Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The tangled web of hypocrisy some immigrant groups weave

It was recently reported in the Seattle Times that “a proposal to build a permanent men’s shelter with a day center and 40 to 60 units of transitional housing near Interstate 90 in Eastgate is meeting with opposition from neighbors. About 1,700 residents have signed a petition opposing the location and raising concerns about crime, an influx of homeless people from Seattle, and the impacts to the surrounding community.” A count last January found 245 people were sleeping outside and 50 people sleeping inside their cars in the Eastside, and that the Bellevue Scholl District had 245 homeless children attending school. Yet the Eastside has provided less than 9 percent of homeless housing, and practically nothing for single homeless men. I’ve posted before about the Kent City Council (with the support from the police department) vetoing a men’s shelter in its joke of “downtown” area.

While there are those who feel that the city has an obligation to help its chronic homeless, The opposition is obviously quite vocal, and these people to add an unhealthy dose of hypocrisy and paranoia into their insistence on “empathy” for the homeless. According to one resident, “A facility of that size and magnitude, it will attract people, hundreds of people. It feels like King County wants to move their problems to Eastgate.”

That is obviously self-serving hyperbole, but what I found particularly fascinating about this statement was from whom it came from. I won’t name him, but further investigation revealed that he is Russian of the Jewish faith.While this particularly individual does not appear to otherwise support right-wing causes, I do find particularly disturbing is that some immigrants to this country—particularly those from Russia and its former European “republics” who have essentially established self-supporting enclaves in the U.S. and generally eschew co-mingling with the population at large—feel they have any kind of “right” to make the lives of certain of our citizens any more difficult than they are, simply because of the prejudices and stereotypes they have, mainly as criminals, drug users or have serious mental disturbances on occasion. Most homeless people in King County are in fact white, which these people may not be aware of. 

This lack of empathy for native-born citizens on the outs is hardly surprising, given their disdain for other immigrant groups. Immigrants from Russia and its former satellite states were among Donald Trump’s biggest supporters, and not for entirely unpredictable reasons. In a story on the website Forward, quoted some of these apparently “entitled” immigrants: “‘I like his honesty, that he’s against Muslims, that he’s against refugees,’ said Valentina Albert, a former refugee from Moldova whose husband was Jewish. ‘I think that our lives, the lives of immigrants from Russia, will be better and richer [with Trump.]’” And another: “‘I think Trump is a man…’ said Olga Dubova, 82, a hairdresser who emigrated from Ukraine in 1995. ‘We also came here as immigrants in our own time. But we can’t let crooks in.’” And another: “‘I think that enough immigrants entered this country,” said Rosa Berezovskaya, 86, who emigrated from Kiev in 2003. ‘We really need a new stream that will bring America back to what it was.’”

The appalling degree of hypocrisy and ignorance on display here is, to be honest, something that these people brought with them from the “mother country.” One of the more amusing of SCTV’s skit comedy shows from the early 1980s was one where the mythical Mellonville station’s broadcast signal was hijacked by the Russians in order to spread its propaganda in America. “CCCP1” was of course inept and behind the times technologically, but the writers of this particular sketch also chose to satirize racial bigotry in Russia. In three different “public service” announcements during the “broadcast,” the Uzbeks—a Turkish ethnic group residing in the central Asian country of Uzbekistan—were featured in various examples of anti-social and criminal behavior; in one scene, a Russian discovers straws protruding from his car’s battery, with the insinuation that a gang of Uzbeks “drank” the battery acid. 

It isn’t just Russians who don’t like Uzbeks; I found this during an Internet search: “I'm Kazakh from Kazakhstan and I wouldn't say that we hate Uzbeks just because they are Uzbeks. It's all stereotypes. In most cases Kazakhs in Kazakhstan doesn't like illegal Uzbek immigrants coming from rural areas to our cities and breaking laws.” If you need someone to blame, just pull the “illegals” out of the hat; it works everywhere.

Meanwhile, the Putin regime “manipulates” anti-immigrant fervor in order to “reinforce” its “legitimacy.” This has only led to what The Guardian reports is a dramatic rise in neo-Nazi groups in Russia, surprising given that more than 20 million people were killed there by the Nazis during World War II. One person quoted by the Guardian said “The problem is with this new generation. They don't understand the difference between nationalism and patriotism. They confuse the two."

As usual pretended “empathy” soon gives way to a person’s true beliefs. On a website called “FairObserver,” one Russian woman expressed her opinion of Uzbeks and other Asian groups migrating to the country in search of work in this way: “Do you personally believe that the situation with immigrants in Russia is OK? I, for example, have never considered myself a nationalist. On the contrary, I felt certain repulsion toward this way of thinking. But since recently I’ve come to recognize that I don’t feel at home living in my own city. All around you hear loud, alien speech. They don’t know how to speak quietly. You see unfriendly, alien faces following you from behind — an alien slit of the eye. There are too many of them now. They gather about in wolf packs, loiter in front of our store by the metro. I’ve come to feel ill at ease returning home in the evenings. I don’t know, maybe you find that kind of situation normal, but not me.” 

The attitude of the Russians (and for that matter, any of its “Russified” former “republics”), is not so different than what you’d read or hear from the Right and their racist supporters in this country.  Vladimir Mukomel of the Institute of Sociology of Russian Academy of Sciences points out that “journalists paint the portrait of a migrant, and usually it’s a negative one. Whenever migrants and other foreign nationals appear in the news, it’s most likely in stories of them committing crimes and rapes…The speeches of public figures and representatives of public authorities also add to this portrait. And sometimes we can observe how public figures engage in xenophobic statements that are offensive to immigrants. Recalling the mayoral campaign in Moscow in the summer of 2013, the rhetoric of all candidates was xenophobic. They knew quite well that the population would support such statements…Unfortunately, the population is economically illiterate and does not realize how [much] migrant workers contribute to the Russian economy.” 

Naturally, it isn’t just Uzbeks and other central Asians who are the target of racial bigotry; Africans in Russia are frequently referred to as “monkeys,” and Barak Obama has often been caricatured as such.

This country has enough bigotry without “importing” more of it. Eastern Europeans are not the only ones guilty of it; some Asian groups and even Africans from non-Muslim countries seem to have a difficult time in distinguishing between native-born American citizens and people they assume “everyone” hates (I am referring, of course, to Hispanics).

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