September is with us yet again, bringing the ever-complex conversations centered on “Latinx” identity, culture and the odd layering of “Hispanic” celebration while many of our communities simultaneously celebrate the “Hispanic” expulsion from the Americas through wars of independence. And yes, I do understand the irony of contesting “Hispanic” identity while literally signing my column with a Spanish surname. Centuries of colonization unfortunately forced our ancestors to weigh forced assimilation against the possibility of continued wars of attrition.
Things to consider, indeed.
These conversations aside, I still find it difficult to ignore what is happening in the present day in states like Florida. The state’s governor followed the lead of his contemporaries in Arizona and Texas, bussing immigrants of primarily “Latinx” ancestry to other states. Clearly, these publicity stunts were exacted to troll states and municipalities that are perceived as being welcoming or have declared themselves so.
Beyond engaging in an obvious ideological pissing contest intent on “owning the libs,” these states’ governors continue to parrot asinine talking points, cluelessly unaware that many of their states are celebrating the same cultures of the people that they are disparaging. These narrow-minded actions are as dehumanizing as they are ignorant.
Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times delved into more detail about this matter, noting that many who were bussed out were asylum-seekers who went through the legal process. I personally detest the “good immigrant/bad immigrant” dichotomy, but Hiltzik does make a valid point about these right-wing politicians being too racist to even differentiate between groups. Hiltzik also drew parallels between these incidents and historical events where “White Citizens Councils” bussed Black families north to counter Freedom Riders who were organizing to expand voting rights.
All this comes as no surprise. These “leaders” have explicitly illustrated their lack of foresight, coherent thought and decency. What really struck me more has been how mainstream media outlets treated news coverage of the ploys. It feels that there is an overarching reality-show-esque tenor to these reports, anticipating a troll-ish political rebuttal.
The news coverage seems as dehumanizing as some of the talking points regurgitated by the likes of Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott and Doug Ducey, among others. As anthropologist Leo Chavez noted in his book “Covering Immigration,” the “sea of humanity” metaphor often employed by news sources, as well as policy makers, allows for the individual with their own lived history to “be lost… creating a certain distance between the reader and the ‘people’ in the image.” At the end of the day, these are real people, these are members of our community, these are folks on the social and economic margins.
The discourse needs to change.
Oscar Rosales grew up in the Yakima Valley and works and resides in Seattle.
Read more of the Sept. 28-Oct. 4, 2022 issue.