May 6, 2010

Hard Explanations

There are times when one has to explain things to a child that are difficult. Sometimes it's because I haven't pinned down my own beliefs on the subject like when asked about God and Angels and Ghosts. Sometimes it's because I'm trying to determine on the spot how much information is appropriate like explaining when it's ok to kiss a boy and beyond. Sometimes it's just because it's hard to admit the world we live in isn't fair like when I have to explain the Arizona immigration laws to the kid after she's heard bits of a news story on NPR.

Let me tell you, that last one was the hardest of them all so far. I've practiced what to say in the other instances, discussed it with my husband other parents and even bought books to help me explain, but it is hard to explain bigotry to a kid when the question presented over and over is "Why?" or the heart breaking "Didn't they learn about Doctor King in Kindergarten?" I took a minute to think about it from different angles to see if there was a way to explain just the facts. I want her to form a fair opinion, one not too swayed by my personal beliefs and there is no way to explain what is happening in AZ to a six year old that doesn't involve the words "mean," "unfair," and "skin color." She's outraged and I am glad.

I hope next time the question is easier, like why do little kids get cancer, or something like that.

Image from Guanabee


arizona (and damn proud of it) said...

Jenny, why don't you explain to Ella that it is against the law in Arizona (and in the United States as well)for a person to be here illegally (without proper documentation), no matter what "skin color" they may be (and this does include Caucasians). Tell Ella that these laws are put into place to protect all law abiding American citizens from drug smugglers, human traffickers, terrorists, and murderers, if you are going to use a word like "mean". And tell Ella that in order for all American citizens to enjoy the standard of living they have worked hard to achieve by working hard at their jobs, that it is "unfair" (one of your words)for other people to enter our country illegally and take our jobs away. Tell Ella that these "mean" people unfairly steal from our social security and welfare programs leaving well deserving American men, women, and children to suffer and do without basic necessities that they need to survive. Tell Ella about the free medical service that the illegal immigrants get, and free schooling while the American people have to pay taxes to receive these same services when you tell her about being "unfair". Tell Ella the truth about the real reason for these American and Arizonan laws, not the crap you hear on T.V. or read in the papers about racial profiling. Dr. King was a great American and his dream was that his children, American children, would be able to share in the American Dream no matter what "skin color" they were. The key words here Jenny, are American and America, not the smoke and mirrors that the media is trying to use to cloud the real issue at hand here. Ask the family of Steven Krentz who lived here in Arizona how they feel about him being killed by an drug smuggler who trespassed illegally upon his property and murdered him in cold blood. I think by telling Ella about Mr Krentz you could use the words "mean", and "unfair", and how he was an American citizen killed on his own land, in his own country, by a person of a different "skin color" who was not here in our country legally. See if Ella gets outraged about that as well. So is it really that hard to explain.

Jenny said...


My conversation with the child was not about immigration it was about racial profiling because that is the heart of this issue.

It’s about American rights and just because someone is brown or a shade of it doesn’t mean the police should question them about their citizenship. As an American I am offended because I and every American regardless of race, religion or social status am innocent until proven guilty, it is not an American’s job to prove innocence, it is the job of the state to prove guilt and this law goes against every intent of the constitution, it is a form of tyranny in all ways. To uphold the ideal of innocence until proven guilty is the basis of all American justice. This new law is too broad of a police power, the police should have to have probable cause, it is not appropriate for them to walk around and ask for citizenship papers, it is out and out racism of the worst possible kind and demeaning as well as degrading.

It’s a Gestapo tactic.

I’m sure you remember Dr. King said “…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. ...This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

I’m confident Dr. King would be appalled at racial profiling.

Moving on, if you’d like to argue about what type of people illegal immigrants are, I’d be happy to do so, even though it’s actually off topic from the original post. Perhaps we can start with these facts:

1. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible to receive any "welfare" benefits and even legal immigrants are severely restricted in the benefits they can receive. As the Congressional Research Service points out in a 2007 report, undocumented immigrants, who comprise nearly one-third of all immigrants in the country, are not eligible to receive public "welfare" benefits -- ever. Source:

2. The largest number of people trafficked into the United States come from East Asia and the Pacific (5,000 to 7,000 victims) Source: U.S. Departments of Justice, Health & Human Services, State, Labor, Homeland Security, Agriculture, and the U.S. Agency for International Development

3. Illegal immigrants seem to have very little impact on unemployment rates. Undocumented workers certainly do take jobs that would otherwise go to legal workers. But undocumented workers also create demand that leads to new jobs. They buy food and cars and cell phones, they get haircuts and go to restaurants. On average, there is close to no net impact on the unemployment rate. Source George Borgas, Kennedy School of Government at Harvard


cara said...

I am stumped as to why anyone would do anything but applaud your post Jenny ! It is a very strange world we live in. Take care, Olivia

Jenny said...

Hi Olivia, I was as taken aback as you. Hope you are well. Jenny