[lg policy] The Politics of Scapegoating Latinos and Other Racialized Minorities

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 6 16:34:49 UTC 2010

The Politics of Scapegoating Latinos and Other Racialized Minorities

by Ron Schmidt / August 5th, 2010

The pundits’ mantra for the 2010 mid-term elections is that American
voters are angry as hell and they’re intent on taking out their anger
on those in power — and for most writers this means the Democrats who
control the White House and Congress. Since they are perceived as a
core part of the Democratic Party’s coalition, this
party-in-power-about-to-take-its-lumps presumably includes the
country’s racialized minorities, especially Blacks and Latinos.

Catching this current, Gregory Rodriguez in his August 2, 2010 Los
Angeles Times column predicts that “white racial anxiety, not
immigration, will be the most significant and potentially dangerous
socio-demographic trend of the coming decade.” He, therefore, advises
President Obama to seize his “Nixon moment” and offer up Affirmative
Action to slake the dragon’s thirst for blood. Rodriguez thinks that
this sacrifice is necessary “to avoid a destructive white backlash.”

On the same day, the lead front-page Los Angeles Times article
described the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United
decision as a rush by business (led by the Chamber of Commerce) and
conservative political activists (led by Karl Rove’s American
Crossroads) to mount the most expensive mid-term campaign in U.S.
history to return power to those who will do their bidding more
consistently and faithfully. Also on the same day, Paul Krugman’s New
York Times column decried the trending of the country’s top leaders
toward “normalizing” double-digit unemployment rates as a “structural”
necessity of the new U.S. economy.

Are these three stories related? I think so.

This recession is different; it is not like previous recessions that
led to relatively quick recoveries and we are likely to face long-term
unemployment at levels not previously seen. Meanwhile, the recession
has led state and local governments drowning in red ink to decimate
their public sectors, including large-scale cuts in public workforces
and benefits, with dire consequences for the public. Neither
Congressional leaders nor the White House even discuss the possibility
of raising the level of fiscal support to the public sector necessary
to halt the blood-letting. Instead, national leaders wring their hands
about the growing deficit and seriously entertain the possibility of
restructuring the social security system toward greater privatization.

In this context, there are good reasons for all Americans to be
feeling high levels of individual anxiety, and it is not surprising
that the anxiety is translated into political anger. Our jobs are
increasingly insecure, and the destruction of private-sector pensions
and benefits has led not to a fight for their recovery but instead to
a concerted attack on public sector pensions and benefits. In this
environment, it is not surprising that the public is casting about for
someone to blame. And in a country with our history of racial bigotry,
violence, and oppression, Latino immigrants and the beneficiaries of
Affirmative Action programs make ready-made targets for politicians
(such as Senator James Webb, among Democrats) and other political
opportunists seeking scapegoats on whose backs to improve their

The campaign to target immigrants and racialized minorities should not
be understood as a result of Barack Obama’s becoming the country’s
first “non-White” president. This campaign should be understood as
part of a large-scale effort by corporations and conservatives to
further destroy the country’s public sector, aiming to throw all
Americans into the loving arms of “the market” without public sector
supports. Latinos and Blacks have been among the groups hardest-hit by
the recession, and the further destruction of the public sector means
that those in the least advantaged positions in American society will
find it harder than ever before to climb a “ladder” to success that is
missing more than a few of its previous rungs.

Rather than tossing a small chunk of “meat” such as Affirmative Action
to the dragon (and can anyone truly believe that this would slake its
thirst for blood?), President Obama should be encouraged to step up
his campaign (already begun) to show the American people how the
corporations, a conservative-dominated Supreme Court and the
right-wing mind-fogging machines of the media are undermining public
understanding of our true situation. And the rest of us should use our
considerable verbal and intellectual skills to help the public better
understand from whence their anxiety comes. A concerted campaign to
improve public understanding of the anxiety-producing,
insecurity-magnifying consequences of an unfettered market would yield
better results for everyone than the jettisoning of Affirmative

Ron Schmidt, Sr., is professor of political science at California
State University, Long Beach. He is the author of Language Policy and
Identity Politics in the United States (Temple University Press,
2000), lead co-author of Newcomers, Outsiders, and Insiders:
Immigrants and American Racial Politics in the Early Twenty-first
Century (University of Michigan Press, 2010), and author of numerous
journal articles and book chapters. He may be reached at
rschmidt at csulb.edu. Read other articles by Ron.


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of the list as to the veracity of a message's contents.
Members who disagree with a message are encouraged to post a rebuttal,
and to write directly to the original sender of any offensive message.
 A copy of this may be forwarded to this list as well.  (H. Schiffman,

For more information about the lgpolicy-list, go to

This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list