This, verbatim, is a comment that my mom made over dinner tonight in reference to the employment of illegal immigrants. I was appalled, and I got a bit short with her, although I’m not sure she really noticed.
Who cares? Gee, Sherlock, who do you fucking think? My parents both know that I’ve been taking commercial farm jobs when I can find them for the last few years, and that I’ve relocated distances of hundreds of miles for the express purpose of landing farm work on several occasions. Who the hell do they suppose is my competition in this line of work? Sven, Ole, and Lina from up in Duluth? Oh, ja, don’tcha know, that sounds about right. They both know that I’ve had difficulty finding commercial farm jobs and have returned to Joe Dirtbag’s squalid fucking mess of a worthy code enforcement project several times just to stay busy and keep my skills current. At least I think my mom tracks these things; I know for a fact that my dad does.
What the fuck do they think it’s like to compete with foreign scab labor that isn’t even legally present in the United States, let alone authorized to work here? What do they think it’s like to try to get work in a job market dominated by back-channel family and social networks of non-English speakers, an arrangement that itself is predicated on ethnic prejudice just shy of frank bigotry? And what, pray tell, do they think it’s like to seek work with the sort of American landowners who consider it ideal to shun American employees in favor of a foreign peasantry, much of it not legally present in their country, whose language few of them speak?
My feelings about Mexicans really aren’t germane. These feelings are mixed: I’ve worked with a number of Mexicans, some of them great people, many of them decent, a few of them rotten pieces of shit. I don’t venerate the Latin noble savage, but I’m not all fuck-the-goddamn-wetbacks, either. For better or worse, they’re my colleagues, and by no means is it exclusively for the worse. My strongest objections by far are to the slimy, disingenuous shitbirds in management, PR, and the landed class who insist on the necessity and the moral rectitude of hiring Mexicans, often under unconscionable terms and workplace conditions, because Yanqui no wanna work the menial labor jobs no more.
The wetbacks and Chicanos themselves just want jobs. Rarely are they the ones giving me the hairy eyeball for dogfooding the stoop labor. More often, they recognize me as a genuine colleague, sometimes warmly so. They may be surprised to see an Anglo in their line of work, but I’ve only experienced two instances of what seemed like undue personal antipathy from Latin American colleagues, both of these at worksites run in a tradition verging on that of the Antebellum cotton plantation.
The lion’s share of fuck-whitey prejudice I’ve encountered in the fields has come from planters or their foremen. This prejudice is worse and ultimately far more destructive than the bigotry of the two fuck whiteys who polar-beared me in Black Kensington, ostensibly on behalf of the Community. I mean this sincerely as a one-time victim of racist violence in the Badlands and a recurrent victim of racist prejudice from the landed crypto-gentry and their middle managers. The asswipes who tried to intimidate or, for all I know, pavement-stomp me on Frankford Avenue were low-functioning opportunists who scattered when I cried out for the police after annoying some of their neighbors with all the commotion. They weren’t principals or keyholders with personnel authority over anyone. Besides, Jonathan Josey might–I stress, might–have given them a good hard taste of their own medicine had he happened by the scene, as would have many other Philadelphia cops. No one gives the hidalgos concrete consequences (well, to be technical, asphalt consequences, I guess, if I remember the pavement correctly from the video) for presiding over a crude ethnic caste system that shuts their own compatriots out of large swathes of the job market. Remember: Josey, Morse, Albers, Wilson, Pantaleo, ad nauseam: These brothers don’t punch up; they punch down.
Yes, the planters, or at least the ones who’ve vexed me, are my fellow constituents of Whitey. Even the Sikh and nisei-plus planters are often honorary constituents of their Whitey locals, and I guess even the Armenians, the Jews of Fresno, are as well, although good grief can they be a haughty bunch. I’m just sayin’. My point is not to smear Warren Zevon, a Jew (of sorts) from Fresno. And I am frankly not the racist one here; I’m the one plaintively arguing against ethnic and national origin prejudice in hiring decisions, and in determining that perseverative three-chord nonsense ought to get less airtime than, say, Steely Dan deep tracks. Western growers are the ones who refer to “our wetbacks.” They, not I, are the ones who imply their possession of their rightful share of a foreign peasantry.
That’s why they don’t need me around, just as a Southern man don’t need Mr. Young around (I could mostly do without that whiny Canuck myself). They have surplus scab labor unencumbered by civil rights, so they have little use for Yanqui. I don’t think I’m exaggerating much at all. Growers aren’t all like this, thank God, but quite a few of them are. These are deeply, deeply racist people, or at least deeply classist. As I’ve mentioned before, the descendants of Mexicans often have little difficulty being accepted into Whitey, and once that happens, their job entry-level job prospects start drying up. Funny thing, that. That the planters use their racism to shut other white people out of their workplaces may look bizarre from the outside, but I’m used to it by now. They’re landed bigots. The solution is to extrinsically force reform on them through a combination of regulatory, civil and criminal action and (LOL) social pressure from their peers.
Ghettoside kill-whiteys have nothing on this forever-in-blue-jeans gentry for effective racism. They’re on track to cross the wrong victim, get snitched out to Northeast Detectives, and do twenty to life at Frackville. Theirs is ultimately quite a prosaic sort of criminality. It’s bad news, to be sure, but they’re outlaws. They do the crime, and they sometimes do the time. The planters and their foremen never end up bunking with Jeremy Meeks at FCI Mendota, no matter how much I9 document fraud they openly suborn. These fuckers are not outlaws. The law loves them longtime.
It should be obvious which of these crowds is more likely to hire anyone. This is what’s so destructive about allowing the influential to hire whomever the hell they please, with no regard to legal status. They get into a race to the bottom. Before long, they’re shutting out their own countrymen because they hold in contempt lower-class Americans with the temerity to presume themselves their civic equals. Mexican grunt laborers become fashionable, Americans unfashionable. By many accounts, black workers get it much worse than white in the panda-bearing of the workforce. The Community has traditionally been last-in, first-out, and the planters are now able to get them some Mexicans, as they like to say, so ain’t we got fun.
My parents mentioned tonight that some extremely wealthy and fairly prominent friends of theirs have been retaining a farm manager whose “status is funny,” or at least “was funny.” These friends of theirs have a real estate net worth well into the millions of dollars and a financial net worth probably in the low tens of millions. By the time they bought their farm, they had plenty of discretionary wealth and income to afford to hire a ranch manager with legal status. Full stop. They chose to hire someone from the legally dodgy peasant underclass instead. I won’t go into the details, but these people are kind of a big deal, and they’ve set themselves up for the agricultural equivalent of the Guatemalan nanny scandal should either of them seek public office, elected or appointed.
Their peers don’t want to harsh their mellow about this bottomfeeding. No one wants to make waves. The interpersonal motivations are understandable and perfectly reasonable. What the haute bourgeoisie imagine this race to the bottom means for their own children or for the children of their peers is hard to say. They’re abetting self-centered, dyscivic, explicitly illegal labor practices whose effect is to socioeconomically marginalize many grown children of their own class.
Of course the downwardly mobile thus marginalized are failures to launch. I guess we should have gone to grad school. Or maybe we should get cracking on our grad school applications right now and stop doing whatever we’re doing, or not doing, in lines of work that fit for Mexicans. The implications of a tide of ambivalent graduates or postdocs seeking work in fields that don’t much interest them or, worse, inspire their repulsion, are left conveniently unexplored. It’s our duty to get with the program, I guess, not the duty of anyone in a position of hiring or executive authority to abide by the settled labor and immigration law of the land.
The teeming Latin masses yearning to do whatever Emma Lazarus imagined them doing are bit players in a foreigners’ game far above their own pay grade. As impoverished newcomers with half-assed civil rights, at best, they have less culpability for this clusterfuck than wealthy Americans who were born and raised here. Being told by the beneficiaries of academic and professional guilds that no one should care about the legal status of some poor Mexican does not sit well with me, nor should it. The campesinos are being hired by Bougie in order to shut out the uppity native working classes, with the effect of screwing us over. It should be obvious why this is unacceptable to the dispossessed natives, and why it is inappropriate to suggest that the solution for me is to just bite the bullet and go to nursing school. None of this is a halfway decent reason for me to pursue further education beyond my bachelor’s degree. The only acceptable solution is to make it possible for capable, willing American applicants to quickly find work for which they are qualified. Period. This can’t happen when management gives priority to the most sorry-ass foreigners they can scrounge up from the four corners of the earth.
This is why I want Mexicans and Central Americans to have fewer children. It’s a selfish desire, but, I’m afraid, a justifiable one. It’s fundamentally unstable for a well-governed, prosperous, First World country to share a land border thousands of miles long with a series of badly governed, dirt-poor, upper-Third World countries. That just doesn’t work. The gradient is too strong.
My goal, however, is not to dictate barrenness to Latin Americans; it’s for the wealthy asswipes on both sides of the border who have spent generations guilt-tripping Latin American peasants into having more children than they can comfortably support for obscurantist reasons of sexual morality to shut the fuck up. This attitude of family planning for me but not for thee is repugnant. It’s inimical to liberty and self-government. The demographic dysfunction sporadically surging across the Rio Grande isn’t just the result of early marriage; the most dysfunctional parts of Central America commonly have girls getting pregnant from forcible rape at menarche and carrying their pregnancies to term. No middle-class community on earth experiences this sort of sheer pathology, and no middle-class community would tolerate such a thing.
I don’t expect my country’s deracinated, strategically barren social climbers to shut up about South-of-the-Border work ethics and family values any time soon. I’m not that stupid. Nor do I expect #TCOT and friends to say less about “illegals” and more about the moneyed American bottomfeeders hiring them. All I expect is to continue to be shut out of large parts of the job market, probably to the point of remaining unmarriageable and unable to start a family, until futher notice, all so that blame-shifting members of my native class, more or less, can continue to lord it over illiterate foreign peasants instead of paying their own countrymen honest wages for honest work.
I’m just being realistic. That, Mr. Cronkite, is the way it is.