THE REFUGEE CHILDREN : AROUSING MASSACHUSETTS’S DARK STRAIN OF UGLY NATIVISM

1 refugee chilren

^ 1,000 refugee children : a threat to white picket fence, suburban fantasies ?

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By the narrowest of margins, according to Boston Globe’s poll of opinion on the refugee children coming to Massachusetts, our State passes the moral test.

It appears that a bare 50 % of voters support Governor Patrick’s plan to shelter 1000 refugee children temporarily, with 43% opposed. The poll also finds that only 52 % of Massachusetts voters favor a path to citizenship for immigrants here undocumented.

Not surprisingly, the poll finds that 79 % of Republicans oppose Massachusetts housing the children. More surprising is that only 69% of Democrats favor the children. Independents are evenly split; younger voters more inclined to favor the children than older.

You should read the entire Globe article : http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/07/22/voters-wary-immigration-split-patrick-plan/215sbf5pmQCVkgdzoxUVoI/story.html

Some observers want to say that the poll’s findings contradict Massachusetts’ reputation for progressive views. I disagree with this. On immigrant matters, Massachusetts voters have always exhibited a nativist, even violently bigoted, strain, beginning with opposition to Irish Catholic immigration in the 1830s-1840s and continuing with opposition to Italian and Jewish immigration in the period 1900-1919. Who can ignore the burning, in Charlestown, of a Catholic convent, in the late 1830s, by Protestant nativists ? Or the rise of the anti-Catholic “know nothing” party in the 1850s ? Or the Sacco-Vanzetti case that roiled Massachusetts for seven years beginning in 1920 ?

Allied to our nativist strain has been, at times, an equally fierce slice of out and out racism. Who can forget the school busing crisis that beset Boston in the 1970s and poisoned the city for almost twenty years ? Or that the suburbs, asked to share the desegregation burden — and it was a big one — refused to do so ?

Housing segregation has also been — continues at times to be — a dark presence in our state. Though our cities are strongholds of amazing diversity of peoples, the suburbs almost entirely lack the presence of people of color and of diverse origins. Much suburban policy is directed to keeping diverse peoples out. It is there that one finds movements to repeal the MGL c. 40B housing law. Suburban gate-keeping is why the Blue line has never been extended, as it should be, to the North Shore; why the Orange Line has never has made it past Forest Hills — to West Roxbury and Needham, as has been proposed in times past; and why communities constantly fight — by means fair and foul — the construction of affordable housing.

The same division also affects lifestyle civil rights for people living in Massachusetts. Though our cities have fully embraced and mainstreamed LGBT people, most of our suburbs have not. It’s one reason why Massachusetts still hasn’t enacted full civil rights protections for transgender people despite 17 other states having done so. Progressive we are, on economic issues; on diversity issues, we barely pass the moral test.

A Republican candidate for statewide office — his name John Miller — issued a statement yesterday in which he made plain that to him, the refugee children are first of all a public health crisis and a budget burden. Not a word about their humanity ! It made me angry to read his statement. It makes me angrier still to know that an actual candidate said it.

Guess what, Mr. Miller ? The refugee children are not coming to your picket fence Ozzie and Harriet-ville. They are coming, almost all, to our cities — our overcrowded, triple-decker, public school, dance culture, pig-roasting, ghetto-fab — cities, as their predecessors always have.

Myself, I welcome the children. I wish all 57,000 would come here and impart their enthusiasm and diversity to cities already enriched by thousands of Viet Namese refugees, Haitians, Cape Verdeans, Somalis, Trinidadians, Iranians, Albanians,Koreans, Syrians, Iraqis, Bosnians, Irish. Ride the bus into Boston, and you will see them — taking always the hard road, because we deny them drivers’ licenses, to hard and thankless jobs. Ride the “T” and you will see them again. They keep our society going. They are our drive train, the diesel for our engines, the stokers in the stokeholds. I take my hat off to them and wish their children a rapid rise to the top of a nation that should be grateful for their coming here and thankful as hell if they choose to stay here and make us a better and more imaginative society.

I only wish that those who do not, like me, live in our cities, could see what I see, feel what I feel. Maybe someday.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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