Suburban Moms Come to the Rescue

Let’s get 2009 off to a nice start, shall we?

From today’s Washington Post comes word of the politically-franchised and powerful, mistaking themselves as the politically marginalized, and then seizing their well-protected political status to get involved.  On the constructive side, no less.

There is a new force in the vehemently anti-immigrant Prince William County, and that force is an SUV filled with stay-at-home moms.  A loose group of engaged women have “gone to the matresses” against local politicians and their xenophobic constituencies by presenting a humanistic and compassionate voice for immigrants rights.  They have a blog, too.  One that gets more daily hits than mine.

For one of the group’s informal leaders, involvement seemed a no brainer.  She is married to an immigrant.

“It was as if they were saying he wasn’t making a contribution or worthy of being here,” she said of the county’s foray into illegal immigration. “It was like saying it was a mistake to allow him to gain legal status and it would be a mistake to do it for this new group.”

Another became involved after hearing her children sing a Prince William County playground rhyme:

“I don’t want to go to Mexico no more. . . . There’s a big, fat guy at the door. . . . If you open it up, he’ll [urinate] on the floor. . . . I don’t want to go to Mexico no more.”

Hmmmm. Sounds like college. Oh please, I kid!

The story is an interesting and significant one.  All the humor and internal contradictions aside, these women are (though they might not know it) THE political force within this nation’s electorate.  If more people did what they are doing then things would be better.

For those who might want to dig a little deeper, it is interesting how gender is at work in both the reporter’s depiction of these women and their own narrative of their rise to power.  For some, this is about protecting the children.  For others, it is about dispelling myths of political inactivity.  As I suggest above, however, this is the political equivalent of being a well-armed and well-trained Marine who thinks they are a pacifist.  They might be amazed at the way they can jump in and kill somebody in three seconds, but should they?

The bigger story within this story is the way these women are beginning to see this issue as a way to form a more politically-engaged kind of life for themselves.  This is a characteristic of the Obama Era in U.S. political culture, to be sure.  But it also speaks to the growing irrelevance of immigration as an issue, for the time being.  An economy in the tank, declining numbers of immigrants, and an assumed change in the policing preactices of ICE with a change in D.C., might spell death for the hopes of human rights activists (like me) to see the passage of meaningful, equitable, and humanistic immigration reform.

White Racism and Immigration

The ways white racism informs the so-called “immigration debate” are multiple, sometimes contradictory, and always complex.  They have as much to do with the ways people define and conceive of “them” as they do with the ways they do the same for themselves–the myriad ways they construct “we.”  Both processes are heavily reliant on the sets of meanings framed by historic processes to be assigned to people based on their “racial group” membership.  Both are processes reliant on “race.”

Thinking about race is not a problem in and of itself.  It is important to remember that even if people think of race in negative ways, that is only a problem for that person’s interpersonal relations.  The danger lies in using these sets of meanings as the rationale for a larger legal, governmental, or economic system.  The problem is when these “ideas” determine who has access to power, wealth, opportunity, and even visibility.

If you want a rich source of examples of the above, check out this post on the Washington Post.  It is a short summary of some of the public web comments posted to a report about the exodus of immigrant families from Prince William County in Virginia, one of the hundreds of locales in the U.S. that has been experimenting with racist (yes, racist) restrictions against “illegal immigrants.”  The inciting report can be found here.

Read these and ask yourself what assumptions about people (who “they” is and who “we” is) inform people’s ideas. about this heated issue.