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Immigrants & Bigots

Posted by Rick · May 25th, 2007 · No Comments

Every once in awhile, I have to “go off” on one of my own family members for sending me something written by salivating barely-human clearly-bigoted individuals via email. For reasons I cannot comprehend — because, after all, I’m the “pinko” of the family — they think I’ll actually agree with the sentiments and are always shocked when I respond with a blistering and logical query regarding their mental health status.

Case in point: Yet again, the so-called “Andy Rooney” message regarding immigrants is making the rounds again and someone otherwise near and dear to me sent it to me with, essentially, a “hell yeah!”

What follows is my response….

First of all, you might want to know that Andy Rooney did not write that article. In fact, he wants to sue the person who did. “I suppose it’s not important, but I hate the fact that people think I’ve been writing these things,” said Andy Rooney when asked about it. “It’s hurtful.”

You know, people talk about things like this as if we did not have associations like The Jewish Defense League, Tikkun, Jewish Currents, the American Jewish Committee and so on. We have museums and schools devoted to Jews and Judaism. In “the old days,” there were many Jews running around who were not completely literate in English, but could stand for hours in stores and on street corners to kvetch in Yiddish. And, in fact, this phenomenon of using Yiddish words was so prevalent that many of them — including “kvetch” — have worked their way into the English language.

The note falsely attributed to Andy Rooney also trivializes certain real-life situations that numerous American citizens who speak perfect English and otherwise buy into the American dream have to deal with every day.

For example, to say that “thinking homosexuality is wrong is not a phobia, but just an opinion,” ignores the fact that numerous homosexual individuals are beaten to death because of their sexual orientation. Others are “just” refused employment, fired from jobs they managed to get before someone realized they were homosexual, discriminated against in certain housing situations and cannot form solid loving relationships that allow them the same basic benefits that two rednecks who beat their children and abuse one another can receive. By that, of course, I mean that the “average” heterosexual American, who will go through their lives running from one marriage to another can marry and have benefits like community property, social security death benefits, the right to assist one another with health care issues (including, but not limited to, obtaining health insurance for a spouse) and so on. But homosexuals who enter into a solid and caring relationship will not be able to have those same benefits.

The article also contains statements which are just plain weird. “When 70% of the people arrested are black, in cities where 70% of the population is black, that is not racial profiling; it is the Law of Probability.” What kind of asinine statement is that? Can you tell me how many cities have African-American populations of 70%? Can you tell me how many cities have African-American populations of 70% and only 70% of the “black” people arrested are African-Americans? The fact of the matter is that in most American cities, the African-American population is significantly lower than 70%, but arrest rates are significantly higher than they would be based on “the Law of Probability.” Those with open minds can take a look at Michael Males’ article titled “San Francisco Challenges: Statistics don’t support official explanations for high black arrest rate” at the San Francisco Chronicle’s online website.

“I don’t go around claiming to be European-American….” Perhaps the author — who, again, was not Andy Rooney — doesn’t claim to be “European-American,” but I know numerous people who proudly claim to be “Irish” or “Jewish” (and that’s not even a nationality!) or some other “-ish.” There is a Ukrainian-American Society, a Ukrainian American Bar Association (for lawyers, of course; not the kind of bar in which one drinks), a Polish American Congress, Polish American Journal (a magazine), a British-American Business Council, and a British-American Chamber of Commerce for the Great Lakes Region which is a member of the British-American Business Council. No doubt, there are other smaller British-American Chambers throughout the United States. In San Francisco, at least, there is a French-American Chamber of Commerce. There is a French-American school in Rhode Island with a — gasp! — bilingual program in French and English. There is a Swedish-American Hospital that was started in 1911 in Rockford, Illinois, that initially aimed to provide better health care to Swedish-Americans and Swedes were “challenged” by the editor of the “Svenska Posten,” a — gasp! — Swedish-language newspaper, to contribute towards it on a yearly basis. The funds for it were kept in the Swedish-American Bank. (P.S. Realizing that I’m potentially writing to uneducated Americans, I feel compelled to point out that Swedish is not English.)

My own great-grandmother, the first generation from my mother’s side of the family to enter the United States, never learned to speak English — not in her entire nearly 100 years on earth, even though she came to the United States as a youngish woman. It is not at all unusual for many first-generation white immigrants not to have learned English well. And they had no excuse! They frequently ventured out into the world of other white Americans, but never spoke their language. Prominent examples of this can be found in Italian-American communities and the various communities of Americans who originated from parts of what used to be called “the U.S.S.R.” (This Republic is sometimes mistakenly referred to as “Russia,” but Russia is actually just one of many countries that made up the U.S.S.R.)

On the other hand, Mexican and Mexican-American immigrants today — those against whom the charge of not speaking English is most often lodged — frequently do not interact often with “white America” because of racial prejudice. Many of them live in a de facto segregation from “white Americans” because they take jobs that no white American will take. And then we complain about them “taking our jobs.” (And don’t give me any crap about how white Americans would take the jobs if the Mexicans did not. When was the last time you saw a white family working in the orange groves, grapes, or cotton fields?)

Since they work in the fields and factories surrounded by numerous other Mexican or Mexican-Americans and they have to communicate with one another, they use their native language. It’s not as if there’s anyone working side-by-side with them who might give them a reason and an opportunity to utilize English! Meanwhile, every time these people go to a store, even if it does happen to be a store in a “Mexican” neighborhood run by “Mexicans” — and by that I’m acknowledging that because of our Orwellian/Kafkaesque procedures many of the people about whom these complaints are lodged are not actually citizens — they spend money, boost our economy and contribute to the tax revenues the state uses to support all the people in the state. The roads that are built with sales taxes don’t just benefit recent legal and illegal immigrants; they benefit “white Americans” whose families were once immigrants, as well.

Lastly — although there’s much more that I could say about the comments to which I’m responding — the claim that immigrants are “disrespecting” our country is just bogus. Granted that sometimes immigrants do things like march in the streets carrying the flags of the country from which they emigrated along with them. When they do so, they are protesting the mistreatment of people who have emigrated from those countries and are immigrants — legal or not — to this country. They are identifying their country of origin and saying, “We all came here from this common place. And now that we’re here and contributing to the strength of this country, we want to enjoy the same rights as the Polish-Americans, the Irish-Americans, the British-Americans, the Swedish-Americans and others who came before us!” Why is it unacceptable for people from Mexico or Africa or Portugal or Asia or other nations where people are typically darker in skin color to do these things, but no one complains about the famous labor protests and violent clashes of the late 1800s and early 1900s by the European-Americans?

And, for goodness sake! If trying to improve our country by protesting injustice is not American, then what is? Frankly, it’s the “America: Love It or Leave It!” crowd that shows the greatest disrespect and hate for our nation. The United States was built upon a belief in “certain inalienable rights” and upon Enlightenment ideals about progress. (Yes, sad to say, the Founders were progressives, not conservatives.)

The bottom line is that the article that was allegedly written by Andy Rooney — but which Andy Rooney did not write — is a racist, bigoted diatribe that contains significant falsehoods and amplifies things that naturally occur within immigrant communities, including white immigrant communities.

It’s just that today, there is a perception — I don’t even know if it’s a correct perception, since I don’t track immigration issues — that most immigrants are non-white.

And we just can’t have that.

Categories: Culture Wars


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