Blue-collar Americans and blue-collar immigrants caught in same trap

Jack Spillane speaks the truth on this fine Sunday, March 11, 2012:

Reina Rivas stood in the cold outside the former Michael Bianco factory Friday night and talked determinedly to about 100 people about what it was like to be jailed for being an illegal immigrant.

The 34-year-old Rivas, a one-time teacher in Guatemala, on the day of the Bianco raid, was working at the South End factory that used to make canvas bags for military gear used by American armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rivas was one of the 361 women and men (mostly women) who were swept up in the now-infamous ICE raid that exposed a raw nerve in the city of New Bedford five years ago this week. She was held at the Barnstable House of Correction after being removed from the Bianco factory.

Many of the women who worked as seamstresses in the Bianco sweatshop were parents, and an estimated 112 children, including some who were nursing, were separated from their mothers after the raid.

But the Bianco raid was just as unnerving to many working-class city residents, with talk radio and protests erupting in anger at the immigrants in the wake of the roundup.

Rivas spoke in Spanish to the gathering, comprising young, Central American families and both Latino and American activists. “She thanked God for healing hearts and memories, and asked that the government policies be more just and respectful of human dignity,” said Father Rich Wilson, translating after Rivas had finished speaking.  Read more …

San Antonio Express News: ‘USA’ chant reflects deep social woes

This is one of those moments when you can see the way national origin and class work out to make a hierarchy of belonging to “America.”  This is a disturbing story about obnoxious high school kids and it also exposes some truths that no one likes to talk about.  Victor Landa says it better below:

When do chants of USA! USA! become a racist rant? It sounds, at first hearing, like an Orwellian proposition. But take that proposition to one of the most American of venues, the high school basketball gym, and that seeming double-speak becomes an ethnic affront; it’s all in the intent.

That’s exactly what happened last week during an important regional basketball match between San Antonio’s Alamo Heights and Edison High Schools. The Alamo Heights Mules defeated the Edison Golden Bears, and with that defeat the Mules advanced in regional tournament competition. But in their post-victory celebration a group of Mules partisans chanted USA! USA! This is the nuance that turned a patriotic chant into a perceived ethnic/cultural slur: both the Mules and the Golden Bears are American High School teams. The USA! chant was entirely out of place, it was not an international competition — unless you dig further into preconceptions.

Alamo Heights is a mostly nonminority, affluent high school. Edison is predominantly Latino, lower- to working-class campus. Within that context the chant has a different implication. It is, at best, demeaning. At worst, it’s insulting. The implied intent is that the victors are American, and defeated are not. The implication goes further still: if the members of the Golden Bears squad are not American, as the chant implies, then what are they?  Read more …