Saturday, May 19, 2007


Photo courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor

"O contending peoples and kindreds of the earth! Set your faces towards unity, and let the radiance of its light shine upon you. Gather ye together, and for the sake of God resolve to root out whatever is the source of contention amongst you. Then will the effulgence of the world's great Luminary envelop the whole earth, and its inhabitants become the citizens of one city, and the occupants of one and the same throne."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 217)

I was planning to do something about the Bible in this post but the illegal immigration debate is heating up once more and as a thoughtful American Baha'i, I have to address it. It appears that there is some movement towards what is being called "comprehensive immigration reform" by our national leadership who have actually discovered something they can agree about. People who are unhappy with this development have gone into ethnic hysteria and are shouting "amnesty" from the roof tops! Those ever present pundits of doom in the popular media are predicting the demise of America in the next 15-20 years as the tide of immigration, both legal and illegal continues and minorities, who recently reached 100,000,000 of the population eventually become the majority. Most of these minorities will be from (gasp!) Latino backgrounds. I actually heard one radio talking head claim that he would leave the United States permanently and live abroad if these trends continue. Mr. Clash of Civilizations himself is deeply concerned that somehow salsa dancing and enchiladas are going bring down the world's only superpower. This would all be kind of funny if the people saying these things were not so completely and totally serious. What makes me concerned is that historically, when those who possess most of the power in our society (in America that is still largely people of European ancestry) start getting scared of those who possess the least power (guess who that would be), people start getting hurt or dead. Here's a couple of things worth considering:

1. The relationship between minorities and majorities is a global challenge that no nation seems to have yet figured out. However the simple fact that a group of people is small in a numerical sense does not mean that fundamental power relationships will be different. People of European ancestry have centuries of experience ruling over people of color who outnumber them. Anybody remember South Africa?

2. African Americans have centuries of experience living as a minority in a society which is at best, ambivalent about our humanity. We are well prepared to live in a majority Latino society, if Latinos actually have political and economic power equal to their numbers (not likely to happen anytime soon, see number 1). This is not to suggest, as some people do that there is some kind of natural affinity between African Americans and Latino Americans, or that Latino's are not just as racist as some whites are. African Americans are survivers and we will make the best of the situation regardless of who is in charge or who the majority is. Our day is on the way and nothing can stop it.

3. Most of the challenges that Latino's are bringing with them to America, cultural, social, or economic have solutions to them. If all Americans put more energy into trying to solve these problems rather than attempting to criminalize and dehumanize an entire population, the benefits to our society would far outweigh the cost. Again we have much experience with attempting to deal with the challenge of diversity by criminalizing and dehumanizing a whole population (i.e. African Americans). IT DIDN'T WORK! Let's try something different this time.

Ok reader, roll up your sleeves and weigh in. I want to know what you think.