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April 11, 2006

The Politics Of Other

Posted at April 11, 2006 06:47 AM in Politics .

OuidaLindsey.jpgThe news that permeates our conscience from television screens across America is the news of immigrants marching, hundreds of thousands strong, in protest. I believe what they have done is honorable and I commend them on standing for their rights or in pursuit of rights. I have nothing against my neighbors to the south and fully understand why they risk their lives every day to come to the United States of America. If I lived in adverse poverty making sixty dollars a week, I too would look to the great America in hopes of earning sixty dollars a day.

I reflect on the days I sat in Ouida Lindsey’s classes and I am grateful for her teaching me how silly we Americans can be. I’ll never forget her writing across the board “Irish,” “Italian,” “Black,” “White,” and “Asian.” From there, we – the whole class – offered our stereotypical thoughts on each race. The class was mixed and the shouting out of stereotypes was fierce. For Black folk in the class, we fully expected to hear things we knew would make us very angry.

What was informative was how every group ended up with the same labels, all except “White” that is. Whites, interestingly enough, ended up with a subcategory entitled “White Trash” and that group received all of the stereotypes the others received which were “drunk,” “make lots of babies,” “lazy,” etc. On the top of the “Black” list were the words “make lots of babies” and “likes sex.” The list for Italians was headed by the words “mafia” and “cheaters.” The Irish list started with the words “drinkers” and “likes sex.” The list for Asians was topped with the words “smart” and “selfish.” Whites, however received a different set of words which started with “serial killers” and “white collar criminals.” Needless to say, the Whites in the class were not happy to see they were perceived as such.

The lesson taught me that day was being careful how I perceive another person because they may in turn perceive me the same way. Much of what happened in that class was our learning to break down stereotypes because a lot of feelings got hurt that day. It was one thing to view others a particular way. It was quite another thing to find out others perceived you the same way.

protest.jpgWhen I hear words spill from the lips of Black folk about “Mexicans,” I hear history repeating itself from Black lips. Quite a few Black folks are guilty of making statements such as “they need to go back to where they came.” Heard that before. Then there is “they’re taking over.” Heard that one too. “They need to get to the back of the line, we were here first.” Yep, heard that one too but from the lips of Whites speaking against Blacks.

Truly, the original forefathers of this country, the original people were the native or indigenous peoples. The rest of us are immigrants who came to this country by slave trade, as indentured servants, or on vessels that came from great distances to settle on this soil – settlers. Everyone came to make a better living, to find opportunity, or to build a nation.

Because there was a great need for workers, many migrated to this country to fill positions with American corporations. They came and landed in New York, at Ellis Island, under the Statue of Liberty. It was easy then to become an American citizen. Today, it is not so easy and the line, or list, is very long. There are many people in this country who have come from places all over the world and they are not legal citizens of the United States of America.

To get angry with those who come here from across the border is anger misplaced. They, like the Italian, the Irish, or the Africans before them are the next group of people who are now suffering the same mistreatment and abuse others received. American companies, businesses, corporations, etc. are hiring them at slave wages and without health insurance. They have no standing when it comes to sexual harassment, OSHA, and other employment violations. If they are fired for whatever reason, they have no legal remedies available to them.

An injustice to one is an injustice to all and if anything, we should be marching in the streets with them to ensure they too receive the same benefits everyone else in this country receives. I personally do not want to find myself guilty of becoming that which I hate because I was not careful about who and how I hate.

I applaud those who came out yesterday, over the weekend, and last month. They are standing for what they believe and one must do so in order to find and receive justice. I tip my hat to them.


Some of our chiefs make the claim that the land belongs to us. It is not what the Great Spirit told me. He told me that the land belongs to Him, that no people own the land, and that I was not to forget to tell this to the white people. -Kannekuk, Kickapoo prophet

Your forefathers crossed the great water and landed on this island. Their numbers were small. We took pity on them, and they sat down among us. We gave them corn and meat. They gave us poison in return. -Sagoyewatha (Red Jacket), Seneca


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Good points. Made far more calmly than my own.

Posted by Bernie at April 11, 2006 07:59 AM

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