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Angel Santuario: If It’s Not Racism, Then Why Do We Discriminate?

Sometimes we are not all created equal.

Last week, I wrote my point of view on what it mean to “belong” to a certain place and how immigration changed my life.

Adapting to a new sets of rules and laws, lifestyle, culture and a new language—all of this new information, at least for me, got me to see things differently and to think about issues that never crossed my mind before.

For this reason, this week I want to talk about racism. It isn’t an easy topic to discuss or bring to the table. In this country, to talk about racism makes many people uncomfortable. While many American citizens believe this is a subject of the past, many immigrants feel differently. However, very few are willing to speak about it openly, which demonstrates the veracity of their feelings. Another thing to take into consideration, the few immigrants who also swear there isn’t racism in this country anymore, live wealthy lives and have good jobs.

The fact that some Latinos, African-Americans, Europeans and Asians deny racism as a problem in America takes away some credibility from the immigrants who argue this point. How can we believe racism is a problem when we have government officials from different nationalities all over the country? We have immigrant workers in banks, hospitals, restaurants, working for the city,  you name it. Almost all services sectors have immigrants workers. Can we really argue that “America” is racist?  Not me at least.

I believe the problem lies somewhere else, in the vicinity of social class and status. So in reality, the so-called “racism” isn’t anything other than “social class discrimination” in disguise. When we hear the news about how the government wants to build a taller wall at the border or about the increase of immigration officers or the increasingly tough anti-immigrant laws working their way through the country, what do we think? Does the government do it for security? Does it do it because of the economy? Because of racism?

Well, mainstream media talks about the economy—”We need the jobs that the illegal immigrants are getting.”—and the government talk about security—”We need to stop illegal immigration to make sure our country and its people are safe.”

Let’s think about these statements for a second—if we didn’t want immigrants getting “our” jobs, then why hire them? Why does the IRS gives them a number to pay taxes, even after knowing they have no legal right to work in the country? And, just as a curiosity, why don’t we count how many immigrants have this number? Isn’t it somewhat important to see how much money is pooled this way?

After laying down those queries, let’s look at security. So the idea is that closing the borders, specially the south border with Mexico, will help save lives against terrorist attacks and criminals crossing the border. Really? Our most dangerous terrorists have been either born and raised here or have entered the country with a visa. Thinking about it, I remembered, getting a visa isn’t an easy thing. You need one thing mostly, valuables. Money, real estate and a good job. The reason for this, is to prove there’s a reason for the person to go back to their home country.

Let’s think about that for a second. So people with money are allowed in the country and have an easier time legalizing their status, while people who can’t afford a visa, cross the desert under extreme conditions, get hit with many fines by the government and are excluded from many basic human and social services.

Here we see that the problem isn’t their nationality or race, but rather their social and economic status.

So I ask the question here, in this town that I live in, full of immigrants from all places: How do we see racism here in Mountain View? How about elitism and social discrimination? I believe this city must have something to say, for its residents have proved to be progressive and open-minded people. The question shouldn’t concern immigrants only, but also the citizens living in this town. I invite you to take on the subject. Let’s share our opinions.

This article, written by Angel Santuario of the Mountain View (Calif.) Patch, first appeared at http://mountainview.patch.com on February 2, 2011.

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