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Osgerby: The new racism

BY PAUL OSGERBY | DECEMBER 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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President Obama’s planned controversial executive action granting amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants has caused quite the stir in political discourse lately, especially for conservatives. Now with a Republican-led Congress looming in the new year, those politicians are preparing the ammo to fire back at the president to disallow the policy to get through the legislative branch.

In the wake of another predicted Democrat versus Republican standoff, the issue of race and ethnicity in the United States enters a new saga. Actually, it’s not so new. More, it’s just less structural than before.

Xeno-racism is a sociological concept that identifies racist behavior and action as an inherent fear toward a foreign people because of their social or economic impact on one’s home nation. It’s not color-coded or focused on colonial ethnic hierarchies like old racism but rather geared primarily toward migrants seeking political asylum or economic opportunity.

In the case of the United States, xeno-racism is targeting predominantly Mexican immigrants as a consequence of Obama’s plan for reforming immigration. It demonizes a group of people as less-advantaged, illegal citizens usurping welfare from American taxpayer dollars. This fear is then extended to represent the larger whole of a race to generate further distrust.

The xenophobia of a particular race doesn’t just apply to Mexican migrants. In the aftermath of 9/11, any Middle Eastern person in the United States was subject to being linked, unjustly, to terrorist agenda by white America. As a result, an entire race felt perpetually interrogated through institutionalized racism.

This is the new racism in America — more subversive than its previous, structural counterpart.

However, it’s quite oxymoronic for a nation built by foreigners displacing the native people (and still celebrates a holiday in commemoration) to then subjugate immigrants, whether illegal or not, to racist behavior based on social or economic status.

Countries in Europe, such as the United Kingdom, don’t act much differently. Particularly focused on dislocated individuals following the collapse of communism or individuals seeking war refugee, groups of people are labeled as bogus citizens, living on government welfare while contributing little to nothing through taxes.

The bottom line is that xeno-racism targets the impoverished strangers of a nation. In their new country, “The Other” seeks economic or political opportunity only to face the familiar demonization of racism. Skin color is less emphasized, focusing on the cultural identity.

Racism is alive and well today, despite talking heads claiming we live in a post-racial society. The new racism resides in the underbelly of political discourse. Next time a politician or pundit attacks Obama’s planned immigration reform, question if there is institutionalized racism subtly lingering in the dialogue.


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