June 30, 2010

Oh noes, they’re taking our jobs! Hey, wait…

Posted in Current events, Poetry, Politics, Racial issues at 4:29 pm by The Lizard Queen

A few years ago I posted a poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca entitled “So Mexicans Are Taking Jobs from Americans,” and that post remains one of the most-viewed posts on this blog. I like that, because the poet is a favorite of mine, and I think the poem is an excellent example of the power of poetry: it establishes and illustrates an argument in such a lovely and succinct way. I also like the fact that I can tell from the search terms people have used when they click on the post that there are many people who come across the post who do indeed believe that Mexicans are taking Americans’ jobs away, because I hope perhaps they read the poem, and it makes them think, makes them consider a viewpoint that hadn’t occurred to them before.

Unfortunately, if one looks at the comments on that post, one will see that there are several people who enter the search terms, come across the post, read the title of the poem, then head for the comments section. As a result, for better or for worse, those folks believe that I am alleging that Mexicans really are taking jobs from Americans. This morning someone posted a comment that basically agreed with that idea, and groused about everything from affirmative action (“You may see that someone who has a Spanish surname was chosen for the job over someone who did not”) to having to press 1 to receive instructions in English. “Yep,” I thought (while rolling my eyes), “it’s hard out here for a gringa.”

Therefore, because it’s still such a prevalent mindset that immigrants are taking jobs that hard-working [white, non-Latin@, etc.] Americans would happily do if they only had the chance, I thought I’d point to an interesting campaign led by the United Farm Workers called Take Our Jobs:

Take Our Jobs is a national campaign led by United Farm Workers aimed at hiring U.S. citizens and legal residents to fill jobs that often go to undocumented farm workers. The effort spotlights the immigrant labor issue and underscores the need for reforms without which the domestic agricultural industry could be crippled, leading to more jobs moving off shore.

In response to the campaign, Grist notes:

Because really, forget Census taking — what American doesn’t want a back-breaking, hot, dangerous (workers get enslaved, poisoned by pesticides, and die from heat stroke) job with no health benefits, paid vacation, or even a living wage?

Indeed.

Finally, I think it’s worth noting that the aforementioned Baca poem was published in 1977.  Three decades, and we still can’t get past the rhetoric of “they took our jobs!!”?  Ugh…

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Hump Day Poetry: Demetria Martínez

Posted in Poetry at 11:09 am by The Lizard Queen

Tell Me

Do you know who I am? If I fell to pieces could you
Reassemble the jigsaw? Do you know where it all
Goes: Grandma’s prayer book, my cassette tape
Of Taos drummers, the postcard from El Salvador?

You—who’ve never even asked about my book
Of matches, to light the light I’ve carried
Through a hundred tunnels because
The light at the end is never enough.

The night is a boarded-up city of nameless streets.
Winds hiss through the slit tire of a star
While that other woman named Sleep
Holds you as I look on until morning.

—Demetria Martínez, 2002

Other poems by Demetria Martínez:

Rules of Engagement
You Didn’t Believe Me
Upon Waking