This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Thoughts on the American Reaction to Women and Children Crossing the Border

Like most people, I was genuinely shocked at the reaction of people in Murrieta, California who rallied to turn back buses of undocumented immigrants flown to California from the south Texas border. The mayor of Murrieta blamed the government for this, and to be sure, Homeland Security has seemed nearly as inept as the Veteran's Administration on this issue. But the causes and consequences of this current migration crisis go much deeper than that. Thanks to Rubén Rumbaut for pointing out a story written before this issue of women bringing their children over the border without documents really hit the news. Anthony Bourdain is a celebrity chef and world traveler who is well known in many circles, and he has a blog (or really a summary of his TV shows) in which two months ago (3 May) he was making the following comments, which he called "Under the Volcano."
Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people—as we sure employ a lot of them. Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes, look after our children. As any chef will tell you, our entire service economy—the restaurant business as we know it—in most American cities, would collapse overnight without Mexican workers. Some, of course, like to claim that Mexicans are “stealing American jobs”. But in two decades as a chef and employer, I never had ONE American kid walk in my door and apply for a dishwashing job, a porter’s position—or even a job as prep cook. Mexicans do much of the work in this country that Americans, provably, simply won’t do.
We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we”, as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them—and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films.
So, why don’t we love Mexico?
In the service of our appetites, we spend billions and billions of dollars each year on Mexican drugs—while at the same time spending billions and billions more trying to prevent those drugs from reaching us. The effect on our society is everywhere to be seen. Whether it’s kids nodding off and overdosing in small town Vermont, gang violence in LA, burned out neighborhoods in Detroit— it’s there to see. What we don’t see, however, haven’t really noticed, and don’t seem to much care about, is the 80,000 dead—mostly innocent victims in Mexico, just in the past few years. 80,000 dead. 80,000 families who’ve been touched directly by the so-called “War On Drugs”.
Americans know less about Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans than about Mexicans and often assume they are all the same. While they are not all the same, just as all Mexicans are not the same, the reasons for violence in Mexico and Central America that sends people north are the same. The problem is us, not them.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed it is John Weeks - we only have to take a long look in the mirror to find the problem. I'm not sure there are any easy answers to the US/Mexico dichotomy, and sadly there will probably be no quick solution for the bigotry either.

    Pete, Redondo Beach