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Anti-Latino Racism: The Equality Issue Of Our Time

by Robert Gittelson

As a child growing up on Long Island in the 60's, I was certainly aware of the fact that we had a racism problem in this country. I remember discussing the assassination of Martin Luther King in grade school. I remember my parents telling me about blacks having to drink from separate drinking fountains, and having to use separate restrooms in the south. I remember that we wanted to join the local country club, but that we couldn't because we were Jewish.

Obviously, these memories have stayed with me, and they are a part of me, but they have faded over time. Of course I knew that the death of Reverend King was a significant historical event, but it wasn't personal to me. I was too young to understand the issue in all of its complexity. I had never marched or demonstrated. I knew that it was wrong that blacks had to deal with segregation, but I had never seen a black drinking fountain. I was disappointed that we couldn’t join the country club. They had a pool! But I wasn't in the room with my parents when they were told that Jews were not welcome to join the club.

Well, I'm in the room now, and I know racism when I see it.

The fact is I'm not a child any longer, and I do understand the immigration reform issue in all its complexity, I have witnessed discrimination, and I can, have, and will advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, and against the tide of Anti-Latino Racism that has reared its ugly head so vociferously in the wake of the recent senate immigration debate.

I can only feel dismay and a certain sense of embarrassment for our country, when I see and hear the outpouring of hate and ignorance all over the airwaves and internet that this senate debate has fueled. The "hoods are really off" now, so to speak. The calm tone of civilized debate has been shoved aside by rancor and bigotry.

The "talking heads" are foaming at the mouth. Lou Dobbs is almost incoherently disconcerted by the notion that reform is proceeding despite his best obstructionist efforts. He keeps talking about broken borders, but he never talks about fixing them. Sean Hannity is pathetically desperate while railing about the "rule of law", but he never acknowledges that our immigration laws can and should be fixed.

As I was surfing the web the day after the compromise deal was announced, I went to my usual sites to gauge the public's reaction, or in this case outcry. Out of morbid curiosity, I went to the Washington Times website, to see what the real right wing hardliners had to say. It was an eye opening experience. They had the usual anti-immigration reform propaganda as the lead article, but what was particularly disturbing was the comments section. There were literally 32 comments posted, and not 1 favored any kind of reform.

Once again, I found myself in a country club that didn't want me to join. They had a pool, but Ann Coulter and her gang of sharks were swimming in it. However, this time I was in the room, and yes, I posted a pro-reform comment on their website. Okay, maybe the score was 32-1 against me, but I made my arguments. Maybe it's not the same as marching on Selma, Alabama for equal rights, but it is something. At least the blacks that marched for recognition of their rights had rights. The millions of illegal immigrants that are living here now don't even have rights at all.

When this call for immigration reform started in earnest last year, I had hoped that a civilized discourse on the issues would be followed by useful and needed legislation. I am wary, but I still hope that helpful legislation can pass this year. However, it is obvious to me that in addition to new laws, a new tolerance and open-mindedness will be required of our country to aid in the assimilation and equality of our immigrant population. A lot has happened in our country over the past 40 years or so, but in the case of racism, it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

About The Author

Robert Gittelson has been a garment manufacturer in the Los Angeles area for over 25 years. His wife, Patricia Gittelson, is an immigration attorney with offices in Van Vuys and Oxnard, California. Robert also works closely with Patricia on the administrative side of her immigration practice. Throughout his career, Mr. Gittelson has developed practical, first hand experience in dealing with the immigration issues that are challenging our country today.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.