FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Ghost of George Wallace

by JUAN SANTOS

When the late Alabama Governor George Wallace–surrounded by armed guards–stood on the steps of the University of Alabama to prevent a young Black woman from entering the University of Alabama, he declared, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”

He also inspired a man who would later stand at the US / Mexican border, armed to the teeth, to prevent other brown skinned people from entering someplace he didn’t want to them to enter–the United States.

A year ago Jim Gilchrist brought the mainstream media to a frenzy as they reported on his Minuteman Project, a group of racist vigilantes who’d traveled to the border–guns in hand–to stop the immigrant “invasion” and the “re-conquest,” they said, of the US Southwest by Mexicans.

Later, Gilchrist ran for the US House of Representatives as a member of American Independent Party–the party founded by Wallace, the arch-segregationist.

Like Wallace with the Dixiecrats of his day, Gilchrist has plenty of allies in Congress–chief among them Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo, best known for advocating that the US “take out” the Muslim holy city of Mecca with a nuclear weapon. Tancredo is also known as the head of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, where, chillingly, he leads 91 members of Congress.

Tancredo and his crew don’t like migrants–when the Denver Post profiled an undocumented high school student with a 3.9 GPA, the Congressman tried to have the boy deported.

Tancredo’s Caucus is also credited with pushing through Congress the passage of the now-notorious Sensenbrenner immigration bill–the one that, if approved by the Senate, would make all people in the US who lack papers into instant felons, a criminalized, stigmatized and profoundly vulnerable under-caste.

The Congressman is consistent. After taking out Mecca, it would seem, Tancredo holds that undocumented immigrants “need to be found before it is too late. They’re coming here to kill you, and you, and me, and my grandchildren.”

The Minutemen love Rep. Tancredo, and they do not leave the man to suffer alone in his profound paranoia.

Minutemen co-leader Chris Simcox would have us believe that “we need the National Guard to clean out all our cities and round them [migrants] up. They are hard-core criminals. They have no problem slitting your throat and taking your money or selling drugs to your kids or raping your daughters and they are evil people.”

The temptation, of course, is to dismiss these people as mere crackpots. The problem with that analysis however, is clear. These people have power. They’ve dominated and defined the debate on immigration for the past year–at least until this past weekend, when well over a million–even two million people–marched in opposition to their xenophobic and persecutorial dementia.

Southern California activists have seen that racist dementia up close, time and again, as we confronted the Minutemen and their allies in an effort to keep things from ever getting this far.

We saw it in the eyes of breakaway Minuteman leader James Chase in the darkness of the southern desert at midnight, he armed with a shotgun; we with nothing but our bare hearts.

We saw it in the eyes of Minuteman supporter Hal Netkin as he slammed his car into a crowd of mostly Chicano protestors as Jim Gilchrist addressed the California Coalition for Immigration Reform. Gilchrist joined the Coalition, which has been identified as a racist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Painted as American a hero by the likes of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gilchrist has been accused by a former campaign volunteer of integrating Nazi activists into his campaign for Congress.

He lost the special election, despite his endorsement by Sensenbrenner ally Tancredo.

But he put fear into Republican politicians–fear that incumbents would face vote draining, immigrant bashing third party candidates in November if they didn’t take a hard right line against migrants.

They feared Gilchrist sympathizers like the rightist California group Save Our State, which has regularly drawn organized Nazis to their protests, and which uses the exact rhetoric used by open white nationalists and supremacists–such as calling Mexican culture a “cesspool.”

The corporate media, informed time and again of Nazi, white nationalist and militia connections to the anti-migrant movement, has continued to paint the anti-migrants as part of a mainstream. Gilchrist himself has claimed he has “240 million” supporters, despite the fact that the anti-immigrant movement as a whole could field only 700 activists for its “National Day of Protest” this year. They were outnumbered 10 to 1 wherever they turned across the country.

Even so, Tancredo, Sensenbrenner and the extreme, racist, right wing elements they represent were on the verge of a major legislative victory. They were so close they could taste it.

Until Sunday.

Until La Gran Marcha in Los Angeles.

Then their dominance cracked.

They were on the verge of a walled off country. On the verge of migrants hunted down, rounded up by La Migra and the police–of brown skinned people disappearing in the streets and penned in concentration camps they call “detention centers.” They were on the verge of passing a cruel law that would make all migrants without papers felons and make all Brown people suspects in a hostile nation. They were on the verge of a new ethnic cleansing of America.

And even though the mass protests of recent days have deeply shaken them, they still might win.

Sensenbrenner says he’s not intimidated.

Gilchrist, of course, is promising his followers “absolute” victory.

He says the things more seasoned power brokers won’t say. Although they’re on the same side, he says the Sensenbrenner bill doesn’t go far enough. He wants a wall from sea to sea. He wants the National Guard at the border.

He called the families who marched together “throngs of illegal alien bullies” and dubbed the mass demonstrations for basic human rights a “classic insurrection.” He pledges to stand, “stoically unmoved”–one might imagine like George Wallace on the steps of the university, facing down a lone young African woman, armed thugs in tow.

The future will be decided in the days to come. As senators debate their take on migrants, they will continue to put their fingers to the wind, to see just how far they can go without profoundly alienating their middle class allies and without provoking rebellion from below. Senate Republican leader Bill Frist plans to let two bills be debated there, including his own draconian take-off on the Sensenbrenner bill.

As the debate begins this week, at least 20 LA area high schools are planning a massive walkout, on the birthday of Cesar Chavez. A national network of migrant support groups will lay out a strategy for more vast demonstrations like La Gran Marcha.

They must not stand alone. You must stand with them.

If you don’t, the dream of George Wallace’s ghost may yet come true–a racist, even fascist USA. Today, tomorrow and forever.

JUAN SANTOS is editor of Mexica Tlahtolli, a Chicano and Native American newspaper in Los Angeles. He can be reached at JuanSantos@Mexica.net

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
W. T. Whitney
The Fate of Prisoner Simón Trinidad, as Seen by His U. S. Lawyer
Brian Platt
Don’t Just Oppose ICE Raids, Tear Down the Whole Racist Immigration Enforcement Regime
Paul Cantor
Refugee: the Compassionate Mind of Egon Schwartz
Norman Richmond
The Black Radical Tradition in Canada
Barton Kunstler
Rallying Against the Totalitarian Specter
Judith Deutsch
Militarism:  Revolutionary Mothering and Rosie the Riveter
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir Evoked a Lot More International Attention in the 1950s Than It Does Now
Adam Phillips
There Isn’t Any There There
Louis Proyect
Steinbeck’s Red Devils
Randy Shields
Left Coast Date: the Dating Site for the ORWACA Tribe
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bill Hayes’ “Insomniac City”
David Yearsley
White Supremacy and Music Theory
February 16, 2017
Peter Gaffney
The Rage of Caliban: Identity Politics, the Travel Ban, and the Shifting Ideological Framework of the Resistance
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Doublespeak: Israel’s Terrifying Vision for the Future
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail