Protest of Prop. 187 politics in ANTHRO-L

Lief M. Hendrickson (hendrick@NOSC.MIL)
Tue, 22 Nov 1994 16:58:27 PST

Reference message:

>From: Aaron Fox <aaf@CCWF.CC.UTEXAS.EDU>
>Subject: Prop 187 Protest Letter
>To: Multiple recipients of list ANTHRO-L
> <>
>Dear Anthro-Listers
> Please consider adding your voice and signature to the following
>letter which will be presented to the board of the American
>Anthropological Assoc. prior to the meetings coming up in Atlanta. The
>letter asks the AAA board to take a public stance in opposition to Calif.
>Prop. 187, the "anti-immigrant" act that denies health care and medical
>care to undocumented migrants and workers and requires professional
>educators, health care workers, and social workers to report clients to the
>state who fall within the act's provisions.


Hey! Foul!

I thought this was a forum for anthropology. Mr. Fox's
solicitation is political activism- plain and simple.

It's improper for an anthropologist to engage in activities
aimed at influencing local politics as an anthropologist and in
this forum. As a private citizen he is, of course, entitled to
protest, rally, shout, and scream to his heart's content.
However, as regards a California proposition, his grumblings are
an intrusion since he's an outsider. We also had a considerable
effort by the government of Mexico in trying to defeat the
proposition by the expenditure of large sums of money for
propaganda. These efforts only worsen the underlying social

If Mr. Fox wants to rant and rave about California political
issues like immigration, I suggest he spend some time here,
especially in a border-town (well its sometimes serves as a
border- at least until sunset!). The fact is- his petition
is misleading on it's face by characterizing Prop 187 as "anti-
immigrant". "Anti-ILLEGAL immigrant" would be more accurate.
Stop by San Diego some time and listen to some of the LEGAL
immigrants who express support. Most of those who are here
legally (of all ethnic persuasions) believe in doing what is
legal, because the laws protect them too. In fact, many of the
recent "rags to riches" stories in this country are about legal
immigrants who obeyed laws and received no special treatment.
Maybe having a sturdy legal footing is a necessary foundation to
success. If so, absorbing illegals does them a disservice by
locking them into a separate class- somewhat predisposed to

The education system is understandably up in arms about measures
like Prop. 187 because funding for schools generally depends on
numbers of bodies- whether legal or not. I saw four names of
people from California universities on the petition. Do the
Universities that employ them share their "anti-Calif. voter"
sentiment? If so, with the exception of Stanford, I suggest they
consider the extent to which their salaries depend on the
California voters. I don't forsee them refusing to accept their
paychecks because the money is tainted by its source!

Who pays Mr. Fox, anyway? Do Texas voters advocate his activism
as a representative of the Anthropology Dept. at the Univ. of
Texas? After all, he's certainly not expressing himself as a
private citizen. He's projecting his views as an amateur
political scientist while brandishing his anthroplogy
credentials. What has become of academic respectability?

Whether implementation of California's Prop. 187 has the dire
consequences predicted by its detractors remains to be seen. It
is probably not the best solution to the problem. But then, what
political actions are the best nowadays. We have an endemic
problem with non-participants taking pot-shots at the actions of
politicians at the exclusion of any productive involvement in
improving our living conditions. Mr. Fox, if you feel so
strongly about "saving the world" through political activities,
get out of anthropology and get involved in politics. Your
feeble efforts with the petition you advocate will have minimal
effect on California voters and only blemish the image of

Mr. Fox's letter states that a "divisive process is clearly at
work during this political season". Could you be more specific,
Mr. Fox? Is it the place of an "anthropologist" to sling value
judgments into unfounded premises? To be more accurate, the
divisive forces are those like you that seek to polarize the

Don't get me wrong. I'm not celebrating Prop. 187. It's too bad
the issue exists. Moreover, I'm definitely not celebrating
status-quo in California. What's happening here has many
miserable facets, many of which are, unfortunately, getting out
of control. The property tax assessment system favors certain
segments of society, crime is on the increase, the judicial
system is becoming an extension of the entertainment industry,
and the state has been having it's share of natural disasters- to
name a few sore points.

The issue of Prop. 187 is viewed by outsiders mainly on an
emotional level with poor understanding of the context. Field
observations are needed to see what's really going on. The
majority of the people that voted for Prop. 187 had no role in
drafting its verbiage nor have they read it. I wonder if those
who signed Mr. Fox's petition read it either. I strongly doubt
that they have considered the clash that perpetuates this
unfortunate situation. Only objective observers can uncover the
underlying forces- be they social, cultural, ethnic, or any
combination of these or other factors. Aren't anthropologists
supposed to be good at doing this? And isn't this what we sorely
need here?

I hope the list of fools that sign Mr. Fox's petition doesn't
grow. The responsible anthropologist has much material to
observe, evaluate, and interpret in California- hopefully before
it's too late.