Monday, December 08, 2008

Queen of Denial

Sometimes I just don't understand what alternative universe Gail Kerr sees when she writes about Nashville. Does she really believe what she's writing here? Is so, can she really be so naive as to think that Eric Crafton's culture war will be over or that English Only will be resolved by the special election? Or is she loath to mention that this is another battle of the larger war over immigration (a fight to which Tennessee is late in coming)?  Is she really so combobulated by the press's election cycle mentality that politics doesn't exist unless it ends at the polls?

I've already argued that the January vote is going to be a test of whether Davidson County, as one of a handful of Democratic outposts in deep red Tennessee, is a progressive place. But I sure as heck have not deluded myself into believing that the question will be answered once and for all. Whether English Only wins or loses, we will not be resolving anything final or moving past the cultural war that's been going on and shows no signs of letting up any time soon. The fact that Gail Kerr claims we will amounts to either denial or dishonesty.

Eric Crafton has been fighting this battle of attrition for two years now, using any Metro resource at his disposal and clutching any amplified venue within his grasp. We've got no reason to expect that he will give it up after January 22 and allow Nashville to move on to other things. Instead of misleading Nashvillians into assuming that Crafton's special election is going to give way to resolution and peace, Gail Kerr should be girding English Only/anti-immigration opponents for a long and protracted fight. Instead of minimizing the special election as a distraction, she should be calling it an acid test of our city's character and the first act of a performance in which that character is on display for all to judge.

As it stands she is selling a bill of goods that will not be delivered and that she cannot guarantee. She is not helping our city by enabling defeat.


  1. i think you misread Gail's article - the tone or intent of it.

  2. "a fight to which Tennessee is late in coming..."

    I understand your point if you are saying that Tennessee's most recent immigration comes after similar waves that came less recently to other parts of the country. Otherwise, if you are saying that Tennessee hasn't been in the thick of the immigration wars over the past few years, it is to the credit of those on the immigrants' side of the fight that you have that impression.

    Things really started heating up on a national scale in 2006, and Tennessee was right there with the rest of them.

    In the summer 2005, FAIR convened here with Marsha Blackburn and Phil Valentine in tow. About that same time, a Middle Tennessee judge ordered a woman to learn English or lose custody of her children. The next thing you know, the state Republicans are announcing their formation of an immigration task force. In November 2005, Steve Gill signaled that immigration would be the GOP's wedge issue against Bredesen in 2006.

    In response, immigrant advocates held gatherings, thousands marched in solidarity, workers staged a walk-out, students trained in advocacy, and billboards went up proclaiming our state a Welcoming Tennessee. Marsha Blackburn held a Congressional hearing in which she set up health care executives to scapegoat illegal immigrants for cost pressures in TennCare, they refused to comply, and she refused to listen. My readers imagined political campaigns in which their views on immigration were trumpeted instead of some of the scapegoating that was popular at the time. Avi Poster hosted one of his first educational forums on immigration, from which was born the Coalition of Education about Immigration. Claudia Nunez was taken from her family and scheduled for deportation - and at about the same time the Nashville City Paper ran an editorial calling for a simplification of the path to legal status. In nearby Marshall County, a trilingual librarian was defended by the library board after her bilingual storytimes came under fire.

    Still, in 2006, English Only was launched during Hispanic Heritage Month, starting its successful run in the Metro Council before it was vetoed in 2007 by Mayor Bill Purcell. Also, Gustavo Reyes became the justification for Davidson County asking for 287(g). The Nation ran a cover story finding nativism in Nashville. Phil Valentine broke out the "shoot him" solution. Police responding to a call about "a couple of Mexicans" shot and killed Fermin Estrada in front of his family at a barbeque he was hosting on his own land.

    We've really been in the thick of this for a while. That it's not an all-out-war in Tennessee is to the credit of advocates, immigrants, and the legislators who have stood up against the negativity.

    Unfortunately, you're right about none of this being over on January 23, 2009. For example, in January 2007, one of the questions I had for Sheriff Hall before 287(g) was formally launched was, what happens next? It's no shock that the answer was open-ended:

    HNN: When illegal immigrants continue to commit crimes after 287(g), what is the next power or set of powers that you could envision being requested for your department or for the police department?

    Hall: That is a question for the federal government. They would be the entity that would determine whether or not they want to give local jurisdictions any further powers.

    Even though others are already planning their next steps to antagonize immigrants, I am hopeful that with each passing year, history is taking Nashville further in the direction of humanity and hospitality.

    Otherwise, it's back to advancing the minute hand on the doomsday clock for immigrants - which also debuted in 2006.