The “Border Beat” (June 11, 2008)

Now that the Democratic nominee question is settled, there seems to be a hush in the news world. So much attention had been focused on the rivalry between Clinton and Obama that it left little room left for the other big stories of late (did anyone see “The Daily Show” last night on the weak coverage of the recent Senate Intelligence Report-Number Two?).  Alas, the news continues, much like the struggle for justice! (I know, too dramatic.)

The “Border Beat” is knocking on your door:

  • The New York Times shows why their the best in journalism with this in-depth and layered report on recent immigration struggles in the South and Midwest;
  • The recent murder of a Salvadoran shopkeeper remains unsolved and witnesses may not be coming forward out of fear of deportation (Washington Post);
  • Recent events in El Paso serve as a reminder that the issues on “the border” are far more complex than a failed federal immigration policy–they include a failed federal drug policy, too (Houston Chronicle);
  • Oklahoma’s injunction (previously featured on this blog) reveals a true bright side–the evolution of mid-Western, Latino political organizations (KSWO-TV);
  • Barack Obama and John McCain are both headed to San Diego to speak at the National Council of La Raza’s national convention in July (San Diego Union-Tribune).

The first and last stories featured today are a powerful snapshot of the current state of “Latino USA.”  Though it is careful it how it presents the story, the NYT article revolves around the way efforts to “enforce the law” have served as a cover for an anti-Latino racism.  This racism is, generally, nothing new.  It emerges naturally from the historic association between “American” and “white.”  What is particularly interesting about this racism is that it is particularly widespread in parts of the nation that had previously not had any Latino immigrants.  The South and Midwest are the new venue (or the venue again?) for analyzing the gulf between the United States as an ideal and as a reality.

The newness of the influx of immigrants, and their cultural markers, shapes peoples’ racially scripted notions of “their” country.  When Harry Buckles sees and hears brown people speaking Spanish at his Winn Dixie, he associates it as proof of their non-assimilation (a primary feature of anti-Latino racism).  No matter these people may have been in the U.S. for only a matter of years; no matter statistics show their children will become fluent in English (even them if they arrived in their teens).  To Buckles, this is Latinos being Latinos.  Even worse, it is a sign of a kind of take over (another major feature of anti-Latino racism).  When Buckles expresses concerns with his nation being “overwhelmed” with unassimilable Latinos, he echoes the script he has inhereted from past and living generations of racists (as the Times points out, the brown menace is less then 3% of the local population).

All this comes at the same time as both major party candidates agree to speak at the upcoming national convention of the National Council of La Raza.  This group–which has always struggled, in some sense, for legitimacy–finds themselves the big fish (for lack of any other fish) in a growing political pond.  This is HUGE.  Not only will it increasingly fuel the transformation of NCLR into a major palyer in national politics, but it speaks to a new brand of political necessity–the Latino vote.

What a time to be alive!


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