Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Go Back to Your Own Damn Country!"

Mexican Americans subject to policing laws in Arizona
The title of this post, in case you were wondering, is a word-for-word quotation of what a customer from Tennessee once told me when I, working as a call centre operative, informed him that he needed to divulge his password before any discussion of his account could take place. Needless to say, after uttering the most offensive goodbye I've ever heard, he promptly hung up.

Now, while most Americans are more than welcoming to Brits such as myself, there still exists in the United States a pervasive and, some would say, hypocritical, disregard for immigrants in general. This national trend of xenophobia, while thankfully not being embodied by the majority, shows little sign of going away.


Just yesterday, an article was circulated rightly criticizing Tea Party activist Marilyn Davenport for emailing a photoshopped image of President Obama looking like a chimpanzee. Despite promptly defending her actions with the tried and trusted verbatim of "I have friends who are black," one wonders how many of these black "friends" actually received the email. Of course, Davenport is one of those Tea Partiers (and there appear to be many) who still argue that Obama was born in Kenya and, thus, has no legitimate right to the Presidency. This argument, suffice to say, is not supported by the evidence, which consists of a released copy of Obama's certification of live birth and - something that is often overlooked - a newspaper clipping taken from an August 13, 1961 copy of the Honolulu Advertizer announcing his birth. Conversely, no one raises an eyebrow at the fact that white Republican John McCain, himself a 2008 Presidential candidate, was of Irish, Scottish and English descent and was, in fact, born in Panama.

Meanwhile, the growing resentment toward Mexican immigrants, who, like myself, have had to spend thousands of dollars (or, in this case, pesos) on acquiring the required documentation to live and work in the United States, is a worrying problem. Last year, the state of Arizona, which bears a high Mexican population, introduced controversial legislation that would give unprecedented powers to the police to search anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant.

Of course, racial profiling is nothing new. This "defense strategy" has been employed by airport security ever since 9/11 in an effort to target "people that may look like they are of Middle Eastern extraction." Indeed, in the wake of 9/11, several lawsuits were filed against various airlines by Muslims who were refused entry onto a plane on account of the fact that they "made other passengers feel uncomfortable."

Anti-Muslim sentiment has threatened to boil over in recent times. Who could forget the furore over the decision to "build a mosque at Ground Zero" last year and the subsequent, failed plan by Florida pastor Terry Jones to burn the Koran in light of events in lower Manhattan? What is generally forgotten is the fact that the mosque was not a mosque at all, but a recreation centre and was set for construction two blocks away from the site of the tragedy.
Moreover, going largely unnoticed, a successful Koran burning actually took place late last month - overseen by none other than the Reverend Terry Jones himself.

And so, as facts continue to be skewed by both the news and those that gobble it up, mindless, unjustified bigotry would seem to have a place, however unwelcome, in the future of the United States. It is up to us as peace-loving individuals and citizens - not only of a country but of the world - to see through every falsehood, every pejorative term and every stereotype and to judge our fellow humans on what they do and not on what they are.  

Finally, a word of advice to Marilyn Davenport, Terry Jones, that charming man from Tennessee and all those who choose to view this large and diverse country through the medium of a blindfold: no matter who you are, we are all immigrants - our ancestors having traveled here from Europe, Asia and - by force - Africa. The founding fathers - whom you hold so dear - were themselves immigrants and their predecessors illegally so, by today's standards. So next time you run your racist mouth, burn a holy book or angrily tell someone to go back to their own country, just remember the Native American proverb: "It's easy to be brave from a distance."   


American vs. British Politics

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where do you find evidence for the statement that the Mexican immigrants (illegal or legal?) spend thousands of dollars to enter America? They just come across the border. They don't get apply for visas like you.

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