Turning the Tables


Photo Courtesy of the Asia Society. From the Asia Society website: A Japanese American posted this banner on his store front the day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and shortly before he was sent to an internment camp. Image: Dorthea Lange, National Archives.

Please allow me the opportunity to opine on something non-Padilla related.

Georgia, my state of residence, is on the cusp of enacting legislation that would provide broad and unprecedented authority to law enforcement to question, stop and arrest residents who are suspected of being in this country illegally.  That such a measure has come to fruition should come as no surprise to most.  Hostility toward one or another unfavored class of individuals is a time-honored American tradition, especially among power-hungry politicians and shallow-thinking citizen-reactionaries.  Nor is Georgia the first state to come this close to providing the constable such unbridled authority to detain and harass.  Arizona has already gone down the same path, but with little to show for it besides rhetoric and litigation.  There is little doubt that Georgia won’t also go the way of Arizona on this soon-to-be enacted immigration measure.  It will.

But the concerns  about racial profiling and states’ rights that invariably arise when debate occurs as to the wisdom of these sweeping new laws are, it seems to me, misplaced.  Racial discrimination is as intractable a societal malaise as poverty and crime.  This is true regardless of whether the society is founded upon the principles of capitalism and democracy, as ours assertedly is, or, like modern-day Russia and China, quasi-communism and authoritarianism.  Arguing against these laws then by claiming, even reasonably, that they are discriminatory is akin to arguing against compelled homelessness because such a condition is unjust and unfair.  Most reasonable minds won’t differ on that, but some will, and if these are the same folks who control the institutions of our government, then good luck to you.

Discussion should instead focus on how the recent anti-immigrant legislation affects the viability of this country’s self-described role as the “Leader of the Free World” and its foundation as an open, democratic society.  If, according to the latest U.S. Census findings, it is true that whites will soon constitute a statistical minority in this country, displaced by Hispanics and Asians, then any official effort to discriminate and expel members of this soon-to-be majority smacks of apartheid.  If that is indeed the case, then Americans need to have a sustained, serious and open discussion as to the direction of this country and the relationship, in all senses of the word, that should prevail between a white minority and non-white majority.  I can think of at least one other country that is currently engaged in such a debate: Israel.  Only when these fundamental issues are aired in public and their implications seriously debated (I make no predictions as to which side will prevail in such a debate) can this country move beyond the current wave of reactionary, anti-immigrant sentiment.

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