Minority majority

In the midst of an election campaign one of the most significant areas of interested to the general public is that of immigration. My hometown is currently embroiled in a rather (I think) inane controversy stemming from this very issue to make English the official language of city government. Having been vetoed by the former mayor, the intrepid councilman has submitted the measure to the public as an addition to the charter of the city government. It is currently held up in legalities, but I am certain that if it passes the hurdles being thrown up by the election commission and others, it will pass. It is to me extraneous legislation, since the official language of the state of Tennessee is already English, but oh well. The chamber of commerce has come out against it (it’s bad for business and makes us look like hicks) while the hicks themselves are all for it in the mistaken belief perhaps that it will force all the “fer’ners” to learn English or go home. I for one am embarrassed. Illegal immigrants of the brown type seem to be a convenient outlet for all the virulent racial hatred that is no longer publicly acceptable to vent towards Blacks. It is made easier by the fact that they are, well, illegal.

The larger issue of immigration though is one which our society is being confronted with in a much more significant way than we have had to in the last several decades. Despite the influx of Asian immigrants from the late sixties onwards, the current immigration boom is new for many, and frightening. A recent census bureau report indicates that soon the US will be “majority minority” a phrase I find particularly interesting. Interesting because it has only been fairly recently that Hispanics (or Latinos if you prefer) have been counted separately. Interesting because they are only minorities in that they are not White. The last great immigration boom, around the turn of the 20th century, saw many millions of European immigrants come to the US. There was great debate at the time over whether they would properly assimilate into what was a clearer dominant Anglo culture.

Successive waves of immigrants each dealt with the baggage if you will of not being White enough. First the Irish, then the Italians, the Poles, the Russians… all the eastern Europeans. Most of these White ethnics settled in enclaves on the east coast and upper midwest where they were accused of the same sorts of things that Hispanic immigrants are now accused of. Of course in time they assimilated, intermarried, and largely became White. Being White in America mainly meant not being Black or Yellow (no offense to my Asian American readers, just using the lingo of the times). Many people don’t realize that many of the soldiers that went to fight in WW2 spoke a language other than English at home as their first language; maybe as many as 1/3.

Nowadays now one really is focused on the many illegal Irish or even Asian immigrants in the country. No one is going door to door at Korean cleaners and checking how much under the table cash is being doled out to someone’s cousin’s sisters brother in law. Those immigrants aren’t scary, and they aren’t brown.

What should be the Christian response to the challenges of immigration? On the one hand it is easy to assert that we should be treat the foreigner and alien as neighbor, since that is what God commanded Israel. At the same time, how do we apply that principle meaningfully in a nation whose laws we are called to obey? What is our priority? And what is the true face of the immigration debate that is tearing our society up? John Lamb, a somewhat acquaintance who I’ve never officially met but admire nonetheless is doing a talk on this issue tomorrow at Vanderbilt. If anyone knows what he’s talking about, its John.

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2 thoughts on “Minority majority

  1. What should be the Christian response to the challenges of immigration?

    Our town seems like a harmless small town with a progressive-minded, hippy, tree-hugging, blue-voting populace… which is why it’s a surprise that no less than several decades ago there were race riots here. They drove out Hindus and Asians and often violently. Here’s what gets me all the time. The local pastors who opposed such actions protested – to no avail and rather impotently. I get the image of a mouse squeeking and virtually having no effect. So I swore: never on my watch, never in my generation, never in my town.

    Which is why personally I can’t ignore the immigrant crisis which is history repeating itself all over again. There are so many reasons why this is wrong, it’s veiled discrimination, and it’s a brief, skip / hop away from blatant race rioting all over again. While there’s an exhaustive dialogue about illegal immigrant misperceptions, I just have one word describing what’s happening to them: scapegoating. These people aint no terrorists.

  2. I think scapegoating is a good term to describe it. Interestingly, I spoke with someone from the United Kingdom last year, and he happened to mention some immigration issues in the U.K, primarily immigration from Poland. Someone brought up the issue of taking jobs away, but he made the point that he thinks the low wage immigrants actually create more jobs.

    I live in a town that’s heavily dependent on agriculture, and I can’t help but wonder what would happen if the low wage immigrants who do most of the farm work were suddenly kicked out. Yes, I do think immigrants create jobs, rather than take them away and all the talk that I have heard regarding an official language would, in fact, deter immigrants and is in truth, a subtle veil over racism and prejudice.

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