User Picture

The Effects Of SB 1070

By: Michael Orion Powell Thursday April 28, 2011 9:35 am
Who Would Jesus Deport?

Who Would Jesus Deport? by xomiele, on Flickr

It’s been a year since the state of Arizona passed SB 1070, and with it launched a title wave of unapologetic ethno-nationalism from the right wing that stretched from the founding of neo-eugenicist websites like Alternative Right to the metastization of the “Birther movement” to the point that President Barack Obama actually felt compelled to release his birth certificate publicly.

So what have been the effects of punitive laws towards Hispanic immigrants in Arizona? Catherine A. Traywick at The Media Consortium website writes that the far-reaching implications of SB 1070 created a financial and legal tidal wave that lessened the possibility of copy cat laws in the future:

Certainly in the long term, the law seems to have done more harm than good to the movement. While it initially added plenty of fuel to the restrictionists’ fire, it has ultimately failed to spread through other states the way many expected it to. While a few states (see’s infographic or Alternet’s rundown) are still considering SB1070-type laws, most others have backed off the idea.


Why The Left Should Rally Around The California DREAM Act

By: Michael Orion Powell Sunday April 24, 2011 10:20 pm

Hello, this is Michael from Voice of the Migrant again. I have been a bit absent from FireDogLake recently due to the work that I have been putting into a new music website called Blood Is One but I’m back with a piece by one of my writers – Nate P. I hope you enjoy it.

Lucorico of the Left Catalyst blog wrote a post about the necessity of the various causes on the Left to find common cause with one another because, “when those who want to see progress made begin to understand that when one of us wins, we all win…”

At present, an issue that the Left should be able to rally around quite easily is the California DREAM Act,described here by the ImmigrationProf blog.

It is comprised of two bills: AB 130 would allow students that meet the in-state tuition requirements to apply for and receive specified financial aid programs administered by California’s public colleges and universities…AB 131 would allow students that meet the in-state tuition requirements to apply for and receive Cal Grants by California’s public colleges and universities. These students would not be eligible to apply or receive any Competitive Cal Grant unless funding remains available after all California resident students have received Competitive awards that they are eligible for.

The California State Assembly’s Appropriations Committee approved AB 130 but put AB 131 on hold until May, according to Alex Garcia of the San Fernando Valley Sun. Nevertheless, it’s a step in the right direction and advocates continue to work to both gain approval for AB 131 and get passed into law.

College students have already begun rallying around this issue, with one leg of a 15-city torch tour set to end in Sacramento in July occurring this past Friday. Earlier this month, a conference including sponsoring Assemblyman Gil Cedillo took place at East LA Community College.

Although this is framed as a “Latino issue” for obvious reasons, it should be easy to understand why the DREAM Act is one of those common causes that the the Left should rally around- it’s difficult, if not impossible, for one to claim support for the disenfranchised while simply ignoring the education of a population that is rapidly becoming a significant demographic in California public schools. While opponents will point to the immediate cost to the state, the long-term cost of leaving a growing population uneducated is what’s at stake – without educating immigrant youth due to the decisions of their parents, we only perpetuate the growth of a permanent underclass of people who have often built their lives in the U.S. but are treated as less than human.

The fact that this is an issue gaining momentum should only encourage increased solidarity from other groups on the left, from advocates of education to other ethnic groups that experience significant inter-generational poverty to women’s groups that understand the significance of women as pillars of many urban communities.

However, beyond this legislative advocacy is also the necessity to call for real transformation of urban public schools in which not only immigrant children tend to attend, but also the vast majority of poor and minority youth. These state versions of the DREAM Act, of which California is one, are an opportunity to really drive a much-needed substantive public dialogue about what it means to adequately prepare minority youth as a whole to  take advantage of the opportunity to go to college once they gain access.

Often times a victory for one group is only symbolically a victory for all. In this instance, building coalitions around the DREAM Act could build solidarity for other substantive victories down the line.

Defending the Huckleberry Revisionism

By: Michael Orion Powell Wednesday January 5, 2011 7:36 am

Cross posted at Deschamps and Dagblog.

Note to readers – Writing isn’t cheap. As much as I enjoy it, I need your support for the means to continue blogging and for the means to publishing my book on autism, which is close to completion. You can help out by doing your shopping through the advertisement on the side of my blog. Several books come recommended for you, including the biography of Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears album, A Heartbeat and a Guitar, which was dedicated to America’s Native American population.

Over the night, a great deal of controversy exploded over the revising by New South Books of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The frequent use of the epithet “nigger,” which appears 219 times, is edited out and replaced with “slave. “independent Some of the most belligerent animosity came from Michael Moynihan, the gifted writer and editor at Reason Magazine:

Don’t read Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop or Black Mischief (colonialist and racist); toss the reactionary and sexist Kingsley Amis on to the fire (probably shouldn’t read Girl-20; definitely shouldn’t read Stanley and the Women); and simply pulp the entire back catalog of George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series, which manages to offend every minority group, every country, every-not-an-Englishman on virtually every page.

There is serious outrage on the part of Moynihan, not a characteristic of most of his work. It’s a bit reactionary but understandable. A Southern friend of mine, Will Pierce, who appears sometimes on podcasts for Gonzo Times, was equally outraged by this. It all made me think that Twain has a very emotional attachment for many people, especially in the south but certainly not regulated to that region. I’m of Southern and Middle American descent and when I ran it by my mom, a person who would toss someone out the window if they omitted the word “nigger,” she said that it “takes away” from the relevance and impact of the word.

My own viewpoint on this is interesting. I grew up on hip-hop, and just rappers that should appeal to me like Eminem or the Beastie Boys. Over the years, I swallowed up Wu-Tang Clan (and all of their solo stuff), Jay-Z, Nas, 50 Cent and Kool Keith.

As I’ve become an adult, however, “nigger” and the more friendly “nigga” have disgusted me more and more. I still listen to some hip-hop but my library tends towards white, Filipino, and rappers of not African American backgrounds simply because, admittedly, once you’ve stepped inside the ghettoes of Washington D.C. or met older black men whose lives were malted with racial derision, you can’t stand to hear the word anymore unless you lack some sort of compassion or have simply become numb. I no longer really think that black comedians and rappers are empowering themselves by redefining the word but just transforming into a new sort of oppressive usage.

That’s not to say the original text should be banned from us. New South Books is publishing their book independently for educational use. This isn’t an order from Obama’s Department of Education. I have copies of the N-word heavy book on my shelf still and am pretty sure Homeland Security will not take them away.

Likewise, comic book adaptations like Classics Illustrated or the PBS series Wishbone, which featured a dog in roles such as Don Quixote and Rip Van Winkel, have veered away from strict adherence to the text in presenting them to new audiences.

Here is New South’s explanation of their book in full:

A new edition of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, forthcoming from NewSouth Books in mid-February, does more than unite the companion boy books in one volume, as the author had intended. It does more even than restore a passage from the Huckleberry Finnmanuscript that first appeared in Twain’s Life on the Mississippi and was subsequently cut from the work upon publication.

In a bold move compassionately advocated by Twain scholar Dr. Alan Gribben and embraced by NewSouth, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn also replaces two hurtful epithets that appear hundreds of times in the texts with less offensive words, this intended to counter the “preemptive censorship” that Dr. Gribben observes has caused these important works of literature to fall off curriculum lists nationwide.

In presenting his rationale for publication, eloquently developed in the book’s introduction, Dr. Gribben discusses the context of the racial slurs Twain used in these books. He also remarks on the irony of the fact that use of such language has caused Twain’s books to join the ranks of outdated literary classics Twain once humorously defined as works “which people praise and don’t read.”

At NewSouth, we saw the value in an edition that would help the works find new readers. If the publication sparks good debate about how language impacts learning or about the nature of censorship or the way in which racial slurs exercise their baneful influence, then our mission in publishing this new edition of Twain’s works will be more emphatically fulfilled.

Voice of the Native

By: Michael Orion Powell Saturday January 1, 2011 1:14 am

Chief Sealth in relief on a 5th Avenue building, Seattle, Wash. (photo: joeszilagyi via Flickr)

Note to readers – Writing isn’t cheap. As much as I enjoy it, I need your support for the means to continue blogging and for the means to publishing my book on autism, which is close to completion. You can help out by doing your shopping through the advertisement on the side of my blog. Several books come recommended for you, including the biography of Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears album, A Heartbeat and a Guitar, which was dedicated to America’s Native American population.

I just recently moved back to my native Seattle. Returning here always has strange effects and they almost always have to do with music. Whereas California is fixated on film and media as its mode of cultural expression, Seattle speaks in musical notes. Nirvana was from here, as was Jimi Hendrix, Courtney Love, Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, Blue Scholars, the list goes on…

It’s not Northwest music that I’m finding myself listening to, however. Instead, Seattle provides a keen reminder of the significance of America’s native population. Seattle itself is a butchering of the name of Chief Sealth by stupid white settlers who couldn’t even manage to get that right. Even if it is physically distant from the nation’s capital or the writing of the Constitution, American history is in your face with the names of as constant reminders – Snohomish, Yakima, Muckleshoot, Puyallup. Washington state is host to reservations just like much of the rest of the United States, a sad legacy that is mapped out on the Governors Office website.

That sad history is reflected in music by numerous artists, Elton John and Johnny Cash standing out prominently. John wrote the song “Indian Sunset,” which tells the story of a young Iroquois man whose heart is broken by the slow motion destruction of his people.

Johnny Cash made an entire album dedicated to America’s Native population called Bitter Tears. A book has recently been released on the making of the album, called A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears by writer Antonio D’Ambrosio. “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” the story of a native of the Pima Indian tribe and World War II veteran, who descended into alcoholism after participating in the famed photograph by Joe Rosenthal at Iwo Jima in Japan.

That song is incredible, but the whole album is also inspiring. “Apache Tears” is one of many songs that should be permanently in one’s music library.  . . .

The Tequila Party?

By: Michael Orion Powell Tuesday December 21, 2010 3:51 am

Cross posted at Voice of the Migrant.

Around the end of November, alot of buzz began to form around possible efforts to form a grassroots effort modeled like the Tea Party – only instead of mobilizing around those that are engaged against the Barack Obama administration for whatever reason, it would be organized around immigrants’ rights:

Latino leaders in Nevada and around the country are floating the idea of breaking traditional ties with the Democratic Party and creating a grass-roots independent movement tentatively called the Tequila Party. According to Delen Goldberg at the Las Vegas Sun, the leaders want to pressure the Democratic Party to deliver on Latinos’ priorities much in the same way the tea party has done with the GOP over the past few years.

Robert de Posada, the former GOP operative behind this fall’s controversial “Don’t Vote” ads aimed at Latinos in Nevada and California, tells The Lookout that he has heard “rumblings” of this movement among national Latino leaders.

“The Tequila Party is a great concept to basically say, ‘You know what? This blind support for you is coming to an end,’” De Posada says. “If you are perceived as someone who will never vote for a Republican, then you’re screwed,” because Democrats will take you for granted, he says.

De Posada is very right. Alot of the Democratic leadership presumes that minorities will flock to them given the alternative. With George W. Bush and his strange but genuine brand of multiculturalism gone, any element of demographic pluralism is gone from the Republican Party. A pity since as strong as religion, social conservatism and entrepreneurship are among many Hispanic immigrants, the Republican Party should be their natural home.

Now, while Yahoo News quoted a reasonable sounding conservative leading proponent of the Tequila Party,the Washington Times staff foamed at the mouth in response to protests of Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration party. While the “Tequila Party” sounded to De Posada like a message of independence to the Democratic Party, WT saw it as something else entirely:

The Tea Partiers do not incite violence; they are salt-of-the-earth middle Americans who are desperately worried about the misguided policies and wrongheaded vision being promoted by President Obama and his congressional allies. Contrast them with the younger, less educated, lower income, angry, racially motivated mob that turned out in Phoenix. The Tequila Party and gangsters like them represent the core and the pride of the liberal base. If an angry, shouting mob throwing bottles at police is the face of contemporary liberalism, it’s no wonder Americans are turning against them in droves.

Good grief! Allahpundit, the fairly reasonable (though I presume he shares the nativist attitudes of his boss, Michelle Malkin) conservative blogger at Hot Air, made a far more coherent analysis than WT. Unlike WT, he doesn’t equate the “Tequila Party” with anti-SB 1070 protesters either:

Sounds fantastic, actually. Having seen the way Democrats take black voters for granted, they’ve decided they’re not going to be treated the same way. Smart thinking. The solution: Organizing a tea-party-esque movement to pressure the party from the outside on issues like amnesty and, er … amnesty. Which, if successful, would help the GOP a bunch. For starters, it would raise the odds that Latino liberals loyal to the “tequila party” will stay home en masse if Democrats can’t deliver for the group. It also risks alienating Latinos who favor Democrats on balance but are lukewarm or cool to the idea of comprehensive immigration reform, not to mention all the independents who think tougher border enforcement is a good idea. And by overtly racializing itself, it threatens to cause otherwise needless tensions within the Democratic coalition. Might be a good move for pro-amnesty Latinos, and it’s almost certainly helpful to the GOP, but I can’t imagine that The One will be thrilled at the prospect.

“The One,” of course, is a less than complementary nickname for President Barack Obama, satirizing the strong self-confidence that got him into the White House.

Now, Allahpundit’s words about “overtly racializing itself” are really important to keep in mind here. Part of the genesis of Voice of the Migrant was a shared concern that I and PunkJohnnyCash had about the intense bureaucracy that makes it difficult even for people who have worked here for years or married an American to attain citizenship. Given the welcoming words on the Statue of Liberty and the history of America as a destination center for the world’s most creative, this website seeks reform that rewards those that come here to improve themselves, their families and this country.

I’ve known alot of immigrants who have come to the United States. They ranged from arriving from North Africa to Ukraine. They all had difficulty. I even briefly considered marrying one out of empathy with her situation. To reduce immigration reform to a Hispanic/Latino issue and not a holistic one is not only wrongheaded but possibly counterproductive.

Dehumanization – The Name Of The Game

By: Michael Orion Powell Thursday December 16, 2010 3:03 pm

Mzchief was kind enough to send me video of the web show Futurestates, which I’ve posted an episode of at my pro-immigration blog Voice of the Migrant.

It was impressive in many ways. Not only in the element of illustrating endemic institutional racism that doesn’t allow a woman of color to really become an equal no matter what she does (compare the border agent’s interaction with Tia with reports that then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld refused to show up at meetings with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice) but also in showing a prophetic state for the United States.

Don’t Feed The Hate Machine

By: Michael Orion Powell Tuesday December 14, 2010 10:02 am

Hello, I am Michael Orion Powell, curator of Voice of the Migrant. I have deep respect for Jane Hamsher and her coverage of the war on drugs, immigration and trade agreements.

For those also interested in the immigration issue, I would like to direct you to the work currently being done by my foremost blogger Nate Parham. In his latest article, he posted a poignant video on the vitriol attached to the word “illegal.”

Nate is a former educator with the University of Washington and was able to add equally critical language to the video he posted:

After Bernie Sanders’ eight hours of keeping it real on the U.S. Senate floor on Friday, I was sent an essay by Jack Whelan entitled the Battle for the Commonplace Center in which he uses the work of George Lakoff to argue – correctly – that Progressives lose battles to the Right precisely because they don’t understand the process of creating compelling messages that will ultimately win over the American public.

Lakoff describes this as “framing” – which is quite distinct from reasonableness, as Whelan describes – and it’s a concept that the left has to grasp instead of wallowing in the losses of this past November.

What is framing?

A good starting point for thinking about framing is actually to draw upon the notion of “being framed” in the criminal sense, as described well by Joe Brewer of Cognitive Policy Works.

An example is the reaction to the word ‘frame’ as if it meant “I was framed!” The conceptual model for being framed is one of a malevolent person placing blame for wrongdoing on another person who is actually innocent. In this context, to “use frames” is to intentionally mislead people into believing that a good person has done something wrong. The listener is naturally cautious about incorporating frames into their practices because they see the use of ‘frames’ as malicious and deceptive.

When someone is “framed” in the criminal sense, it means that someone has constructed a narrative about them that makes them appear to be guilty even if they are actually innocent. There’s a clear overlap here between resonance and reason, but what Brewer is describing is the construction of that message that makes people believe something about a person that is not true. And to paraphrase the wisdom of Dave Chappelle, being accused of something you simply did not do can be infuriating, to say the very least.

Brewer’s entire article is worth reading, but the point is that we all have a network of associations in our minds and what frames do is create message that activate those associations which can sometimes override reason. As a meta example here, a fan (or, in my case, maybe disciple) of Chappelle will have a very different response to the last paragraph than someone who’s never heard of him – they might immediately associate his name with humor and “get the reference” to his entire joke about being framed and perceive that line as a dose of levity amidst a discussion about cognitive stuff. However, while that is funny to me, the reference might be lost on people who simply don’t have that reference (or for some bizarre reason don’t like Chappelle).

Political framing

Here’s what seems to be lost on the left, particularly if you watch cable news: in social interactions, we often assume that because we have things in common with people we spend time with we also have common “frames of reference”. Dropping these little esoteric or subtle references adds richness to the interaction by not having to explain as much – thus making dialogue more efficient – as well as a level of exclusivity that sort of establishes an identity for that social circle relative to the world or a level of intimacy. Over time, shared experience leads to common understandings and more opportunities and resources for framing.

Conversely, in politics – and this is Whelan’s point – you have to find frames that resonate with people who might not have common ground, not to mention common experiences. It’s a much more difficult task and a fundamental principle of rhetoric is that the burden is on the speaker, not the audience. It’s not about reasoning things out with people because different experiences will result in different ways of sensemaking. It’s about finding things that resonate with some fundamental human sensibility, sometimes in an effort to “short-circuit” reason.

What Lakoff establishes in his book Don’t Think Of An Elephant is that conservatives have poured money into think tanks to create and refine sophisticated messages (or political framing) since Richard Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election. An example – though not necessarily a direct result – is Nixon’s usage of “the silent majority” in the 1968 presidential election, which was used explicitly to challenge socially conservative U.S. citizens to reject the challenge to the status quo posed by a vocal minority contingent in the 60′s. It’s brilliant framing because at the time it had wide appeal to people who might have disliked the changes occurring in U.S. society but had no way of coming together around that without being cast as “bad people” (e.g. “racists” or “warmongers”).

Perhaps the benefit to that as compared to saying, “Reject the vocal minority” is obvious – a positive frame gives people something to latch onto and lays the path for an agenda (e.g. uphold the values of the silent majority, which are a, b, c, and “elephant”). A negative frame gives people something to stand against without establishing a message of what they should stand for (e.g. reject the values of the vocal minority, which are a, b, c, and “elephant”). If you rely on negative frames, you implicitly agree to allow the other side to set the terms of the debate – if they say “elephant!” and you say “Don’t think of an elephant!”, then you’re both ultimately still talking about elephants without any alternative.

With that, now fast forward to the present and the video above advocating for people to “Drop the I-Word”, which clearly articulates the power of words – as it opens, “Calling people illegals feeds a hate machine and hurts our nation’s future.” Both media and politicians who have described migrants as “illegals” have exploited fundamental human feelings of economic insecurity and racialized fear by framing a group of people’s existence as criminal. And that framing perpetuates hate toward the targeted Latino demographic that leads to violent acts and speech.

Framing is thus not only important on the Senate floor, but also in the culture of a society.

And this campaign is actually a lens to look at framing in a number of ways.

On the one hand, although this campaign appeals to reason, it also clearly demonstrates the power of framing and the difficulty of undoing it: the “right-wing” individuals who use the I-word will still short-circuiting that reason with anxiety, fear, and hate in spite of this campaign. It’s a noble campaign and one absolutely worthy of supporting because indeed we should stop labeling people in ways that perpetuate hate. Yet although the argument is reasonable, on the surface, it seems to leave us with an open question: if media and politicians are screaming, “Illegals!” how effective is it for human rights advocates to say, “Drop the I-word”?

On the other hand, the goal of this campaign is not purely rhetorical, though it makes a rhetorical claim about the harms associated with using the term “illegals”; the goal of this campaign is to compel people to act and by framing the use of the term “illegals” as the precursor to violence, it does that effectively. At the end of the video and their campaign it’s clear that their message is get people topersuade the media to stop using the I-word – which they are using at an increasing rate – in order to contribute to the larger goal of respecting the humanity of those who cross our border.

There is a conceptual tension between rhetoric and action in this particular case that is difficult to resolve in the abstract. What will ultimately matter is whether they mobilize enough people to accomplish this particular goal which is to end the use of a word that dehumanizes people.

But it’s also easy to see from this very campaign how in general, without a clear alternative message, the dominant message remains at the forefront of people’s minds and places the burden on the audience to seek alternatives, which in turn makes it more difficult to bring people together in common cause, much less change hearts and minds.

Progressives need to begin taking framing more seriously because unfortunately their reasoning, no matter how strong, isn’t shared everywhere.

If you are interested in multiculturalism, immigration or the effects of America’s economy on its social fabric, I recommend that you visit Voice of the Migrant, leave a comment, leave a donation or leave your own story. Thank you.