Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A day without the brown-skinned immigrants

I went to Washington, DC, to meet with fellow geographers.  It was only a week after the election and, hence, there was that much more to observe and understand.
Like how the taxi drivers--from and to the airport--were both dark-skinned immigrant men.  And both had Muslim names.
The doormen at the hotel were also dark-skinned immigrants.
The housekeeping woman who knocked on the door as I was getting ready for the meeting apologized in her Spanish-accented voice.
The dark-skinned restaurant waitress spoke with a West Indian accent.
The coffee place at the airport gate was staffed by three women, who looked like they were Somali or Ethiopian, and their English was highly accented.

It was, and still is, surreal to think that the White House, which is only twenty blocks away from the hotel, will soon be the home to one whose campaign beat up on immigrants--legal and illegal.  Even more surreal it is to think that the First Lady will not be one who was born in America but an immigrant herself, who may have even briefly worked illegally when she arrived here.

I suppose this happens to be an entertaining theatrical moment to metaphorically--and, sometimes, literally--beat up on us brown-skinned immigrants with funny accents.  It certainly got the votes for the president-elect.

In the courses that I teach, immigration as a concept always gets interesting, not the least because I am an immigrant myself.  Over the years, I have found that it is not unusual for students to think about their own personal experiences with immigrants.  When they do, students almost always talk about the farm labor being mostly immigrants, which is understandable.  I particularly recall one "native" student's comment that he simply could not keep up with the speed and ease with which the migrant laborers were picking the pears.  Students also talk about the immigrant doctors and nurses, who too are almost always brown-skinned.  (South Asia and the Philippines send quite a few thousands of physicians and surgeons and nurses to this country.)

Imagine if all the immigrants, including me, were gone, which is what the white supremacists explicitly want, and something that the white nationalists have voted for.  From the Muslim taxi drivers in DC to the pear-pickers in Oregon, to the physician in rural Tennessee.  That will be no different from the scenario that was dealt with in a Hollywood movie from a few years ago--A Day Without A Mexican.  ... to be continued, I am sure ;)


Ramesh said...

If you really want to "send back" immigrants, you have to hand America back to the native "Indians". There is much irony in a country of immigrants turning its back on immigrants.

Two streams of thought. One, I do not think a majority of voters who backed Trump were anti immigrants. At least not for sending back immigrants. A significant minority did, but I don't think it was the majority. People voted for Trump for all sorts of reasons, chiefly economic and a vague sense of wanting to go back to the "good old days". But yes, anti immigrants was certainly a theme favoured by a distressingly large minority.

The second is the question of how many immigrants can be taken in any society before the native population rebels. Take Germany, or Sweden, the most open of the countries at present. When the Syrian refugees flooded in two years ago, they were welcomed. But when the numbers became too big, public opinion turned. I think its for each society to determine the levels of immigration they are comfortable with. I think the US currently is probably at that comfortable level, given that Mexican immigration has come down drastically and its now probably a net neutral given the number of deportations even under Obama. Its sad that the anti immigrant backlash is happening at a time when the problem has largely been "solved".

Sriram Khé said...

When the KKK supports him, and has a victory party ...
when the alt-right convenes in DC and raises their right hands and chant Heil Trump ...
When the last eight years have been led by this man questioning Obama's birth-citizenship, with all kinds of rumors about the President being a Muslim ...
When the terribly misogynistic rhetoric worked against the first ever female candidate ...
it means that it was no minority but a significant number that wanted to go back to the "good old days" ...
As my latest post will clarify,I am not in favor of normalizing this horrible human being and his supporters any time soon.

The refugee issue is not really about "refugees." Lebanon and Jordan have had to deal with much higher numbers. When you look at the refugee population there as a percentage of their own population, it is mindblowing ... compared to that, Europe has seen nothing. The "problem" for Europe is that the refugees are brown-skinned and are Muslims.

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