Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some Thoughts on Hate Speech

I participated in a panel discussion yesterday at Cal State Long Beach called "Hate Speech, Hate Crimes and Far Right Movements." Joining me on the panel were Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Randy Blazak, Director of Hate Crimes Research Network, Brian Case of Lamba Legal and Kevin O’Grady of the Anti-Defamation League.

Nativo Lopez 4

Below are my prepared remarks:

Pope Benedict XVI will be in Washington, D.C. tomorrow and the media is awash in analyzing the church, its demographic present and future, the trajectory of the pope, and the swirling controversy of sexual abuse that has plucked more than $2 billion from the church’s coffers. This is the same pope who was previously responsible for guarding the doctrine of the church and almost single-handedly ban liberation theology and its advocates from the pulpit. And, who would have thought a generation ago that Latinos would constitute a third of the church faithful today, and according to a recent Pew Institute report, nearly half of American Catholics under the age of 40 are Latino, predominantly of Mexican origin. This is like saying that the future of the Catholic Church in the U.S. is premised on the continued existence and growth of the Latino community, particularly the immigrant stock of this community – typically the most fervently loyal and pious.

Why is this of any importance in relation to the theme of today’s panel discussion? Well, it wasn’t too long ago that Catholics were the targets and victims of the same type of hate speech, hate crimes, and the invective of the far right movements across the U.S. landscape. Italian, Irish, Polish, and other southern European immigrants came to our shores, passed through Ellis Island, were greeted by Lady Liberty, and brought with them their religion, their customs, their country ways, their diet and foodstuffs, dress, language, ethic and habits – dropped into the growing cauldron of all other immigrants that comprised the rapidly expanding industrialized base of the still very young United States. The Know-Nothing Party was as much an anti-immigrant far right movement as it was anti-Catholic. It claimed that Catholic immigrants could not be loyal to America, but instead owed their loyalty to a foreign sovereign, the pope who sat on his throne in the Vatican.

Does this sound familiar with today’s speech in relation to the speech about loyalty of the new immigrants in post-9/11 America? Who are the new targets and victims of such speech?

Should we be concerned about the far right movements and groups such as the ill-labeled Minutemen, and all the border vigilante derivative groups? Absolutely. But of greater concern to me is the growing monopolization and concentration of the media in fewer and fewer corporate hands, particularly electronic media – radio and television. These are all licensed entities by our government. That means that we, the public taxpayers, own the public airways, but license them through the Federal Communication Commission to private parties (and few publicly owned stations). This is where the principal propaganda damage is committed against the American people. This is where the most aggressive assault on reason, science, and intelligence occurs in our country.

Similar to the demographic shift occurring in the Catholic Church, this is a national phenomenon in every facet of social life, and I would say that now it cannot be stopped, notwithstanding the construction of the infamous border wall and the projected 20,000 border agents positioned along the Mexican-U.S. international divide, the combined vigilante groups and the anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican, and anti-Latino tirades of Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and other hate speech media hosts and commentators.

This unstoppable tendency was dictated by the restructuring of the U.S. economy beginning in the 1970s and accelerated during the 1990s. This was sped up with the initiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a “free” trade treaty signed between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, which went into effect on January 1, 1994. Something else occurred on that date, which was the immediate and proximate response to this neo-liberal agreement. This was the rise of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in Chiapas, Mexico, and the broad social movement of indigenous peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Thirteen years later we have palpable evidence of the results. Millions of jobs evaporated from America and three million Mexican farmers and their families were thrown off their lands, and they joined the migrant trail north to unite with millions of other migrant cheap labor demanded by U.S. industries.

In 1988 the U.S. Department of Labor, under President Ronald Reagan, published a report titled ‘Workforce 2000.’ This report predicted the shifts in the U.S. workforce by the year 2000. It predicted the massive colorization and feminization of the workforce, the aging of white workers, the massive influx of immigrants – legal and undocumented – and the growth of less English-speaking and less educated workers. It foretold the serious under-supply of skilled workers, and laborers generally, in different industries and diverse geographical regions of the country.

It warned about a 20 million-worker shortfall by the year 2000. And it made numerous recommendations to address this not too unique American development. Western European countries are experiencing something similar.

Well we are now in 2008 and there is an estimated 12 to 15 million undocumented migrant laborers in the U.S. today. There are two other phenomena that continue to fuel immigration to the U.S. that are rarely if ever acknowledged. One, over the next fifteen years some 70 million workers – the most educated, professionally prepared, and skilled workforce in U.S. history – will voluntarily leave the world of work. This is the so-called baby-boom generation that will retire. It will be extremely difficult to replace them. Second, since 1972, with the Roe vs. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, approximately 45 million abortions have been performed, and as Pat Buchanan, right-wing author and television pundit, agonized in his most recent book, ‘State of Emergency: Third World Invasion and Conquest of America,’ the advent of the pill (birth control) wreaked havoc on the country’s reproduction and growth.

The fact of the matter is that this has led to a population growth deficit in the U.S., which means that the native-born population is not reproducing itself in sufficient numbers to re-supply the workforce for the continued growth of the economy and sharper competitiveness vis a vis other industrialized nations and the developing competitors, China, India, and Brazil.

At the end of the day, as we like to say - we are here and we are not going anywhere (aqui estamos y no nos vamos).

The economy is becoming more and more dependent on immigrant labor, and this flies in the face of the Dobbsian ugliness espoused nightly on CNN. Irrespective of his rants, over 62 percent of Americans polled, and that includes those who identify themselves as Republicans, support some form of regularization of the undocumented. We are winning!

No comments: