September 26, 2004


Yesterday, while helping walk a nearby precinct, I met some nice people. One couple, who share many of the same concerns as me, made a comment which made me uncomfortable.

The course of the War and the problem of affordable Health Care were two of their biggest concerns. However, they added one more. This concern was about immigration.

On this issue, I held silent. It wasn't that I did not hold an opinion. It was that we were not on the streets yesterday to try to change anyone's mind. We were simply trying to identify likely voters and those who wished to help elect a new president.

I hold very strong views about those who come to this country to provide for their families. I don't see them as a liability, but as an asset.

I have met many people who have entered this country illegally. These are hard working people who will take the work that most Americans are unwilling to do. Many work most of their waking hours at the lowest paying jobs in order to provide their families with the simple things that most of us take for granted.

The thing that seems to scare people is that we think the newest immigrants are different from us. They look different. Their families are larger. They speak another language.

Our social services are strained as the newest arrivals get sick, as their children enter schools and if while traveling to the jobs we won't take, they have an auto accident.

Since the majority of the voters in California believe that these people should not be able to obtain driver's licenses in our state, many are driving without either insurance or going through the normal testing procedures required of all licensed drivers.

To me this just seems stupid. Not allowing aliens to have driver's licenses will not stop them from driving. Nor will baring their children from utilizing the social services of the state contribute to our well being.

A few months ago, Pete and I attended a party in Orange County. At that party, we met several neighbors and friends of the hostess. They were nice people. Nearly every guest was white.

A large percentage of the guests had immigrated to the United States from the British Isles. Several said that they entered the US illegally, but after obtaining the services of an immigration attorney (who we also met), were able to secure legal status.

No one, who seems to be so afraid of "those illegal aliens", seems to concern themselves when the immigrant is White.

What does that tell me? This tells me that there is an underlying fear of what looks different. This is the same fear that has existed with every wave of immigration. This fear existed from the earliest days, as the masses left their homes in Europe and Asia to find a better life in America.

As human beings, it may be natural for us to differentiate between "them" and "us". It may even be hard wired into our brains as a primitive survival mechanism.

The thing is, that if we as individuals, are to grow, we must continue to face our basest fears. We must always strive to be better than we are. We must come to realize that until the imbalance in the world is brought to equilibrium, we will always see the "have nots" coming to the lands of those who "have" to make a better life.

This is a big issue. One which we must face. This is happening all over the world in developed countries. Many of the citizens of the wealthier nations are concerned that the character of their nations and neighborhoods are changing as new immigrants, with differing backgrounds and ethnicities arrive.

Many think they can stop the change.
Many long for the 'good old days."
But, change can not be stopped.
Change is inevitable.

Without erecting a Totalitarian State, we cannot simply pull up the drawbridge. It would be impossible. We must find another way.

We can and we must grow in appreciation for all the people of the world. We do an ill justice to ourselves and to others when we fail to realize that we are all in this together. What affects the least of us affects us all. There is no separation. In reality, we are one.

If you haven't left me by now, you might want to read the following article that appeared in the LA times Opinion section this morning. Here it is:

"Pouty White People"

"Why so downbeat on the future? Well, start with racial changes."
-By Gregory Rodriguez
(Gregory Rodriguez, a contributing editor of Opinion, is an Irvine senior fellow at the New America Foundation.)

September 26, 2004

"Once known as the land of futurists and dreamers, California is increasingly home to pessimists. Often nostalgic, newspaper commentators, novelists, journalists and social critics issue jeremiads about paradise lost and the coming dystopia. California has always had its share of apocalyptic prophets, but these voices are no longer cries in the wilderness; they reflect a growing public mood in the once Golden State.

There is a racial dimension to all the gloominess. The downbeat outlook is in large part driven by Anglos, the state's largest minority. Although they enjoy the highest per capita income and are significantly more likely to own a home than any other group, Anglos appear to be suffering from a bad case of "declinism."

One reason for California's post-World War II success was the willingness of government and civic institutions to invest in the aspirations and hard work of newcomers to the state. California built an extraordinary infrastructure ... aqueducts, roads, universities and schools to enable largely Anglo migrants to realize their dreams. Taxpayers gladly footed the cost because their future depended on the improvements. Because the electorate had an optimistic vision, they were willing to bear the sacrifices. California's leading social, political and cultural institutions echoed this sentiment and articulated the goals of the ascendant Anglo population. The editorial visions of the state's leading newspapers resonated with the energy and outlook of a hopeful, striving population.

Whites still make up a disproportionate share of the electorate. They dominate the state's business, intellectual and cultural elites. They remain the principal authors of the California story. And they have become the most pessimistic of any group in the state, according to an August survey of the Public Policy Institute of California. Fully 57% felt that the state would be a worse place to live in two decades. At 49%, blacks were the second most pessimistic group. Latinos (39%) and Asians (34%) were significantly less downbeat.

Anglo pessimism in California is not a new phenomenon. In a similar poll taken five years ago, Anglos were considerably more pessimistic about living in the state in 2020 than were Latinos, the group with the lowest per capita income and second-lowest homeownership rate.

This apparent disconnect between wealth and outlook suggests that Anglo declinism does not stem from material circumstances. Indeed, pessimism tends to increase with education and income. Are Anglos simply better informed about the state's problems than everyone else, and thus gloomier?

If educational achievement is an indicator, the answer is no. Asians in California have higher rates of academic attainment than whites, and they are far more optimistic.

What these polls do measure is expectations. A majority of Anglos clearly believe that their best days in the state are behind them.

One explanation for what is happening is what journalist David Whitman calls the "I'm OK, you're not" phenomenon. Anglos have less faith in the future of today's immigrants than the immigrants have for themselves. Over a generation, immigrants from Asia and particularly Latin America have changed not only the cultural landscape but also the state's image of itself.

The newcomers have punctured the idea of California as a middle-class utopia. They are associated with high rates of poverty, density, diversity and social ills reminiscent of New York City and Chicago at the turn of the 20th century. Whites don't easily identify with the aspirations of these emergent groups.

With the exception of the much-maligned "Oakies" and "Arkies" in the 1930s, native-born white migrants were generally welcomed to California by the state's establishment. The new arrivals' enthusiasm was not greeted with dread.

Anglo declinism may stem from the aging of the Anglo population. Of all the state's major demographic groups, Anglos are the most likely to have lived in California the longest. As a result, they are both more able ... and more likely ... to remember the ways things used to be, to compare the present with the past. Furthermore, the median age of whites (40.3) is significantly higher than all other groups. As such, Anglos are not only racially but increasingly generationally disconnected from the younger nonwhite population. Brookings Institution demographer Bill Frey calls this a "racial generation gap."

"The newcomers have the enthusiasm whites have lost," Frey said. "Whites are the landed aristocracy that don't see themselves as part of the new dynamism of the state."

Life in California is more complicated than it was a generation ago. It takes much longer to drive from Los Angeles to San Diego. Competition to land a spot on a University of California campus is far keener. High housing prices can bring even the financially mighty to their knees. But greater population density and stiffer competition don't necessarily translate into catastrophe.

"Anglos are pouting," California historian Kevin Starr said. "They still think California is the unearned increment, that just by coming here you'd be prosperous."

The gritty reality of a generation of enormous international migration has collided with Anglo illusions of the good life. It isn't that Asians and Latinos, two groups with large foreign-born cohorts, don't still see California as a land of opportunity. Rather, it's that the Anglo myth that dreams should be achieved without struggle is gone. Today's newcomers don't come to the land of perpetual sunshine to reinvent themselves in a Mediterranean climate. Their story is a more hardscrabble version of the American dream, one we associate with the East Coast.

In his 1998 critique of the New Left, Stanford philosopher Richard Rorty asserted, "National pride is to countries what self-respect is to individuals: a necessary condition for self-improvement." A similar judgment could be said about a state's orientation toward the future. Like individuals, bodies politic must have a modicum of faith in the future if they intend to plan constructively for one.

California's crumbling infrastructure can be rebuilt, and its broken education system can be repaired. But that's not going to happen until we re-create the social contract that built postwar California. That contract must be founded on a shared vision of the future. If Anglo California is not willing to provide one, then at the very least it should make way for those who do."

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at

Article licensing and reprint options

Posted by Judi at September 26, 2004 10:36 AM | TrackBack

Thank you for putting words to so many of my feelings on this subject. At my elementary school, we have a large immigrant population and I always try to treat them with the dignity and attention they deserve. Some are so afraid, as I probably would be in their country, and so many here don't want to step into their shoes, even for a moment. Thanks Judi. I like what Mom's been thinking!

Posted by: Glorianne at September 26, 2004 7:33 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?