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 Anti-Latino Racism L I N D A M A R T Í N A L C O F F Immigrants are today the most reviled group in America.1 While there is wide public support for instituting routine identity checks for persons who ‘‘look like’’ they may be immigrants, day laborers waiting on sidewalks or in parking lots for employment report routine verbal and physical harassment, from having soiled food thrown in their faces to being shot at. The Southern Poverty Law Center has recently reported 144 new groups it defines as ‘‘nativist extremists,’’ whose main agenda is the intimidation of immigrants. These groups have been found to be stockpiling semiautomatic weapons, grenades, and ammunition, as well as assorted smaller weapons of harassment such as pepper spray, knives, and Molotov cocktails, for use against their local immigrant communities . Targeted violence against immigrants has become a routine weekly story across the country, whether instigated by high school kids or those more ideologically developed. The level of acceptable vitriol has increased in both mainstream news sources as well as the halls of Congress, such as denouncements of anyone who suggests providing education, worker protections, or health benefits—evenly privately purchased—for the 12 to 20 million undocumented persons estimated to be living in the United States, whose labor everyone of us relies on. It was this issue that elicited the unprecedented ‘‘liar’’ shout at the President’s address to the joint meeting of Congress in September 2009. The acceptance of violence and degradations inflicted on this population is perhaps most profoundly symbolized by the popular support for Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Abu Ghraib– style prison practices in Arizona, which include public sexual humiliation. PAGE 107 ................. 18125$ $CH5 09-19-11 07:52:18 PS 108 兩 l i nda m ar t ı́ n a l c of f Meanwhile, the hundreds of nameless bodies and bones uncovered every year on our southern border go unmemorialized, and largely unremarked . They die trying to achieve the chance to work in the United States under conditions in which, according to AP reports, Mexicans are killed in on-the-job accidents at a rate four times higher than U.S.-born workers.2 In reality, as we know, the principal target of vitriol here, whether armed or merely discursive, is not an unspecified or generic immigrant population, but Latino immigrants, especially those from Mexico and Central America. Varied nonwhite immigrant groups experience varied forms of vilified treatment, based on their representation as potential terrorists, as threats to national security, or as global intellectual competition , whereas Mexicans, Central Americans, and other Latinos receive abuse mainly as a labor supply of unskilled or semiskilled workers. Their interpellation in the public imaginary is not as generic, undifferentiated workers, but racialized workers mostly from south of the border. It is this group, I argue, that is the group principally identified as ‘‘immigrants’’ in the national discourse, though in some local contexts other groups may be more relevant. The actual effective meaning of the term ‘‘illegal immigrant ’’ or ‘‘illegal alien,’’ then, is illegal Mexican. And thus the arsenal of attacks on immigrants is largely aimed at Latinos, especially those who look like Mexicans. Latinos occupy a particular place in the dominant imaginary for good reasons, given the location of the United States in the Americas, where Spanish is dominant throughout the hemisphere, and no border has proven to be impermeable. No other minority can realistically pose the threat of ballooning numbers that we can. Thus, public attitudes toward Latinos cannot be disentangled from the host of attitudes toward immigration .3 Today’s nativist movement, unlike some in the past, is not a paranoid projection but an accurate recognition of the imminent cultural changes soon to be wrought by losing white European American majority status by 2050, and its effects on the future of the imagined community of the U.S. nation. In this essay I want to argue that we need a specific formulation of anti-Latino racism in order to represent this massive phenomenon, as well as to understand the specific form of white or Anglo reaction that is currently on the rise. The racist imaginary has variegated targets of attack PAGE 108 ................. 18125$ $CH5 09-19-11 07:52:19 PS a n ti - l at i n o r a c is m 兩 109 with varied and specific representations of Latinos (and, within this group, of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans), as well as Arabs and Muslims, Asians, Africans...


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