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A Racist for Governor?

Originally published 08/12/03. To view this article and the discussion which ensued in the original context in which it was published click here.

Arnold SchwarzeneggerWhen Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he wanted every person in California to have a fantastic job, I thought it was funny. However, hispanics should ask if his vision includes us. Until recently one could not accuse Arnold Schwarzenegger of being a racist, since he has not participated in the discussion of social and political issues on a public level, and besides, he doesn’t even vote in most elections. But he’s starting to smell like a racist.

If it were not for his Republican colleague Darrell Issa, an ardent supporter of proposition 187 and chief financer of the movement to recall Gray Davis, he wouldn’t have the opportunity to be a candidate. Additionally, the principal architect of proposition 187, Pete Wilson, is now in charge of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s campaign, and this Sunday let it be known that Arnold Schwarzenegger was for proposition 187 and voted for it. Also, a substantial part of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s support will undoubtedly come from people who would like to see proposition 187 instituted in the state of California, some of who actively work to bring this about. People who with all seriousness tell you that immigration is destroying the state of California.

Proposition 187, based on the erroneous belief that immigrants are the root cause of California’s problems, and that we simply use resources without contributing to the state, can be classified as patently racist and ignorant. The majority of Mexicans, and perhaps the majorities of other groups that come from Latin America, can classify ourselves in one of the following ways. We are illegal, or at one time we were illegal, or we have a parent who is or at one time was illegal, or we have a grandparent who is or at one time was illegal. An attack on the dignity of an illegal person is a direct attack on our own dignity for most of us, irrespective of our legal status.

However, let us discuss what we contribute. Let’s take the case of agriculture. It is the base of the economy of the state of California. It’s the sector of the economy that has the largest multiplier effect. It is largely sustained by the labor and the sweat of illegal Mexican immigrants. And I say largely because there are a lot of legal residents who work in this industry as well. These workers create a large part of the wealth of this state as well as a large part of the wealth of their native country through the remittances they send. And they have been doing it for decades. They cultivate and harvest the food Mr. Schwarzenegger eats, which must be a lot, and additionally they feed the nation as well as a considerable part of the world through their work. But Issa, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger along with legions of their supporters have the insolence to say that we do not contribute. That we are a problem. Please. Say that some of us are brown. That some of us don’t speak English. That some of us came to this country with little formal education. That some of us are illegal. All these things are true. And we have an expression which is an adequate response. So what? But to say that we are a charge upon the state and that we do not contribute is a lie designed to mask the fact that they are racists.