Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Black America, Immigrant Rights and May Day



Last year, May Day of 2006, saw massive demonstrations by immigrants throughout the US. Contrary to media accounts, while the majority of those marching were Mexican and Central American immigrants, solidarity marches took place in regions as diverse as Chinatown (NY and San Francisco), Haitian communities in Florida and elsewhere. Back then, the immigration furor was heavy. In the black online community, I listened to alot of anger that seemed directed towards Latino immigrants--mostly those of Mexican descent. This mirrored part of an ongoing series of debates in black America, on whether immigration was a detriment, tensions between Mexican-Americans and African-Americans in places like Los Angeles and the reality of black unemployment. Surveying the landscape, I wrote a blog back then to vent against some disturbing trends I was witnessing, as some tried to cloak their obvious bigotry in claims of black solidarity. One year later, as we enter May Day 2007, and the issue of immigration appears again on our radar, I simply repost my musings from 2006... as they may still sadly be relevant.


Two weeks ago in California, a black "homeless" activist by the name of Ted Hayes led what he termed a "Black Minute Men" group in a march to protest illegal immigrants. He was met by pro-immigrant activists, black and latino. After a shouting match, a fight broke out between the two groups. News cameras enthusiastically filmed the melee which made national headlines. According to Hayes, a Republican, the influx of illegal workers are a prime reason for homelessness in America.

Allegedly Hayes viewed it all as such a threat, that he approached the vigilante white Minute Men of Arizona and New Mexico who regularly patrol the borders. These militia groups are thought to be outgrowths of the 1977 Klan Watch, sponsored by David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. Hayes has invited gang members from Los Angeles to join him, the white milita groups and his own grouping in their attempts to keep illegals from crossing the border

So here we are in 2006--with black homeless activists belonging to a party that regularly cuts funding to the poor, enticing other poor blacks to join groups with direct or indirect ties to white supremacist groups to keep poor people from crossing the border from Mexico to steal American jobs. Hayes has called illegal immigration the biggest threat to blacks in America since slavery.

That's it. Stop the world for a second. I need to get the hell off.

The following is written to Ted Hayes, who would have us make Faustian pacts to undefined ends. It's meant for all those black folks I've talked to in the past few weeks who in their justified fears and frustrations, have reached nevertheless unjustified conclusions. It's to the xenophobic black folks who now seem to flood online boards, comment spaces and groups, who seem to revel in the chance to vent personal hatreds that are far divorced from politics.

First off, the real threat to blacks since slavery isn't undocumented workers. It's not the people who have been providing us with cheap goods for the past few decades. It's not the people who clean up after us. It's not the people that have funneled some $7 billion into Social Security that they'll never see. It's not the people who labor in the shadows and whom economists say the Clinton era boom of the 1990s would have been impossible to achieve without.

The real biggest threat to blacks (and everyone else) since slavery--and not to mention *during* slavery, as it was the raison d'etre)--has been unchecked capitalism. Unchecked capitalism is what brought black bodies here across the seas, and what decimated native populations. Unchecked capitalism caused the US to initiate a war of aggression against Mexico in 1846, and literally steal Texas, California and other territories, thus setting up where the borders would be to make one "legal" or "illegal." Unchecked capitalism has allowed for the exploitation of peoples and pits them against each other, while the rich dine in fine style.

Human beings don't voluntarily leave their homes, culture and all they've ever known to take low paying jobs in foreign lands where they are treated like thrash. They do so when they are forced out of their livelihoods. And we need look no further than NAFTA and now CAFTA, neoliberal trade agreements pushed by the US that enrich the corporatocracy (elites in varied countries who have no national allegiances save to their own wealth) while destroying jobs, infrastructure, agriculture in foreign countries. Immigration from Mexico has more than doubled as NAFTA has put hundreds of thousands of farmers into dire poverty. And its not just there; it's happening throughout the globe. People are angry at the poor and desperate for ignoring artificial fluid boundaries in search of survival? What do we expect them to do? Starve? I assure you that if the continent of Africa was directly South of us, we'd be welcoming Achmed and Kwasi to labor in the shadows for us rather than Maria and Jose.

That unchecked nature of globalization without any safeguards to protect the least among us is at the heart of this issue. It's what pushes US jobs overseas where others can be exploited, forced to work in the only jobs available once the IMF gets done ruining their economic infrastructure. We're only now feeling the pinch that the world has been experiencing. Case in point, this Iraq colonial misadventure has currently run up a bill of 320 billion! That would have been enough to fortify Social Security (which again, all those "illegals" have contributed some $7 billion to), give free healthcare, create millions of jobs, fund *all* the nation's schools and more. Whilst we bicker about "illegals," $200 million a *day* goes to the Iraqi mishap---that's $6 billion a month, to White House tied contractors like Halliburton and the shadow army Blackwater!

$6 BILLION A MONTH! THAT'S OUR MONEY THEY'RE STEALING!

And we're sitting here grumbling about some poor family barely making it and picking grapes that we greedily consume without care until we see that family in the local emergency room? We're not even demanding to know why the head of Exxon (after his leaving bonus) will have made $144,000 *a day* in salary while there are homeless and struggling and working poor in our streets? We're not even demanding *better* paying jobs! Or *better* education for job training? Instead we're demanding that "illegals" step aside so WE can bend over the barrell and show that we can take it like pros?

Ironically it's the undocumented workers who are now waging the fight WE should be waging, should have been waging. They're saying, "make us legal so you can't exploit us like you've been doing for the last 20 yrs." They're saying, "We want better job security and rights and more pay." And in the meantime, we're angry at THEM? Has everyone lost their friggin minds!? Did Martin Luther King Jr. not die in the midst of leadig a POOR PEOPLE'S march? Have we become so blinded by our individualistic consumerism that we can't see who's screwin' us in the dark?

To the Ted Hayes of the world, as long as we decide to pick fights with the exploited rather than tackle that 800 lb gorilla of untamed global capitalism that is sitting on all our chests, then some form of near slavery is exactly where we'll all be. And if we're all so foolish--black, brown, red, white, yellow and all else--to fall for this divisive trick again, to squabble for crumbs in a proverbial race to the bottom, while the powerful continue to rape us and then offer false hugs, then maybe...sadly...we all deserve our miserable lot.

Happy May Day.


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