Peacock prejudice

In Dallas, the site of one of the nation’s largest pro-immigration marches this spring, racist speech and repressive actions are on the increase. From local radio talk shows and news media to the average man on the street, the toxic fumes of racism are rising, clouding the judgment of the uninformed and the true interests of the workers in this area. Fear and ignorance may be at the core of this trend of intolerance, but public personalities bear a large responsibility as well.

Scores of workers across the state have been fired for participation in the immigrant rights actions, including 22 factory workers at Benchmark Manufacturing in Tyler. The employees say they gave advance notice to supervisors but were fired anyway. One popular television news team allotted about 30 seconds to the report, and followed the story with a full minute of news concerning a man who was preparing for a garage sale for “English speakers only”. The segment included a nice video of items offered for sale, amounting to nothing less than a commercial for a racist venture.

Local media reports are replete with the extra money the walkouts and marches have cost the city, while neglecting to mention the additional revenue generated by downtown parking fees and city bus fares. Radio talk has never been “bluer” as callers are encouraged to share their vulgar epithets, wrong-headed facts, and stereotypical speech. Anglos who participated are being challenged by everything from the dismissible roll of the eyes to the more ludicrous query, “You’re not a Mexican, why did you march?” No, I’m not and thanks for asking!

On the surface, one might see all of this peacock prejudice as the opposition’s low-road reaction to the courageous and well-organized efforts of those involved in the struggle for immigrants’ rights. Historically, ignorance and fear are known to be root causes of racism. However, another ingredient in the new mix of unabashed bigotry seems to be coming from a group of self-styled “free speech” advocates.

For years now, some news commentators, entertainers and others in the media have complained that the practice of “political correctness” has somehow limited free expression of the truth. The enlightened idea of living life out loud in a way that does not harm or devalue other persons, cultures and traditions seem to have little import with these “free expression” mouthpieces.

Recently, a commentator on a 24-hour news cable program cited a dropout statistic for Latino high school students in California, and suggested that those students protesting “should stop jumping up and down and acting silly and get back to school!” He then solicited and read e-mails in response to his comment. Emboldened by the public airing of this prejudicial tirade, the response overwhelmingly supported the commentator’s point of view.

These new “free speech” promoters irresponsibly and proudly proclaim their resistance to “pc” discourse as if they are bravely promoting an edgy new communication style. Of course, the style is not edgy, nor is it new. Most of us recognize it immediately for what it is: blatant bigotry. As the struggle to organize and advance the cause of immigrants’ rights heats up, so will the opposition’s dangerous and inflammatory intolerance.

Lisa Casey Perry (perry5@swbell.net) is a writer living in North Texas.