An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles

August 2, 2010

What Does an Illegal Immigrant Look Like?

The other day, I was out drinking with some friends, when some regrettable dude decided to hit on my friend Lauren. Between his fumbling attempts to tell her she must want to hear she looks younger than she is, being too drunk to realize she was brutally mocking him, and some crash-and-burn I’ll get to in a sec, it was bad. I have never seen anyone try so hard to impress another human, and come away looking so dramatically unfuckable. I’m surprised she didn’t brand ‘Douchebag’ into his forehead to keep other people from hooking up wit him. Seriously.

The nail in the coffin was when he decided to fill a lull in the conversation by asking what everyone thought of the then-new Arizona SB 1070. When faced with a unanimous angry face, dude perked up. ‘Y’know’ he said ‘I think it’s great.’ We were then treated to a looooong diatribe about how, since the law prohibits racial profiling, obviously the cops would never racially profile. Instead, they will just use their immigration-status-sensing superpowers to ‘just know what they [undocumented immigrants] look like.’

Now, a good chunk of my family is Scandinavian–my uncle, some cousins, and a few people of more convoluted relationship to me immigrated to the US from one of the more glacial, fjord-laden parts of the world. My uncle lives in a small Appalachian town where most of his friends don’t even try to pronounce his name correctly. He has a Sweedish Chef-meets-Arnold Schwarzenegger accent, wears black socks with birkenstocks, and greeted the rumors that Obama would socialize medicine with a smug ‘About time, ya?’ Dude is clearly not from around those parts.

But no one ever questions his right to be in the US.

People sometimes think my uncle is a tourist. They ask him how long he’s been in the US, how he likes it here, and so on. But they don’t think of him as an immigrant, his blue-eyed face isn’t the one people have in mind when they say we need a ‘solution’ for immigration. He’s just some guy who happens to be from somewhere else originally. I doubt it ever occurs to anyone that he could possibly be undocumented, even though the difference is a paperwork slip away. Strangers never harass him for his documents or ask what he’s doing here. When he gets a speeding ticket,  goes to the hospital, or waits outside while his wife goes to vote, his immigration status never comes up. No one ever questions his right to be in this country.

I told this whole rambling story to Mt Strikeout.  How I’m sure that whole side of my family could run every stoplight in Arizona without a single cop pulling them over and drawling ‘Y’all are awful sunburned to be from around here. You got your green cards?’ About how no one ever asks to see my uncles papers even though he’s so clearly an immigrant.

‘Sure,’ he said triumphantly, ‘But does he look like an illegal immigrant?’

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July 29, 2010

Never Saw it Coming

I was reading this editorial about the Shirley Sherrod debacle at the Nation by Melissa Harris Lacewell, when a little thought crossed my mind. Breitbart* must have assumed, on some level, that this would work. Riding high from his attacks on ACORN, and having suffered little blowback when his minions tried to tap a freaking Senator’s phone, I doubt he expected his frame-up of an obscure Obama administration official to backfire. There are a lot of variables there, most of which he correctly calculated–that the administration would react out of fear immediately (see Van Jones), that the media would give him press. There were only a few places where things didn’t go as expected: Sherrod stood up for herself rather than back away quietly, and the family she was accused of discriminating against stood up for her.

A lot has already been said about this whole thing, more completely and eloquently than I can say it. But reading Harris-Lacewell’s article, one thing stands out. Brietbart must have assumed that the poor white family in question, the Spooners,  wouldn’t come forward. That either they were redneck Georgia nobodies who wouldn’t notice they were being used in a blogospheric/inside-the-beltway scandal, or that they would stay silent if they did. What he did not anticipate was that they’d put their human decency and friendship with Sherrod ahead of racial loyalty, and call up CNN to tell the nearest reporter what was what.

In the Teabagger Mythos, it’s basically unthinkable that anyone with such impeccable Real Americans ™ credentials as the Spooners (Farmers? Check. White? Check. From an especially Real American state? Check. And so on)  would have a 20 year friendship with a federal official. It’s impossible that they would regard a woman of color who had any sort of power over them with anything but the rankest contempt, no matter how she used that power–even if it was to save their asses in a time of crisis.

Now, I don’t think they deserve endless reams of praise for this. I doubt there was any risk for them in doing so. And between Brietbart’s outright lying and everything Sherrod had done for them, it’s more like they would have been horrible people for not stepping forward. And it’s not fair that their word should carry so much weight, above Sherrod’s own, and even when the unedited video of her actual remarks is readily available.

But I will say this: When poor white farmers in Georgia build relationships with their black neighbors, and when they put defending those friends ahead of letting some white guy across the country exploit them for political gain, the conservative movement in America will be fucked. I dare say they never saw it coming.

*I am assuming Brietbart intentionally posted an edited video to attack Sherrod. The subtext, of course, insinuated that under the Obama administration the USDA would discriminate against white farmers, when in fact the USDA has a long history of discrimination against farmers of color, and moreover Sherrod was working for an independent group when she helped the Spooners find the bankruptcy lawyer who helped them keep their farm.

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July 19, 2010

Mini-post: Anonymous Racists try to get Utah to do Their Vigilanty-ing for Them

I haven’t seen this much anywhere else, but this is fucking terrifying. An anonymous group of people in Utah sent out a list of the names, addresses, social security numbers, workplaces, phone numbers, children’s names and due dates (of pregnant women) they feel should be ‘immediately deported’ to Immigration, Enforcement and Customs (ICE) and media outlets. Their targets are 1,300 Latinos, who they claim are all undocumented. But unsurprisingly, that much isn’t even true–several of the people who have found out they were on the list have come forward to make it clear the group’s claims of careful data thieving are bullshit.

Colorlines magazine speculates that the information may have been stolen from (or rather, by people with access to) state health and/or employment agencies. They say Utah officials are investigating who might have stolen these people’s identity info, but ICE wouldn’t comment as to whether they intended to target the people on the list or not.

What. The. Fuck.

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