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Another take on (illegal) immigration

November 19, 2007

If you like politics, I encourage you to watch this video and read the transcript:

Discourse on Immigration

My mom shared this with me yesterday to give me a different way to think about illegal immigration.  I found it fascinating and worthwhile.  The framework of illegal vs. legal is so polarizing that people tend to misunderstand their own opinions (which happened in my case).  As Vásquez says, the terminology “closes the conversation.”

In this interview, Bill Moyers of PBS talks with Manuel Vásquez, project co-director of a study of immigrants in Atlanta, and teacher of sociology and religion at the University of Florida in Gainesville.  The project, Latino Immigrants in the New South, deals with the Politics of Encounter.  He is interested in getting people to talk to each other.

I also found some websites over the weekend that I want to share:

Anti-Racist Parent, a blog run by Carmen Van Kerckhove that helps parents raise children to be conscious of race by having authentic and productive conversations about race and racism.

New Improved Stereotypes to teach your kids, a blog full of satirical cartoons with captions such as “Islamic Fundamentalists Really Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”.

Basically, I’m anticipating quite a bit of trouble locating children who are like my children so that they can see spot run within a homogeneous ethnic group.  You might be surprised that I sat through a documentary from the Kansas Farm Bureau just last week.  There was such racism just under the surface of Rural Kansas: Hope Endures.  The desire to maintain the integrity of their communities was understandable, but some of the people who commented were claiming that America is changing and change is bad and cute white kids and blue ribbon watermelons are good, and it was enough to make me shudder.  They were implying that their culture and values were the authentic and real ones, while other places in America had been corrupted by otherness.  They were also implying that their children were at liberty to move into big cities, but people from big cities had better not move into their rural Kansas and ruin it with otherness.

Seeing as how my children are (based on my very imprecise and unscientific calculations) 1/8 Incan, 1/8 Spaniard, 1/8 African, 1/8 Japanese, 1/4 Melungeon (which is a tricky combination itself) and 1/4 Anglo Saxon, we shouldn’t move to Kansas.  Is that what the Kansas Farm Bureau had in mind when they made the documentary?  Asking the “other” people to kindly stay away?

Even more confusing to me is that I have to categorize my children for doctors visits and census related questionnaires.  Their ethnic identity is most definitely “other” so why did I check the “Hispanic” box when filling out a medical release form when they got their flu shots?  Maybe I was confused because our home life is strongly influenced by Peruvian culture, language and food?  As their mother, I get to decide what race my children are.  That’s a weird power I am probably unconsciously abusing.

  1. November 19, 2007 7:59 pm

    Hmmm. Well just had to comment as I sit waaaay out here in rural kansas 😉

    I live in a small (pop. 2,000) farming-and-gas town. I don’t know exact figures, but I’d say the population is close to evenly split between Mexicans and Anglos — maybe not 50/50, but easily 40/60, with a few Philipinos (mostly medical professionals), four Japanese and Korean high school exchange students, one Hindu, and one or two African American families. I’ve met at least one recent immigrant (don’t know if she was legal or not and I’m sure there are plenty who are) but the notion that the “others” are suddenly moving into Kansas and spoiling the snow white scenery is false, at least as far as Hispanics are concerned. Mexican immigrants first arrived in this area well over a hundred years ago, quite legally, and many at the invitation of the government to work in construction. The Mexican community in Garden City Kansas has held and annual fall fiesta for something like 80 years. Hispanics have roots here, as deep as any whites have.

    That said, I would add that for the most part the two communities live a parallel existence, each keeping to their own events and traditions. Here and there you see mixed race couples or families. The one exception is probably the annual rodeo, which is enjoyed by all.

    At any rate, considering that Mexican cowboys and farmworkers are the backbone of agribusiness here in the Bread Basket, the Farm Bureau ought to do some editing.

  2. November 19, 2007 9:53 pm

    Rebecca, thank you so much for commenting! I thought the documentary seemed very one-sided and I’m glad to know that you see Kansas differently.

    All of the people that I saw interviewed for that documentary were white real estate owners, white main street store owners, white board members or town hall councilmen, white cowboys, white fair/festival participants. They were crying out for economic revitalization but they were saying it has to come from within “our” community. I was just perplexed by it. I guess the makers of the documentary just chose an angle and ran with it.

  3. November 20, 2007 10:24 am

    I’ve no doubt that sentiment exists. I haven’t encountered it personally in anyone I’ve interacted with, though.

    The main economic problem in many of our little rural towns is that the young people are moving away and the local businesses (especially family owned ones) are closing. The problem of the Anglo community is not so much the influx of “others” but the outflux of their own. Handy to have someone to blame but ourselves, though, isn’t it?

  4. Hawk permalink
    November 21, 2007 1:58 pm

    Hello Fighting Windmills. Allow me to introduce myself, everyone jus calls me Hawk.

    You have an interesting handle.

    For several weeks now, I have been reading your blog in stealth via the numerous readers I can not seem to whittle down to only one. When I visit and read your writing, it reminds me of stepping outside in the mountains and feeling the crisp freshness of a cool winter’s morning. An invigorating experience. Certainly one of my preferred moments of the day.

    I remember watching this interview when it aired. Though, I didn’t give it giving it my full attention, I did sit down earlier and watched intently. This has made me rethink some issues which I’ll get back to you on if you are of any interest, and perhaps I might be able to engage you with some conversating. The other links are something which I must also return to when time permits.

    Again, thank you for the work you do here. As mentioned earlier, your blog is something which I am not unfamiliar with. A very good site indeed.

    Mata ne…

  5. Hawk permalink
    November 21, 2007 2:00 pm

    I can’t write worth a dang when I’m in a hurry! My errors are so, so obvious! My regrets!

  6. November 21, 2007 2:11 pm

    Thanks, Hawk. I hope you do have time to get back to me and engage in conversating. That is exactly what I want. Do not regret your errors; they are common in blogland and are not so obvious as to detract from your intended message.

    I also think I had better read The People’s Guide to the United States Constitution before I blog about intense topics like this. WriterChick was so “right on” to remind us all of that. I am especially confused about “the right” to marry and birthrights and “the right” to education and “the right” to healthcare. People, such as myself, form such strong opinions and don’t even really know what they are talking about.

  7. Hawk permalink
    November 22, 2007 7:27 pm

    Forming strong opinions is cool. We believe what we believe, no matter ‘how wrong’ some may hold firmly to what it is they think may be true. LOL!

    Being well informed is important, but we must always gauge the sources from which we assume authority. However, authority notwithstanding, as it may be written somewhere, does not constitute correctness. I speak in riddles at times; another area with which I’m not unfamiliar. I’ll catch you later. Trusting you had a blessed holiday time where your heart was warmed with comfortable presence of loving family and friends.


  8. Hawk permalink
    November 22, 2007 7:33 pm

    Yo FW, I almost forgot. I left something at the nest for you under the secreted post “Where is Billy Crystal…”


  9. November 24, 2007 9:15 pm

    Cool Fightingwindmills-Hawk gave you a blogging award. Congratulations!
    Haven’t been around in awhile. Hope all is well and I apologize for not jumping into this political discussion. I have so many different opinions on this issue. Happy late Turkey Day! Here is a chant for your children-lol:

    A turkey sat on a fence one day and he began to saaaaaaaaay
    I don’t like Thanksgiving daaaaaaaaaay!


  10. November 25, 2007 10:04 am

    Thanks for the award, Hawk. I wanted to put it on my sidebar, but I don’t know how, so it took me awhile to decide what to do. I was really surprised and honored.

    Thanks for the funny chant, Mere! All is well. We did have a great Thanksgiving and I hope that you did too. Get some rest!

  11. Hawk permalink
    November 25, 2007 8:42 pm

    If you decide you want it on the sidebar, here’s the link to Word Press FAQ that explains how to do it!

    My fingers have a mind of their own sometimes and they get a tad bit capricious when fingering the keyboard. Nothing cruel intended; just my personality of sorts!

    Take care!

  12. November 25, 2007 9:00 pm

    I’ve already been to that link 😳 many many times over the past two months, but it is a wee too complicated for me.

  13. November 26, 2007 1:05 pm

    Whoo-hoo, I figured out the text widget! *doing the cabbage-patch dance*

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