Monday, May 19, 2008

Who are you? Where are you from?

When economies turn sour, when trouble starts, often anger from the in-group turns against those identified as outsiders. The identifying is done either by the powers that be who benefit by having a scapegoat-- or by the people themselves. This often comes from a desperation to protect the perceived minimal resources that people have during times of crisis and fear.

This week in South Africa angry mobs are beating, stabbing and setting immigrants on fire as they rampage through Johannesburg and other cities.

Mobs of South Africans shout: “Who are you? Where are you from?” as they maraud through the narrow streets they share with immigrants. They order people from their homes, steal their belongings and put padlocks on the houses.

Shops and businesses — many of them owned by Zimbabweans, Somalis and Pakistanis — have been looted. Many victims are legal residents with all the proper immigration documents. Some are being assaulted by neighbors they have known for years. -from the New York Times
Fear of immigrants is as old as immigration, which is to say almost as old as civilization itself. Too often profiteers and politicians help propel and inflame aniti-immigration sentiments.

In our own country we have been battling with fear and racism and unfair immigration policies more in this last 4 years than we have in decades.

The tragedy is to see this hatred promoted by our government and whipped up into a frenzy by the wingnuts and hate-radio-hosts as well as the corporate media. The outcome of this fear mongering has not yet plunged us into the type of chaos now rampant in South Africa, but this fear and panic needs to be dealt with head on. We need to call out the fear mongers and scapegoaters. Stop them in their tracks and refute their phony claims.