The earth was created by the assistance of the sun, and it should be left as it was… The country was made without lines of demarcation, and it is no man’s business to divide it…
— Chief Joseph, NEZ PERCE
There ought not be any problems between blacks and recently arrived migrant workers in Los Angeles. In fact, the two are so similar as to be almost mirror images of each other. One crossed the ‘border’; many of the others other fled the southern extension of the ‘Mason Dixon Line.’ Both groups came to California fleeing economic, racial and social hardships and seeking a better life, only to find racial, social and economic oppression at the hands of the majority population. Our cultures, languages, foods and festivals differed from and were cast as inferior to those of the majority culture. In spite of our many triumphs in the arts, sciences, athletics and all the fields of human endeavor, we have been cast as inferiors and as “second-class” citizens relegated figuratively to the back of the bus.
It is both ironic and tragic that we who have struggled together now find ourselves being egged on by right-wing propagandists into the possibility of struggling against each other. After gaining its independence from Spain, Mexico abolished slavery in 1829. Thousands of runaway slaves gained their freedom through an underground railroad that ran into Mexico. In 1846 one of the principal reasons for the US war upon Mexico was the unwillingness of the Mexican people to tolerate slavery in Texas, which was at that time, like the entire Southwest, a part of Mexico. And in the modern times, our greatest leaders Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Reies Tijerina, Huey Newton and Corky Gonzalez were mirrors of each other and supporters of each other. Brown Berets and Black Panthers struggled arm in arm side by side. This is our history. And knowing that history, there are hardly any amongst blacks who could object to workers migrating seeking to feed their families, for that is exactly what we did.
The lie is that migrant workers take our jobs. The truth is that there ought to be jobs for all.
The lie is that such migration lowers wages. The truth is that the boss sets the wage.
The lie is that there are borders, nations, divisions. The truth is that we are all one.
The lie is that there is too little. The truth is that there could be so much.
And all it takes is work.
There is a secret about work – a secret that is uncovered every time someone is hired. The secret is that that the worker brings more to the table than he takes from it. Every person who labors adds more than she is paid. Think of all the talent and time wasted standing in front of Home Depot when there are homes, schools, hospitals, new cities, new vistas to be built and all it takes is work. We should be welcoming with open arms any and all who come.
No Borders for Labor
Jobs for All at a Living Wage
This position paper was written on June 23, 2007 in response to an attempted incursion by SOS Minutemen, riding on the backs of ‘House Negroes,’ into Leimert Park, heart of the black cultural community in Los Angeles. The incursion was turned away by a spontaneously formed coalition of activists and denizens of the area.