Are African Americans Missing the Point on Immigration

By Eric Ward

I don’t know about you, but one of the ways that a movie can become one of my all time favorites is by having a great line. The Usual Suspects is one of those movies. Most people like the film because of its incredible acting and one of the best plot twists of all time. I’m not one of those people; I love the film because of one simple line. That point in the film where Kevin Spacey who plays the role of Verbal Kent, who is under interrogation as law enforcement, explains the power of the criminal master mind Keyser Soze by simply stating that “[t]he greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.” I like that line and now I’m going to plagiarize Verbal Kent.

The greatest trick that the anti-immigrant movement has played on African Americans is convincing us that the anti-immigrant movement is no threat to us. I beg to differ. In fact I would like to make a modest proposal to Black America. That proposal is this: I believe that if there were not one immigrant or refugee in the United States we would still have an anti-immigrant movement. Why? Because the current so-called debate on immigration is not about coming to terms with the issue of migration; it is about who is an American and what will American look like. At its core anti-immigration is a national debate about civil rights, citizenship and national identity.

Beneath the irresponsible roar of Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly and other radio wannabes lays the underbelly of this so called anti-immigrant movement. It is a layer that they hope that African Americans don’t see. In fact, they are so worried that the key anti-immigrant organization - Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) - has created two front groups in an attempt to distract African Americans. The two groups are Choose Black America and the Coalition for the Future American Worker. Both “organizations” are staffed and/or received support by FAIR. While FAIR says that it cares about the welfare of Black Americans it has never used any of its resources to support one single piece of legislation seeking to lessen the economic plight of Black America. It has never returned the 1.2 million dollars that it has received from the anti-black Pioneer Fund, and refuses to hold accountable board members and staff that align themselves with individuals and organizations with ties to political extremists, including white nationalists.

Meanwhile, while lulling African Americans to sleep with Federation for American Immigration Reform and its constellation of organizations, they have systematically dismantled voting rights at the state level, supported armed vigilantes targeting brown skin people and are now in the mist of seeking to destroy the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. By using the racist term “anchor baby”, members of Congress, who are part of another FAIR front group called the House Immigration Reform Caucus, they were able to introduce into the present House of Representatives H.R. 1940. Sponsored by 103 Congressional Members, passage and implementation of H.R. 1940 would require eviscerating the 14th Amendment, a question of insurmountable import to black people who citizens’ rights have been historically guaranteed by this constitutional amendment.

While the debate on American identity is occurring on the backs of immigrants, I think it’s time that African Americans come to terms with the fact that an old enemy is undercutting the gains of the civil rights movement. The first step in fighting back is admitting that the anti-immigrant movement just might be the modern day face of white nationalism. Of course some of us will continue to believe the lies of FAIR, but that’s nothing new. The devil has always been able to buy souls on the cheap, apparently even ours.

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By Jill G.

During the first three decades of the 1900s their was an intense ecological movement in Germany. It was a movement of youth that promoted a return to the land and opposed industrialization's damage to the earth. They were called Wandervögel or in English "wandering free spirits". They practiced and idealized a lot of the same things as modern day environmentalists. But what ultimately became of this movement would horrify most of today's environmental activists.

Most of these nature-loving youngsters became Nazis. Yes, Nazis. The Nazi Party successfully recruited them by exploiting their message of benign 'Earth purity' into that of a murderous 'human purification'. Thus the 'Green Wing' of the Nazi Party was born and became one of the driving influences to the holocaust.

What does this mean for today's ecological movement? Does this mean that ecology and fascism go hand-in-hand? Definitely not, but it does means that we are vulnerable.

How do we make sure that people seeking social and ecological change are never exploited again?

One way is to recognize that healthy, earth-sustaining activities are a privilege and ensure that whatever cause we as individuals choose to support, whether it be animal rights, organic farming or nature preservation, we always keep the well-being of our fellow humans central to our work.

Signs that your environmental interests are being hijacked by a fascist:

1. You're encouraged by your local PETA supporter to be more concerned for the welfare of farm animals than that of the poor people who care for them.

2. Someone you know repeatedly implies that immigrants are bad for the environment.

3. Your neighbor annoyingly monitors everything you put in the recycling bin, but evades conversations on corporate waste.

4. You find yourself sympathizing with Hollywood celebrities (especially young, blond ones) who confront poor villagers over their life-sustaining hunting practices and then fly back to L.A. in gas guzzling private jets.

What to do:

1. Step away from the haters!

2. Remember that immigrants plant, pick and slaughter most of the food in this country. The better they are treated, the better they will treat your food.

3. Celebrities may be pretty, but they usually aren't so bright. Don't trust them to give you sound advice on urgent environmental issues.

4. Whole Foods may talk a good game, but it's still a corporation and only accessible by the super-rich. If you support local growers that make themselves available to everyday people, then you increase the chance that everyday people will have access to organic food.

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Can the American Economy Recover?

By Sarah Viets

While McCain and Obama hone in on their battle for the American presidency, both candidates’ economic plan becomes more similar or bipolar – depending who they’re speaking to and if they’re in Ohio or California. The sad part is that the majority of American voters don’t believe either candidate has what it takes to heal the American economy, according to a new national poll posted in the Washington Post.

So what’s the problem? Have American voters lost faith in American politicians, or do Ohioans and Californians believe that the problems with the American economy are too big to fix?

The American economy has drastically changed over the last 40 years. Americans hardly produce tangible goods, like TV’s, refrigerators, and clothes anymore. Instead, the majority of people produce a “service.” Workers guide lost soul down the aisles, stock shelves and ring up registers at big box stores, like Target, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot.

But did it have to change? Why did American businesses take their shops overseas instead of relying on Americans to build household products and the clothes on our backs?

Companies realized that if they could sell TVs, clothes, shoes, and bikes at a lower cost, they could increase their sells. In other words, more people could afford more stuff if they lowered their prices. (Which is why more Americans can afford to buy TVs today than 50 years ago.)

So what happen? American businesses decided to move overseas so they could decrease how much it cost to build TVs, clothes, computers, pencils, or furniture. They decided to move their companies off American soil so they could pay workers less than they paid American workers. Why? Lower wages means cheaper price tags. Why else do you think American made products are so expensive.

And let’s not forget, businesses around the world compete against each other. They compete for peoples’ money. Therefore, American companies have to compete with foreign businesses in order to succeed. They must produce cars, TVs, pencils, clothes and computers cheaper than China, Germany, Brazil, and India in order to thrive.

That’s a fact, that’s the way economies around the world have operated for more than 200 years. Bi-weekly and monthly paychecks - along with the materials needed, like glass, plastic, or metal to make the things people buy – dictate the price tags shining on new refrigerators, sofas, houses, and bikes. (Along with the ole supply and demand theory, but I’ll save that topic for another time.)

So what’s the problem? American businesses are having trouble competing against foreign businesses, it’s that simple.

So when you hear Obama or McCain talking about giving American businesses tax breaks, it’s because they’re trying to help American companies compete against Chinese or Indian business. But every time they do, every time they give businesses tax breaks and forget to increase wages, each candidate indirectly supports lowering American wages. But if they don’t, American companies will continue to loose their competitive edge, unemployment will drastically increase and monthly grocery bills will jump higher than they are today. Why else do you think prices are increasing?

(And no it’s not just the price of oil. Sorry anti-war folks, oil isn’t the answer for everything. The world is more complex than you think.)

So have Americans completely lost faith in politicians or are people losing faith in how we do business?

Maybe Americans are beginning to see the writing on the wall and their tired of being taken advantage of. Maybe Americans are asking Obama and McCain to create a new way of doing business. Maybe voters are asking each candidate to use their power as one of the world leaders and create something new.

It’s too bad Obama and McCain aren’t listening.

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Four Seasons of a Changing Perspective

By Nicole Hallengrogg

Used to breath
Like open door springtime
On canopy days
When the sun gathered
On rooftops of parasol

Used to drop like tomatoes
On dead summer days
When all the life
We had left to find
Was in the fruit.

Used to rush like Autumn
On train track dusks
When footprints
Made puddles
In fragments of leaves
And little hands
Rushed to gather
What's left of the

Used to fill
Like snowdrops
On blue-window
When pieces of ocean
Or sky
Lit eyelashes
And sank
Between Neckline
And skin.

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SPORTS: When its more than just a game

By Joel Ebert

Cubs fans are on a rampage, literally. This week featured two stories of fans taking a baseball game a little too seriously. On June 19, a Chicago White Sox fan was beaten by three Chicago Cubs fans, resulting in the Sox fan losing his right eye. Then on June 30 three Chicago Cubs fans were accused of beating up a Milwaukee Brewers fan. While the circumstances for each case should be looked into, I’d rather like to look into the nature of rivalries themselves. But instead of looking at all rivalries, I would like to focus on one city: New York.

While I spent a few days in New York last week, enjoying both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium (where the N.Y. Mets and Billy Joel frequent), I was intrigued by many things. Before I left to go on my New York trip I explained to many friends and fellow baseball lovers that both Shea and Yankee Stadium are in their final years. Most reacted by saying oh yeah, I know Yankee, but Shea too?

I thought this was kind of odd. It is like the Mets are the odd men left out. I kept this in mind when I attended a game at each stadium. While Yankee Stadium is considerably older (1923) than Shea (1964), I was not really all that surprised with the newer amenities that Shea offered (escalators). Instead I was surprised by the fans in attendance.

Now I’m not going to knock on Yankees fans, but they confuse me. They seem to attend games in droves, like any good team’s fans often do, but they do not seem all that into the game that they are watching. They seem to be more in love with the idea of the Yankees than the actual act of watching the Yankees. Maybe it was the one game that I attended that made it seem like this, but I attended another game last year at Yankee Stadium and I was left with a similar impression. One overzealous fan even swore at an eight year-old child because he was wearing the opposing team’s jersey.

The new Yankee Stadium promises to be state of the art and will include a Hard Rock Café and an upscale steak restaurant. But while the new stadium will be luxurious, it will come at a pretty hefty price. The budget is scheduled to cost $1.3 billion with a portion of the money coming from taxpaying citizens ($450 million to be exact).

The Mets on the other hand seem to be the forgotten crew in New York. Located in Queens, the Mets seem to be more of a working class hero team. Shea Stadium is inconveniently located right next to a junk yard, giving it a gritty feeling.

While I attended two games at Shea (wearing a hat and a t-shirt of the opposing team) I had an overall enjoyable experience. The fans and employees were very friendly. Even after the Mets won a game against my team, I was not taunted for my team’s failure (this normally happens at Wrigley Field).

Fans are one of the more interesting parts of attending a baseball game. If you have annoying fans surrounding you, it can change your whole experience.

While Mets fans may hate Yankees fans for stolen attention and a certain arrogance that can be associated with having a $1.3 billion stadium (and the highest payroll in baseball), I am glad that they (or at least most) are not angered to the point of violence. When fans become more than fans (becoming reckless vigilantes instead) the sport is no longer a sport. These people need to check their team’s and their egos at the door. Baseball fans are supposed to have friendly rivalries; they are not football players – warriors preparing for war.

Next time you attend a game against a rival team, just think about how you would like to be treated. Quick jabs and jokes can be fun on occasion, but when these things turn to violence, there is a bigger loser than just one team.

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Dear Italy, It's Me Again

By Jill G.

Dear Italy,

America here. We need to talk. You're probably sick of hearing from me, but trust me this is for your own good. I heard you went back to Berlusconi. I know you’ve had problems before with letting him back into your life, but I thought that was all over with. This guy is seriously bad news - can't you see he doesn't love you for who you are?! He's as slippery as a snake and you're a fool to trust him.

I know what you’re going to say – I’ve had my problems with men as well. I admit I've made mistakes, but "you know who" is about to be out of my life for good and I think I've finally got someone who really cares. He's showing me all the things I have to be hopeful for, and change is possible. You too can change - I believe in you!

Then there's this business of criminalizing your immigrants, and even your own children. Deep down inside you're warm and loving, and yet you allow yourself to be controlled by fear-mongering men. Don't you know when you allow these things to happen all anyone can see of you is hate? Again, I realize I haven't set the best example, but I'm trying to work out my issues (and boy are they deep). I believe I can do better; we can both do better.

Italy, the truth is, you're breaking my heart. I feel like you're a part of me and I don't want to lose you. Please think about what I've said, only you can prevent more tragedies.



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On Neighbors and Immigration

Guest Blogger: Doug West - click on title to find original post

I was an eyewitness this week to some of the worst aspects of humanity: fear, distrust, defensiveness. It was a single incident that happened behind my neighbor’s house. Running behind the houses on my street is a walking trail that weaves through some woods and along a creek and a small lake. Several children, including my 3 sons, were playing at the edge of those woods, checking out the creek, throwing rocks in the water – typical kid stuff. I was in the backyard when I heard my neighbor, let’s call her ‘Liz’, talking to someone, in a tone of voice that clearly suggested she was annoyed or angry:

“Hey you – can I help you?…………Hello? What are you doing?......Leave………excuse me...GO!”

As she was saying this I looked up to see who she was talking to and saw a landscape worker, dirty, sweaty, his weed-whacker resting over his shoulder, standing just on the other side of her fence. He was standing there looking at the children, just watching what they were doing. I could see he was Hispanic and he turned his head to acknowledge her but then just smiled and turned his head away, not moving on like she wanted. I think this clearly upset her all the more as she got louder with each new question or command she issued, thinking he was purposefully ignoring or disregarding her.

With a glance at the scene outside her fence, she had immediately turned to fear, distrust and defensiveness. Her words, tone and body language were conveying “You aren’t welcome here, I don’t trust you, what the heck do you think you are doing just standing there looking at the children?, and you better get out now.” Without a single word of dialog, the man was assumed to be, at best, an uninvited, unwanted person in the community and at worst, a dangerous threat. Because he was an immigrant, a laborer, he was most likely a criminal with ill intent. If he had been a white man dressed like an executive in a pressed business suit, I am certain he wouldn’t have received the same response – at the very least not in the same dismissive tone.

I can’t tell you how glad I am that I am somewhat conversational in Spanish. I could clearly see that he didn’t understand her so I walked over to help out. José Antonio Rio is part of the landscape crew that cuts the grass and does all the landscape work on the common areas in the neighborhood. He was easily 50-60 years old, had a warm, gentle smile and had been working a full day already, with dirt and bits of grass plastered to the front of his jeans. He’s from El Salvador and told me about how bad it had been there during the war, when so many women and children were slaughtered. He is a grandfather and was quick to point out that the grass around the rocks in the drain water ditch was getting too high and was dangerous for the little children who would trip if they couldn’t see where to step. He had been busting his tail keeping our community looking nice and was just taking a break before finishing his work (cutting the grass around those rocks) and meeting up with the rest of the crew. What a thank you.

To end the story, the three of us ended up having great conversation. When Liz found out he had a reason for being there and stopped assuming he was a threat to her property, herself or her child, you could tell she felt horrible at the way she had been talking to him. She even went up to the house and got José a cold cup of water and offered to do the same every time he came through.

Now, to her defense, Liz is a widowed single mom, new to the neighborhood, with a 9-year-old son. I am sure her life experiences and circumstances have encouraged or taught her to be protective. I’m not trying to condemn her at all. I’ve seen prejudice in different forms in my own heart at times, as much as I hate to admit it. It just showed me a glimpse of how hateful or distrustful we can be toward others – particularly whole groups of people who are ‘different’ than us, whether in culture or class.

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