Montana Politics US Politics

What’s Racist in Montana?

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Last week, I took Senator Burns to task for what I perceived to be racist overtones in his comments about immigration reform. As it turns out, Burns’ comments were relatively nuanced when compared to the racist spew offered up by Eric over at What’s Right Wing in Montana. The post certainly makes clear that some would rather rely on tired, nativist claims than engage in a debate about the facts. After reading Eric’s post, I’ve begun to wonder if the Republicans don’t have a candidate ready to replace Shawn Stuart.
Eric offers this insight:

Today, we have a flood of illegal immigrants, who aren’t coming here to become Americans, but simply to get jobs, and send the money back to Mexico. They don’t want to pay taxes, or have auto insurance, they are simply parasites on our economy. They don’t even want to learn English, they want bi-lingual schools in California! And the liberals are eager to please them.

Now, usually, when someone feels the need to compare someone to Hitler, debate suffers just a bit. However, in this case, when the Goebbels fits, I suppose Eric has to wear it. Hitler, speaking about the Jewish problem:

But now… when the nation is no longer willing to be sucked dry by these parasites, on every side one hears nothing but laments. But lamentations have not led these democratic countries to substitute helpful activity at last for their hypocritical questions; on the contrary, these countries with icy coldness assured us that obviously there was no place for the Jews in their territory. …

Maybe it’s unfair to compare Eric’s rhetoric with that of Hitler, but certainly no less fair than

  • denigrating 10-12 million people as parasites
  • making unfounded accusations about the motives and actions of those same people
  • making specious claims about what is the ‘right way’ to be an immigrant

Let’s just take one claim and evaluate its veracity. Eric claims that these terrible immigrants don’t even want to learn English, the savages! Of course, a little research might have shown Eric this:

Enrollment surveys at the turn of the 20th century reported that at least 600,000 primary school students (public and parochial) were receiving part or all of their instruction in the German language — about 4% of all American children in the elementary grades. That’s larger than the percentage of students enrolled in Spanish-English programs today.

Or this:

When children arrive in school with little or no English-speaking ability, “sink or swim” instruction is a violation of their civil rights, according to the U.S. Supreme Court in this 1974 decision.Lau remains the major precedent regarding the educational rights of language minorities, although it is grounded in statute… Imposition of a requirement that, before a child can effectively participate in the educational program, he must already have acquired those basic skills is to make a mockery of public education. We know that those who do not understand English are certain to find their classroom experiences wholly incomprehensible and in no way meaningful.

Thirty year old Supreme Court precedents? One hundred year old history? Who needs those when we can demonize immigrants?

There is certainly a place for a meaningful national debate on immigration policy. That debate can’t happen when opponents of immigration make fools of themselves and a mockery of civilized discourse. And while comparisons to the Nazis are rarely compelling, silence in the face of dehumanizing, totalizing rhetoric of racism cannot be ignored.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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