Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Veiled Racism - Update

I received an email from a co-worker yesterday entitled "immigrants", it was a poem about immigrants taking advantage of the welfare system and not paying taxes. I was offended by this email and found it racist in nature. I didn't know how to respond except for deleting it from my email system. I didn't want to keep a copy, all though I wish I would have because I am sure it would have violated email policies.

All last night I tossed and turned trying to figure out how I should deal with my co-worker. She is a work friend, not someone that I would hang out with outside of work but we chit chat and have lunch on a regular basis. I didn't want to hurt the good working relationship we have together but I felt like I needed to say something to her. I decided that the best thing was to send her an email in response that read:

Hi X,
I wanted to let you know that I appreciate the jokes you forward to me, they really brighten the work day. I wanted to raise an issue about the one you sent yesterday "Immigrants." Having many friends as well as in-laws who are immigrants I was offended by the hurtful nature of the poem. It cast a very negative view of immigrants, grouping them all into a group of people that are out to make a buck off of the US. I understand that there may be a few individuals that do these things but that can be said of US citizens as well. I have never met an immigrant who came to the US to manipulate the system, but I have met plenty of folks from the US that have. It pains me to see this kind of material sent out to further prejudice this group of people. After all if you go back far enough we are all immigrants.
Just wanted to let you know my viewpoint.

So what do you think? I haven't received a response from her yet, and I can say I am a little bit of a chicken shit to go and talk to her about it. Do you think I should just let this email speak for itself?

I also bring up this topic because I have become increasingly concerned that this attack on immigrants is really thinly veiled racism. Any thoughts on this?

Okay, stepping off the soapbox now, but I figured I would just start the discussion.

Update: I am not calling anyone a racist I am reacting to the poem that was of a racist nature and discussed the US as the white man land (nice huh?). So from a certain fringe of the population this is a racial issue.

I would like to think that most people who come here would like to become US citizens, but it is often very hard when you do not speak the language, are just trying to survive. I am all for trying to fix the system which I know is broken but I also don't believe the answer is to demonize a large group of people as criminals.

I realize that no matter what I say this issue can not be dealt with in a simple blog post but because of the email it sparked something in me that I needed to get out.


Cityslicker Mom said...

kudos to you for standing up for what you believe. She might feel a little embarassed, and that's why you haven't heard from her. she'll get over it.

: JustaDog said...

For the life of me I can't understand why liberals warp the issue of illegal aliens into an issue it is not - racism.

Since when did upholding the law have anything to do with race? I find those that are most racist are those that "play the race card".

As far as illegal aliens having an affect on the social programs of the USA, just ask one of the states that is BILLIONS of dollars in the red - just because of the huge outlay to illegals - California.

Now I suppose you can call me racist - a favorite thing liberals like to do, but no where in my comments did I pick on any specific group of people - just those of any race that are illegally here.

So count me in as being prejudice - against those that break the law. Do I feel guilty? Nope - this 2nd generation immigrant is proud - and proud my grandparents came here legally. People have a choice - they come across legally, or they choose to break the law. You choose to cuddle those that break the law.

greenInk said...


Heather, just ignore JustaDog. He/she is the worst sort of troll. Nothing in your email accuses your coworker of being racist. If JaD had actually read the post to see that the offending poem "cast a very negative view of immigrants, grouping them all into a group of people that are out to make a buck off of the US," he/she/it would see that you are opposed to exactly the sort of broad-brush stereotyping that JDog also claims to oppose. So what's the problem?

Your email was well-considered and a good response. Your co-worker will reveal herself by her actions. Just treat her as you always have. She'll either give you the cold shoulder or get over herself. Either way, you'll know where she stands.

take care.

HeatherJ said...

Thank you for your comments, I just wanted to start a discussion. The email that I received was racist it referred to the US as the "white man land". yes there are people out there that see this as a racial issue.

As far as your comment on illegal aliens sending California into the red, I worked for the state of California from 2001-2005 and yes there are issues dealing with illegal aliens but that state as many other problems that have caused it to go into the red.

PeetsMom said...

Being the daughter of a first generation immigrant I think gives me my own perspective (as does everyone elses life experiences.) My father came here to become a citizen. He went to Citizenship school and he had to pass a test most American High School kids could not pass today. I am proud of him for doing that. He taught me to be honest and have integrity; that there is a difference between right and wrong. Breaking the law is wrong.

That said, our current immigration system is completely outdated and so obviously overwhelmed by the numbers of people wanting to come to the US that many people choose to ignore the system..to ignore the laws of the place they want to call their country.

I can respect the people who want to see a change in the system - it's in dire need, but making it a racial issue only serves to ignite emotions that, more often than not, lead to people hurting each other. All we get from that is a lot of hyped up media.

Not having read the poem your co-worker sent you, I can only say that your response seemed to be well thought out. Probably she/he sent the email via FWD without really thinking about the content - some people are not very discriminating (!) about their choices!

nonlineargirl said...

I am glad you said something to this work friend. It is hard to maintain even a working relationship if you can't be honest about your values. You have to stand up for what you believe, even when it makes you feel nervous.

I disagree with JustaDog. Not only is much anti-immigrant sentiment about race now, it has been this way for a long time. If you look at anti-immigrant propaganda from the turn of the previous century, you'll see racist diatribes against Italians, Jews, even the Irish, who most Americans now see as the bedrock of "traditional" America.

One of the stories in the news yesterday (related to the main story about the pro-immigrant rallies across the country) was that we should not let people sing the Star Spangled Banner in languages other than English? What is this about? Certainly not about illegal vs. legal immigration, but about a crazy fear that our "culture" (whatever that means) and values will be dilluted by immigrants. Right. Those hard-working people who clean our offices and hotels, pick our food, care for our children... would not want to value hard work, nope. Not me.

landismom said...

I think that veiled racism is one of the hardest kinds to deal with, because it does allow people to retreat behind the veil of "well, I didn't mean it that way." That being said, I think you handled the situation with your co-worker very well.

jayne d'Arcy said...

I've been called a racist, by a very good friend, but I deal. I think my feelings on the immigrants is very clear; if they snuck in, if they didn't go through proper channels, etc., then they simply have no rights whatsoever in America. There are many immigrants (my own great-grandparents and my grandfather) who went through the process which included a four month stay at Ellis Island because my grandfather (a little kid) was sick. Those immigrants that make the effort to be legal deserve the rights and privileges they earn.

sunshine scribe said...

Heather I am glad you wrote this post and the email to your friend. It would have been easier to ignore it. That is what most people do. But tolerating inappropriate and offensive behaviour with inaction is often no better. I think you did a beautiful job of challenging her and expresssing your point without accusing her of racism.

That having been said I agree with you completely that much of the immigration issue that seems to be happening in the US (and many other parts of the world) is veiled in racism. There are far too many generalizations and assumptions cast on large groups of people, many who are hard working individuals or who have stories of struggle that brought them to a new life that would make you weep. And you could not be more true that countries like Canada and the US are really, essentially made up totally of immigrants if you trace back not very far in history.

I think you are brave for sending the email and writing the post. Good for you!

Gurukarm Kaur said...

My opinions (manyfold, as always) are that:
1) you dealt well with the issue, Heather. Your email back to her was pretty neutrally worded (ie, not judgmental of the sender);
2) Peetsmom has hit the nail on the head - the immigration laws are so arcane, weird, and malleable, it's no wonder many feel they have no recourse to come here legally. And therefore;
3) we ought to be working to fix/revise/correct/update the laws that exist so people don't have to wait up to TWENTY-THREE years (yes, I read that recently) to be allowed to come in legally. And when a legal immigrant is made a promise about how to become a permanent resident (a commentator on NPR this morning), that promise should be kept - he is a doctor working in medically underserved area, was told if he and his wife worked there for three years, they'd get their green cards. Nine years later, they're still waiting, and shoved to the end of the list every year.

OK. Off the soapbox now. Thanks!

Mama M said...

I just can't believe the kind of emails people pass around the workplace and think they are ok. I'm glad you said something!

Bridgermama said...

It is so important to stand up for what you believe in. I think so many people lose sight of this due to their need to be "polite." I am so anxious to hear what happens with the co-worker. Hopefully there will be a future post!

Anonymous said...

This country got rich off the backs of unpaid labor--largely slavery. The "U.S. buck" is a stolen buck at best. Please spare me all the self-righteousness around this issue. Your co-worker was lucky you didn't complain to the boss. Laws need to be updated and until they are, people trying to feed themselves and their families will do what they need to do to make that happen--just as "American" people do. What if the Natives placed long-term rediculous laws on our entrance into their land? We probably would have just killed them all and taken it. Ooops--that's what we did do. America was suppose to be everyone's country--not those that got here first.