Fi2W’s Executive Producer talks about our new online magazine on WDET Detroit.
Tag: John Rudolph
Less than a year ago, at the dawn of the Obama era, there was a lot of talk about how the nation had just elected its first post-racial president. With his multi-racial and multi-religious background, and African immigrant roots, Barack Obama represented the hope of millions that the country was moving beyond its long, tragic history of divisive racial politics.
To be sure, Obama’s election as the first black president of the United States was an historic event of immense significance. But the idea of a post-racial presidency was a fantasy. Comments this week by former President Jimmy Carter reminded us that racial politics and prejudice are alive and well in America.
“I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African American,” Carter told NBC’s Brian Williams.
The issue of immigration was directly implicated in Carter’s remarks. The now infamous shout of “You lie” by Representative Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) during President Obama’s address to Congress last week came after the president asserted in his speech that undocumented immigrants would not be covered under the proposed health care overhaul.
“I think it’s based on racism,” Carter was quoted by the Washington Post as saying of Wilson’s outburst. The former president made the remark in response to a question at a public forum on Tuesday at the Carter Center in Atlanta.
The entire episode — Wilson’s shout, Carter’s critique, and all the various charges and counter charges, accusations and denials flying around Washington and in the media – suggest a very rocky future for immigration reform. (more…)
Arriving Without an Invitation: New Book Offers Unique Perspective on the Life of an Illegal Immigrant
A FI2W Essay
By John Rudolph, FI2W Executive Producer
“The route is full of dangers. In summer there are usually soldiers guarding the footpaths who arrest anyone trying to get through illegally. There are just as many armed bandits lurking too, waiting to pounce and rob the illegal migrant of what little he owns. Whoever refuses to empty his pockets gets the thrashing of his life. In winter there are fewer soldiers, fewer bandits. Instead it’s a toss-up between dying in the snow or being eaten by wolves.”
Change a few details, and this could easily be a description of the perils facing undocumented immigrants as they cross from Mexico into the U.S. But the writer is Albanian, and the route he describes is his own passage from his native country to neighboring Greece, which he entered illegally in 1991.
In the current debate over immigration reform it is easy for Americans to loose sight of the universality of human migration. Around the world, national borders are constantly being crossed, both with and without governmental approval, as people facing difficult –sometimes desperate– circumstances search for safety, economic security and opportunities they can’t find at home.
“A Short Border Handbook” (published in the U.K. by Portobello Books), a new book by journalist Gazmend Kapllani, reminds us that the experiences often associated with undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are endemic to all who leave their homeland and show up in a new country “uninvited.” Using a blunt style and, at times, dark humor, Kapllani’s short book tells the story of walking to Greece in 1991 after the government of Albania opened its borders following the fall of the country’s totalitarian Communist regime.
By John Rudolph, FI2W Executive Producer
For many Americans, May 1, 2006 was when they first began to comprehend the power of the nation’s Spanish-language media. Hispanic radio and TV played a key role on that day, urging Latino immigrants to take time off from work to demonstrate for immigration reform. Millions participated in the protests in cities across the country.
But while Hispanic media was credited for its role in bringing out the masses on the “day without immigrants,” most people remain unaware of the long history of the Spanish-language press in America, and its tradition of advocating for Latino interests.
The first U.S.-based newspaper for Spanish-speaking readers – El Misisipi – made its debut in New Orleans in 1808, nearly two centuries before the historic marches of 2006.
By the mid-19th Century Spanish-language newspapers were editorializing and covering news in New York, California, Texas, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. Among the causes they supported were independence for Mexico and Cuba, which at the time were Spanish colonies.
The nation’s oldest continuously-published Latino newspaper, – La Prensa – was founded in New York in 1913, and exists today as the daily El Diario/La Prensa.
“We’ve been around for years. We’re not a new media,” said Juan Gonzáles, who chairs the Journalism Department at the City College of San Francisco.
Gonzáles is producing a film that tells the story of America’s Spanish-language media, Voices for Justice: The Enduring Legacy of the Latino Press in the U.S. Along with fellow filmmaker, Félix F. Gutiérrez, a professor of Journalism at the University of Southern California, Gonzáles recently showed a preview of the film to an audience of ethnic media journalists in Atlanta.
Gonzáles told Feet in Two Worlds that the film intends to dispel myths about Latinos both among Hispanics and in the wider society. ” Through the pages of our newspapers we really get an impression of what Latinos are like,” he said. “Mainstream media always shows negative stories (about Latinos) — about gang activity and crime.” Gonzáles noted that many Latinos don’t know the history of the Spanish-language press. “We’re feeling a big gap of knowledge,” — he said — “the film is going to fill a void in telling the story of a people.”
The film project is also a way for Gonzáles and Gutiérrez to prod the Hispanic press to be more aggressive in the way it reports the news.
Today there are hundreds of Hispanic newspapers and magazine across the country. Spanish-language radio is a huge business, and Hispanic TV networks Telemundo and Univision have become as mainstream as their English-language counterparts.
Despite the numbers, Gonzáles, who founded El Tecolote, a bilingual community newspaper in San Francisco, laments that there’s “a lot of fluff” in journalism aimed at Latino audiences. “It does a disservice to the community,” he said.
“When it comes to hard stories, it’s something I continue to push for,” he said. “However much you don’t want to do it, you have to do it. Your simple existence is not enough. You need to help the community change conditions through your solid reporting.”
More than once in his inaugural address President Barack Obama celebrated America’s diversity and the nation’s immigrant heritage. “We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth,” he said near the end of the speech. At another point the president talked about those, “who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.”
The president also referred to his own heritage, mentioning the “small village” in Africa where his father was born. But Mr. Obama’s speech did not contain the words “immigrant” or “immigration.” He did not say what he intends to do about the nation’s immigration system. In fact, he did not even acknowledge that in the view of many Americans, both on the left and the right, the U.S. immigration system has failed.
An inaugural address is not typically a laundry list of problems and the president’s proposals to fix them. That’s what State of the Union addresses are for. But it is worth noting that in a speech that described in stark and somber language a whole host of challenges facing the nation – the economic crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the health care crisis, climate change – President Obama did not devote even one line to the need to reform immigration laws. To find a discussion of his administration’s immigration policies you need to go the White House web site.
Maybe that’s because compared to the collapsing World economy, the troubled immigration system seems less important than it once did. A survey released this week by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that even among Latinos, immigration reform has taken a back seat to fixing the economy. But another reason could be that Mr. Obama understands how dangerous talking about immigration can be, even if you have lots of political capital to spend.
Following Mr. Obama’s speech, the benediction by Reverend Joseph Lowery included these words:
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back; when brown can stick around; when yellow will be mellow; when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right.
The idea of “brown” being allowed to “stick around,” is the closest anyone came during the inauguration ceremony to calling for more compassionate immigration laws.
Hours after he spoke, Rev. Lowery, an icon of the civil rights movement who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr., was being attacked on conservative talk radio for making “racist” comments, and putting a stain on a remarkable and profoundly emotional day in our nation’s history.
By John Rudolph – FI2W Executive Producer
When I was a kid my friends and I used to talk about when the first black U.S. president would be elected. It was a fair question in the 1960s for students at a mixed-race school in New York City. In that era black Americans were achieving “firsts” all the time – the first black Supreme Court Justice (Thurgood Marshall), the first black woman elected to Congress (Shirley Chisholm), the first black to win an Academy Award for best actor (Sidney Poitier in Lillies of the Fields), and the first black actress to star in her own TV show (Diahann Carrol in Julia).
Despite those achievements, and many others, the idea of a black person occupying the White House seemed a very long way off. The Civil Rights movement and the subsequent Black Power movement were in full swing. So was the white backlash against them – leading my school mates and me to predict that it might be a century before enough white Americans would be willing to cast their vote for a black candidate seeking the nation’s highest office.
We were wrong. This historic event occurred much sooner than any of us imagined, and for reasons that never entered our discussions. As America struggled, often violently, over racial integration and equal rights, we could not picture the multi-racial, multi-cultural nation that would emerge to elect a president some have called “post-racial.”
The 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, was one of the seeds sown in that decade that has as much to do with Obama’s victory as the long fight for equality and justice for African Americans. By removing a system of quotas that favored white northern European immigrants, the law helped level the playing field for people around the world who wanted to come to America. They have been coming ever since, creating a nation that has grown more and more diverse over time, and which increasingly sees diversity and multi-racialism as a normal part of life.
Even though New Hampshire’s immigrant population is growing rapidly, there are still relatively few immigrants living in the Granite State – site of the “first in the nation” presidential primary. On election day New Hampshire Public Radio’s Word of Mouth took a rare look at immigrant voters in New Hampshire and around the nation with Feet In Two Worlds Executive Producer John Rudolph and Eduardo A. de Oliveira, a Brazilian journalist who writes for the Nashua Telegraph and New England Ethnic News.
Click here to listen to the interview.