Sunday, May 02, 2010

Oakland May Day: reflections

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.


1 comment:

Benito said...

I will tell you what I have seen these last few days I saw our beloved Stars and Stripes flag, the flag from Mexico and some flags from other countries. I saw children, parents and grand parents together in solidarity, my people the working class, they may not be sophisticated but they got the message heard. From publish reports the demonstrations included both US citizens and undocumented workers. This brought me a smile because I always enjoy seeing brothers helping brothers.

This reminds me of a parable from the good book where a Levite and Priest come upon a man who fell among thieves and they both individually passed by and didn't stop to help him. Finally a man of another race came by, he got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy and got down with the injured man, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the "I" into the "thou," and to be concerned about his brother.

You see, the Levite and the Priest were afraid, they asked themselves, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?"

But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

As I see it, we should stand-up against a law is passed in anger and is against our Constitution/ Bill of Rights/ Declaration of Independence and is targets a specific group.

God bless all my brothers and sister that stood side by side with our brothers and sisters in need. When our judgment comes I know God will not discriminate by country of origin as men do.

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