Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Trip to Another Country

We’re late with this---we’ve been out in West Texas, on the annual trail drive---but we’d be remiss in not unreservedly recommending a piece in the Houston Chronicle’s Outlook section of Sunday past. In this rare side excursion to reality, the paper opens its pages to one John Perry, who, based on objective evidence compiled by his own eyeballs, shreds the blithely promulgated myth (by the Upper West Siders on the Chronicle’s editorial board, among many, many others) that illegal immigrants only take the jobs “Americans won’t do,” or however the song goes.

Like anyone who journeys outside of Nuevo Aztlán, Perry noticed something was missing as he drove to Alabama through Louisiana and Mississippi.
Here's what I didn't see: Hispanic workers on those road and housing construction crews. All the crews were made up of black men and white men. All the maids I saw at the hotel were either black or white. The wait staff in the restaurants I ate at were black and white.
Going to Alabama was a real eye opener. I'd almost forgotten what it was like to see people who look like me (I am black) doing road construction, building houses or making beds in hotels.
Sheesh. He had to go to Alabama for that. If you’re a Houstonian---white, black, brown, whatever---doesn’t that make you just a teensy bit ashamed? Mr. Perry continued:
I don't think the majority of people who oppose illegal immigration and the hiring of illegal immigrants in so many occupations are anti-Hispanic. People who oppose job outsourcing aren't necessarily anti-Indian or anti whatever ethnic group is working those outsourced jobs.

When you cut through all the emotional and heated rhetoric, you come to the real kernel of truth — there are only so many jobs and so many resources to go around. Our economy just cannot absorb every person that comes across our borders illegally looking for his or her slice of the American Pie.

There's just not enough pie to go around.

And as the pie gets smaller and we all have to struggle to get our little piece of it, people born in America become more and more resentful of those we are increasingly seeing as "outsiders."

The profits that illegal immigrant workers generate for many businesses have blinded those businesses to the damage they are doing to the American economy. And to the American sense of nationhood.

We are at a dangerous place in America today, and I fear that massive civil unrest will occur once Americans grasp just have much we have been duped (and have been taken advantage of) … As a black man, I have always been for diversity because I understand that diversity means people who look like me can be included in all aspects of our society. Diversity assumes difference in color, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and political views.

But I don't think diversity means we give up the unifying power of a common language and culture. To give up our common language and culture (yes, I believe that people born and reared in the United States share, for the most part, a common culture even if there are some variations on how we live that common culture) is to invite the balkanization of our nation.
That should be “culture,” Mr. Perry, at least according to the sneering formulation employed at least once by the Chronicle editorial page.

Perry was identified as a Houston resident who works with at-risk students in the Alief school district, meaning he probably spends a considerable amount of time with kids who are illegal or whose parents are illegal. Given the likelihood that someone, somewhere, is going to accuse him of bigotry, it was at least a small act of courage for him to speak out in such a public forum.

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