An addendum of sorts to my essay on immigration and the welfare state today–though an L.A. resident, I was out of town during the big immigration street rallies. Gathering a half million to the streets of downtown L.A. is an impressive achievement–ask any of its struggling merchants. Some white progressives saw it marking one of those moments in L.A. history, as discussed in an interesting cover story in Los Angeles's CityBeat, in which our tortured, torn city is confronted vividly with the deep divisions that continue to deeply divide us–an Oscar-winner of a theme to be sure.
But the fact that it came as a surprise to White LA that the efforts of a bunch of radio stations we didn't listen to and some lefty unions we aren't members of got a half million to fill our streets is not a sign of some cancer in the Angeleno body politic.
Rather, it's a sign of the general overall civic and political peace of our city–white L.A. does not tend to feel waves of ominous resentment and fear from Latino L.A., even if in many ways those two realms segregate themselves, including in media. The elections of Antonio Villaraigosa and Loretta Sanchez to mayor of L.A. and congresswoman from the OC is all part of the same phenomenon–a quiet phenomenon of people of different languages and native lands living together, mostly peacefully though occasionally slightly chaotically, the eternal shifting of America's ethnic makeup and political power (though Latinos' share of voting Californians is still a lot lower than its share of Californians) that has been happening ever since the Germans, and later the Irish, and Italians, began upsetting and destroying America's vital and constituitive ethnic balance.
And they did, no question about it, in the process creating the ruined America that today's nativists are striving to protect.
The recent huge street demonstrations, in many southwest cities, the Los Angeles school district's 25-40,000 strong walkout, next week's planned repeat of the national pro-immigrant turnout on April 10–do represent a powerful new moment in our immigration debate. The only next step in flexing their influence for Southwest immigrants would be re-enacting the message of the pro-immigration dramedy A Day Without A Mexican and letting us see exactly how well we'll cope with paying others for all the jobs they are stealing from us. Despite another OC congressman, Dana Rohrabacher's, casual "let the prisoners pick the fruit" comment (I'd be amused to hear the former libertarian folk-singing hippie troubadour set that one to music), it is highly unlikely most Americans will still be thrilled to have put their casual ressentiment where their dinner bills are.