Illegal Immigration and Complacent Black America

April 10, 2006

I guess at some point I have to speak about illegal immigration. It is amazing what the government has done to allow for this crisis to become so pronounced. The argument is similar to the argument I made in my prior article on how the government made racial tensions worse post-Katrina. Leaving that argument to others, let me add my two cents to the illegal immigration issue, with a slight addition to what this means for Black people in America.

First of all, all immigrants here, legal or otherwise, Mexican or Mauritanian, need to make their voices heard. Any group of people who work near the bottom of society should not allow themselves to be trampled on and kept in their “place” serving wealthy people and corporations. Furthermore, people who are anti-illegal immigrants should not be protesting the government (against the immigrants). Rather, they should be protesting the companies, small and large, who hire illegal workers. As Lou Dobbs said, “It’s not that illegal immigrants do jobs that Americans won’t do. They do jobs that businesses will not pay Americans a decent wage to do”. It makes no sense for protesters who are anti-illegal immigration to leave their protests only to go shopping for their flat-screen TV at WalMart, for example. This perpetuates the cycle.

Yes, many illegal immigrants will do certain jobs at lower prices, but it does not mean they deserve to be treated like garbage. In that particular sense, there are similarities to the Black experience in America. With all due respect, however the buck stops there. It is quite sickening to see every group from homosexuals and marriage to illegal immigrants comparing their struggles to the Black experience in America. First of all, of course there are Black homosexuals and there are Black illegal immigrants and their experiences are real and valid, as are the fight for all oppressed groups for rights. The fight for gay rights and this illegal immigration legislation are real fights that deserve attention. But we cannot sit idly by while every group compares their circumstance to the Black experience while Blacks have never received real recognition in the form of, say, reparations.

How can someone in a protest for immigrant rights from Mexico say “we built this country!”? It can be said because the Black experience in America has been ignored and only resurfaces when the oppressed group du jour needs a cause to relate to and it is always the Black struggle in America. I never hear anyone say their plight is similar to Japanese or Jewish concentration camps in World War II. No one even compares their plight to that of Native Americans (no one can in all honesty) or the fight for the rights of women to vote. So why are Blacks the group that gets paraded across the news? Because Black people let their story get pimped in ways that no BET Uncut video could ever demonstrate.

When I watch the protests across the country and see middle school students protesting (on weekends as well, proving that they don’t just want to get out of class), I ask myself: what could the United States threaten to do to Blacks that would lead us to rally on this level? The only issue I could think of is if the government threatened to put all Blacks into (physical) slavery once again. But in all reality, the way Black Americans are so disenfranchised mentally, the threat of re-enslavement, would probably lead to more Blacks scrambling to save themselves since so many Blacks have adopted the capitalistic mentality of “get yours”. Now, some may say that Hurricane Katrina and the response from it by many Blacks proves otherwise. I would say, however, that there is a difference in the singer Usher, for example, giving refuge and clothing to homeless Katrina victims, and Usher and his Black financial peers being threatened with losing everything they have as well. I wonder: would Black Americans even sell each other if it meant saving themselves? Is that too far-reaching? Is there a precedent?

I could be wrong, but please prove it to me. I am not speaking of the great Black mighty race that fought against slavery and fought successfully for civil rights. I’m speaking of the current crop of Blacks in America. As radio host Michael Baisden asked: “Do we really have a common cause anymore?” Most people I heard call his show said “no” or were silent. We’re silent while every other group exploits our history for their personal gain. I wonder how many illegal immigrants or any other American would be protesting with us if we were out protesting for a particular cause in 2006 such as the portrayal of Blacks in the media or the racist policies that allow for Haitian immigrants to be treated differently from Mexican immigrants.

We have come a far way from the days where Whites, Latinos, Jews, and others, marched with Dr. King for civil rights. We are now in a generation where Jewish people will wage their own war to have terms like “kike” removed from the dictionary. Black Americans are still fighting unsuccessfully—and alone—to remove terms like “nigga” from the dictionary. The illegal alien war will predominately be fought by Latinos with little input from other groups, like immigrants from India, for example.

At the end of the day, Blacks, who are now the second largest “minority” in America, are being reduced to a black mark on history’s white board. We are history’s great contradiction. We are demonized for affirmative action, though White women have benefited more than any other group from it (actually, White men created their own affirmative action policies starting with Columbus so they’ve really benefited more than anyone). We are demonized for the negative images portrayed in music, yet no campaign since the late C. Delores Tucker’s anti hip-hop campaign has successfully challenged the distribution companies who put out much of the vile music. We watch the government laud the decrease in unemployment rates, yet unemployment increases for Black men. We read statistics on the reduction of nearly every disease in America, though we still suffer disproportionately from every disease except skin cancer. Lastly, our struggles are compared to the struggles of illegal immigrants, though the descendants of African Americans did not come here by choice, as many illegal immigrants do.

At the end of the day, Black America needs to wake up. We are the first to align with the causes of other groups in order to show we are not racist. Would protesters for illegal immigrant citizenship protest for better job opportunities for Black men? This battle for immigration rights should make every Black in America, on every side of the debate, sit back and really think about their place in this country. Our “place” is crystal clear in the minds of almost everyone else—there is no longer a place for us if we continue on our course of complacency, which manifests itself in many ways, the least of which is voting (a vote democrats no longer need since we’re “minority #2). As Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu said ten years ago: “America is deciding what to do with a people it no longer needs.” The government and corporate America is now showing us they don’t need our labor anymore, what will “we” do now?

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