Friday, September 2, 2016


Joy Reid, a generally insightful TV pundit, had one of Donald Trump's Hispanic advisors, Steve Cortes on her show. Cortes is critical of Trump’s tone and substance on immigration, but continues to stick with him. He and Reid got into a kerfuffle when he used the term “illegals”:
Reid: Hold on a second. Let me stop you right there. You are Hispanic, Steve. Are you comfortable with that term, “Illegal”? That is a pejorative to a lot of people. Why do you use that term?

Cortes: Joy, words matter.

Reid: Yeah, they do!

Cortes: …and if you do something that’s against the law, that’s illegal. If you go into a store and you shoplift, you’re not an undocumented holder of a good, you’re a thief. If you come into the US against the immigration laws of the US, you’re not undocumented, you’re illegal!

Reid: First of all, do you consider a child who was brought into this country….you would label that person essentially the equivalent of a “shoplifter” or a “thief”?

Cortes: No. Because they had no choice...

Reid: That’s what you said!

Cortes: No, I did not. I didn’t say that at all!

Reid: So you wouldn’t call a child eligible for DACA an “illlegal”?

Cortes: I would not, because they don’t have a choice! A shoplifter has a choice, an illegal alien has a choice, a child does not have a choice!

Reid: That’s fascinating that you, a person of color, would use that term.
When he repeated the word a few minutes later, she insisted that he stop using such a hateful, offensive term on her program.

A few things:

1. I’ve been befriending - and working alongside - undocumented Hispanic and Latinos (in the music business, the food business, and as neighbors in Miami, Brooklyn and Queens) for the better part of 35 years. And every one of them has referred to themselves - in terms of immigration status (in Spanish and in English) - as “Illegals”. So, really: case closed. But I'll continue...

2. Kids indeed are different (as Cortes tried to agree, while Reid derailed). That distinction requires both tolerance and vigilance, because it creates a loophole, and, as in any cat/mouse situation, loopholes inevitably get exploited. But, in 2016 America, I can't go further, because while my use of the shocking term “illegals” puts at risk some of my social relationships, I dare not refer to this loophole in anything but the vaguest possible language without risking pariah status. Mentioning this thing that no one denies happens is absolutely beyond the pale ("the pale" keeps drawing closer and closer!).

3. Kids aside (and the guy was doing his best to put kids aside), the tortured logic that an intelligent person must put herself through to reach this position makes my brain hurt. I love immigrants. I want more of them. I want total amnesty, I want green cards handed out like Tic Tacs, and I know with certainty that the best thing about America in 2016 was also the best thing about American in 1916 (when my grandparents arrived, back when borders were more porous): our immigrants. Complain to me about immigrants, generally, or Hispanics/Latinos, specifically, and I’ll get even louder than Joy Reid. But people here illegally aren’t “undocumented”. They’re here illegally. Let's embrace these hard-working illegals - who believe in the American dream way more than most of us - and give them amnesty and a path to citizenship! ¡Venga!

4. The “people of color” line was the coup de grace for me. Melanin doesn’t correlate with any specific line of behavior or thought - as people who use the term "people of color" would be the first to adamently insist. You can't have it both ways! By expecting people who look a certain way to think a certain way, you are validating the racist idiots!

On most political issues, I’m a moderate/centrist. But when it comes to immigration, I am one-sided: pro-immigrant in every respect and exuberantly xenophilic. If my views and expression nonetheless put me beneath-the-pale in the view of the American Left, it means the American Left has gone Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, straight into Crazytown on this issue. And I believe that’s had very bad repercussions, as extremism always does. At least some of the current extremism on the right is surely reciprocal. That's how it works: extremism begets extremism (god bless the Taoists). Hey, that's why I'm a moderate!

Racism and nativism and xenophobia are real, to be sure. And, yes, much Trump support stems from rot that's always been here. But not every Trump supporter's rotten. Not even close to a majority! So when otherwise perfectly nice and non-hateful conservative people strike us as oddly intemperate in their view of immigration, we need to consider this question I constantly ask on this Slog:

Will we human beings ever learn to react to extremism with enlightened moderation rather than with reciprocal extremism?

No comments:

Blog Archive