Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Come Together

One of the American communities most hostile to illegal Mexican and South American immigrants is that of multi-generation American-born Hispanic conservatives. Traditional divisive theories of race, nationalism, class, gender, language, and religion all fail to explain this. Why? A very important distinction is concealed in there--one that illuminates a lot of the farcical American divisions of sex, sexuality, belief, and race.

Race Fails

Popular university and media theories of racism suggest that whites--or blacks, or Chinese, or any other group you like--might be prejudiced against Hispanic immigrants because the Hispanics are Hispanic. Deep within Hispanic communities, where slight variations in skin tone or accent can signal powerful meaning to Hispanics, racism analyses could apply to Hispanics, too: immigrants who were more or less brown or more aboriginally-featured might be discriminated against because of those differences.

Racism theories, though, break on the rocks of "race" and other race-like differences themselves: many dark-skinned American Hispanics, who speak poor English with a heavy Sonoran accent, will discriminate against lighter-skinned, European-blooded Hispanic immigrants who speak English with more of an American (California) accent. That kind of intra-Hispanic example is the tip of the crucible, because plenty of strident white "anti-racism" activists will support immigrant rights, opposing the policies pushed by Hispanic community leaders.

(This happens outside the Hispanic community, of course. Many African Americans will be hostile to certain subsets of black immigrants, including European blacks, who have entirely dissimilar generational and life experience than, say, slave-descendants. And just as in the Hispanic community, eager white university students are often first in line to push "anti-racism" immigration policies that aren't considered realistic or desirable by the American races they're supposed to be affecting.)

Nationalism Fails

In the absence of race being able to explain community feelings on immigration, pop culture looks to nationalism. Inside Hispanic communities, this one breaks even faster: take the example of Hispanics who live near Texas' border with Mexico, visit Mexico every month to see the rest of their family, and are viciously opposed to relaxing government policies designed to punish illegal Mexican immigrants.

Meanwhile, white Texan businessmen from Michigan eat enchiladas, encourage their kids to learn Spanish, consider seceding from that awful country ruled by Barack Obama, do a lot of business with Mexican trucking, shipping, and oil companies, and hate white Frenchmen and New Yorkers for being so socialist. And those same wealthy Texans hate illegal Hispanic immigrants.

Across the street at the community college, poor white and mixed-race native Texan students hold afternoon practice debates on how to address the problems of how an American sense of cultural superiority causes big growers to discriminate against illegal agricultural workers.

Class, Gender, Language and Religion Fail

By now, we probably get the point. Well-off American women of Hispanic ethnicity speak scornfully about irresponsible, poor Guatemalan teenage boys crossing the border for work. Poor white Americans grumble about wealthy Canadians buying small businesses in their town. New Mexican Catholic Hispanics of Mexican descent, who speak Spanish in the home, fume at the thought of exclusively English-speaking Catholic Hispanics sneaking into Arizona.

Money Succeeds

America's traditional resistance to immigrants, or to difference in general, stems primarily from the same rifts in a self that cause any given individual to be hostile toward any other. A self's fear or insecurity (not pop versions of "ignorance" or "self-confidence") is the cause. In this case, staying away from mind or spirit, economics translates into the most practical understanding.

The Cycle of Ism Tropes ~ Here, Racism

The popular models of explaining American anti-immigrant sentiment fail because they are designed to do one thing: blame very real, very fair, very understandable human sentiments on the ignorant/uneducated, anti-modern attitudes of the people stupid enough to espouse those sentiments. Elites design tropes like "racism" with a cyclical effect in mind: blunt, honest racism divides people against each other based on illusory categories, which easily balloon into the design of entire societies.

After a while--maybe generations--the trope begins to contract under its own weight. Humans notice that the defining traits of the racial categories are unclear at best, highly generalized, and purposefully misapplied to achieve alternate social ends (e.g., African American slavery or sharecropper labor price controls). At the same time, people descended more recently from African genetic strains have more fast-twitch muscles, and Finns are more likely to have blond hair than are Chinese. Two kinds of unavoidable obviousness clash against one another, until the entire thing has contracted to a singularity, whereupon it can expand later in another form.

These isms fail because of those unavoidable pieces of obviousness; to identify the potential for standardized discrimination means accepting the potential for being able to actually divide people into workable subgroups that can be either hated or sheltered. The contracting phase of the cycle, where the sins of old are washed away in celebrations of acceptable diversity, is defined by the same divisions that marked the expanding phase. In the case of racism, that means accepting common boundaries and differences that never should have been so important in the first place, except to family genealogy buffs and geneticists. Fighting a nightmare-monster only makes it more real, which is why people who buy guns for home defense end up shooting a family member more often than a burglar.

The Economics of Immigrant Hate

So why, then, would some Hispanic communities be so vigorously against illegal Hispanic immigration? Because illegal immigrants, or even legal ones, swell the labor pool and shift the supply/demand equation in favor of employers (and/or investors, small business owners, etc.--it works at any asset level you prefer). If an undocumented person (let's just say "an illegal" in recognition of the relative stupidity of the terms "immigrant," "illegal immigrant," and "undocumented") does a job, a citizen doesn't get the job. Because of an illegal's "illegal" status, the illegal is more likely to work under unsafe conditions, accept lower pay, and otherwise undercut the citizen in every other economic way.

This happens because of the zero-sum nature of western capitalism, in the land of no guarantees. Illegals use public services like emergency rooms, schools, roads, et cetera--all things that citizens are taxed for. A dollar for an illegal is one dollar less for a citizen. The anger--or just the vote against--of some of the Hispanic community is understandable.

What is awful for the citizen, of course, is worse for the illegal, because little kids dehydrate to death in the desert all the time, and illegals get beaten and raped in prison, or shot by licensed or unlicensed paramilitaries on either side of the border. But the why of it all is the insecurity of the Hispanic community: the very real understanding that, in a competition to see doctors, have beds and roofs, and feed children, illegals are on the other side. Everyone else, including citizens, is on the other side of any given individual or family also, but illegals offer an easy target.

Drawn from the example, here's a short list of the factors motivating some Hispanics' hostility to recent immigrants/illegals:

1) Worries that, in tough competition to survive by finding cheaper housing and sustainable jobs, immigrants will get those jobs instead of prior citizens;

2) Worries that immigrants will use social services paid for primarily by a citizen tax base.

...and here's a short list of the things not motivating hostility to recent immigrants/illegals:

1) Notions of racial superiority/inferiority;

2) Lack of basic and/or modern and/or university-level education;

3) Notions of cultural superiority/inferiority;

4) Notions of gender;

5) Perception of class, religious or language differences.

Finally, here's a list of the things the example does not teach us:

1) Racism/sexism/gender discrimination are acceptable or good;

2) Nationalism, class discrimination, views of religious/linguistic superiority are acceptable or good;

3) There aren't actually people out there who discriminate separately on the basis of race/sex/gender/nation/class/religion/language/etc.

The Important Lesson

The important lesson to draw from the example is one of understanding. Traditional "racism" theories claim that a person's fear over losing her job or place in a community is caused by that person's ignorance of skin pigmentation, cultural differences, and shared humanity. If only that person stops being so ignorant, and gets some education, racism-based theories say that everything will turn out fine.

Wasn't that clever? What did "racism" just do, there? It took a person's very tangible, real, economic fears, caused by an awfully real and terribly unjust economic system, and reduced them to the level of a children's picture book. Suddenly, Joe hates Jose not because Joe is scared to death his kids don't have health insurance and there aren't enough temp. holiday openings at Kohl's, but because Jose is a little more tan in color. If you believe that, then Iraq is mad at America because of America's freedoms. (It also suggested that spending money on universities will help cure Joe's disease.)

Stereotypical White Dude in Texas, struggling for a minimum-wage job, is perfectly right when he worries that adding more potential employees to the local labor pool will affect his life in a negative way. We can recognize that without saying that Stereotypical White Dude's slurs or anger or divisiveness are right or good, should he choose to feel or employ them. Furthermore, we can recognize that Jose The Stereotypical Hispanic-American Dude in Texas is perfectly right when he worries that adding more potential employees to the local labor pool will affect his life in a negative way. It doesn't mean that Joe or Jose are "racist," although they might, because of their fears, develop actual cultural/racial prejudices that they might pass down to their children, with all those associated irrationalities.

Recognizing the origins of Joe's and Jose's feelings means something wonderful--particularly if you've been subscribing, in any way, to those traditional isms. That recognition means that "racists," and their origins, and our trademarked western notions of ism-theory, are not fantastical boogeymen suffering a disease of ignorance, who come from a plane of inchoate evil seeking the irrational destruction of all modernized, educated, diverse peoples. Rather, those explanations are false flags disseminated by elites to explain why one group of rational people, struggling to survive, is scared that another group of rational people, struggling to survive, will make that struggle harder. American Hispanics hostile to illegal immigrants are not racist, anymore than are ethnically Arab French Muslims hostile to legal French immigrants. They may express their anger in ways that academics and corporate media news feeds would describe as "racist," but their true motivations are something entirely different.

(If you follow Irish history, or just American history, there's a parallel to be seen in the way elites simplistically explain away resource conflicts. When England invades Ireland and slaughters Irish people, elites write it up as a religious battle of "Protestants v. Catholics," rather than as one of "England taking land and natural resources and killing people." When European settlers invade the North American continent and slaughter the natives, elites write it up as the progress of civilization, Christians v. heathens. On each side, there are actually people, maybe a lot of people, who end up hating "Catholics" or "Christians" or "redskins" or "whites" through a natural response to terrible experiences, or just a belief in the news. As Christopher Columbus' mission statements, or the greedy plots of the English throne, show us, though, the initial focus was on wealth, resources, and power--not facile notions of deities or skin color.)

Seeing the rational, real beginnings to "racism," or the other isms, is a light of hope, expressing the shared humanity that the isms suggest has gone unnoticed. If Jose the Hispanic-American is hostile to Jose the Mexican illegal not because of race, and there's something rational and real behind it, then maybe Joe the white guy is hostile to blacks for the same reason. The solution to all of these is not diversity education, because the economic struggle will continue to resurface with different targets: say, Muslim Arabs from the Middle East. "Racism" will never vanish, under that model; it will just contract into a new ism, generating a different fairy-tale for Joe's "irrational, uneducated, unscientific hatred" that can explain away Joe's or Jose's rational reactions to economic insecurity. Racism vanishes not through "informing" Joe or Jose about Dia de los Muertos and tacos--again, laugh at the idea that "Afghanis hate Americans because of their freedoms." Racism vanishes through acknowledging Joe's or Jose's real, human, fair, just, understandable fears about being screwed over and left with no food or shelter...and fixing those problems so that they don't need to lash out at anyone. Which means that, when Joe or Jose get angry at immigrants, they're expressing the exact same frustration at an economy based on exploitation and war that every other libertarian/liberal/progressive expresses in different ways. The simple differences of "nation-states" and "citizenship" have taught Joe and Jose to misunderstand that their enemy is not immigrants, but the elites who have created the deathly game of economic survival. The university educations and advanced race-studies theories of the liberals and progressives have taught them to misunderstand that their enemy is not "racists" like Joe or Jose, but the politicians actually producing the economic fears that get attributed to "racism."

Understanding the trick of the expansionary and contractionary cycles of mainstream isms, and helping out the "ists" on the basis of theory, is something that will generally fall toward the more educated, liberal, progressive group: the group more likely to become aware of the cycle. To the target group, then, falls the opportunity to forgive the ists their foolishness. It can hurt. Particularly if someone's ever made an insulting remark about [insert group here] and you have [family/friends/self] connections to that group. It is, though, truly more of an opportunity than a threat: if all that stuff is realistic and understandable, then there's a rational fix for it, and it's the same fix that you're looking for in other places. Recognizing that someone hates you not because you're a freedom-loving, sexually-liberated American, or because you're a tan Spanish-speaker, means acknowledging your own fears about the worth of modern education, a niche in a cutthroat economy, and whether or not you'll survive the next elite drawdown. It unites you, in shared irrationality, toward seeing the sameness in the uneducated others who are so irrational about their own fear and anger--the stereotypical racist, if that's your image. Dropping your own insulting theory that they act the way they do because of ignorant racism allows them to express their anger at the real source of their worry, and points both your arrows and theirs toward the unfair economy that pitted you against each other in the first place, and was the source of both ignorant, misguided racism and ignorant, misguided educationism. As a black friend used to tell this one, "I'm not prejudiced--I hate everybody equally!"

We shine toward the same goal. Come together.  

Continued in Part 2.

2 comments:

  1. I've found that some of the most hateful people are precisely the "progressive liberals" who seem to always delight in looking down on the "dumb masses". Although my class position puts me in the same category, I've come to realize that sitting down for a beer with a stereotypical redneck here in Texas is far more entertaining than listening to yet another rant about "how stupid people are".

    Thanks for the previous, follow-up, entry on energy. As I said, I have no fundamental disagreement, except to emphasize that even under the best of scenarios, there are real physical limitations that we must acknowledge. But that's not a main worry right now - I figure even if we wake up tomorrow and find ourselves with a free, abundant, clean source of energy, unless a lot of other things also change, this will simply speed up the destruction of the biosphere...

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  2. Now trying to apply this theory to homophobia... just how do gay people threaten others' economic security? The double-income-no-kids theory doesn't really hold up since many are adopting free kids or doing IVF.

    And then there's the issue of Atheists. How would this theory apply to them? Are they hated because they don't economically support any sanctioned religious institutions?

    Perhaps for both it is the perceived threat that individuals from these groups do not seem to subscribe to the same socially-sanctioned brand of morals...

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