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Tag: "racism"

The NRA: America’s Second Largest White Supremacist Organization

[ 107 ] July 24, 2017 |

The Republican Party is of course the nation’s largest white supremacist organization. But the NRA is second. And in case you thought the goal of this organization was to protect gun rights, let’s be clear that it is only part of the answer. The goal is to give white people lots of guns to “protect” themselves from scary black people.

Grant Stinchfield, a host at the NRA’s online television network, made more incendiary comments about Black Lives Matter activists allegedly stoking “racial hatred” against white people.

Via Media Matters, Stinchfield began a segment on his show by noting that “race relations are strained here in America after eight years of Barack Obama,” although he conceded that they are “nowhere is near as bad as it is in South Africa where white families are being tortured and killed almost every day in racist violence.”

That said, Stinchfield’s guest, Chuck Holton, cautioned viewers to remain vigilant because Black Lives Matter activists could stoke enough animosity to inspire similar violence against white people in the United States.

“Right, you know the parallels between what’s happening in South Africa and the blatant racism and violence we’re seeing from people like the Black Lives Matter crowd,” he said. “If we continue to let this get out of control, to go down this path of this racial tension, this racial hatred that is being forced on the American culture by the Black Lives Matter crowd.”

If you want to argue that the NRA’s real ideology is scaring white people so that gun manufacturers can make more money, that’s fine too, but there’s no fundamental difference except for the level of cynicism involved.

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Fox News’ Continued March Toward Nazism

[ 91 ] July 18, 2017 |

I wonder what Sheldon Adelson will say when Carlson starts talking about the Jewish menace sometime around September?

Racism in Hollywood

[ 177 ] July 12, 2017 |

It’s a good thing Bollywood doesn’t exist or anything….

The Hollywood Reporter recently published a piece about the casting search for Disney’s live-action Aladdin, which has taken longer than initially expected. Production was expected to begin in July, but it’s been pushed back to August in order to accommodate the search for a male lead. (The search for Jasmine has reportedly narrowed to Power Rangers star Naomi Scott and Indian actress Tara Sutaria.)

In the grand scheme of Hollywood schedules, a lost month isn’t exactly big news. It happens when you’re undertaking a massive, worldwide casting call. However, The Hollywood Reporter suggested a different explanation for the delay. “Finding a male lead in his 20s who can act and sing has proven difficult,” reads the article, “especially since the studio wants someone of Middle-Eastern or Indian descent (the animated film is set in the fictional Middle Eastern city of Agrabah)….[T]he search has dragged on, with Disney and Ritchie having to go back to the drawing board multiple times.”

Where would a studio possibly find one of those except in the 2nd largest film industry in the world?

And the whole thing just reeks of the fundamental problem of racism in Hollywood.

The Harry Potter team watched 40,000 Harry auditions before landing on Daniel Radcliffe. Ritchie and his crew have sat through 2,000 auditions for Aladdin and Jasmine combined, and I’m supposed to see that as an “especially” difficult search for talent?

Get out. This search can only be considered “especially” difficult by someone who sees the casting restriction to Middle-Eastern and Indian actors as unnecessary and burdensome. And, again, we don’t see that sort of suggestion with majority-white casting searches. Going so far as to find a Harry who was British and had natural green or blue eyes was worthy of a wide, exhaustive search. But having to cast a Middle Eastern actor in Aladdin, on the other hand, is a PC burden. The undercurrent of this article is: If only we could whitewash, this would be so easy!

And that idea plays into some of the more insidious, unspoken ways that racism manifests in the entertainment industry. Reviewers who “just don’t connect” with characters of color. Directors who just don’t “see that special something” in actors of color. The idea that black women are “not ready” for Saturday Night Live or that finding trans kids to play trans kids is “incredibly hard.” It’s also the sort of bias that Mitt Romney was ruthlessly mocked for during his presidential run, when he said he had to look through “binders full of women” to try and find any women who were qualified. It’s no less ridiculous when someone uses this idea to prop up their racism rather than their sexism.

The Spectrum of Racism

[ 332 ] June 25, 2017 |

Eric Foner kind of eviscerates a new book on Lincoln and slavery that overplays Lincoln’s racism. The most important point is the last because it has great relevance for how many of us think about race.

Kaplan, in other words, employs racism as a deus ex machina — something that exists outside of history but that can be invoked as the ultimate explanation for historical events. Yet if racism is constant and immutable, how did millions of Northerners come to embrace emancipation and the laws and constitutional amendments of Reconstruction? A better approach is to see racism as part of history. Racism, like anything else, rises and falls over time. And sometimes people change.

This reminds me of some of the conversations we have here. When I write posts that argue moving to the suburbs for schools or putting your kids in private school is a racist act, which it is, a lot of people freak out. That’s because for them, racism is a THING that can be defined. You are either a racist or you are not a racist. And because racism is the worst thing in the world, people flip out when it is thrown back at them. But that’s an incorrect understanding of racism. Racism is a spectrum. We are all on that spectrum, including myself. For white people, that spectrum is more significant because they have the power to implement that racism on others. But like all forms of oppression, in a society that shapes us, we all share some of it. It’s unavoidable and can only be fought; like an addiction, one is never truly cured. It’s the same with sexism, homophobia, and classism (with the latter barely even recognized as a problem). Our society structures the choices we make, as it did in the 19th century. We recognize Lincoln as a racist today because in many ways he was a racist. But that in itself did not make him a bad person. Moreover, he was open to learning and changing, realizing the error of his ways and moving toward supporting greater racial equality. He never would have been perfect, but then neither are we. When we worry about our property values if too many minorities move in the neighborhood, or send our kids to mostly white suburban and private schools so they can have advantages, or when a bit of unexpected fear wells up in us when we walk by a young African-American male on the street, we are no different than someone in the 19th century. But we too can fight this and we too can learn and we too can act accordingly and try not to replicate the racism at the core of our society.

But the first step in this process is understanding what racism actually is and how it operates and to stop therefore using it as an epithet that only applies to others.

To the Fainting Couch

[ 116 ] June 16, 2017 |

A police officer gets away with murdering a black person even though the murder is recorded? I just can’t believe it!

Minnesota police officer, whose fatal shooting of a black motorist transfixed the nation when his girlfriend livestreamed the aftermath, was acquitted of all charges on Friday.

The officer, Jeronimo Yanez, had been charged with second-degree manslaughter and endangering safety by discharging a firearm in the shooting of Philando Castile.

After the verdict, jurors and Mr. Yanez were quickly led out of the courtroom, and Mr. Castile’s family left immediately. When a deputy tried to stop his mother, Valerie, she yelled “Let me go.”

Later, she said: “My son loved this city, and this city killed my son. And a murderer gets away. Are you kidding me right now?”

No, sadly.

Today in American Fascism

[ 123 ] May 29, 2017 |

Of course the fascist war against immigrants continues on Decoration Day. In Texas, pro-immigrant protestors held a rally inside the state capital. Now I don’t want to alarm you, but some Texas legislators are really racist. Such as this guy.

A Texas Republican reportedly threatened to “put a bullet in one of his colleague’s heads” during a scuffle on the House floor over the state’s new anti-‘sanctuary cities’ law on Monday, Democrats said.

Representative Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, reportedly made the comment “in the direction of” Representative Poncho Nevárez during a dispute that began when Rinaldi told two Hispanic lawmakers that he called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Senate Bill 4 protesters at the Capitol.

“There was a subsequent exchange between my brother Poncho and Representative Rinaldi and there was a threat made from Rinaldi to put a bullet in one of my colleague’s heads,” Representative Justin Rodriguez told reporters after the incident. “That kind of threatening language he needs to be called out and held accountable for.”

Rinaldi told Representative Ramon Romero Jr. on the House floor that the hundreds of protesters who were chanting in the gallery were a “disgrace,” Romero told the Observer.

“Fuck them, I called ICE,” Rinaldi said, according to Romero.

Romero said that prompted Representative Cesar Blanco to tell Rinaldi that Italian immigrants “are just like us,” and Rinaldi responded, “Yeah, but we love our country.”

“He saw a bunch of people who look Latino, and he assumed they’re undocumented,” Romero told the Observer. “So how can he say SB 4 won’t lead to racial profiling?”

A white supremacist from the Dallas suburbs? No! Oh, but I’m sure the Republicans who control the Texas legislature, the racists elected to leading state government positions, and the voters of Irving will totally see that this violent racist asshole is punished. Right? SB-4 is the Texas bill to punish sanctuary cities.

Meanwhile, there’s America’s fascist shock troops, the ethnic cleansing organization known as ICE.

Guadalupe Plascencia said she was alarmed when a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy asked her to sign papers related to her immigration status.

The 59-year-old hairdresser from San Bernardino had spent the night of March 29 in jail because of a decade-old bench warrant related to her alleged failure to appear as a witness in a court case. During her night in jail, Plascencia said a deputy asked her to sign documents acknowledging that officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had inquired about her.

“Why?” Plascencia asked. “I’m an American citizen.”

Confused and scared, Plascencia did as she was asked, assuring herself that the entire ordeal was a mistake that would soon be cleared up.

But as she tried to leave the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, Plascencia said she was met by immigration enforcement agents, handcuffed and placed in the back of a van. Plascencia would spend the rest of the day in ICE custody, fearful that she would be deported despite becoming an American citizen some 20 years ago, following an amnesty program initiated by President Ronald Reagan.

“I felt helpless, like I was no one,” she said in a recent interview. “Here, they talk about rights … in that moment, I realized, we don’t have rights.”

Plascencia was eventually released after her daughter showed ICE agents her passport. But now she has taken the first step toward filing a lawsuit against the federal immigration agency and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in a case that raises issues of how an American citizen wound up in the custody of immigration enforcement agents.

Whoops! This citizen could have easily been deported, especially given the decreasing access to legal counsel those unfortunate enough to be picked up by ICE are receiving. But hey, she had an accent. Must be illegal! Get her!

At least our president showed great leadership over the white supremacist murders in Portland….

The Continued Legal Stylings of the Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III DOJ

[ 18 ] May 9, 2017 |

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Ladies and gentlemen, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III:

In a brief defending its ban on citizens from six Muslim-majority countries, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department approvingly cited a segregation-era Supreme Court decision that allowed Jackson, Mississippi, to close public pools rather than integrate them.

In the early 1960s, courts ordered Jackson to desegregate its public parks, which included five swimming pools. Instead, the city decided to close the pools. Black residents of Jackson sued. But in 1971, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, decided that closing the pools rather than integrating them was just fine.

The dissents, even at the time, were furious. “May a State in order to avoid integration of the races abolish all of its public schools?” Justice William O. Douglas asked in his dissent.

“I had thought official policies forbidding or discouraging joint use of public facilities by Negroes and whites were at war with the Equal Protection Clause” of the Fourteenth Amendment, Justice Byron White wrote in another dissent. “Our cases make it unquestionably clear, as all of us agree, that a city or State may not enforce such a policy by maintaining officially separate facilities for the two races. It is also my view, but apparently not that of the majority, that a State may not have an official stance against desegregating public facilities and implement it by closing those facilities in response to a desegregation order.”

The Trump administration emphasizes this in its citation of the case, arguing that looking into “governmental purpose outside the operative terms of governmental action and official pronouncements” is “fraught with practical ‘pitfalls’ and ‘hazards’ that would make courts’ task ‘extremely difficult.’”

But in some cases, such as the closure of the Jackson pools, officials’ motivations are clear, said Paul Brest, the director of Stanford University’s Law and Policy Lab.

“When it is absolutely clear that an official acted for unconstitutional purposes … [the courts] should be willing to strike down that decision because, even though the decision might have been reached legitimately, a public official violates the constitution when he or she acts for unconstitutional reasons,” Brest said. “It’s as simple as that. … Race discrimination is the best example of where courts are quite willing to take people’s motivations into account — or religious discrimination.”

Palmer is one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever handed down in regards to race, said Michele Goodwin, the chancellor’s professor of law at the University of California, Irvine.

“Citing Palmer is like citing Buck v. Bell for a premise of equal protection,” Goodwin says. (Buck v. Bell legalized eugenics.) She added that a case like Palmer also doesn’t hold up over time.

Oh, like Buck v. Bell isn’t going to be cited approvingly in the next 4 years.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 82

[ 37 ] May 7, 2017 |

This is the grave of Louis Agassiz.

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Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz was born in 1807 in Switzerland. He became a scientist, attending some of the finest universities in Europe. He moved to Paris and became an acolyte of Alexander Von Humboldt, giving him access to the finest training and connections in the scientific world. He quickly became one of the world’s experts on geology and zoology. He first became known when selected to a complete a study of Brazilian freshwater fish samples that an exploratory team had brought back but whose leader died before he could complete the study. This made Agassiz particularly interested in ichthyology, which would remain his specialty. He began his own studies of European freshwater fish and published pioneering books on the subject. He also began to explore fossil fish and he published five volumes of study on the matter between 1833 and 1843. In 1836, he was elected to the Royal Society of Britain, helping him secure the financial resources necessary to take on his work. In 1837, his research led him to the conclusion that the Earth had been subjected an Ice Age, the first scientist to figure this out.

Agassiz came to the United States in 1846 to deliver a series of lectures and do research. As many successful foreigners have learned over the last 200 years, the U.S. can be a good place to make money. He was really popular, with up to 5000 people attending his lectures on fossil fish, zoology, and the Ice Age. So Agassiz stayed and worked at Harvard for the rest of his life. His lectures at Harvard led to the creation of the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard in 1847, headed by Agassiz. He founded the Museum of Comparative Zoology in 1859 and headed it until his death. He also realized by the mid-1850s that he could coast on his previous works while being famous. He taught occasionally at Cornell and talked a lot to other scientists. Longfellow wrote poems about him and he became comfortable and happy in his fame. He did lead a couple of scientific expeditions to South America in the 1860s, in part to escape the cold climate of New England that was affecting his health as he aged.

As was not uncommon among 19th century scientists, he also took several positions that modern Americans should feel quite uncomfortable with. First, he thought that the races were different species affected by different climatic zones, and most horribly, that those climatic zones made white people more advanced than people from the southern climes. He believed the Book of Genesis only described the white race. There has been debate over the years whether Agassiz was explicitly a racist, with Stephen Jay Gould strongly accusing him of racism and others defending him. The problem with this construction is the idea that one is either a racist or not a racist, avoiding the reality that most people are racists on a continuum, which people don’t like to hear today because it means they have culpability in racism even if they are liberals. Agassiz was obviously a white supremacist and as most science past and present is heavily influenced by the political and social atmosphere of the time, just because Agassiz was operating in a period of scientific racism doesn’t excuse his perpetuating it, nor does it make him a monster per se. Moreover, as Gould pointed out, Agassiz was viscerally horrified upon seeing African-Americans after moving the United States. For similar reasons of racist thought backed by religious dogma, Agassiz also rejected Darwin’s evolutionary theory. In 1860, he launched a public attack on Darwin, denying any connection between fossilized species and living species. He believed that God created all the species and refused to accept any theory that did not center some role for the deity. He published three books before he died, attacking Darwin and defending creationism, even as he became increasingly irrelevant in scientific debates. For this, Agassiz is a hero today among creationists.

Louis Agassiz died in 1873 and is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Today In Research for Answers We Already Knew

[ 22 ] April 20, 2017 |

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 18: Eric Reid #35 and Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers defeated the 49ers 46-27. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

I know I am shocked that the white response to black athletes protesting is framed by white racism.

But all those white people love the conservative values espoused by Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali so they aren’t racist at all just because they’d like to see Colin Kaepernick lynched for not standing for the flag.

The Sessions Press Conference

[ 49 ] March 27, 2017 |

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Above: Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III struck today.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a surprise appearance at the White House press briefing Monday afternoon to urge sanctuary cities to change their policies, noting that the Department of Justice plans to deny them funding if they do not begin following federal immigration laws.

“I strongly urge our nation’s states and cities ad counties to consider carefully the harm they are doing to our citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws, and to rethink these policies,” Sessions said.

So-called “sanctuary cities” offer safe harbor to undocumented immigrants who might otherwise be deported by federal law enforcement officials. The United States has more than 140 sanctuary jurisdictions, either cities or counties, including 37 cities. Among the sanctuary cities are San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.

But the Trump administration has argued that sanctuary cities also offer safety from deportation for undocumented immigrants with criminal records.

“When cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe,” Sessions said. “Failure to deport aliens who are convicted of criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk, especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators.”

Sessions’ comments follow approximately two months after President Trump’s executive order allowing the attorney general and homeland security secretary to decide whether sanctuary cities would be eligible for federal grants. The order was one of the first Mr. Trump signed after taking office.

This is of course entirely expected with a racist white nationalists in the Oval Office naming an open neo-Confederate as Attorney General. The Slave Power lives. The extent to which cities fight back will be very interesting. The key is that they do not cave. If one or two cave, a bunch will. This will take grassroots activism to demand mayors do the right thing, even if it costs money. This is an ethnic cleansing moment and as I have said before, if you want to know what you would have done if you lived under a fascist power in the past, well, now you know based upon what you do today.

Why did this happen today? David Kurtz speculates, convincingly.

Perhaps the White House had planned all along for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make an appearance at today’s press briefing to rail against sanctuary cities. But the timing is consistent with what I’ve long feared will be the impulse for the Trump administration: When the going gets rough (failed Obamacare repeal, low poll numbers, etc), it will fall back on appeals to racism and xenophobia to regain political footing.

With so much incompetence taking root, it’s not difficult to envision a scenario where those base appeals must become more amped up, extreme, and scurrilous to be “effective.” It threatens to turn into a vicious cycle the likes of which we’ve never seen in this country.

Obviously we can’t know this. But doesn’t shifting from a defeat by fanning the flames of racism sound exactly like something Steve Bannon would do?

This Day in Labor History: March 24, 1934

[ 25 ] March 24, 2017 |

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On March 24, 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Tydings-McDuffie Act. Better known as the Philippine Independence Act, Tydings-McDuffie initially sounds like a victory for anti-colonialist forces. However, a look at the history of law demonstrates that it actually came out of the deep anti-Asian racism of the West Coast who saw Asian populations both as competition for white labor and competition for white women.

From the beginning of Anglo-American occupation in California, white workers defined the state as a white man’s republic. This was basically repeated in Oregon and Washington. And yet from the very beginning, the polyglot population of the region challenged those assumptions. The arrival of Mexicans and Chinese along with whites into California freaked out the white population, which quickly sought to take over the diggings. The Chinese were pushed into menial labor, as well as the most difficult and dangerous labor, such as railroad building. White workers saw these workers as a direct threat, committed murderous violence against them, and lobbied for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first major legislative victory for unions in American history. But California employers continued their search for cheap labor, turning to the Japanese. But the same anti-Asian sentiment rose up against the Japanese, especially as these workers began organizing as well, and the Gentlemen’s Agreement cut that labor off in 1907. But western employers now had a new source of labor: Filipinos. This was much more difficult for anti-Asian zealots to organize against, for Filipinos had the right to immigrate as colonial subjects of the United States since the 1898-1902 war of subjugation.

By the 1920s, Filipino immigration to California expanded rapidly, with over 24,000 coming between 1925 and 1929, mostly young men to work in the fields. In response, the San Francisco Chronicle editorialized, “There is a serious immigration problem involved in the introduction of large numbers of person who are unassimilable yet who are given a statue little short of full citizenship.” They lived in the same terrible camps that other workers suffered through in the fields, with housing that was basically chicken coops. The growers liked them because they worked hard and made little trouble on the farms. But the new arrival of non-whites infuriated many Californians. To make it worse for white Californians, many Filipino men, and men made up 94% of the migrants, ended up having sexual relationships with white women. This was not what their cheap, exploitable labor was supposed to do. Said Fred Hart, a farmer from Salinas, “The Filipinos will not leave our white girls alone…Frequently they intermarry.” That these new workers had status as Americans made their brazenness even more outrageous for white California.

So whites did what whites do so frequently in American history–they turned to violence against the people who color who dared stand up for human rights and labor rights. On January 21, 1930, about two hundred white Californians tried to raid a Filipino-owned club near Monterey where nine white women worked as entertainers. The mob expanded to about 500 people and the next night they started attacking Filipinos they found on the streets and in the orchards. On January 23, the mob killed a farmworker named Fermin Tobera, who had come to California in 1928 to work in the fields and send money back to his impoverished family. The bunkhouse in which he slept on the Murphy Ranch near Watsonville was set upon by whites who started firing into it. Tobera was shot in the head. This outraged the Filipino community working for the rights of their people in Washington, as well as Filipinos in Manila. Other violent incidents popped up around California over the next couple of days, leading to beating and a stabbing. On January 29, someone blew up the Stockton headquarters of the Filipino Federation of America. Although several people were sleeping inside, no one was killed. Given the trans-Pacific anger this violence caused, California law enforcement had to do something. Eight men pleaded guilty for incitement to riot; four of them served thirty days in prison and the rest of the sentences for all of them were suspended.

This violence is the context in which the U.S. considered granting the Filipinos their independence. Both supporters and opponents of Filipino migration to the U.S. thought independence was probably the best solution by the early 1930s. The Watsonville Evening Pajaronian editorialized that it hoped the Philippines would get their independence so Japan would invade them and turn them into a new Korea. Given the rapidly growing availability of white labor as the Great Depression deepened, the California growers wouldn’t struggle to find a new labor force either.

The law itself granted the Philippines independence after ten years. In exchange, Filipinos would have to abide by the racist immigration quota system of the 1924 Immigration Act immediately. A whopping 50 immigrants from the Philippines a year were allowed into the United States. They were also denied citizenship rights. A 1946 law, the same year that the Philippines actually received independence, doubled the quota to a whole 100 immigrants and restored the ability of Filipinos to become citizens. A year after Tydings-McDuffie, Congress passed the Filipino Repatriation Act that provided free transportation for Filipinos who wanted to return to the islands but could not afford to do so. The nation didn’t quite get to the point of rounding up these workers, but they can awfully close.

In conclusion, the United States was actually too racist and too concerned about interracial sex to remain a colonial power.

Of course, Filipino labor did not disappear from the United States after Tydings-McDuffie, even as new immigration did. These workers would play a critical role in the early farmworker movements that eventually led to the United Farm Workers, even as Latino workers supplanted the Filipinos in the movement.

I borrowed from Dorothy B. Fujita-Rony, “Empire and the Moving Body: Fermin Tobera, Military California, and Rural Space,” in Bender and Lipman, Making the Empire Work: Labor and United States Imperialism in the writing of this post.

This is the 212th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

The Return of a Racist Union Movement

[ 26 ] March 9, 2017 |

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The relationship between organized labor and immigration is complicated, to say the least. For many decades, far too long, the labor movement was outright opposed to immigration, partially on the ground of a higher population undermining wages and partly on the grounds of whiteness. In recent decades, that has changed fairly significantly. The United Farm Workers, even if it had very little real impact on the lives of workers in the end, helped start that. The growth of immigrant workers in unions such as UNITE-HERE and SEIU made some of our largest labor organizations also some of our largest immigrant rights organizations. This moved the AFL-CIO into supporting smart, sane, humanitarian immigration policy. But of course the AFL-CIO is a complex maelstrom of a lot of organizations. With the decline of the industrial unions, the building trades have reasserted a lot of authority within the labor movement. And while some of the building trades, especially at the local level in immigrant-heavy places, have embraced a diverse workforce, at the international level and in many, many locals, the old desire to keep America white is still very strong.

This helps us understand why many of the building trades have embraced Trump. It’s not just about pipeline construction. It’s about Make America White Again. One of those unions is the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, long one of the most politically conservative unions in the United States. In fact, it did not endorse a Democrat for the presidency until LBJ and while it was technically non-partisan before that, everyone knew that the Hutcheson dynasty that ruled the UBC for generations openly lobbied for Republicans. The actions of Carpenters leaders in Buffalo concerning immigrant workers are, to say the least, highly disturbing and must be denounced by the rest of the labor movement.

Federal agents are not the only ones trying to remove people from the Buffalo area who have entered the country illegally.

If Bill Bing, a carpenters union official, discovers that undocumented immigrants are working at a local construction project, the union tips off authorities.

That information has led to some raids and arrests, he said, although the detention last month of 32 individuals suspected of being in the country illegally and working at projects was not his tip.

“We were not directly responsible for the information on those two raids,” said Bing, the local representative for the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters.

Bing said he is glad to see the enforcement of immigration laws and makes no apologies for when he or other union members tip off federal and state authorities.
The jobs should go to American citizens and that it is not a union-versus-nonunion issue, he said.

“There are very good local union and nonunion contractors who suffer the fallout from dirty business,” Bing said. “This directly affects area living standards, not to mention the tax dollars New York State, Erie County and the local municipalities don’t and won’t see.”

Other trade unions, he said, tip off authorities, “but they are not as proactive as we are. The carpenters union devotes a lot of money and resources to this.”

But even as the uniond supply tips, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say there have been numerous false reports of federal officers conducting law enforcement actions against immigrants.

“Reports of ICE checkpoints and sweeps are false, dangerous and irresponsible,” said Khaalid H. Walls, an ICE spokesman. “These reports create mass panic and put communities and law enforcement personnel in unnecessary danger,” Walls said. “Any groups falsely reporting such activities are doing a disservice to those they claim to support.”

And how do these random Carpenters members in Buffalo know that a worker is undocumented? The don’t, of course. What they see is a brown-skinned person speaking Spanish. What more evidence do they need? How many people here with documentation are also being harassed by our proto-fascist immigration officials because of openly racist union members?

This is why, as I said in this piece for The New Republic, no one on the left is going to care when Trump signs a bill repealing Davis-Bacon. Even other parts of the labor movement aren’t going to care. Why would SEIU go to bat for the Carpenters over an issue that does not affect them when the Carpenters turn workers into ICE, the American Gestapo, for deportation? They won’t. Losing Davis-Bacon will decimate the building trades as so much of their work is contracted through the government. But that won’t get in the way of their whiteness campaign. I know there are good people inside the Carpenters who disagree with these sorts of policies. But until the international comes out and disciplines local leaders who engage in open racism and until the Carpenters commits itself to alliances with other groups who also care about better lives for workers, the whole union has to be held responsible for actions like what is happening in Buffalo. None of this is to say that contractors aren’t using undocumented workers to avoid using union crews. Of course they are. But the response of the Carpenters needs to be organizing these workers and hiring Spanish-speakers to work in those communities, not seeking to get them thrown out of the country.

Kicking the Chinese out of California in 1882 did not lead to a strong union California and kicking the Mexicans out of Buffalo in 2017 won’t lead to a union town either. The problems are much deeper than immigrant competition. Recognizing and acting upon that fact is the first step to an inclusive labor movement.

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