Anti-immigrant groups must be desperate. How else to explain why they recycled a failed scheme of creating a black front group and then invited a rag-tag crowd of Tea Partiers and Minutemen to a rally for black workers. Since when do Tea Partiers and Minutemen care about black people? They don’t. And from what we saw last week, that’s not changing anytime soon.
The leadership of anti-immigrant groups FAIR, NumbersUSA, and Center for Immigration Studies had high hopes that their July 15 rally and newly-minted front group, Black American Leadership Alliance, would revive their beleaguered movement. But it had quite the opposite affect.
Let’s forget for a moment what we already know about the groups behind the so-called DC March for Jobs – that they’re a product of white nationalist John Tanton and have a history of cavorting with racist organizations – and just focus on the rally itself. The Daily Beast’s Michelle Cottle reported, “The crowd too was less lily white than your average Tea Party shindig. (Though it was still pretty damn white.) No matter. The older white attendees seemed amenable to all the race talk, especially when the always colorful Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson opened with the quip: ‘It’s so hot out here, I’m turning black.’”
The New Republic generously billed the rally’s mash-up as “awkward racial politics,” saying, “when you gather a group of arch-arch-conservative starlets to ostensibly rally for black job creation, you tend to get some cognitive dissonance (as when the Breitbart livecast cut away from a string of black speakers for a conversation with Senator Jeff Sessions about listening to black voters).”
It wasn’t just the media who saw through Black American Leadership Alliance‘s painfully thin veneer. African American and civil rights leaders from around the country took notice too, and were none too pleased with the rally’s message. The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), representing over 2.5 million black men and women in the labor movement, sent a letter to Congressional members expressing “deep concern” about the group. CBTU President Rev. Terrence L. Melvin wrote, “For us, immigration reform is not an “us versus them” issue; it is an issue that impacts the entire workforce. For far too long, unscrupulous employers have manipulated our broken immigration system to exploit undocumented workers, deny workplace protections, depress wages and stifle collective bargaining rights. This abuse has had a detrimental impact on all workers and must be stopped.”
Perhaps the starkest indicator of the rally’s irrelevancy was what wasn’t talked about. The rally occurred little more than one day after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Across the country, emotions were – still are – running high. One would be hard-pressed to find one news outlet or political conversation that didn’t at least touch on the anger and disappointed many Americans are feeling in the days following the verdict. But it wasn’t acknowledged at the rally…except of course when attendees were lamenting their fears that Stand-Your-Ground laws would be repealed and their guns taken away.
The anti-immigrant movement suffers not just from a controversial history rooted in racism, but shocking insincerity and laziness. The movement’s attacks on immigrants are shameful, but so too is its lame effort to make us believe it cares about African American and low-wage white workers. As the dismal turnout of Tea Party leftovers and far-right fringe demonstrated, nativists have lost credibility. And the hearts and minds of Americans.