For those people living in the U.S. who think racism is a thing of the past, I challenge you to think hard about how we treat people of color. While I have addressed head on the current hostile racist environment for African Americans, I would also like to call attention to the Latino community.
Recently, the state of Alabama passed HB 56, what some might call the most abusive and racist anti-immigration law in the country. HB 56 provides institutionalized encouragement to imprison immigrants and to actually make a profit by doing so. The law is so vicious it reminds me of our collective ugly history during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl when our government was trying to repatriate Mexicans, some of whom were born in the United States. As soon as HB 56 passed, the state started to cut off water service to families who could not prove they were legally here. They arrested one man who turned out to be here legally.
Because there is now such a critical mass of Latinos who have been automatically been identified as “suspicious” by the state of Alabama, the surge to imprison families and individuals has overwhelmed the public legal system. It furthermore forces an outright racist practice for those that are expected to police all movements and transactions of the Latino community.
Let us talk about who profits from this blatant racism. If the public jails are overcrowded then where does the state of Alabama turn? The state will have to turn to CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) and the GEO group, two privatized detention centers. One should note that CCA and GEO have a combined profit of more than $5 billion a year.
Now let me tell you how this becomes an industry of slavery. John McMillan, agriculture commissioner of Alabama wants to replace farm work being done by immigrant workers with the soon to be overwhelmingly large population of immigrant prisoners. Am I the only who sees history repeating itself? This sounds an awful lot like white people making a great deal of money from the free/enslaved labor of people of color. Here is a link to the full article.
I would like to recommend some very necessary reading here. There is a brilliant book for young people about the history of oppression of Mexicans and Mexican Americans, Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan. I would also strongly recommend Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna, which does a remarkable job painfully detailing the racial discrimination against Mexicans during the Great Depression and WWII, as told through the protagonist who is not only Mexican but also gay.