Saturday, August 15, 2015
"I've never met an 'illegal' human being."
~ U.S. Senator Cory Booker
My beloved mother, who’s become a tad more right-leaning in her older age, just forwarded one of those chain e-mails designed to fire people up and get us to grab our pitchforks and torches and take to the streets. This one (which I won’t repost here because I don’t want to help disseminate drivel), sent to her by my very conservative Uncle Don, attacked illegal immigrants and contained the kind of fiery bombast you find in the public comments section of most online newspapers. I knew by the subject line, “Are We Stupid or What?,” that this was going to raise my blood pressure and lower my level of affection for my mother’s brother-in-law. Mom introduced the message by typing, “I don’t know if these claims are true but I trust you’ll take the time to verify.”
Here’s how I replied:
Actually, Mom, I'm not going to take the time to verify this crap. It's offensive, divisive and disgusting. Here's my response:
* Forbes, no liberal bastion, asked in a March 2014 article why there's no conservative outrage about corporate welfare. Boeing receives $13 billion in government handouts, for example, and everyone yawns. Whether in the form of tax breaks, incentives, refunds or direct appropriation, corporate welfare is far more expensive than benefits allocated to those dastardly "illegals."
* The government spends roughly 50% more on corporate welfare than it does on public assistance programs. (Click here for the source article.)
* Big Oil's profits in the first six months of 2013: $47.4 billion. (That's with a "b.") So why are we still giving Chevron, Shell, Exxon, BP, Conoco et al $10 billion in subsidies each year? And where's the conservative outrage about that?
* 32 companies dodged $72 billion in taxes in 2012 - enough to fund the entire federal education budget. But we've got to get tough on illegals, don't we?
* Illegals are by no means America's biggest welfare queens. Know who is? Walmart. Each Walmart drains more than $900,000 from taxpayers in the form of food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, housing and other social programs for their poverty-wage employees. (The Walton family, by the way, is worth $144 billion [$144 thousand millions]. This year the government is giving them back $6 billion [$6 thousand million] in tax breaks. This is enough to pay the tuition of 10 million students.)
* Finally, according to CNN Money (again, no liberal mouthpiece), myths about illegal immigrants include:
1. They don't pay taxes. Yes, they do. In fact, they paid $10.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2010 alone.
2. They don't pay into social security. Yes, they do. They pay more in payroll taxes than they'll ever use in public benefits. Unauthorized immigrants aren't eligible to receive social security yet they paid $100 billion into the fund over the past decade.
3. They drain the system. No, they don't. They don't qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and most other public benefits. Most of these programs require proof of legal immigration status and under the 1996 welfare law, even legal immigrants can't receive these benefits until they have been in the U.S. for more than five years.
4. They take American jobs. No, they don't. This has been disputed by an overwhelming number of economic research studies and data.
5. It's just a matter of following the law. No, it isn't. It's extremely difficult to enter the U.S. legally and the line of applicants from all over is long. It can take years and even decades. In some countries, such as the Philippines and Mexico, people have been waiting over 20 years for approval of a family-sponsored visa. It's often cost-prohibitive too.
In short, illegal immigration is not as big a problem as the silly message you forwarded claims although I can see why corporate America and its minions in the media, Congress, etc. want us all to think so. Stoking the fires of fear, ignorance and prejudice is so much easier than making a case with facts and numbers.
I ask that you forward this response to Uncle Don and all the other recipients of this pablum. And I also ask that you refrain from forwarding similar e-mails to me because I find them aggravating and insipid and I don't want to have an apoplectic seizure and die.
I probably shouldn't hold my breath waiting for a Christmas card from Uncle Don this year.
UPDATE: A reader requested source information that I couldn't readily provide so I removed the statistic and rewrote the post.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
I understand what it’s like to be white.
I understand the privileges bestowed on me purposely and unconsciously by others just because of how I look.
And I understand that I don’t understand what it’s like to not be white. Intellectually, maybe, but not really.
It’s not right to assume that I’m blind or ignorant or incapable or unqualified to have opinions about race because I never had to sit in the back of a bus or drink from a designated water fountain.
I get to define what I think about black people.
Not black people.
Not other white people.
I get to decide what I think is effective and less so when it comes to addressing race relations. I don’t have to be black to have ideas about how best to fight racism. My ideas might not be the best but they’re not automatically the worst just because I’m less likely to die during a routine traffic stop than a person of color.
I believe that #BlackLivesMatter and I want to help address the problems faced by people of color in this country. But when I dared to use Facebook yesterday to criticize Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Marissa Jenae Johnson, the two women who disrupted a political rally in Seattle last Saturday, August 8, I was ridiculed, unfriended and patronized by blacks and whites alike.
I was accused of being blind to the benefits of white privilege and unqualified to have an opinion about effective activism. My posts (shared below) were reposted with derisive introductions and I found myself for the first time in the strange position of having to defend myself against accusations of racism.
Isn’t that a good thing?
I get it. People are frustrated because their wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, children and friends can’t go outside without being killed. It’s not safe in Ferguson, Staten Island, McKenney, Hempstead, Sanford, Cincinnati or anywhere else. But it’s not right to marginalize, silence or disregard me because I don’t look like Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Troy Davis, Sam DuBose or the countless other people of color who’ve been terrorized and murdered in the last few years. Just like it’s wrong to obstruct Barack Obama’s agenda and torpedo his presidency because he’s not white, it’s wrong to insult and alienate me because I am.
- I was just unfriended by a young African-American man because I objected to his saying, "Most white people are evil." How strange to find myself in this position.
- Wow. I was unfriended by a black guy for essentially being white and told by people half my age that I need to learn about white privilege and to let people fight for justice and equality using whatever tactics they want. Time to take a break from Facebook.
- I just unfriended a white Malcolm X wannabe for calling me a "condescending, paternalistic asshole." One thing Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Marissa Jenae Johnson have succeeded at is shortening my Facebook friends list.
- People are turned off by combativeness and obnoxiousness when it isn't obviously connected to any message or "ask." No one likes loud for the sake of loud, as any Occupy Wall Street activist can now tell you. What did Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Marissa Jenae Johnson achieve with their performance? Who did they reach? What was their message? Whose eyes were opened? They achieved nothing - other than to make people dislike them and not care what they would have said had they been able to say it. They weren't off-putting because they forced white people to look at the systemic racism that's killing black people in this country. They were off-putting just for the sake of being off-putting. That makes potential allies look to other issues and causes and is therefore stupid.
- One of my Facebook friends - a young white guy - keeps posting that it's just too bad if people have a problem with confrontational disruptions. Play Malcolm X all you want, pal, but Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Marissa Jenae Johnson alienated potential allies and damaged, more than helped, the BLM movement. That's a fact.
- Note to people of color: there are many of us white people who truly believe that black lives matter and desperately want to play a role in making things better. If you're telling us that we have to embrace assholes like the two Seattle women and their embarrassing behavior in order to affect change, you're alienating people who want to be in your corner. That seems nonstrategic and unwise to this middle-aged white dude.
- Note to BLM activists: I suggest more Bree Newsome and less Mara Jacqueline Willaford/Marissa Jenae Johnson.
- Call it whatever you want but that wasn't "uncomfortable activism" in Seattle the other day. That was two obnoxious, shrill, off-putting microphone hogs embarrassing themselves and temporarily derailing an important movement. Those two immature assholes alienated your allies and made it MORE likely that you'll continue to fear for your lives when you see blinking red and blue lights in your rearview mirrors. Why you claim and embrace misguided fools is a mystery to this middle-aged white dude.
- Now that I've seen this clip, I'm even more sure of my opposition to these shrill, obnoxious, off-putting "activists." This isn't about frustration over police brutality and racism; this is two immature assholes embarrassing themselves and derailing an important movement. If you think my view is shaped by my racism and/or white privilege, let me know and I'll unfriend you faster than butter melts on a hot August sidewalk.
Just like one would think Israelis would know better than to do to Palestinians what was done to them, you’d think people of color would know better than to silence people who want to communicate with them. I guess nothing’s black or white, huh?