Sunday, October 29, 2006

ASAK Conference Over: "Crossing America's Internal Borders"

The conference has finished, the scholars dispersed, the ephemeral community dissipated ... with only the odor of soju still lingering in the air as evidence for that dissipation.

I can reconfirm that in spite of my pre-conference concerns about terms like "imperialism," "class," and "race" being used to convey moral opprobrium rather than to provide rational analysis, the conference proved itself not only academically serious but even a lot of fun.

Of course, I don't get out much.

People generally maintained civility.

Sometimes, though, I wondered if the conference might get heated. Professor Russell Duncan, an American teaching at the University of Copenhagen, was analyzing the immigration debate -- the conference was about border-crossing, after all -- and referred to the proposed wall along the Mexican-American border as a "Berlin Wall," but with me being a stickler for precision, I couldn't quite let that pass without a response during the time for discussion at the end of the session.

A civil response.

I noted that the expression "Berlin Wall" didn't seem quite apposite, since the Berlin Wall was built to keep people in, whereas the proposed wall is intended to keep people out, and I suggested instead the expression "Great Wall of China."

To his credit, he nodded, but my suggestion will never become common currency because it does not roll "trippingly on the tongue."

I had the impression that I was not alone in thinking that there were serious issues that needed proper discussion. Why? Because another person explicitly asked, "But you would agree that there are serious issues here?"

Duncan acknowledged that there were.

Another person -- I believe that it was Professor Donald C. Bellomy, of Sogang University -- openly wondered why African-Americans were so silent on the immigration issue since illegal immigrants from Mexico were taking jobs that many of them would otherwise be working at.

Duncan also expressed puzzlement, adding, "If there are any complaints, they're still under my radar."

I've heard the issue raised elsewhere, but usually by white economists who've pointed it out, so Duncan and Bellomy may be correct that African-Americans haven't yet raised the issue.

Incidently, I had a chance to speak with Stanford Professor Ramón Saldívar over dinner, for we were seated next to each other, and discovered that we have some points of contact. He comes from Brownsville, Texas and attended the University of Texas at Austin shortly before I attended Baylor University, in Waco, Texas. He went on get his doctorate at Yale, very quickly, and was back at UT by 1977 or thereabouts, so our time in Texas overlapped. Later, in the early 80s, I was living near Stanford and using its libraries while studying at Berkeley and got to know a Stanford history professor named Al Camarillo because we played basketball together on Saturday mornings.

"Do you know Al Camarillo?" I asked.

Saldívar smiled broadly and replied, "Why, yes! Al is one of my best friends. How do you know him?"

I explained about the basketball games every Saturday morning on an outdoor court near Stanford. "But," I emphasized, "Al probably wouldn't recall my name. However, if you remind him of the white guy who could dunk, then he might remember."

Saldívar laughed, I poured him a cup of soju, and we drank to memories and friendship.


At 5:53 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

Did they mean African American academics or the average person? I have heard grumblings, but I think some black people think the Mexican immigration issue is somewhat racist, noting that there have never been any distictions made with Canadians. Personally I think America has created part of the problem, when US companies go to Mexico and do nothing to raise Mexican's income above what they would make in the US. As for me and other blacks, we would not be competing with Mexicans, but with other immigrant group such as Indians and eastern Europeans.

At 6:10 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, I think that they meant the average person.

You're right that there have been far fewer remarks about the Canadian border. Duncan actually noted this point. I agree with him that race is partly the issue, but there's also the issue of the vast numbers of people who cross the border -- more from Mexico than the entire population of Canada (I think).

However, the Canadian border poses its own problems. There have been several cases of radical Islamists attempting to cross over from Canada, more confirmed cases than from Mexico, so far as I know.

Jeffery Hodges

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