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Anti-Immigrant in Black Face?

by jubilee shine Sunday, May. 27, 2007 at 2:25 PM

drive minutemen from l.a. - stop ted hayes leimert park rally 6/23

Anti-Immigrant in Black Face?

By Bill Fletcher, Jr. - BC Editorial Board

Black Commentator

May 23, 2007

The picture in the ad immediately caught my attention.

The photo was of a very dignified older African

American man looking into the camera, very determined

and equally pensive. Underneath his photo was a

caption giving his name "T. Willard Fair" and the

fact that he was the veteran of 40 years of struggle in

the Civil Rights Movement.

This was certainly enough to pique my interest.

Beneath the caption was a statement declaring that the

alleged threat to African Americans comes from

documented and undocumented immigrants. He went on to

suggest that any notion of legalizing undocumented

workers was a slap in the face of African Americans.

The ad is associated with a group called the

"Coalition for the Future American Worker."

Fair's attack is not surprising, although the

virulence and historical nature of it is very

unsettling, particularly because it is bound to strike

a chord among many African Americans.

Black America has been taking a prolonged economic hit

since the mid 1970s. The economic reorganization which

many people call de-industrialization has had a

devastating impact on the Black worker,

disproportionately so. The elimination and/or

shrinkage of manufacturing jobs in urban centers has

had the effect of hollowing out entire communities,

destabilizing Black America economically, socially and

politically. Rather than the flight of the so-called

middle class, Black America has witnessed the

disintegration of segments of its working class and

professional/managerial class.

This crisis began well before there was a significant

influx of immigrants, and it is this crisis that has

been haunting us. This crisis has been compounded by

the right-wing political assault on the public sector,

largely through anti-tax revolts and privatization,

which has resulted in both a decline in services and a

decline in employment (with the latter also having a

disproportionate impact on the Black worker).

Fair and his coalition mention nothing about this,

which in and of itself is quite significant. Instead

they focus on the competition from the immigrant

worker. While competition exists, particularly in very

low wage work, the problem does not lie with the

immigrants but with the desire on the part of employers

to find workers who will accept the lowest possible

wages. This has been demonstrated in any number of

industries, not the least of which was the janitorial

industry during the 1980s that went from very African

American to very Latino after the industry was


Fair makes it appear that immigrants are the ones

closing steel mills and auto plants. They are not.

Fair acts as if the immigrant workers are carrying out

ethnic cleansing against African Americans. They are

not. We are, however, being cleansed from entire

industries because of the greed of employers who are

always looking at the bottom line and who seek the

cheapest possible workforce, and eventually, if

possible, no human workforce at all, but just a line of


Instead of Fair and his grouping focusing on the

policies that have been destroying African American

employment, they instead pick the easy - and wrong -

target of the immigrant. And, it is easy to pick the

immigrant. For instance, in the construction industry,

an industry that African Americans, along with non-

immigrant Latinos (particularly Puerto Ricans and

Chicanos) and Asians fought for years to get into,

immigrant workers are increasing dramatically as a

significant proportion of the workforce. What is

noteworthy is that this is happening largely in the

lower-paid, non-union construction workforce where,

once again, the "logic" of capitalism prevails in

the search for a low-wage workforce. While the Black

worker wants a construction job, s/he is not looking

for low-wage construction work with no benefits.

Consider the conditions into which Latino immigrant

construction workers were placed when many were brought

to New Orleans for the reconstruction of the city.

Under non-union conditions, they were often housed in a

prison-like environment, and frequently cheated out of


No, Mr. Fair and your cohorts, the problem is not the

immigrant worker. The problem is the system. And,

just as African American workers were used in certain

industries as low-wage workers in the late 19th and

early-to-mid 20th centuries, in order to undercut

higher paid workers, this changed dramatically through

a combination of unionization and the Black Freedom


What lessons can we draw from this?

* As long as there is a vulnerable workforce,

capitalists will seek them out to utilize against

other workers.

* Low-wage workers will not be competitors if they

cease being low-wage workers, i.e., if they are

unionized and gain power in their workplaces or


* Part of changing the character of work can be

found in the demands of a social movement that

combines the fight for political and social

justice, with economic justice. To a great extent,

the crisis facing the Black worker today can be

linked to the failure of the Black Freedom Movement

to pursue the path suggested by Dr. King toward the

end of his life, that united the fights for racial

justice with economic justice along with what later

came to be known as global justice.

Without disrespecting the life and history of Mr. Fair,

who I am sure made contributions to our struggle for

justice, somewhere along the line he fell prey to the

emotional and hallucinatory appeal of attacking

immigrants as a means of saving the Black worker. Not

only is this morally bankrupt, but it is also

politically bankrupt. If we do not have an accurate

analysis of the problem, we cannot possibly develop a

good strategy to resolve it. Or, perhaps it was better

and more succinctly put by the Cheshire Cat in Alice in

Wonderland when he said, "if you don't know where you

want to go, any road will get you there."

BC Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a

long-time labor and international activist and writer.

unite the many,

defeat the few!

Report this post as:

Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 2 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
some other points no doubt Monday, May. 28, 2007 at 2:58 AM
Cool beans on the article daniel Monday, May. 28, 2007 at 5:11 PM

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