Sunday, October 31, 2010

Something Else To Consider...

Hi all,

I know that I wrote yesterday, but I thought I'd add this to the blog instead of sending out another email to the panlist.

I am bringing this article to your attention, because it points out something I find very interesting: the latino vote. In this case, they are looking at Arizona's famous SB 1070, and we see that while 70% of Latinos are said to oppose the laws... there is still that tricky 30%. And we may wonder to ourselves (or at least, I certainly do) why on earth they could want to oppose it... but the article discusses a husband and wife who don't agree on the topic and each of their sides on the matter.

If you consider the reactions of different floods of immigrants over time, you see something very interesting too. Coming from Boston, I'll use my own city as a prime example. Everyone in Boston knows that for a long long time the Irish migrants (many of whom are still very proud residents of South Boston and call themselves "Southies") and the Italian immigrants (they have spread out more, but they still hold a strong presence in the North End) did not get along at all. This is curious, right? They both came over to the US looking for jobs and faced discrimination from the communities already living in Boston... yet instead of joining together to help, they preferred to be very separate and even discriminatory against each other.

Well, let's look at a time line:
The bulk of the Irish in Boston came over between 1830-50, making up about 1/2 of the total migrants coming to the United States in the 1840s. They came looking to escape the famine, looking for work (and were often denied jobs in the mills of Lowell and other areas in the industries of Massachusetts), lived under squalid conditions... etc.

The Italian population increased significantly after the turn of the century, when they too came looking for jobs and found similar conditions.

What does this space in time mean? What changed to make the Irish and other immigrant groups interested in keeping others out, even when they came from similar backgrounds of suffering?

I dont have the perfect answer, but I have a theory.
When you go through the process of becoming an American and accepting some new customs while leaving some of the old behind, you feel more loyalty to this country than you do to other countries, and maybe even to your own. You find yourself in a community who you relate to, and for you, this is what it means to be American. It doesn't matter that my concept of "American" is extremely different from any of my friends from Los Angeles or Missouri.

So, assuming that the Irishmen in South Boston found themselves integrated into the system, found jobs and suitable lifestyles... they become part of the "us" and the foreigners become part of the "them." Then there was also the threat of more competition for jobs, housing, schools etc. to add another problem into the mix... It is also interesting to see where different immigrant groups voted for more restrictive immigration measures after the periods when their fellow countrymen has stopped coming in such high numbers to the U.S.

Admittedly this is not a perfect comparison: we are now talking about Latinos reacting to other groups of Latinos entering the country. But could the process of assimilation really cause people to support a law that would cause them to be questioned for their racial background whenever they seemed just a little bit too "Mexican?" This then becomes a question of National Identity, and whether or not the US can claim that it has just one national identity... and how do we interpret who is outside of that concept to the point that we as individuals can question their citizenship or loyalty to this country?

The husband says that he defends a system of law and order, which is respectable, but what do you do when laws like the one in Florida that gives migrants from Canada and Europe protection under the law that is denied to people from other countries?

Just some food for thought. This isnt a perfect article, it was just my musings after reading the article. Happy Halloween!

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