Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Just Be Honest About Your Bigotry, OK?

In the span of two days, there have been two reports in the Dallas Morning News of children being neglected and abused by their parents. Both sets of children were stomach-turningly betrayed by their parents. One group of children were starved and locked in a tiny motel bathroom for hours at a time by their stepfather, while their mother allowed it. The second set were found by authorities after an anonymous caller reported strong fumes coming from their hotel room. When police arrived, they found two adults who had been huffing paint fumes all day in a 300 square foot room, not only intoxicating themselves, but their children. Besides the places of residence, the two stories had something in common - the families had Latin surnames. Immediately, commenters on both stories began upping the anti-immigration rhetoric, insisting that this is the way of illegal immigrants. They do bad things to their children. To that, I obviously say hogwash (actually, I had a less ancient term that starts with bu and ends with it). For one thing, neither story comments on the immigration status of the four adults in question. Generally, if a reporter knows the status is noteworthy, you will see something along the lines of, "immigrants found guilty of felonies are subject to being deported," somewhere in the story. But neither story has proffered that up. So how do these commenters know the couples in question are illegal immigrants? Well, by their last names, of course. Santiago, Rocha and Barron must be indicative of the 100% ne'er-do-wells that crawl under or over a fence in the dark, dark night to invade the soil of the U.S., fostering hate in their hearts and evil in their veins, ready to do horribly heinous crimes at a moment's notice. Sounds absurd, right? Well, to me, it does. I've had occasion to know two people that were in the country illegally. One was from Mexico, and had moved to the States under what she thought was a visa good for years, but instead was only good for months. She had three terminally ill children, and had come to America hoping to procure better health care for them. Her husband had worked - legally - in the U.S. until his death, and had contributed to the Social Security system. She had benefits coming from that. The second one? Her last name was Nelson. She was as Anglo as one can get, here on an expired student visa from Canada. So surnames are not exactly a good indicator of immigration status, I think. Nor is immigration status an indicator of morality. And let's not forget that in the case of the Santiago family, the mother's parents are in Florida, indicating that likely she is not an illegal immigrant, and is probably of Puerto Rican or Cuban descent - not the not so veiled Mexican descent so many of the commenters kept trying to hint at. So she's probably a U.S. citizen, and not guilty of entering the country illegally. She's just a really crappy human, something that's not exclusive to one race in particular. And let's be honest. All these claims are really just an excuse to be racist without anyone calling you on it. But really, does this kind of evil have more offenders in one race than another? Well, yes. According to 2007 data from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, 21.7 percent of maltreated children nationwide are from African-American families; 20.8 percent are from hispanic families; and 46.1 percent are from white families. So really, in the U.S., being from a white family nearly doubles your chances of being maltreated or abused.