Amid all of the hot mess over a new law in Arizona that critics claim promotes racial profiling, I’m reminded that my favorite middle-class and mostly white enclave hosts a number of Mexicans who peacefully co-exist despite whatever sentiment dominates the area.
For anyone paying attention to all the menial labor jobs worked in Johnson County, it’s hard not to notice how many Mexicans there are drawing income from the place. I don’t want to speculate if they’re illegal or not because I don’t really care and, obviously, neither does anybody else as long as labor costs are kept low.
From Arizona to Kansas City, people are upset about the racial profiling aspect of this new immigration law. But let’s be forthright: This is really a reaction to so many brown people in this nation and Mexicans so easily serve as a convenient scapegoat because of their large numbers and because Latinos are such a diverse community that traditional political organizations that appeal to most minority groups in the United States don’t really make sense in this community.
I’ve reported on the Latino Community in Kansas City for more than 10 years and if I’ve learned anything it’s that the most effective political movements among Latinos are done with a wink and a nod. Example: When John McCain was struggling to break out of the GOP Pack of white guys during his losing campaign, it was only when he noted that he didn’t completely hate and want to deport all brown people on his way to visit white, Republican, Cubans in Miami that he gathered a bit of momentum. In the much the same way, there was no “official” word that vast majority of Democrat Latinos would quietly move from supporting Hillary to backing Obama during the historic ascendancy of The Black President. It just happened.
There is no Latino Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson and there won’t ever be one because finding a cross-section of the Latino common interests is nearly impossible. That’s not to imply that a great many of us don’t identify in some way with the most downtrodden members of our ethnic group. But it’s not like we’re having them over for dinner.
And all of this political talk of constituencies and demographics reminds me that I can’t go to Johnson County without seeing Mexicans mowing lawns, behind the counter at a crappy job or in the kitchen of every type of restaurant. As always, this is comforting because it reminds me that the legacy of Latino culture isn’t open confrontation but long term endurance and perseverance. In the 40s and 50s in Kansas City, working class Latinos – both illegal and citizen – were deported based on their looks, without much legal recourse. So far, it doesn’t look like authorities in this nation are going to get that rough. In fact, the illegal immigration drama seems to be played out mostly on cable TV where suburbanites in JoCo and all over the metro can enjoy the lifestyle served to them by the very people they claim to despise.