Sunday, February 7, 2010

Politically Correct Politics, cont.: Immigration

I’m not sure if the term“illegal aliens” is offensive.  I think the term “illegals” sure is. It seems to illustrate nicely the view that the crime of being here illegally is something warranting an objectification of one’s humanity. We obviously don’t have names for people who jay-walk, owe back taxes, etc.

The arguments for the social/economic costs of illegal immigration are objectively zero-sum, at least enough in my mind to see it as little more than a nuisance, yet one that deteriorates rapidly into folks displaying nativist racism of the oldest and ugliest sort. Of course this is never admitted, as it is most likely located in the unconscious, an area of the racism spectrum most difficult to identify and describe. But high levels of correlation between behaviors of admitted racists and immigrant-bashers provides a good deal of evidence for its expression.

Historically racism wasn't even considered impolite, so the modern attempts to excuse or justify it behind economic argument seems novel.  Although ironically, it makes grabbing the tiger by the tail that much more difficult as honesty about one's racism has now become taboo.

The difficulty with race seems often that the very people most inclined to hold racist views are those least familiar with the social theory behind its growth. The mechanisms for the expression of “hate” are largely still difficult to pin down – genetic predispositions vs. social normative behavior. But at the very least we have amassed an incredible amount of data on racism throughout history, especially that of the American experience and minority groups.

But when one brings up the possibility of racist expression occurring conservatives get very defensive and respond in a way that makes one wonder just how familiar they are with the area of study.  This makes sense given the likelihood that being informed about the debate might temper one's racism.  But at the same time conservatives are less likely to pursue the sort of self-reflective analysis that is required in a any real study of the issue.

A recent issue of The Week published an excerpt from Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs That (Most) Americans Won’t Do , by Gabriel Thompson.

The surprise is that when I return on Monday, feeling recuperated, I wind up having the hardest day of my brief career in lettuce. Within hours, my hands feel weaker than ever. By quitting time—some 10 hours after our day started—I feel like I’m going to vomit from exhaustion. A theory forms in my mind. Early in the season—say, after the first week—a farmworker’s body get thoroughly broken down. Back, legs, and arms grow sore, hands and feet swell up. A tolerance for the pain is developed, though, and two-day weekends provide just enough time for the body to recover from the trauma. My four-day break had been too long; my body actually began to recuperate, and it wanted more time to continue. Instead, it was thrown right back into the mix and rebelled. Only on my second day back did my body recover that middle ground. “I don’t think the soreness goes away,” I say to Manuel and two other co-workers one day. “You just forget what it’s like not to be sore.” Manuel, who’s 37, considers this. “That’s true, that’s true,” he says. “It always takes a few weeks at the end of the year to get back to normal, to recover.”

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