Monday, January 30, 2006

Article Note: On Homeland Security, Militarism, and Latinos

Citation for the article:

Mariscal, Jorge. "Homeland Security, Militarism, and the Future of Latinos and Latinas in the United States." Radical History Review Issue 93 (Fall2005): 39-52.

I read the article in print.

The article opens with a brief but very good overview of Latino groups in the United States. The article's author then moves on to discuss the recent backlash against Spanish-speaking immigrants under the umbrella of fighting illegal immigration. The events of September 11, 2001 only served to augment the rhetoric of hate against immigrants. As Mariscal is reviewing various recent writings from the Right, he makes an interesting observation about San Diego columnist Joseph Perkins. Perkins, according to Mariscal, "in a February 2002 op-ed, explained that the fear inspired by immigrants from the Middle Eastern countries was related to the University of California's recent decision to grant in-state tuition to academically qualified undocumented students" (41). While critiquing Perkins' racist logic, Mariscal goes on to observe that Perkins himself is African American, and that fact might make for another essay. I have to agree that there is an essay topic there waiting to be written.

The purpose of Mariscal's essay is "to begin to outline the many ways recent developments in the United States affect one sector of the North American working class: the diverse Latino community in the United States" (39). His initial review of the overall situation illustrates some of his purpose, but he looks into this further.
  • On economic conditions for Latinos, Mariscal points out that they have gotten worse since the 2000 election. "Although Latinos have a high rate of participation in the labor force, over 11 percent of Latino workers live in poverty. About 7 percent of Latinos with full-time jobs were still living below the poverty line in 2001 (compared to 4.4 percent for African Americans and 1.7 percent for whites)" (45).
  • On health care figures for Latinos, the picture is not better. "According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in the year 2001 only 49.7 percent of Latinos under 65 years of age had private health insurance, compared with 80 percent for Caucasians and 61.9 percent for African Americans" (45). Note that while the Bush administration opposed the Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act, green card holders are very welcome in the U.S. military, "and many of the early casualties during the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003 were among the some forty thousand noncitizen soldiers who serve in today's ranks" (45).
Given the bleak economic prospects for Latino youths, they make an attractive target to military recruiters. Mariscal outlines the various initiatives for recruiting Latinos into the armed forces, which show that, among other things, "Latino youth are being targeted at about twice their rate in the general population" (46). What is fascinating, or disturbing depending on your point of view, is how the military has entered public schools through programs such as JROTC and Troops to Teachers. There are other programs designed to instill military values in students, and they take advantage of the fact that many public school districts are dysfunctional and "thrown into chaos by massive budget cuts, overcrowding and neglect" (49).

Mariscal's conclusion asks:

"With the United States engaged in protracted military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with domestic crises in education and health care, Latino communities are slowly awakening to the fact that a permanently militarized economy and culture will not benefit them or their children. If the homeland to be secured willingly seeks Latino youth for the ranks of its military while continuing to portray Spanish-speaking communities as a foreign threat to national identities, what will be the long-term gains for the vast majority of Latino working familes?" (50)

This last question made me think of two things. One, of George Orwell's 1984 and Oceania's war economy where we learn war does not produce anything but can keep an economy running (albeit in a destructive way). Two, the history of the Roman Empire and how its decline became apparent as soon as they began to recruit into their legions the very barbarians they denigrated as foreigners. History has this way of repeating itself. I will let readers ponder the rest. Overall, this is an article I recommend. Additionally, the article is part of a special issue of Radical History Review on Homeland Securities, so it may be of interest to readers. I am thinking for college students writing on topics of homeland security, this may be another resource. Also, CR: The New Centennial Review recently had a special issue of the topic of Terror Wars. I made a brief note about that special issue here over in my main blog.

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