Episodes — 02 May 2011
Episode 5: Freedom to Speak English Under Attack?

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DISCUSS

1. Why would the celebration of different cultures be seen as “divisive?” Who might subscribe to such a view?

2. Why do the Zooglio journalists refer to the celebration of different cultural heritages as “cultural pollution” and “extremism?” Do you agree with this characterization?

3. In this segment, which cultural values are treated as “normal”, and which then become “abnormal”?

4. Are Latino immigrants and communities treated fairly in the United States? Why or why not?

5. How should politicians and citizens respond to increasing cultural and linguistic diversity in the United States?

Additional Tips for Educators: In this level, we see that law enforcement targets cultural heritage events by Latino communities in order to limit the visibility and rights of that community. One of the more established ways that the United States has long sought to control its population is through immigration legislation. As early as 1798, the United States passed laws known as the Alien and Sedition Acts, which allowed the government to alter naturalization requirements, and to target alien individuals believed to pose a threat to the peace and safety of the United States. Throughout history, the U.S. continued to target individuals and ethnic communities it viewed with suspicion or as threats to national security. In 1882, the U.S. government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was renewed through various acts until 1943. This law effectively marginalized Chinese-American participation and inclusion in U.S. society for many years. Political dissidents who were involved with the Communist and Anarchist movements were also the targets of immigration laws such as the Immigration Act of 1918. With its numerical quotas on immigration from specific countries, the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 was the most restrictive immigration legislation passed, and remained in effect until the 1960s. This bill was passed by an overwhelming majority in Congress, due to fears of immigration from Asia, as well as Southern and Eastern Europe. Consider reading a speech given by one of the six members of Congress who voted against the bill and denounced it as racially discriminatory and “un-American.”

More recently, the Latino population of the U.S. has become increasingly scrutinized and criminalized by law enforcement agencies. Immigration laws passed in the state of Arizona in 2010 require police agencies across the state to investigate the immigration status of every person they come across whom they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is in the country unlawfully. The law targets individuals based on appearance and language, which constitutes a form of racial profiling. To avoid arrest, citizens and immigrants have to carry their “papers” at all times. The law also makes it a state crime for immigrants to willfully fail to register with the Department of Homeland Security and carry registration documents. It further curtails the free speech rights of day laborers and encourages unchecked information sharing between government agencies.

This information-sharing between agencies facilitated the surveillance of immigrants and helped redefine law enforcement practices. After the federal government introduced IDSmart in 2012, it became easier to track people’s movement’s and access their personal records through rapid biometric scans. These developments, along with the increasing immigration restrictions and failure to prosecute hate crimes, resulted in an increasingly hostile social and legal landscape for immigrants, racial minorities, women, and the LGBTQ community by 2016.

MAKE

Use the insights and information you have acquired to make a statement! Now that you see that immigration policies have been used throughout U.S. history to target ethnic communities, and that this practice persists today, particularly toward Latino citizens and immigrants from Latin American countries—as well as Arab Americans and immigrants from Middle Eastern countries—help draw attention to this unfair treatment.

Fashion is often used as a medium for self-expression and to attract the attention of others. Designing a t-shirt is an economical and creative way for you to use fashion to generate awareness of the unfair treatment that immigrants often face in the U.S.

This week, you will design a t-shirt with a message of solidarity with immigrants being unfairly targeted by law enforcement. Try to think of words or very short phrases that will generate responses from a passersby, such as “Profile Me” or “Do I look illegal?”

You may also consider posing a short question on your t-shirt, such as “Have you been racially profiled?” or “Apartheid for immigrants?”

This can be accomplished using fabric, permanent markers and a plain white t-shirt. You may also choose to design your t-shirt using images, decals or graphics.

If you are interested in silk-screening your design onto your t-shirt, you can get step-by-step information here or here. This process requires additional materials that are not listed here, but are detailed in the videos.

You can also design your own shirts online at sites like customink.com and zazzle.com, but these tend to be more expensive than making your own shirt.

What You’ll Need:

A plain t-shirt

Markers, Decals, fabric paint.

What to Do:

It will be useful for you to practice your design and come up with a successful draft on paper before you work on the shirt.

Spend some time trying out your ideas, and when you find one that you like, you are ready to work on your shirt!

ACT

Now that you have designed your message, wear it in public. Note your interactions with other people; does anyone look at you suspiciously, or ask you what your shirt means? What response does your appearance generate if you encounter law enforcement officials? Take photos of yourself wearing your shirt in your community or in public, and upload these photos with a short written reflection on how the day went for you when you wore your shirt.

Also, consider meeting up with a group of fellow players and assembling in public to take a group photo wearing your shirts. The larger the number of participants, the greater the impact it will produce. Recruit your friends, and using the America2049 Facebook page, reach out to players in your area and consider organizing a flash mob of people wearing their immigration t-shirts, who suddenly meet at a pre-designated area and time, do or say something, and then quickly disperse. Document this event with photos and video, and consider conducting brief interviews with one or two other flash mob participants. Upload your content to the America2049 Facebook page, and share your experiences with others!

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