

Mr. Metal, as this Nepalese woman made him his drink, said "Looks like this is a language barrier."

The two women kind of sheepishly laughed it off.

In the interest of information: I've been in there a million times. The woman in question speaks English very well. She just happens to have a Nepali accent. But, if you're a certain kind of guy, and you hear an accent, you get to say things like that.

Mr. Metal wasn't done, though. "You see," he said in a very patronizing and angry way, making it clear he wasn't just being folksy, "in Brazil they speak Brazilian, but in America we speak English."

That just made me burst out laughing, because the official language of Brazil is Portuguese. There is no such language as "Brazilian". And "America" is not country or continent. There is the continent of North America and the continent of South America. But that kind of ignorance is par for the course for people who share Mr. Metal's opinions.


Rachel said...

Don't know where the commenting "offender" lived, but where I'm living, there are plenty of Mexicans. Where the SO lives is occupied by them even moreso.

I don't have a problem with them being here LEGALLY. I think anyone who comes here and wants to enjoy our "food, shelter, education, and safety" should be here through LEGAL means only. I mean, why should we make those coming from Europe immigrate here legally but those from say, Mexico not? They should all have to go through the same processes. Nobody should get a free pass.

As for the "language barrier", I know people who were born here and can't speak English. I don't have a problem with accents (I speak Southern myself ;) ) but some of the biggest offenders around my part of the country have been schooled in what I'll only label "thug" or "gangsta". Around this part, they are the same ones who are to blame for crime, teen pregnancy, school truancy, drug traffic, etc.

Those are the folks I'm sick of supporting with my tax dollars. Funny, I can't seem to recall the Mexicans here being anything but hard laborers who will live 7 and 8 to a house to get by.

Adri said...

hehehe....Brazilian...and, for the record, I am a "clean cut, decent" Mexican whose parents came to the States without money or English, but with plenty of desire to succeed; I graduated college and I making better than the average household income on my own my first year out.