Similarities Between Today's Minutemen And '90s Militia Movement
first glance it seemed ridiculous that Minutemen leaders would pick a park in a predominantly black neighborhood in Los Angeles as the May 3 jump-off point for their national caravan to Washington, D.C. The caravan will stop in 13 cities including President Bush's hideout in Crawford, Texas. Since the Minutemen first toted their cameras, beach chairs and binoculars to the Arizona-Mexico border last year to shame politicians into taking action to stop illegal immigration, they have been roundly lambasted as a racist organization.
Minutemen Project leaders bristle at the charge. They claim they do everything to shoo racists away from their organization, and that the FBI does background checks on potential members (the FBI denied this claim). They also say they have a multi-ethnic, diverse membership.
Yet, the avowed white supremacist National Alliance group, Neo-Nazis and an assortment of kooks, cranks and crazies all flocked to the border last year to join Minutemen protests. Stormfront, the white power Web site, implored the "white nationalist community" to back the Minutemen project.
The Minutemen have few visible black supporters, and up to a week ago their presence had been nil in black communities. They have been denounced by mainstream civil rights organizations, black elected officials, and have taken no public stand on issues such as affordable health care, failing public schools, police misconduct, the extension of the Voting Rights Act and unemployment. These are issues that most concern blacks. Their Web site is filled with xenophobic, nativist and race-tinged, code-word taunts about the "invasion" of "hordes" of "illegal aliens."
Yet the Minutemen's pitch to blacks is a shrewd, cynical ploy to capitalize on the split among blacks over illegal immigration. That split is wide and deep. The NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Congressional Black Caucus vigorously oppose the punitive Sensenbrenner House bill and have generally supported the massive immigrant rights marches. A Field Poll in California in April found that blacks by a bigger percent than whites and even American-born Latinos back liberal immigration reform.
But many blacks express views that are wildly at odds with the black leaders and the polls. Black callers have singed the phone lines at black radio talk shows with anti-immigrant tirades. They continue to bombard black newspapers with letters blasting illegal immigrants. They complain that Latinos are hostile, even racist, toward blacks.
The issue that pricks a raw nerve is the issue of jobs. Economists are deeply divided over the extent that illegal immigration depresses wages and helps fuel joblessness among blacks. But the increased visibility of undocumented workers in low wage service and retail, construction and light manufacturing jobs, in which blacks once were employed, has stoked resentment. It has reinforced the perception among some blacks that illegal immigrants take jobs from blacks.
Then there is the issue of law enforcement. Polls show that blacks increasingly are more supportive of the police and back tough crackdowns on gang and drug violence. They also rankle at what they perceive as the kid-glove treatment of illegal immigrants by authorities. While there is no evidence that is the case, the perception remains.
Minutemen leaders have tapped into the anger and anxiety of some blacks over the economic free fall of poor blacks, and their tough-on-crime sentiment has managed to corral a handful of black supporters. The week before the start of their caravan, they held a noisy flag-waving rally at a park in South Los Angeles. A few days later they joined a small group of anti-illegal immigrant black activists in a march for jobs to an employment office in South L.A.
The Minutemen have set an ambitious goal of 500 new chapters nationally by the end of the year, and over 1 million new members. They're convinced that the majority of Americans agree with them that illegal immigration is a plague on the American society, and that only harsh employer sanctions, tough criminal penalties and the militarizing of the border is the only way to eliminate it.
They also hope that thousands of blacks will agree with them, and join their chapters and jump in their flag-festooned caravan to Washington in protest. That's not likely to happen. But those few who do will join a group that has checkered ties with racist organizations and that has done nothing to promote civil rights and fight poverty. It just goes to show that the volatile issue of illegal immigration, like politics, can make strange bedfellows.
Blacks Must Unite, Not Split Over Immigration
THE MINUTEMAN WEDGE by Jasmyne Cannick
alliance between blacks and the vigilante group the Minutemen is very similar to the alliance between black Christian evangelicals and white Christian evangelicals and conservatives on the issue of gay civil rights: suspect.
The Minutemen have made a concerted effort to reach out to blacks on the issue of illegal immigration, playing into the fears and hysteria of many in the community.
At a rally and press conference for the kick-off of the Minutemen's Washington, D.C., caravan -- held in a Leimert Park, Los Angeles, one of the few primarily black neighborhoods left in Los Angeles, tensions were high as many blacks joined their white counterparts in denouncing illegal immigrants.
Similar to the 2004 presidential election debacle where blacks were being persuaded to vote for President Bush because he opposed civil rights for gays, blacks are being used by the Minutemen to support their illegal immigration agenda.
By and large blacks have little in common with the Minutemen. As with white conservatives, on any other issue important to blacks we would probably be on opposing sides with Minutemen members.
But by the same token, immigrants rights supporters have done virtually nothing to counteract the messaging to blacks by the Minutemen. The Latino leadership has done very little real coalition building with blacks on common issues, and for the most part do not include blacks in their planned protests and marches, except for the occasional token speaker.
The Minutemen, love them or hate them, have done what the immigrant rights supporters have not done with blacks, and that's talk to them.
What we are seeing happen in the immigration debate is not new. We saw it in 2004 with gay marriage and President Bush's Faith Based Initiative Program, which brought black mega-church pastors to the White House for photo ops and press conferences denouncing lesbians and gays.
This is a deliberate attempt to divide the black community.
We are expected to either side with the vigilantes or the illegal immigrants, neither of which have blacks' best interests at heart.
It's time that blacks start to care about their own interests and stop being bamboozled by groups like the Minutemen. Siding with the Minutemen is like siding with the KKK.
Illegal immigrants aren't the cause of the apathy found in black communities around the country, blacks are.
The Minutemen are here today in our communities and will be gone tomorrow, but we will still be here living in the same conditions as before.
America does need immigration reform. But blacks cannot fault illegal immigrants for doing what blacks should have done years ago: unite.
The last time the masses of blacks gathered in Los Angeles was for the funeral of Stanley Tookie Williams. The irony is that not once in Los Angeles did the number of activists trying to save Williams life ever get anywhere close to the thousands of people who showed up for his funeral.
While illegal immigration has affected the black community, it's black people who are to blame for the current crisis in black America. Siding with the Minutemen is not going to change that.
It's time for black people to wake up and start handling business in our community.