Tag Archives: Latinos

Happy Halloween!

Illegal Alien Halloween Costume

The costume might seem funny to some, but what they don't realize is that in the current social climate that we live in, the costume is just plain dehumanizing.

…or is it?  It was the question that many Latinos were wondering as they caught word of the offensive “illegal alien” Halloween costume that was being sold by many retailers across the U.S.  A successful campaign by immigrant rights activists was waged to sound the alarm on this, which led to national media coverage.  Subsequently, retailers like Target, Walgreens, eBay, and Amazon.com removed the costume from their inventories.  It was another example of the growing political clout that Latinos are beginning to exercise on a variety of issues, as I have previously argued here.  I woud like to echo the sentiments that were expressed so well by César J. Baldelomar over at the Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform blog: the language that we use can define our social realities in deeper ways that we might at first realize. 

On second thought, I would actually like to take it a step farther and call on something that I see being ignored by the corporate media and (sadly) by even many immigrant rights activists: that the ONLY permanent solution to our ‘illegal immigration’ woes is to combat the oppressing poverty that creates ‘illegal immigrants.’  No amount of border walls, deportations, or discrimination will ever stop ‘illegal’ immigration because those things never address the true source of the problem: the poverty that forces many to flee their homelands.  Professor of Linguistics George Lakoff said it best on The Framing of Immigration piece when he bascially analyzed how we do not have an ‘illegal immigration problem’ or an ‘illegal employer problem’ (to lable it as such would undermine the scope of what we’re actually dealing with here), but rather a full-blown HUMANITARIAN crisis:

Perhaps the problem might be better understood as a humanitarian crisis. Can the mass migration and displacement of people from their homelands at a rate of 800,000 people a year be understood as anything else? Unknown numbers of people have died trekking through the extreme conditions of the Arizona and New Mexico desert. Towns are being depopulated and ways of life lost in rural Mexico. Fathers feel forced to leave their families in their best attempt to provide for their kids. Everyday, boatloads of people arrive on our shores after miserable journeys at sea in deplorable conditions.

As a humanitarian crisis, the solution could involve The UN or the Organization of American States. But these bodies do not have roles in the immigration frame, so they have no place in an “immigration debate.” Framing this as just an “immigration problem” prevents us from penetrating deeper into the issue.

Language is a powerful thing because we shape our language based on our reality and our reality is shaped by language. It’s a circular thing and we can break the cycle of ignorance by introducing new powerful terminology that can shape our realities in a positive way.  As I used to say it before on my old Myspace page:

 …people talk about “illegal aliens,” which dehumanizes the issue and implies that immigrants that enter the country with no documents are criminal, other-worldly beings. Yet no one talks about the fact that they are simply Economic Refugees (refugiados por causa de la economia); human beings that have ventured to seek out a better life for themselves…

…To reduce the discussion to a soundbite of “those that break our immigration laws must be punished and must not be rewarded for the criminal behavior” frankly leads to nothing productive. If you want to talk about doing illegal and/or wrong things then maybe you should talk about how the United States has oftentimes contributed to the economic woes of many countries. If you want to talk about taking responsibility for your own actions, then maybe the United States should take responsibility for what it has done with the International Monetary Fund’s INTERVENTIONS(click here for details) in third world countries. If you want to talk about wrong doing maybe you ought to be talking about American maquiladora factories and their low wages/cheap labor practices. Maybe you ought to look into how some American business interests have gone into many countries, sucked them up dry, and bailed out; adding to their economic woes.

Sadly, I’m afraid that we’re missing the boat on this one.  Immigration reform would be a good first step towards improving our current social situation.  However, if the quest for immigration reform does not at the very least contain a serious conversation regarding the role that oppressing poverty has in all of this, then I am afraid that it will just be another band-aid ‘fix’.  Maybe it’s time now (as a first step) to call on our government to ditch the ‘illegal alien’ term and instead adopt ‘economic refugee.’  You can start by contacting the Deparment of Homeland Security at:

Secretary Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Comment Line: 202-282-8495

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Filed under Economic Refugees, Immigration

Selfish in the Sea

Many Latino anglers that fish off of L.A. County piers support the creation of Marine Protected Areas.

The opposition to creating Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) off of Southern California’s coast has taken a sinister turn: terrorizing and attacking Latino families.  I have participated in the MPA hearings for a few months now, and I have to say that the latest turn of events does not surprise me.  When you attend these hearings, you are immediately hit with just how far the opposition is willing to go with their tactics.  They will yell, push, and perpetuate all kinds of lies.  No doubt the last hearing on October 21st (click here to view the video of the meeting), in Long Beach was a particularly contentious one, as reported by Long Beach’s Press Telegram.  Perhaps one of the most memorable comments from the anti-MPA crowd were those of a fisherman that started ranting about how if MPA’s were implemented, there would be a “revolution” that would rise against such “government oppression.” “Government oppression?” I asked myself … uhm, “the government” in this instance, is us, the public, so was he saying that the actions of us, average working-class Americans, to make sure that he and other fisherment like him did not run out of fish and therefore protect his freedom to keep on fishing would be “oppression”?  Hey, I’m all for democracy and for making sure that everyone’s way of life is respected but when you start throwing out such blatant reactionary and selfish (yes, selfish) lines you’ve crossed over onto another realm.  In fact, when your crowd starts attacking innocent children that have come to learn about civic participation, you’ve crossed a line that cannot be forgiven.  

What am I talking about? Well, before and during the public comment period, some white fishermen that were unequivocally opposed to any kind of MPA being implemented in Southern California started attacking Latinos that came to the hearing in support of the MPA’s.  In one instance, totally unprovoked, a high-strung white guy started yelling at some Latino high school kids from Compton, harassing them with insulting questions like “do you even know what this is about?”,  “who brainwashed you?”, or “are they giving you extra credit to be here?”.  Nevermind that these were mostly Advanced Placement Compton students that knew quite a lot about the issue, having studied and prepped for the hearing because they wanted to learn about the “democratic process”.  I guess because they were brown, this crazy white “fisherman” guy assumed that they were just dumb kids because they happened to disagree with his point of view.  Well, to be fair, I have heard that the same harassing questions were being hurled at the students that came from Santa Monica High School (who happen to be mostly white kids). 

Yet again, the stink of racism coming from some of the fishermen that showed up to the hearing to oppose MPA’s could not be erased.  When the hearing was interrupted to report that the hotel bathroom had been vandalized, the Blue Ribbon Task Force (“BRTF” for short, the body that conducts the hearings), urged everyone to calm down.  Yet what the BRTF did NOT report to the audience was what was written on the bathroom: “f*ck MLPA” (Marine Life Protection Act) and “f*ck 3” (referring to “Map 3”, the designed map of MPA’s that best supported sustainable fishing and the regeneration of marine life):

Tagging in the bathroom of the hotel that hosted the October 21st public hearing on the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) & Marine Protected Areas (MPA's).

Tagging in the bathroom of the hotel that hosted the October 21st public hearing on the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) & Marine Protected Areas (MPA's).

The tagging of "F*ck 3" on the bathroom walls was an obvious reference to "Map 3" of the MPA's, which was supported by many nonprofits, local residents, and supporters of the environment.  Map 3 was in stark opposition to "Map 2" which was being pushed by many fishermen and big-fishing industry.

The tagging of "F*ck 3" on the bathroom walls was an obvious reference to "Map 3" of the MPA's, which was supported by many nonprofits, local residents, and supporters of the environment. Map 3 was in stark opposition to "Map 2" which was being pushed by many fishermen and big-fishing industry.

It was obvious that the tagging had been perpetuated by the anti-MPA crowd … but guess who the fishermen blamed it on? Well, why, they blamed it on the Latinos that had come to support MPA’s, of course!  Not only that, but the white  fishermen were also harassing other Latinos from East L.A.  The white fishermen would ask these Latinos families despicable questions like “do you even speak English?”, “did you come to get a free T-shirt?”, or “did they pay you to be here?”  It was a disgusting  display of just what some in the anti-MPA crowd are about.  What’s even worst: when all of this was reported to the moderators of the meeting, it was dismissed as no biggie.  Shame on them for their lax attitude, tolerating racist fishermen to pull such tactics aimed at terrorizing people! 

Again: I am all for respecting everyone’s way of life.  Not all fishermen that are opposed to MPA’s are racist selfish bastards, in fact some of them are very fine men and women that are compassionate and caring and NOT selfish in the least bit.  I also understand their argument: the drafting of MPA’s must protect their way of life, respect their dignity, and ensure that their livelihoods are not placed into unjust danger.  I believe that the role of government is to protect everyone, making sure that the opportunity to prosperity is open to all, and the anti-MPA crowd should not be the exemption.  However, when the fishing industry (supported by the California Fisheries Coalition) and the fishermen resort to terrorizing tactics, lies, racism, selfishness, and they cover their eyes and ears to the fact that we ARE running out of fish, it makes it very hard for me to accept their point of view.  It defeats their argument, and they defeat themselves.  They might’ve made the Blue Ribbon Task Force blink on this round, but mark my words: we, the general public, will NOT stand for such racist displays. 

To learn more about protecting the ocean for our future and our children’s future, you can visit Heal the Bay’s site on this MPA issue or read the latest OpEd from the L.A. Times.

Update: I’m also getting word that the white anti-MPA’s fishermen were harrassing the pro-MPA’s Latino anglers with questions which they would repeat over and over again such as “how old are you?” and “how long have you lived here?” (insinuating “you’re a foreigner aren’t you?!”).   

It’s time to take action!

So what can you do about it?

1) Email the organizers of the “Map 2” crowd and tell them that racism is NOT acceptable and will  NOT be tolerated:

angler4prop2@gmail.com

2) Write to the MLPA Initiative to complain and to demand that they do not tolerate the racism coming from the anti-MPA crowd:

MLPA Initiative
c/o California Resources Agency
1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311
Sacramento, CA 95814

Email: MLPAComments@resources.ca.gov

3) You can also contact the California Fisheries Coalition (which is one of the main groups that is assisting in organizing the effort to water down the implementation of MPA’s) and demand that they denounce such racist behavior from its anti-MPA’s members:

Vern Goehring, Manager
California Fisheries Coalition
1621 13th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 444-8194
(916) 444-8195 Fax
Email: vern@cal.net

When you write to these three groups, please be respectful but firm in your demands and as detailed of as possible of what happened.

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Filed under Environment

Ed Schultz: Progressive Populism vs. Conservative Populism

The Ed Schultz phenomenon: blue-collar and other working class Americans have found their voice in Ed Schultz.

As we celebrate Labor Day, populism is in the air as we honor the dignity of hard-working Americans.  I’ve been following progressive radio talk show personality and now MSNBC TV host, Ed Schultz for quite some time.  I’ve previously written here and here about him because he embodies what progressive populism looks like: pro-union, pro-worker, pro-rural, pro-football, pro-fishing progressive America … heck he’s even an advocate for catch-and-release fishing!  He’s the antidote to the conservative populism that has sadly come to be embodied by the likes of Sarah Palin‘s crafty political maneuvering and Lou Dobbs’ hate speech against Latinos and President Obama.  I say “sadly” because conservatives by using the tactics of fear mongering and racism have corrupted populism in its traditional sense to successfully create an inverse version of it.  George Lakoff (who I just blogged about a few days ago as it related to the current healthcare debate) explained it beautifully in his May 2009 piece Empathy, Sotomayor, and Democracy: The Conservative Stealth Strategy:

In the last election, conservative populists moved toward Obama. Conservative populists are working people, mostly white men, who have conservative views of the family, of masculinity, and of the military, and who have bought into the idea of the “liberal elite” as looking down on them. Right now, they are hurting economically, losing their jobs and their homes. Empathy is something they need. The racist card is an attempt to revive their fears of affirmative action, fears of their jobs — and their pride — being taken by minorities and women. The racist attack has a political purpose, holding onto conservative populists. The overt form of the old conservative argument is made regularly these days: liberalism is identity politics.

Ed Schultz understands how populism works, and he hits it out of the park plenty of times with his strong no-B.S. stance against conservatives’ lies.  However, I’ve seen Ed Schultz slip a number of times by falling into the same negating-reinforcement trap that progressives tend to fall into: strictly sticking to being on the defensive rather than turning the conservative attack inside out and into an offensive play.  Big Eddie, as his fans call him, would be far more effective if he were to read George Lakoff’s illuminating work on conservative populism.  Lakoff  explained it briefly during the 2008 presidential campaign cycle on his Don’t Think of a Maverick! Could the Obama Campaign Be Improved?:

Conservative populism on a national scale was invented in the late 1960’s. At the time, most working people identified themselves with liberals. But conservatives realized that many working people were what I have called “biconceptuals” – they are genuinely conservative in their mode of thought about patriotism and certain family issues, though they are progressive in their understanding of nature (they love the land) and their commitment to communities where people care about each other, etc. So conservatives have talked to them nonstop about conservative “patriotism” and “family values”, thus activating their conservative mindset.

At the same time, conservative theorists invented the ideal of “liberal elitism”: that liberals look down upon working people and are not like them. Conservatives have been working at constructing this mythology for nearly forty years and liberals have stood by and let it happen. Palin is a natural for the conservative populists. She understands their culture.

Conservative populism is a cultural, not an economic, phenomenon. These are folks who often vote against their economic self-interest and instead vote on their identity as conservatives and on their antipathy to liberals, who they see as elitists who look down on them. Simply giving conservative populists facts and figures won’t work.

They tend to vote for people they identify with and against people who they see as looking down on them. The job for the Obama campaign is to reverse the present mindset that the Republicans have constructed, to reveal the conservatives as elitist Washington insiders who cynically manipulate them, to get conservative populists to identify with Obama and Biden on the basis of values and character, and to have them see realities through Obama’s leadership capacities. Not an easy job. But it’s the real job.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Ed Schultz actually starts using George Lakoff’s lines down the road, though.  Big Eddie is a football sportsman and a political animal, and he knows that in the end, winning is what matters.  I just hope Ed uses them soon because he IS progressive populism incarnate and knows how to relate that in a language that his audience can easily understand, which is more than what I can say about other progressive media personalities (yes, Thom Hartmann, I’m looking at you! … OK I’ll give this to you Thom: you have actually improved ever since you left Air America and I respect you because you are the Godfather of Air America because of your business plan that served as its blueprint, and you have the balls to talk about progressive issues that sometimes not even Ed Schultz dares to talk about … but for Godssakes Thom could you please NOT start with the intellectualist dull debates at the beginning of your segments?! Leave that for the middle or the end please … I appreciate the historical contexts, I truly do, and I think you’re a smart progressive radio host; but some of us want to know first and foremost about what is happening right-now in-the-present-world!).

Now, if only MSNBC switched conservative-leaning Chris Matthews’ time slot with Ed Schultz, things will be perfect … so we’ll see if MSNBC gets its act together on that front.  But as far as Project Economic Refugee is concerned, the best way to boycott conservative “populist” hosts is to turn them off and instead tune into progressive populist hosts.  Case in point is Ed Schultz: instead of watching hate-monger Lou Dobbs, watch Ed Schultz from now on.  I promise you, you’ll be a better American for it.

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Filed under Framing, Political, Progressive Media Personalities, Progressive Movement