Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Immigrants get one camp. But which one is for you?

I want you to look at these two photos, especially if you're white. This one is from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The Nazis built the Sachsenhausen camp outside Berlin to hold primarily political prisoners. Generally, that meant anyone who didn't agree with the Nazi regime and had the nerve to say or do something about it, but not exclusively so. Sometimes just having the wrong associations was enough. Like being in a union, or in a particular political party. Or helping Jews. Further east lay the death camps, where Jewish prisoners, held for no other reason than their ethnicity and their convenience as a scapegoat for Germany's economic situation, and dressed almost the exact same way were murdered by the millions behind electrified fences.

The next photo is from today's Arizona Republic and shows Mexican migrants being transferred into segregated housing at Sheriff Joe Arpaio's tent city, where they will be housed behind electrified fences in a special section just for them. One camp for brown-skinned workers from south of the border and another for everyone else.

The photos bear a striking resemblance, don't they? Indeed, the comparisons couldn't be more clear. Singled out by race and ethnicity and marched under armed fascist guard to linger behind fences in concentration camps awaiting an uncertain future.

This is a point that I feel must be particularly aimed at white folks, so I want them to listen up in as I address this to them. If you think that you can support cameras on the borders without them coming North and targeting you, you're wrong. If you think that you can support eVerify and other government controls on work without it coming back to regulate your work and whether you can have any, think again. If you think that you can support a crackdown on one kind of worker, immigrant or migrant workers, without setting yourself up for an attack on all other workers, you're wrong. And if you think you can support putting one kind of people behind electrified fences without making a reservation for yourself, think again.

Because the infrastructure for one is just as useful against the other. The police state you have supported in exchange for the relative immunity of your white skin privilege can just as easily take your rights away. Those SWAT teams that round up immigrants can just as easily kick in your door. The camps you support for brown folks can just as easily house you. Right now making its way through the Congress is National Emergency Centers Act or HR 645. This bill will set up what are euphemistically known as "Emergency Centers", otherwise known as concentration camps to be used in the case of emergency.

Well, have you looked around lately? I think we're in a emergency. Who do you think is going to be in those camps? You didn't complain about those billions going to Bank of America, did you? I hope not! You didn't complain about the war in Iraq, did you? I hope not! Otherwise those camps may be in your future, or the future of someone you know and love.

Did you happen to catch the article in the Phoenix Business Journal in December about how the Phoenix Police are getting ready to put down insurrections in the Valley, in cooperation with the military. That's not for immigrants, my friend. That's for in case you and your friends get sick of the banker bailout or the foreclosures or whatever else the capitalist elite have in store for you. Maybe you think you deserve something other than slave wages and decide to organize at work with some of your fellow workers. Did you happen to see how the government has created NorthCom and deployed veteran units from Iraq to put down similar uprisings across the country? What do you think those riots are going to be about? What will those insurrectionaries be demanding? Work? Food? Respect? Might you be one of them when the food runs out? Or when a member of your family is unjustly beaten or shot by the police?

You see, white people have made a major mistake. They have operated under the assumption that the privileges that they receive, petty though they might be in comparison to those enjoyed by the wealthy capitalist elite, were worth turning a blind eye to the crackdown on people of color. In fact, they've ignored it for a long time.

And for a long time they did get special benefits. I know they don't like to hear this, but it's true. White folks got higher wages, less exposure to the police and prisons, better schools and better job security. And taking those benefits created a relationship between the rich and powerful and white folks in general. A bastard cross-class alliance that has stood in the way of true progress in this country for quite some time. But now the piper has to be paid and with the economy crashing down all around us, and with the government threatening martial law over the banker bailout, and with the infrastructure now in place to execute it, their days of exemption and special treatment may just be over. And they let it happen.

No, they may not wind up having to speak Spanish in one of Arpaio's segregated immigrant concentration camps. But they might wind up in Sachsenhausen. And their fate will be the same. It is in everyone's best interest to prevent the construction of concentration camps and the dry run for a police state that they allow. Don't you see it? Arpaio is just doing the warm up. Immigrants are the appetizer, my friend, but you are the main course.

Austrian prisoners, marked with triangles and identifying patches, in the Dachau concentration camp. Germany, April 1938.


Carmen in Arid zone said...

Thanks for your powerful statement.

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