In the aftermath of Arizona's new racial profiling law, yesterday was a different sort of May Day.
Immigrants revived the international workers' holiday in the United States in 2006, capping a string of marches and rallies that amounted to a "coming out" for the country's low wage work force, much of it here without papers. (See here, here, and here..) Many hopefully thought we were seeing a new civil rights movement. The theme of immigrant advocacy was something like "we're here to work; we are not criminals."
In 2007, marching immigrants and friends focussed more on the injustice of federal immigration policy, protesting raids and separation of families by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
Yesterday, Arizona had succeeded in making immigration clearly a question of race. If you tell people they can be singled out by police because they look different in a country where visible "race" has historically been a core marker of entitlement to full rights, they are going to start thinking of themselves as a "race." This almost certainly wasn't how they thought about themselves before they came here -- but they must now. Race is a great North American lesson, learned by each wave of immigrants.
When you are pushed around by someone else's nationalism, for example by Teabaggers who "want their country back," it's hard not to assert your own nationalism, though U.S. flags still predominated.
More than previous immigration marches, this one seemed anchored in by union participants, especially SEIU. Not surprisingly, given the labor movement's recent focus, many participants seemed to have worked for President Obama's election.
In light of that past support, Democrats need to pay some attention. By far the days' most popular chant was "Obama, Escucha -- Estamos en la lucha!" Obama -- listen up! We're struggling forward! Don't tune these folks out. They and their friends are this country's future.