It was with a sense of “historic awareness” that I witnessed the combination of anger and fear present in the faces of those protesting the Hispanic women and children who were seeking refuge in my country. With USAmerican flags flying, they held up signs declaring them to be disease-infested people who do not belong here.
Doubtless many of the children needed medical attention as a result of the ordeal of travelling in unhealthy conditions. But this accusation that a particular people are carrying diseases is a standard part of racism, and is not new.
In 2005, former CNN personality Lou Dobbs incorrectly reported 7000 new cases of leprosy which he attributed to unlawful immigration. Others have promoted these myths.
I grew up in the time of racially separate restrooms, clearly marked water fountains, and of course, public facilities and restaurants available only to the white folk. I was in high school before I ever had a black schoolmate. I recall the fervor that resulted when public swimming pools were made available to the public!
Now here is my point: the implication was clear to the white children like myself: “Keep yourself separate – you just never know what diseases those people might be carrying!” So now you understand my sense of déjà vu.
I vividly recall when the federal courts and legislators demanded equal rights for all and ended segregation in the South. You would have thought that a reincarnated Union General Sherman had just invaded the South anew. The Confederate battle flags came back out — those beloved symbols of racism and hatred.
With a re-emergence of the KKK and other white supremacists, southern governors like Alabama’s George Wallace pledged “segregation forever” often in the name of the Almighty!
The idea that all people could truly live together in the same neighborhoods, eat in the same restaurants, use the same public facilities – all this was labeled by Gov. Wallace as the false doctrine of communistic amalgamation. Invoking the memory of the President of the Confederacy, Wallace continued his defense of white supremacy:
Today I have stood, where once Jefferson Davis stood, and took an oath to my people. It is very appropriate then that from this Cradle of the Confederacy, this very Heart of the Great Anglo-Saxon Southland … In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny –and I say — segregation today — segregation tomorrow — segregation forever.
So with his Confederate flag and his “In God We Trust” banner, he advocated the US version of apartheid, the separation of the races. In so doing, he gave legitimacy to violence against any who challenged the white-supremacy so rampant in the south.
There may have not been any Confederate flags at the California protest.
But the notion of Anglo- Saxon superiority was as obvious as it was in the days of my youth.
Happy July 4!