Honkie America Redux- The Plight of the Latino Immigrant

Racism in the age of political correctness

It is no longer fashionable to be openly racist in the American middle class. Blatant racist snobbery is still acceptable across the linen table cloths of the rich, and it is all too common in the shops and on the factory floors where the working class performs its labors. But the middle class, we are led to believe, has risen above all that.

People of African ancestry are now called “black” or “African American” and it is forbidden by law to discriminate in any transaction on the basis of color. Yes, all has been set right in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Warming to the subject of their newfound colorblind good-heartedness, the khaki clad enforcers for the rich, the middle class- the supervisors, police sergeants, and personnel managers- will even go so far as to evoke the civil rights struggles of the 60’s. “If I had been around/grownup back then, I would have been on the black’s side. But times have changed, you know, and its time to move on…” Or perhaps, “Now I’ll admit I was slow coming around back then, but you know, if anything like that ever happened again, I would be dead-on against ‘racism’ (read: discrimination and using hateful racist epithets).”

There are problems with this little formulation of life in America, and I am not referring just to its revisionist history. The bigger problem lies in its depiction of the present: it’s all a bunch of goddamn lies. The modern American middle class is every bit as racist as that which the Black Panthers bravely struggled against. Honkie America lives on.

Now, I could illustrate this point by showing how wholly inadequate the quick fixes of swearing off epithets and outlawing discrimination, really are. I could show that laws against discrimination hardly end discrimination, to begin with. And I could further show that discrimination in jobs and real estate are only the tip of the iceberg, the most visible symptoms of an economic subjugation that is systemic, economic in nature, and hardly responsive to the decrees of legislatures.

But this is old news. That the “civil rights movement of the 60’s” has been sold out by politicians both black and white, a noble history of struggle reduced to a cheap reformist dogma embodied by support for candidates of the Democratic Party… this is not news. This is an important story, but it is a half century old, and beginning to smell in keeping with its age.

The Latino “invasion”, and its reaction

The story of the hour is the Latinos. The political hot-button issue of the day is “immigration reform”. “Everyone” agrees that immigration reform is in order. That is to say, “everyone” as represented by the white American middle class, the demographic that dominates American political conversations, and in so doing shows that it is as racist as it ever was. For what is the fret and worry sweeping the nation over “immigration”, but the latest clothing, the politically correct manifestation, the new façade of our old enemy, the racist-pig bourgeois white American middle class?

Don’t be fooled when you hear someone say that they are just concerned about “American jobs.” The American labor unions, the Nativists and Free Soilers of the north were just concerned about jobs for “real Americans” when they turned their backs on the (black) fellow workers to the south during Reconstruction. It was racism then, and it is racism now.

Don’t be fooled when someone says that they don’t have anything against the immigrants, they just think that losing control of our borders undermines respect for the rule of law. “I don’t mind the Mexicans, I just think they should have to obey the rules like us citizens do.” The southern American slave owners of the nineteenth century hid their brutal crimes against humanity behind legalistic arguments over property rights. At one time, protection for the institution of slavery was enshrined in the law of the land, the Constitution. It was racist bigotry then, and it is racist bigotry now.

Chattel slavery lives on

Perhaps the reader will find my comparison of the immigrants of today, with the African chattel slaves of the past to be over-the-top. Perhaps it seems to be just a bit overstated, a bit much. Consider, then, the recent case of Blake Pendergrass and Francisco Heredia, organizers for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in that union’s efforts to win representation for the cucumber pickers in the fields of eastern North Carolina. These two men were arrested and charged with trespassing for visiting some farm workers in their (company owned) housing.

Now, the courts in NC have already ruled that farm workers in company housing have a tenant relationship with their employer. So it is reasonable to expect that the charges will be thrown out, although it is just as reasonable to assume that no retribution will be doled out to the arrogant bosses who filed the charges, or their stooges in the Nash County sheriff’s department who acted on their (illegal) requests. Nor may we expect to see Blake and Francisco receive any reparations for the treatment they received.

For our purposes, though, what is more important than the legal disposition of this case, is the mindset of the bosses that it reveals. They think they own these people. Nothing else explains it. No “free” worker in America, no wage worker- for all the wrongs and injustices and exploitation that is rained down upon his head- would expect for a minute to receive such treatment, to have guests arrested for trespassing because they were visiting his living quarters at his invitation, but the boss didn’t want them to.

And no, this did not take place on “company time”, those hours of the day when it is accepted that the boss owns the worker. Blake and Francisco were arrested for visiting the workers during their precious few hours of after-work leisure. White American citizens belong to the boss, heart and soul, while they are on the clock, but they at least get to stumble home and narcotize themselves with television in relative isolation from the boss. Not so for the Latino immigrant, whose boss obviously considers himself master of his every waking moment.

No, to compare the plight of today’s Latino immigrant worker to that of the African slave, or at least to that of blacks in the Jim Crow South at the mercy of the notorious and racist “black codes’, is no stretch.

American racism is alive and well. The reports of its death have been premature.

prole cat

(First published in issue #2 of The Dawn, an anarchist communist newspaper from Oakland, California, on August, 2004.)