Tuesday, May 14, 2013

African Americans Criticized for Refusing to be Abused like Illegal Mexican Workers



A week ago I read (nytimes.com) about abuses of illegal immigrants by large scale US farmers. The abuses have been highlighted for many years by human rights activists, but recently Americans, many of them African American, who live close to the farms but can’t get work are adding their voices to the protest. They say they are discouraged from applying for work even, and treated very badly. Farmers prefer to employ illegal Mexican workers because they’re easier to exploit and abuse.

Generally, the comments to the article were expressions of disgust that abuses were happening at all. One of them, though, Amanda Burton of Oakland California, had this to say:

“Here's my experience as a California employer in food processing with close ties to local farmers: immigrant workers of all ethnicities, legal or illegal, work very hard, are generally smart contributors to their job processes, and are loyal to employers who treat them with consideration. 

“Americans of all ethnic backgrounds, on the other hand, do not want the jobs we offer and in the rare instances where they take them (or are placed into them by well-intended social service agencies) are unable to keep up with the team, have poor work skills and poorer attitudes, are untrustworthy and unreliable, and never in my experience stay longer than a few weeks.

 “Oh, and the children of immigrant workers are remarkable for carrying full academic loads AND working productively alongside their parents.”

Scary mentality; recommending a system that exploits children for their labor and believing that children who are forced to work in the fields so families can barely survive and farmers can make a fat profit, are somehow noble.  As for the racism, cheaply plastered over with Protestant work ethic, it’s beyond scary.

That American farmers are still treating illegal Mexican workers like dogs is beyond horrifying. These are the same people who don’t want the Mexican workers to have legal status because then they’ll have rights they can fight for. That African Americans don't want to work under such terrible conditions and be treated like animals is a good sign, not a bad one. Exploitation is not a good thing. 

I've found in my life that people who are neurotically entitled and are driven by greed and bigotry, and happily exploit others, are quick to stick the denigrating label "lazy" on anybody who won't let themselves be abused. It's a cheap trick. 

I've also found that people who let themselves be exploited often can't face the shame of what the exploitation says about their intrinsic worth. They side with the exploiter. The truth is, it's the people who object to exploitation even when they're desperately in need of work who are the most courageous. African Americans who refuse to let themselves be abused deserve the utmost respect. After all, it's what led to the abolition of slavery.