Immigration in Contempt

All For Naught

Jose 22 Comments

Immigration in Contempt

It bothers me that the children of immigrants can so blatantly show disrespect to present day immigrants.

Let me give a little backdrop. I was in a car once with a group of young women, and one of them said, “I have very strong views on immigration.” I said, “I do, too.” (wink) She went on to talk about immigrants as if they’re that much different from us. Another young lady went on to talk about how they should be made to speak English if they’re going to be part of this country. Naturally, I’m looking at them, and the other young lady present, wondering how anyone could agree to these sentiments knowing the history of this country, and their own families.

For one, this country, the country that people love / fear and want to hold up right next to G_d, is in fact, a country of immigrants. Unfortunately, the indigenous people of this country were ripped and raped off / of their homelands, and had to settle in lands that these new immigrants made for them when they developed a system of colonization from sea to shining sea. And the definition of who was considered “immigrant” and “foreign” changed depending on who these higher-ups wanted coming in the country and who they sought to benefit from.

Nowadays, the descendants of these immigrants, the presidents, land owners, business executives, and billionaires publicly set an agenda of anti-immigration to instill a sense of nationalism in the rest of us. And what’s worse, we’re eating it up, even when many of us are treated like second-class citizens. What’s the difference between the trailer park and the barrio? The hood and the run-down suburb? Believe it or not, not much, but we continue to segregate ourselves because we have a misconstrued view of the class system here.

So, knowing all that, we now see that people who do come to this country, whether by visa or by more clandestine methods, come because they want a better life. When people see the word “immigrant,” they’ve been taught to think “uncouth,” “Mexican,” “tons of kids,” and “Spanish-speaking” by the images on television, newspapers, and their own government. Yet, there’s a group of “illegal” Irish immigrants working off Long Island right now, wishing they were home but thankful for making a little more money than they were back at home. There are Haitians in Miami who are locked into closets and kitchens for days on end like they’re attached to their brooms and pans just because they “have no rights” here in this country.

There are Dominican immigrants, Chinese immigrants, Indian immigrants, and all sorts of people just trying to stay alive in these hard times, but we want to chastise them because they’re trying to make money just like we are. We want them to speak English, when some of us have a hard time with the English language ourselves. We want them to follow the laws of this country when their only “crime” is standing on the so-called hallowed ground you do with a different colored card than we do. We want them to follow our customs, but if we have the nerve to criticize others for the lack of diversity in different arenas. We want them to stop taking our jobs, but too many well-to-do families pick them up from the corner and make them do menial jobs for slave wages. We want them to get the hell out of this country, but when these same well-to-do families have no need for them, they suddenly find la migra busting through their doors and they never find a means of naturalization.

And this is a bigger issue than I can tackle on my own here (though I could keep going, honest), but I think back to my own parents, both immigrants from their respective countries, and how they worked their way to where they’re at now. And more recently, I think of my older brother on my father’s side, who was considered for all intents and purposes a Haitian immigrant. He fought for 10 years to obtain citizenship, which we take for granted, but for him is the difference between a certain and an uncertain future, for the difference between being deported and just getting a ticket or two paid off if anything ever happened to him. When he became a citizen, he was practically in tears, because it was a culmination of all the struggles he’d gone through in this country.

Yet, even people related to him support anti-immigration policies. Thank goodness those opinions can’t be transfused in my blood …

jose, who doesn’t hate people, but has an aversion to half-baked ideas …

p.s. – There’s nothing illegal about any human. Let’s fix that.

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonAll For Naught

Comments 22

  1. The Jaded NYer

    *APPLAUSE*

    I was one of those girls hating on immigrants until I opened my eyes and remembered that HELLO, I’m in the first generation of people of my family born here so I need to chill.

    It’s so easy to forget the past and one’s roots in an effort to assimilate and play on a level field with “them.” And it’s sad, really, to abandon who I am for the sake of assimilation, because in the end, whether born here or not, I will *always* be nothing more than a dirty spic in “their” eyes.

    It’s just a matter of informing the young’uns and letting them see the error of their ways. Even if in the end they are still of the same opinion, at least they would have made an informed decision.

    great post. again.

  2. Twanna /// FUNKY BROWN CHICK

    GREAT post!

    I agree with you wholeheartedly …. except the English-speaking stuff, of course. :)

    I’m left as can be, still, I think it’s a good idea to know the language in use [whether Spanish or English] if you live in the U.S. just like Americans — should they choose to live abroad — should make an effort to learn the language of their host country.

    Being able to read, write and speak and understand the tongue of those around you is for your own benefit, no one else’s … and, I say this as an American who lived abroad over a period of four years (and learned the language while I was there).

  3. Sugarlips

    Good post, Jose. It’s unfortunate how many people are so closed-minded. It goes beyond just the topic of immigration – so many people have issue with “other” people unlike themselves. I couldn’t even begin to count for you the number of times people would speak their racist rhetoric around me, but then in the next sentence talk about how they love my mom’s cooking, and my dad’s accent is “so cool” (my parents came from former Yugoslavia). They don’t have issue with my parents immigrating here (because they never would’ve met me!), but when we talk about immigration as a whole… well, that’s another topic. But see, I’m different. ::sarcasm::. Just this weekend I got mad at my friend who was arguing with a Middle-Eastern rickshaw driver in NYC, yelling at him to “Speak English, we’re in AMERICA!’. She was drunk, so an intelligent conversation was not possible at that moment, but in that statement she managed to offend me, my family, friends, and everyone else who has come to this country in search for better. I have yet to meet someone who has come to this country who hasn’t tried to embrace American culture, language, etc., in some sort of way, attempting to feel they belong. I would bet that the rickshaw driver was doing the best he can, with what he had. The decision to come to another COUNTRY and leave everything you know in HOPES that you can survive there is not something for the meek and meager. Anyway, I too could go on, but I won’t. I’ll stop here before I get heated. Again, good post.

  4. Post
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    Jose

    JadedNYer, I’m with you on that. Much of what we knew was programmed into us by the implicit clues all around us. Let’s work to deprogram shall we?

    Twanna, I’m with you also, except on the English-speaking stuff. It’s interesting how we’re one of the few countries in the world that only speaks one language. Even “third-world” countries speak 2 or more, and they’re usually better equipt for the world than anyone else. I wish we had 2 official languages in this country so we’d have to incorporate a better world view here, feel me? People who travel tend to do better in life in general and tend to be more empathetic to others’ hardships. They also tend to be more … liberal.

    Sugarlips, your experience is typical of first-generation citizens, and even when I look at the kids I teach, they often call each other immigrant and fresh-off-the-boat. It makes me sick.

  5. Hmmmmm

    Thank you for educating me on the subject. I appreciate a different prospective on immigrants. I also agree that every ounce of effort should be focused on learning the native language.

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    Jose

    “Hmmmm,” thanks for dropping by. I agree that we should focus on learning English better …. because even the common citizen doesn’t know how to spell basic words like “their” and “argument.” Secondly, English isn’t the country’s native language: it’s the primary language. There were millions of people here with close to 300 languages being spoken before English came. Hate to be precise like that, but oftentimes when people use the words “native language”, they’re often promoting the idea that we have the most popular language in the world (we’re in 3rd there) or that their language isn’t good enough (Chinese is #1 and Spanish is #2 in the world).

  7. Tracy Rosen

    You address some hot topics for me. I live in a country that is officially bilingual though most people outside of Quebec (excluding some parts of New Brunswick and northern Alberta) do not understand French. I also live in a province where French is the official language and English is technically not allowed on public signs, where we do not have a choice but to send our children to schools in French unless our parents (or older siblings) had been educated in English, in Quebec, where many – if not most – rural citizens of Quebec do not speak English and many – if not most – suburban Anglo Montrealers do not speak French. Oh and where there are Quebecois who are suing the government for unequal access to education because their children are not learning as much English in schools as English children are learning French.

    (Oh, we have 4 types of people – Quebecois (born in Quebec, French mother tongue), Francophones (French mother tongue, not necessarily born in Quebec), Anglophones (English mother tongue), and Allophones (mother tongue other than English or French). ) I am fluently bilingual but am considered an Anglo.

    We have an ‘office de la langue francaise’ – a government office that is in charge of making sure that everyone follows the complicated language laws as outlined in the ‘charter of the French language’

    I teach in a school where our windows have been broken by students at the French school down the street, and I know many of our students would do the same given the chance. I teach in a school that has among its student population – I’m not sure the actual percentage, but it is high – Mohawk students who live on and around neighbouring Kahnawake (but no Mohawk teachers…) and we are expected to teach the Quebec government’s version of the history of Quebec and Canada to them (as well as everyone else…) in order to graduate – a history that has been corrected for me by the parents of some of my students.

    We have public commissions on ‘Reasonable Accommodation’ for immigrants…did I mention those? Take a look here… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reasonable_accommodation

    For whatever reason, people still do like to live in Quebec and Canada ;) I personally love the fact that I live in two languages, that most of our (inner city) schools have something like 2 hundred and some odd ‘mother tongues’ represented (with English being the smallest percentage), that our country’s government recently gave a formal and public apology for the atrocities that were the residential schools, and that there is PLENTY of fodder for conversation and debate in this country.

    But yeah, these are hot topics for me. Language, land, and who has the right to live and speak what, where.

    whew, Jose. Look at what you pulled out of me…

  8. Jeff Wasserman

    Amen, Jose. It’s amazing to me how many children and grandchildren of Italian and Slovak immigrants in my neighborhood hate on the Mexican, Peruvian, and Colombian immigrants (also in my neighborhood). Drives me nuts. I’ve recently started trying to learn more about my family’s immigration and pre-immigration history, and I think that stuff is absolutely fascinating.

    Re: the language in the US, isn’t it weird that we’re a nation WITHOUT an official language, and yet most of us only speak English?

  9. Jonathan

    Thanks, this was good.

    But I would point a finger at those who benefit, those who like us divided, those who could care less about who speaks what, but care more about keeping folks down…

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    Jose

    Tracy, Jeff, and JD, as usual, welcome.

    Tracy, your comment was right on point. How interesting that even just language when everyone is supposedly the same becomes the social signifier for who gets what or doesn’t get what. Well said.

    Jeff, yes it is weird. And that only spells bad news for this country. Not knowing another language was cute last century but the best part about globalization is that now we HAVE to go learn other languages or at least understand other cultures (hate globalization myself, but let’s flip the idea for a bit, huh?)

    JD, the onus is on the owners. I’ll discuss that further on Thursday, but you bring up a good pt. how all the in-fighting leads us to distraction when really, we should be looking at those who control. Hope I said enough in my post about that.

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  12. Tracy Rosen

    Oh, and Jose – it is so much more complicated than ‘just language’. Language has become another layer to a complicated iceberg of racism and anti-Semitism – of intolerance and fear.

    Recent fighting between two schools could be reported as linguistic, even when the N word was flung. In 1995 a Quebec politician blamed the loss (by less than 1%!) of a referendum to separate from the rest of Canada on ‘money and the ethnic vote’ (he resigned soon after that one) – money and ethnic were (almost) acceptable ways of saying non-Quebecois, anglo supporters, (almost) acceptable ways of publicly saying ‘the Jewish vote’.

    Canada is officially bilingual, yet French speaking immigrants do not choose to settle outside of Quebec. Haitians make up the largest percentage of non-European immigrants to Canada, 90% of Haitians are in Quebec.

    Even though a country adopts official bilingual status, without the inner shift of acceptance, it means nothing. Does Canada have more of a right to preach diversity than the US because of its official language status?

  13. brran1

    I’m gonna have to shake your hand for this one, because you hit it on the head.

    My dad immigrated here in the early 70′s from Haiti. His English was horrible (that’s what Ma Dukes says), but he still managed to join the USMC, get a degree in Mathematics, become a building inspector AND father 4 kids (all by american women).

    Why is it that certain Americans feel as if we should lock down the borders of this country simply to keep the “immigrants” or “illegals” from entering? They take the jobs that most Americans are too proud to take, and at the end of the day, I feel they make life easier here for most of us.

    And even though English is our unofficial language, in certain parts of the country that may be accompanied by other languages. For examplein Miami, there are publications, TV/Radio Stations, and other things written in Spanish, Haitian Creole amongst English and other languages. I think the usage of different languages is stressed more on a local scale than a national scale.

  14. Tricia

    Great post. Reminds me of how the same folk (white folk, of course) who love to point to their British, Irish, French, Polish etc. roots from one side of their mouth will spout anti-immigration rhetoric from the other side. Everyone here is the descendant of an immigrant – whether their forbear was forced to come here or not. And while I think that the US has a need for immigration law (which by default would make some people illegal if they don’t migrate in accordance to the law) immigration policies and treatment of illegal aliens (particularly those who make a contribution to this country) is sorely in need of reform!

    As for the official language thing – your most recent comment is on point. It’s definitely a good idea for a recent non-English speaking migrant to learn the language as its predominant but if they’re gonna make English mandatory might as well make Spanish mandatory too, with the way things are going.

  15. Post
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    Jose

    Tracy, I definitely get that it’s not just language, but I was more making the point that even just the way we speak can alter a person’s view of who and how a person is and who gets what, but I’ve also heard of the Canadian racial landscape, and it’s no joke either. Glad you’re taking up the task of teaching there, and understanding how things are over there without being demeaning about it, btw.

    brran1, ah ha! exactly. And sometimes it’s not that they’re too proud to take it; it’s just that the cost of living is such that even if both the mother and father took those jobs at the sub-minimum wages, they couldn’t afford anything but transportation to the jobs again.

    m dot, I hear you clapping, loud n clear.

    Tricia, that’s real. “Official language” is a tricky topic but I’m glad we don’t have an official language so we can have these discussions.

  16. Rox

    Great post!! Thank you for speaking the true on this sensitive topic. I wish we would stop referring to PEOPLE as “illegal” and “aliens.” “There is nothing illegal about being human. Let’s fix that” I totally agree! What will it take for the rest of this country to realize not only that we too are immigrants but that this country is held up by people who have come to the U.S. voluntarily or involuntarily and helped build America to be the great country it is today? This is a frustrating issue.

  17. Tracy Rosen

    Fair enough. Yes, even one element of difference can skew our sense of each other and yet I can’t get past the idea that it is the element(s) of difference that can add to our sense of being together as people.

    I read something today that struck me. I’m going to share it here.
    “I had spoken but I did not feel like many people had listened. I know they did not listen. It did not seem that people wanted to hear what I was saying, it did not seem like most of the people in that room wanted to understand how it was that we are different. This bewildered me, but it did not surprise me. This refusal, this inability to accept difference and respect difference and rejoice in difference is the point at which my anger grows. Equality is really a celebration of difference.” (Patricia Montour-Angus Thunder in My Soul: A Mohawk Woman Speaks p.14)

    That’s what I’m getting at with my talk about how legislation around language can’t make the difference in itself (and we live that reality here). Diversity and equality can only happen with a shift in how we view both of those things.

    shaking em up, waking em up -> that’s what this kind of conversation needs to do ;)

  18. Jackie

    Great post!!! I agree with everything you said. I get into agreements with people about immigration all the time. People just don’t think. They blame the Mexicans (taking our jobs, learn the language, bla bla bla), but that hate and anger was used when their family came here whether it was from Italy, Ireland, etc.

    The worst is my students make fun of each other..calling someone an immigrant. Most of them are either 1st or 2nd generation. I explained to them that we are all immigrants. Our families all came from somewhere else, unless we’re
    Native Americans. It just makes me so upset to see them belittle each other, when their parents came here from another country. It’s sad..

    Anyway, this was an excellent post. I wish more people could see things like this..

  19. Jackie

    *agreements should say ARGUMENTS.. I can’t type at 5am with no sleep :-)

    And about the language..I can’t stand that either. “Learn English..Learn OUR language.” I hear people complain that when they call a place they have to press 1 for English 2 for Spanish. Does it really matter? Who cares? How do you know they aren’t trying to learn English?? And it’s not our official language, so enough already. First, Americans should be focusing on learning to speak/write English themselves, and secondly, Americans should be catching up with the rest of the world and learning a second language. UGH this topic gets me mad.

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