Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Perpetual Issue or Managable Memory?

In our first reading in "It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own" by Richard White he states the following concerning migrant laborers during the turn of the twentieth century (and presumably before the 20th century), "The IWW attracted the fierce loyalty of the migratory workers of the West who were in many ways the backbone of the western extractive economy...many were European immigrants...Between jobs, migratory workers were the men who rode the rails looking for work...these men were an alienated and potentially revolutionary segment of the western working class" (White 294).
What interests me in the following passage is that most of the migrants during the twentieth century that were at an economical disadvantage to the skilled-laborers were European--presently, the European migrants have been assimilated. Today the situation is the same for Mexican/Hispanic migrant laborers. They are frequently looking for work. Hungry. Leave their family just to simply make a living. Sacrificing their life for their life; making their bodies subject to unrelenting wrath of unskilled labor. How long will it take for Mexican Immigrants to be assimilated as the Europeans were during the beginning of the twentieth century? What bills have recently been passed? The Arizona Immigration bill (passed in April 2010), according to New York Times journalist Randal C. Archibold, "...would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally...Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status" ("Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration"; link: http://
The first question to put to our conscience is, "Are we okay with this?" The straight conscience will then answer back robustly retorting, "No, this is absolutely wrong to enact." Well then, we put to the conscience, "Is this just a question of relativity--that it is alright for Arizonians to feel this way and we can feel against it, but nobody is right or wrong?" Obviously this is a logical error in reasoning. Leaving the present discourse, I think this is a civil injustice. We cannot go up to every legal American and ask them if they have their legal residency papers to live in the United States. So why can police go up to any Hispanic and ask them for their papers--many of which have been assimilated and are actual legal citizens already? We cannot go around supposing every Hispanic to be an illegal immigrant. Imagine being a legal Hispanic and a police officer came up to you and your family on the way to dinner and made sure you have your legal residency papers? Not only is the person embarrassed because his family is sitting in the background while he shuffles through his wallet to no avail, he is also mainly targeted for his ethic origins. Cannot we rely on employers to make sure that they hire legal workers or atleast that they hire illegal workers only seasonally as the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 proposed? This seems to avert the problem of discrimination against the hispanics that the Arizona bill faces. Either way the Arizona immigration bill is at best discrimination, and at worst, a blatant example of present racial prejudices, racism.

We can see that migrant labor rights are still a problem presently as they were at the turn of the twentieth century as described in the quote at the beginning of this post. What is also apparent is that if these issues have not yet disappeared as a problem to be dealt with, then that means that Bruce "Utah" Phillips had to deal with these same haughtily heated issues in his own day (1935-2008).

What I became aware of in typing this entry is how these issues are important to us as human beings, citizens of the United States, and undergraduate college students. In the Arizona bill it is apparent that people have not learned from the civil rights movement, most importantly some of the legislators of our country who make these bills. Do human rights have to be contested/conceived outside of race again? Need the same issue of human rights be contested again in the case of immigrants; be perpetual or continuous? Or can we manage/keep our "Long Memory" intact as Bruce Phillips suggested, and know intuitively and logically that immigrants are people deserving of our respect. I think that we are able to keep our memory of these issues exercised, and that means that we must be educated. We are being educated now, but how will you choose to live this education? Bruce Phillips lived his priciples in life, as his son Duncan said. May we all be brave enough to see our educated consciousness bring life to the principles that we learn--bring the truth of what we learn to life in the world. Vote. Attend a Protest. Pay attention to legislators and the things for which they stand. These are ways to keep the "Long Memory" intact. Our acts according to our principles concerning the protest of unjust immigration policy, health care, foreign policy, etc. are objective reminders of the power of one, of all.

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