02 May 2010

The elefante in the living room

As Arizona surges forward with their new "Papers, please" law which essentially forces every Hispanic resident to carry proof of citizenship with him/her, in case they find themselves "reasonably suspected" of being in the country illegally, I ran across this recent tidbit from the Brookings Institution (via Andrew Sullivan):
Yet there is an important demographic nuance to this growth—providing context to the white backlash in Arizona in ways that could play out else where. It is the fact that the state’s swift Hispanic growth has been concentrated in young adults and children, creating a “cultural generation gap” with largely white baby boomers and older populations, the same demographic that predominates in the recent Tea Party protests. A shorthand measure for this cultural generation gap in a state is the disparity between children and seniors in their white population shares. Arizona leads the nation on this gap at 40 (where 43 percent of its child population is white compared with 83 percent for seniors). But the states of Nevada, California, Texas, New Mexico, and Florida are not that far behind.

...Nationally this gap is 25 percentage points.
Of course, a good number of the pro-SB 1070 folks will decry any mention of these facts as an attempt to label all of them as racists. "Illegal is illegal," we'll hear, "it has nothing to do with race."

Illegal is illegal.

But it's preposterous to think that this cultural generational gap plays no part in people convincing themselves that it's perfectly fine to leave 30% of the--very much legal--population subject to harassment and constantly having to be able to provide proof, not only of identity, but of origin if they want to avoid being detained or arrested.

Whenever there is a rising tide of "the other," it's extremely easy for members of the in-group to minimize the impact any decision might have on the members of the out-group. And these days, it's all about who's in and who's out.

As egalitarian as we believe ourselves to be, as Americans, can we even go more than a day or so without hearing someone talk about wanting "their" country back? They try to dress up that (intensely irritating) formulation as star-spangled patriotism, but the implicit corollary is that, if you're one of the ones who disagrees with them, this isn't your country.

Similarly, aging Arizonans are watching the citizenry undergo a massive demographic shift towards a population that is distinctly "not them." And if it's not "their country" what's the problem with playing fast and loose with "their" rights?

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