Just finished reading Linda Chavez’s Townhall column from a week ago, in which she asserted that prominent opposition to McCain/Kennedy Immigration bill comes from people who “just don't like Mexicans -- or anyone else from south of the border..."
Outside of Carol Swain, whose opinion on illegal immigration is featured in Thursday's Townhall column composed by La Shawn Barber, black Americans have been strangely silent on this subject and I suspect that I know why. It’s due to the fact that all too many black Americans fall into the alleged %10 of “racists and haters of Mexicans” to whom Ms. Chavez refers in her column. However, that some blacks who oppose the government’s latest illegal immigration proposal may actually be racists and haters of Mexicans matters no more than the reality that some non-black opposition consists of people with the same character deficiency. But what of those who aren’t racists and still oppose the bill (the majority, IMO)? My guess is that people like Chavez—and, sadly, President Bush--do not or cannot believe that such people actually exist. It would force such people to confront the flaws in the logic and feasibility of the proposal, something that isn’t exactly the strong suit of the politician class. As is true for all too many who are confronted with opposition to their opinion, it is easier to demonize.
I wonder what Chavez thinks of Victor Davis Hanson’s Mexifornia : A State of a Becoming. In this book, which is more autobiographical than is his usual fare, Hanson compares and contrasts prior immigration groups to today’s Mexican immigrants:
In a narrow sense, the mass arrival of millions of poor Mexicans is not all that different from the great influx of other groups who were poor and not northern European. We see now some of the same evolutionary signs that appeared in the nineteenth century: one to two generations of poverty and frequent degradation, followed by a generation of middle-class Mexican-Americans intermarrying with other groups and moving into traditional suburbs [sic] (p. 20).More about that observation in a moment. Later on, Hanson addresses the difference—and the problem—with today’s illegal immigrants and those of the days of yore.
[F]or the campesino from Mexico there is little physical amputation from the mother country. In contrast, most other [modern-day] arrivals to California found the trip here a psychological guillotine. Their motherland—the Philippines, China, Japan, Basque Spain, Armenia, the Punjab—was cut clean off and discarded. The traditional homesick immigrant was now barricaded in his new homeland by thousands of miles of ocean, with little hope of return to the Old Country every few months, and thus had to deal with Americans. For the Mexican immigrant, by contrast, the Rio Grande is no ocean, but a trickle easily crossed by a drive over a tiny bridge. A limited visitation, a family reunion—but usually not a permanent return—nourished enough nostalgia for Mexico to war with the creation of a truly American identity (pp.21-22).Thinking black Americans find themselves in a complicated position with respect to illegal immigration. As we know, in contrast to other immigrants to the USA including Mexicans, most African arrivals in America prior to 1863 found themselves here due to a special type of “immigration”; one which was quite legal and under which assimilation to an addled form of American culture was mandatory. But unlike the present flood of Mexican (and other) illegal immigrants, the number of “immigrants” from Africa was finite. When the de facto slave-trade ended--upon the passage of the thirteenth amendment--the number of African “immigrants” trickled down to zero. (As a matter of fact, I can’t find any evidence of subsequent “large”-scale and actual African immigration to American for the next hundred years—when my father and Senator Obama’s father flew here in the late 1950s.)
These “new” Americans had been forcibly severed from nearly everything that had been a part of the “Old Country,” so much so that, few of them knew which Old Country had been theirs, or which language(s) or which cultural practices. As a result, African (slave)-descended Americans are totally and uniquely an American creation. (I’m pretty sure someone observed this long before I did.) Whether it’s bad or good is irrelevant; it simply is. (For the record: American slavery is proof that God can work evil things to the good; I’d certainly rather live in South Central LA than in my father’s Nairobi.)
All other immigrants, both voluntary and involuntary, were forced—sometimes by law, others times by observation, forming premises and coming to reasoned conclusions—to assimilate to their new country in order to take part more fully in the American ideal and after Hanson’s “one or two generations” were allowed to do so with some fits and starts. In the case of African-descended Americans, however, that time span for full assimilation was lengthened to several generations by Jim Crow and similar laws which survived into the nineteen-sixties. Therefore, the present-day Mexican illegal immigration isn’t the only one not characterized by “one to two generations of poverty and frequent degradation followed by a generation of middle-class [fill in the blank]-Americans intermarrying with other groups and moving into traditional suburbs.”
Prior to the 1960s, the large-scale assimilation of African-descended Americans into American society did not exist. The Civil Rights Movement was a sort of Great Awakening for those black Americans who only wanted to take full part as real citizens of this country. (And in my opinion, much of that assimilation process has been further crippled by overkill—continued reliance on the policies of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and their progeny.) Black Americans and other sympathetic Americans merely asked that the laws of land—of liberty, of citizenship and of enfranchisement—be followed.
I am pointing out this ancient history to make this point: if it is nearly universally agreed that the separate-but-“equal” laws under which the most descendants of African slaves lived for one hundred years—separate housing, separate neighborhoods, separate schools, separate public facilities—were wrong and prevented full assimilation of black Americans to American society along with associated upward-mobility and if present-day concessions to black Americans in order to “remedy” this country’s institutional racist past are still hampering full assimilation and upward-mobility of too many of these same group of Americans, then why would anyone believe that the same type of policies for Mexican-descended Americans and Mexican immigrants—legal and otherwise—would be somehow beneficial?
Most of the opposition to the immigration proposal is not racist, but culturalist. Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board acknowledges that fact as if it’s some dirty little secret which allegedly no conservative critic of the immigration proposal wants to discuss; as if all cultures are created equal.
It’s simple. Members of ethnic groups who assimilate to the American way of life--law-abiding, education-centered, innovation-minded--thrive in America; those who aren’t allowed to or won’t, do not. Assimilation does not mean giving up all aspects of one’s heritage/culture (see Korean, Cuban, Vietnamese immigrants and their American offspring); what it does mean is to give up those aspects of that culture which are incompatible with living and thriving here.
Are all aspects of Mexico’s culture incompatible with that of America? Of course not, as has been demonstrated for generations. But if the egregious flaws in the Mexican government, economy, education, society etc. prevent browner Mexicans from becoming educated and skilled and are forcing these uneducated, unskilled Mexicans to flee to the USA for a chance at a better life, then why would we Americans of whatever ethnicity make it easy for them to practice the worst aspects of that culture—the same aspects that caused them to flee in the first place? And why would they want the same aspects for their children?
My God. It’s almost like looking in a cultural mirror.
It’s almost as if our “betters” want most Mexicans/Mexican-descended Americans to remain in the cultural limbo that Hanson describes and which he believes is made easier by not only going too easy illegal immigration, but making concessions to attitudes which keep all Mexican (and other Spanish-speaking) immigrants from taking full part in this society.
Our betters would disregard the tried and true route of assimilation that Europeans, Central Americans, Asians and, yes, present-day Africans have taken to become successful Americans; our betters would adopt policies which manifestly discourage assimilation, just as their forebears kept African-descended Americans in a citizenship and permanent underclass limbo for all those decades. (Some of the Jim Crow apologists would pretend as though they were doing blacks a favor by keeping them in such a state, which makes the rampant, present-day deployment of the ‘racist’ rhetorical IED interesting.)
So what is the underlying feature that keeps too many Mexicans/Mexican-descended Americans from assimilation? It’s that insecure border. Oh we can talk about bilingual education and “press ‘1’ for English” and what to do with the illegal immigrants already here and the Canadian border from now until our doom. And we can howl in outrage in response to our betters when they kick us in the teeth and tell us what ignorant, racist hill-jacks/hood-rats we are. And we can go on defensively about our Mexican-descended American and legal immigrant co-workers, classmates, friends, neighbors and relatives who we love and respect; we can even remind our betters that a good deal of opposition to the illegal immigration proposal comes from Mexican-descended Americans. But until that southern border is secured—and I mean, really secured—all of this rhetoric is just so much jaw-jacking, including mine.
Why is securing the border the key to all other proposed fixes of this problem? Because even if all other fixes are perfectly implemented (as if that has ever happened in any government endeavor), there will still be more and more immigrants leaving the basket case nation-state that is our neighbor to the south—a nation-state whose military and notoriously corrupt police are engaged in battle with—and losing to—drug cartels, to exemplify perfectly Mexico’s dysfunction.
Secure the border and then let’s talk X, Y and Z visas; then let’s even talk amnesty—while calling it what it really is instead of playing the semantic games that proponents of the immigration bill feel the need to play. Otherwise, we’re all wasting our time.