Being here in the Bay Area, it has been really sad to watch so many people demagogue Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who apparently killed Kathryn Steinle. The event is a tragedy, of course: a young woman is dead. Lopez-Sanchez was an undocumented immigrant. So there has been all kinds of wringing of hands over the fact that San Francisco is a sanctuary city. As if that had anything to do with this crime. And now, Donald Trump has grabbed the case, after having seen what a little undocumented immigrant scapegoating can do to one’s poll numbers in the Republican presidential primary. What’s interesting about this is how it pulls back the veil on what all this talk of “illegal immigration” really means.
Using an incident in which an undocumented immigrant kills someone as indicative of the threat of all undocumented immigrants is the very definition of racism. Now before anyone gets down on me by claiming that this is not a racial category, let me be clear: race itself is a made up concept. Race is a system for categorizing a certain group of people who another group of people want to oppress. Sure, it can be based upon skin color or region, but the truth is that it can be anything. There is no reason why the blue eyed people couldn’t decide that brown eyed people are inferior and should thus be enslaved. So it is meaningless that “undocumented immigrant” or “illegal immigrant” don’t refer to people who look the same.
Or course, the truth is that we all do know that these evil undocumented immigrants look the same. We are talking about Mexicans — or at least Latinos. That’s as clear as the fact that the “welfare queen” was black. (Even though she wasn’t really black.) But it doesn’t much matter. That just makes it easier to instill hatred and fear — the weapons of the demagogue.
What we’ve got here is the real nature of racism. This is why ideas like Twice as Good don’t work. The undocumented community can never be good enough, because people like Donald Trump are more than happy to use someone like Lopez-Sanchez to tar all immigrants. This has been going on for centuries here in America. The only thing that changes is the targets. Except for blacks: that’s a constant; that never changes.
What is so remarkable is that every time racism rears its ugly head, it always has a different justification. No person in polite company will admit that thinking that there is anything wrong with African Americans genetically. But former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan finds things wrong them them culturally. And so it is with Trump, who has no problem with Mexicans — just the awful ones who come here. So really, Trump’s problem is with statistics: we are getting a skewed sample of Mexicans.
Now Trump is demagoguing a second murder. Jamiel Andre Shaw was apparently murdered by Pedro Espinoza. This is a big deal, because Espinoza was the right age back in 2008 to have been a Dreamer. Of course, there was no such program at that point. And as Steve M noted at No More Mister Nice Blog:
Thus: Espinoza would not have qualified for the program. So he wasn’t a Dreamer in fact, and in the alternate universe where Obama became president in 2000, he wouldn’t have been a Dreamer. But the point is not about Espinoza at all. What the conservatives are getting at — and Donald Trump in a big way — is that there must be people who would be Dreamers who will commit murders. Therefore, it’s a terrible program. And since there are undocumented immigrants who commit murders, all of them must be bad.
This is, of course, entirely the wrong way to think about this. If we look at the statistics, we find that undocumented immigrants commit less crime than American citizens. But this doesn’t matter in this discussion. What matters is that Donald Trump has two of “those people” he can use to demagogue this issue. And he’s hardly alone; I haven’t been too happy about Hillary Clinton on the issue of sanctuary cities. It’s all horrible. But maybe we shouldn’t blame the politicians. This kind of simplistic thinking is apparently all that Americans can appreciate.
Also: we’re a bunch of racists.