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PORTSIDE  February 2012, Week 3

PORTSIDE February 2012, Week 3

Subject:

The African World An Apology Ceremony That We Need to Publicize

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Date:

Sat, 18 Feb 2012 15:31:32 -0500

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The African World

An Apology Ceremony That We Need to Publicize

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial
Board
BC
Feruary 16, 2012

http://www.blackcommentator.com/459/459_aw_apology.php

On February 26th, a ceremony is to take place in
California apologizing to the approximately 400,000
people of Mexican ancestry who were deported from the
USA in a spate of ethnic cleansing that gripped the USA
during the Depression. What is at stake in this
ceremony is not only the apology but what it says about
racism and ethnic cleansing in times of economic
crisis.

Approximately two million people of Mexican ancestry
were deported from the USA during the Depression. This
was not only Mexican nationals, but Chicanos as well,
i.e., US citizens of Mexican ancestry. This was a
blatant example of ethnic cleansing taking place in the
USA which destroyed families and exiled family members,
in some cases indefinitely.

As with many cases of mass trauma, this deportation
process was ignored in the general public. The
"Repatriados," as those who were deported were
referenced, existed in a twilight zone. Those who were
able to return often did not speak of it and families
that remained stuck in Mexico had to begin entirely new
lives. It was the work of people like Detroit activist
Elena Herrada and the Fronteras Nortenas organization
that helped to re-raise the issue, not only in
California but also throughout the USA.[note: for more
information click here]

The 1930s, as a period, is often viewed as one of
increasingly progressive change. While there is
certainly some truth in this, the change was far from
linear and far from complete. When it came to race,
intense white supremacy was alive and well. And even
many progressive organizations failed to speak up in
the face of such horrors. Mexicans and Chicanos were
being attacked in a wave of a specific form of anti-
immigrant mania. In a period of an intense economic
crisis, Mexicans and Chicanos were blamed for allegedly
taking the jobs of (white) Americans. Nothing
comparable was done to immigrants of European ancestry
and it was only a few short years later - 1942 - that
in the midst of a particular response to the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were
interned for the remainder of the war (compared to the
treatment of US citizens of German and Italian
ancestry).

One does not have to jump too far to see the relevance
of this historical horror to our situation today. Just
the other day, I was grabbed by an African American in
an airport who recognized me from my TransAfrica Forum
days. Among other things he wanted to say to me was the
matter of immigrants, and particularly about the
competition that is created through immigration. He
refused to look at the big picture but his conclusions
were clear enough that he did not need to express them:
remove the immigrants.

Yet, just as the Great Depression was not caused by
Mexicans and Chicanos, today's economic crisis, and
specifically the massive economic crisis faced by
African Americans, is not the result of immigrants, be
they documented or undocumented. It has to do with the
system, and unfortunately too many of us seem to be
afraid that identifying the system is the equivalent of
looking into the face of the Gorgon, turning us to
stone. Thus, for right-wing populists and for too many
of our own people, it is easier to blame the immigrant
for our suffering than to recognize that capitalism
will use whoever it can to weaken the power of working
people. It used us in the period around World War I
(and after) as a cheap labor source, and it has used
successive groups. The mass, indiscriminate deportation
of two million people of Mexican ancestry was just one
implication of this racist irrationalism.

What's to prevent this from happening again?
_____________

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Bill
Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute
for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of
TransAfricaForum and co-author of Solidarity Divided:
The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward
Social Justice (University of California Press), which
examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA.

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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