One Nation, Indivisible?

Posted in 2011 The Gnovis Blog  |  Tagged , , , , ,

As my last blog noted, I was going to spend this week talking about  protests in America. When thinking about how to address Occupy Wall Street, many many thoughts went through my mind. I particularly like Hanna’s piece about naming – because when I heard “American Autumn” for the first time, I could only just sit there and shake my head. Josh Weaver also rightly points out that the number I want to hear from, the 9.1%, not 99% or 1%, doesn’t have the luxury of sitting all day in a park protesting. So instead of addressing Occupy Wall Street, or any other Occupy protest (although, seriously, what are the demands for Occupy Canada?), I’m going to focus on another protest – one that occurred on October 12, 2011.
ANOTHER protest, you say? What other protest? On October 12, 2011 , Hispanics in Alabama protested the state’s new immigration law, enacted in late September. Note: A recent rally, Alabama United: One Family, One Alabama, just took place in Birmingham. The affects of this law have been felt immediately in Alabama, and on Monday, October 3, “more than 2,000 Hispanic children were absent from Alabama public schools” (NPR: Weekend Edition ). Educators have now been in overdrive to reassure parents about sending their kids to schools. Farmers across the state say workers didn’t show up for the harvest.  Concerns are growing about what to do in the 5.5 billion dollar agriculture industry, as both harvest and planting nears. Even though Alabama has high unemployment, the American workers don’t want to work in the field. As a story on NPR notes , the three American workers hired left within one hour. This issue is not new – The Coalition of Immokalee (pronounced like broccoli) Workers has engaged in campaigns to have workers work in the field – even capturing the interest of Stephen Colbert. What they found was the same, American’s don’t want to work in the fields, they would rather sit in parks.

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The growing debate in America about immigration, speaks to the standards of our nation. Grewal, in Network Power , divides these standards into two types,  “mediating standards are ones that cannot be avoided if users wish to engage in certain activities: they form a part of that very activity itself” and “membership standards usually require enforcement by some actor or set of actors to exclude all but those who adopt particular norms” (Grewal, 22). One such mediating standard is the use of English – and often the debate surrounding immigration is framed in these terms – of people worrying about the loss of English and the prominence of Spanish within America. The new law in Alabama requires police to verify immigration/citizenship status, and reveals how “individual actions can create structures that, in turn, limit individual agency in a way that resembles the more familiar exercise of power by one person over another” (Grewal, 9).
What we see occurring in Alabama is an example of how a mediating standard is being shifted toward a membership standard, and there should be an ideological debate about how that shift relates to political beliefs about ones country. Unfortunately, this story hasn’t hit “mainstream” news quite like the Occupy protests. Yet these Hispanic men and women are fighting against something that threatens our entire way of American life. They are protesting for the ability to work, be treated as equal human beings, and the possibility of achieving the American dream.  Speaking at the memorial service for Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth Attorney General Holder noted that we shouldn’t turn our back on our immigrant heritage, and I would like to add, entrepreneurial spirit. But then again, they could just go sit in a park, maybe more things will be accomplished that way.
Top Image: Gary Tramontina/Polaris, from