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The Real Scapegoaters

Guest Column
George Waksman

Aimee L. Smith’s recent column [“Xenophobia: the Real Winner Of the Midterm Elections,” Nov. 8] is an insult to both the cause of civil liberties and to anyone that has the slightest understanding of economics or politics. Her arguments are poorly linked, poorly justified and based on a mediocre understanding of the principles and concepts at work.

The primary claim of her article seems to be that Question 2 on this year’s ballot is wrong. The fact that Ms. Smith neglects to mention, at any point in her article, what Question 2 actually says implies either an inability to argue or that there is some sort of ulterior motive behind the article. As it is useful to my argument not to have an ignorant readership, I will explain that Question 2 proposed that public schools in Massachusetts be required to teach only in English and for non-English speaking children to be required to take “immersion” classes.

The evidence she uses to back her opposition to Massachusetts’ Question 2 is California’s Proposition 187, which Ms. Smith has decided is important enough to explain to us, although it has relatively little to do with ballot Question 2. She has chosen to connect the two items by the thin line that they would both affect people that do not natively speak English. Although this is a factual connection, it is tenuous at best, as Question 2 targets people for not speaking English, while California Proposition 187 targets people for not being citizens.

Having said that, I will do as Ms. Smith has, and discuss a topic that does not pertain to Question 2 -- California’s Proposition 187. Ms. Smith has suggested that Proposition 187 exists for the purpose of oppressing and exploiting migrant workers because they are not white. Although it is most certainly the case that the proposition exists to exploit migrant workers, the suggestion that xenophobia is at its basis is ludicrous. The proposition sought to keep the workers minimally healthy and uneducated because, as any rational person knows, this makes it easier for them to be exploited for manual labor at low costs. In any capitalist economy, such as ours, the cheaper the labor, the greater the profit. Karl Marx had at least a few things right and when he said that keeping the lowest rung of society uneducated and just healthy enough to work would increase profits. The economic founding for Proposition 187 is made obvious by the fact that its biggest supporters were the people that hire migrant workers in the first place.

Furthermore, the jump from exploiting illegal aliens to making a scapegoat of them is even harder to make than the jump from Question 2 to Proposition 187. Further, the equating of anyone to the Nazis seems to be an absurd attempt to stir up unrest through sensationalism. The Nazi relation is made even thinner by the fact that it is used in so very many of her columns. That she goes even further to attempt to bring the arrest of Amer Jubran into her argument makes me wonder whether the article really is about Question 2. In the end, all of Ms. Smith’s claims of xenophobia seem to be attempts to make white men scapegoats for all of the world’s social injustices. Wasn’t she the one who said that scapegoating is an abhorrent practice?

George Waksman is a member of the Class of 2005.