May 1, 2006

May 1 and the Long Path Ahead

Absolutely no time to post, but I'm so annoyed at what has become a tired retread of the same neo-protectionist sentiment of privileged South Asians and others (NPR has been playing a bunch of interviews/speeches by Latinos on the others side of the debate who keep talking about how "uncivilized" protesters are). I'm just so tired of this conversation and feel like it's not worth the time to try to convince people I don't know - so I'm not going to try anymore.

I am very proud that things continue to move forward, and I'm stunned at the level of support that actions are getting. I think that the messaging around the different strategies about the May 1 Boycott/Day Without Immigrants has been good too - as long as we're not working at cross-purposes, it's all good to have different people doing different things.

One of the strands of the "why should desis get involved in a Latino issue" has focused on "what have Latinos done for us?" Without confronting that question head on, all that I can think of is the upcoming reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in which Section 203 provides for the provision of ballot and other information in specific languages based on recent Census data, as well as language access provisions in places like NYC, DC, and other parts of the country. Latinos have lead the language access movement, and rightly so, given the sheer numbers of the community. But they haven't forgotten about other languages, and I've worked alongside a good number of Latino community advocates who speak eloquently about the need for languages other than English and Spanish, citing the staggering language gap between some recent immigrant communities like the Fukienese, Vietnamese speakers, and Bengali, Urdu, and Punjabi speakers in parts of the Northeast, the South, the West coast, and even places like Michigan.

I don't think that folks with English-language privilege appreciate the significant hurdles that non-English speakers, whatever their immigration status, have to overcome in the United States - and while I'm not going to engage the whole stupid English as the only language "debate" (how insecure can a place be!), I definitely feel that Latino advocates "get it" in a way that other allies do not. And I definitely think that this is a critical issue that crosses status issues, and which has shown me, at least, that the possibility of multi-ethnic/multiracial coalitions that address common axes of oppression are possible and have happened before.

I remember seeing signs from the Chicano liberation movement in the 70s that clearly identified the link between the American oppression at home of communities of color and the American oppression of the Vietnamese people trying to find their own path towards self-determination. It's a shame that people still haven't learned to step outside of their own extremely narrow personal stories to imagine a world that isn't so cynical, nor so bound by the rules made to keep us fighting one another.

I am proud of the calls for solidarity that I hear, and I'm definitely looking forward to a real conversation with people who don't just flush opinions because they don't gel with their own thinking. I want real dialogue - not sound bites. I don't need to hear regurgitation of quips from CNN, FOX, or other media outlets. Sad, tired, and stupid iterations of "my tax dollars are paying for them!" drive me crazy.

Your tax dollars pay more for bombs and weapons of mass destruction, not to mention the thick bankrolls of many companies that have been getting fat on the privatization of Federal services and functions (can anyone say prison-industrial complex?).

It drives me crazy that people even bring up taxes - I have to find the links for it, but many undocumented immigrants *do* pay some Federal taxes, and even more pay into FICA. The dollar total of undocumented contribution to Social Security is in the hundreds of millions annually - they are helping to pay the retirement costs of the baby-boomers who are retiring. Pull that money and see where we are. Their sales taxes and tolls pay for the roads and many of the other services provided by the state that people keep complaining about. And their payment of the significant state and local taxes on fuel (as evidenced by the fuel price differential on this map). Federal income taxes contribute to many things, but this war is one of the big ticket items. Regardless, the argument that "they don't pay taxes" drives me up the wall.

When it boils down to it - I don't buy that people are so pissed off because of the "breaking the law" issue. I think there's more behind it for a large number of people - I have a hard time believing that the masses are as gung-ho about law enforcement as they play themselves out to be. More on that later.

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