Tag: Kansas

The Slow Fade

The New York Times recently reported on a small rural town where longtime residents complain about “young Mexican men working construction and driving down wages, the children of laborers flooding crowded schools…and strip clubs springing up on roads that used to be dark and quiet.”

Is the town in Wisconsin, Kansas, Alabama, or even (shudder) Arizona? No, it is “a precolonial Mexican village outside Oaxaca City, filling up with fellow Mexicans.”

It seems that the urge to hate immigrants — even of the same nationality — is universal.

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Who Can Tell?

Recently, I wrote a post that received more, shall we say…passionate comments than usual. The article was about the Kansas politician who cracked the truly hilarious, knee-slapping joke about gunning down undocumented people like vermin.

In any case, among the hundreds of comments were people who said I was right, people who said I was wrong, and people who said I was a race-baiting hatemonger bent on destroying America.

And of course, there were the predictable, and rather sad comments of “Why can’t we all just love one another?” I assume that such individuals were issuing a plea for racial harmony that has eluded humankind for millennia. Well, it’s either that or they were using “love” as a euphemism while trying to organize an intercontinental orgy, and they stumbled into the wrong forum.

But of all the comments, one in particular caught my eye. The comment was, “My in-laws came from Mexico, and now just a generation later, they are fully assimilated and blend in. Except for being a little darker, you would never know where they were from.”

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Lashing Out in a Losing Cause

By now, you’ve heard all about the Kansas legislator who said it was a fine idea to hire gunmen to fly around in helicopters and shoot undocumented immigrants. Republican Virgil Peck made what he calls a “joke” during a public hearing on how to control the feral-pig population (like you, I was unaware that this was a huge problem in Kansas).

In any case, Peck has apologized for comparing immigrants to hogs, and while he was at it, for advocating that the state just start executing people it doesn’t like.

Of course, Peck’s comments are not in the smallest way indicative of the GOP’s hatred for Hispanics. As conservatives are quick to point out, that is all a liberal-media myth, and the Republican Party truly loves Hispanics. After all, you only joke about slaughtering people like vermin if you really respect them.

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Microcosm

In his bestselling book, Thomas Frank asked the immortal question, “What’s the matter with Kansas?”

As someone who has spent time there I can answer, “A lot.” (Just kidding, all my Kansas friends; go Jayhawks!).

In any case, this story about one Kansas county, and the Hispanics who live there, recently caught my attention. There are so many elements at play in this one tale that I’m devoting a whole post to hyperanalyzing it.

First, the story points out that Finney County (population: 40,998) has just turned majority-minority. This means that over half the residents of this fine heartland community are not white (there is also a large Asian population present). Finney County thus joins the ten percent of U.S. counties to have this distinction – and yes, the number is growing. The gist of the story is that this change is happening in (gasps all around) the middle of the country, and is not just contained to wacky California and big old rambling Texas.

I’ve written before about the changing demographics of America, and what this means for the future. Whole books have been, and no doubt will be, written about what the United States will look like in the future, when the name Rodriguez is considered just as all-American as O’Malley. But it’s worth noting this fresh proof out of Kansas that the process is underway and irreversible.

Also, the article casually mentions that Hispanics have lived in Finney County for “more than 100 years.” This gives some context to the vitriol that Latinos are suddenly swarming into America and undermining traditional values. Sorry, but it’s clear that Hispanics have, for decades now, helped build the country, and this process is only accelerating.

Speaking of that, the fabled Latino work ethic makes an appearance in the story. As I’ve stated before, it’s not always an intrinsically good thing that Hispanics often labor like demons.

In fact, we don’t have to read far into the article before encountering the words “massive meatpacking plants,” which is a phrase inherent in any story about growing Latino populations in small towns. Is it really such a great thing that the shit jobs go to Hispanics, who are only too willing to take them because of their strong drive to work, work, work?

meatpacking300

This relates to another topic I’ve touched upon in these posts: the antipathy that too many Hispanics feel toward education. One reason for this is the intense focus placed upon work, especially of the manual type. In fact, one Hispanic resident says that many of his fellow Latinos “tell their kids they don’t need to go to college because this is a good life.” Let’s be blunt: Asian and Indian immigrants don’t say things like that to their kids, and it shows.

Finally, the article touches upon the changes that occur and the tensions that arise when the culture shifts. Or as the article breathlessly states, “This Midwest enclave, home to hamburgers and hot dogs, is giving way to… Mexican tacos.”

Let’s set aside the fact that plenty of Hispanics like hamburgers and hot dogs (I myself am partial to bratwurst, but that’s another story). How are some of the white inhabitants of Finney County adjusting? Well, one resident says, “There were always whispers. Out at Wal-Mart, you hear, ‘Oh, look at how they’re dressed… wonder where they’re from, what they’re doing here?’ Especially if they weren’t speaking English.”

What’s funny is that, apparently, some of the longtime residents of the county don’t appreciate the cliché of an exotically dressed person jabbering away in a crazy language. So their solution is to become an even bigger cliché by whispering, “What are they doing here?” in the Wal-Mart aisle. I can only hope that they spit out a wad of tobacco before adding, “Damn foreigners are taking over!”

But it’s not all angry glares in town, veiled animosity on the street, and awkward moments at the superstore. Another resident says that it’s “nice to have those different cultures.” Another advises to offer “open arms to people that come in your community because they might be the person that’s going to help you when you have times of struggle.”

That same resident says that everyone should “just try to be a good person” to others, regardless of their differences.

His comments amaze me. Who let that radical in?


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