Monday, February 1, 2010

The House Metaphor

this is a work in progress for a poster- i'm asking for feedback, i.e. any omissions, errors, inconsistencies, etc. i realize the hypothetical "i" in the first part is that of the migrant whereas the hypothetical "i" in the second part is that of a white american. does this work okay? could it be shorter, and how? thanks.

A favorite of the anti-immigrant movement:
Let’s say I break into your house and that when you discover me in your house, you insist that I leave. But I say, “I’ve made all the beds and washed the dishes and did the laundry and swept the floors; I’ve done all the things you don’t like to do. I’m hard-working and honest (except for when I broke into your house).”

According to the protesters, not only must you let me stay, you must add me to your family’s insurance plan and provide other benefits to me and to my family… If you try to call the police or force me out, I will call my friends who will picket your house carrying signs that proclaim my right to be there. It’s only fair, after all, because you have a nicer house than I do, and I’m just trying to better myself…

A More honest version of the metaphor:
Let’s say I am part of a group that in the past built a huge house, over time and using slave labor, on top of many smaller houses, killing most of the previous inhabitants and cordoning off the others to separate rooms or dog houses and nearly completely destroying their culture and livelihoods. We feel entitled to this huge house because our culture is better and God said so. Then laws were made up to legitimize these actions and allow more of our kind into our house, while excluding people we arbitrarily don't like*. Then we can say that everyone who broke those laws has no legitimate right to be in our house. Since I wasn’t even alive when the unfortunate consequences of our home-building occurred, I can deny any responsibility for them even while I benefit from them. I do not even have to acknowledge that my house was built on top of others because I have managed to be able to ignore the survivors and that we gave them no say as to what would happen here, despite their resistance (which we vilified). I do not have to acknowledge the political and economic ramifications of the existence or maintenance of my house, nor that resources have been extracted from other houses. I can also ignore that we have a hand in destroying economies and communities through force, manipulation, and by keeping people in perpetual debt to us. I prefer to scapegoat the people who try to gain access to my house rather than address the question of why. I enjoy the lower cost of products and services (provided by exploitable illegal labor) which I need so I can afford to put more useless things on my credit card, which I do to support the capitalism that requires unemployment and low wages to survive. I am encouraged to feel that this is my house so I will defend it against invaders, even though I really don’t have access to decision-making or the riches that the true owners of the house have gained also through my labor and loyalty. My defense of this situation is ensured through fear tactics of the media who are funded by Capitalists and politicians who want to protect their power and riches by maintaining an unfair system. It is also ensured by the rhetoric of white supremacists who have been building a campaign against immigrants and other people of color for decades and using the aforementioned fear tactics to appeal to the mainstream. Despite the fact that I am being bamboozled, I feel threatened by others because I would have to look at the impact of my participation in this system and I would likely feel compelled to make some changes, which would make me feel uncomfortable.

*we have historically excluded people with darker skin as well as the various shades from Asian countries (in addition to Germans, Italians, Irish, and Polish until later when it was deemed useful that they have white privilege as well.)

1 comment:

  1. Interesting to see that the 'but what about if someone trespassed on your land' argument is used by anti-migrant advocates everywhere. Here in Australia the argument is in relation to those who seek asylum by coming to the country by boat. Opponents argue that this is just the same as setting up camp in your frontyard or living room. Unfortunately, the cannot (or do not want to) see the stupidity of the argument (assuming that somehow we 'own' the country), nor are they prepared to accept that maybe a better analogy is that a person is being chased down the street by a mass murderer and knock on your door to ask for somewhere to hide.

    Congratulations on trying to rework this analogy to show that the voice of migrants needs to be listened to and that nationalistic anti-migrant arguments are often based on ridiculous foundations.