Apr 17th, 2006 by ravi
On what unites us in populist struggle

Here's something from the Nation's blog on a response from a Lesbian/Gay activist to the ongoing immigration reform controversy:

Marriage Myopia

Richard Kim

If you want to see the pathologies plaguing the gay marriage movement in action, you need look no farther than this article penned by Jasmyne Cannick. Titled "Gays First, Then Illegals," Cannick's editorial spews the kind of xenophobic rhetoric now rarely heard outside of right-wing radio and white nativist circles — unless, of course, it's coming from the mainstream gay press. Pitting gay rights against immigrants' rights, Cannick — former "People of Color Media Manager for GLAAD" — considers it a "slap in the face to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people" for Congress to debate immigration reform when same-sex marriage remains unrecognized. For your pleasure or fury, here are some of her greatest hits:

"Immigration reform needs to get in line behind the LGBT civil rights movement, which has not yet realized all of its goals. Which is not to say that I don't recognize the plight of illegal immigrants. I do. But I didn't break the law to come into this country. This country broke the law by not recognizing and bestowing upon me my full rights as a citizen."

[More in the original piece]

Jasmyne Cannick's blog has a response and some additional posts on the matter. She writes:

My reality in South Los Angeles may not be your reality.

I believe that America needs immigration reform but how we will get there still remains to be seen.

At the same time, I also believe that America needs to take care of its citizens who don’t yet have all of their rights, including the right to marry, access to affordable housing, access to a better education, access to healthcare, and access to jobs that pay livable wages.

And adds:

No one is right and no one is wrong. We all have the right to our own opinion on how things should be handled.

Opinion / Soap box below:

At the risk of being called inconsistent (in my prior act of defending pomo) I have to say that this seems entirely the wrong way to look at it. Reality is what it is ("r"eality with a lowercase 'r', as the postmodernists may say) and it is our common vision of it that unites us in action. If all we have instead is identity politics, we are ruling out populist struggle. If we do not try to define what is right (and only define what is right for me) we build neither solidarity nor a sustainable foundation.

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5 Responses

  • Doyle Saylor says:

    Correct. One has to have a way to understand what makes the ‘whole’ of a social movement.

    If one is to get past identity politics one has to better understand cognition that binds. Meaning that people do a certain kind of work, women a great deal more than men to ‘bind’ social relations.

  • ravi says:


    I am heartened to note that you agree with me, especially in this case, since the post above also sprang from a recent thread on LBO. Marta Russell, as you probably know, also does work on disability rights. Surprisingly she posted a few negative comments about immigrants (illegals and legals, non-english speaking, as she refers to them) overburdening the system and hence cutting benefits for disabled people.

    I was saddened to note her analysis. In case you are not on LBO, here are some links to her posts:


    (there are more which can be viewed by searching the archives by author)

    I am eager to hear your thoughts on her comments.

  • Doyle Saylor says:

    I watch LBO, and I found Marta’s remarks appalling. She fails to integrate what I think are some of the more profound lessons of Disability issues, the diverse types of disability that make up the ‘whole’ of the movement. Especially I think she ought to consider language as offering many examples where a language disability parallels an immigrant communities problems with U.S. English only system.

    To me of course because I am a depressed person the cognitive part of disability has a greater impact. And that is far less understood in Disability Rights. Anyway that’s why I have been off on a tangent about language issues so much lately. For disabled people that language like aspect of cognitive disabilties is easily the most profound impact disability could have on the larger world of human society. In essence giving perpsective on language issues that right now I think represents the most basic tool of dividing people from one and the other.

    Anyway, Marta I’m afraid is showing off an unexpected bigotry. How sad.

  • Ravi M says:

    I am a former co-author with Marta Russell in Socialist Register. I am shocked by these comments on immigration and think that they are entirely inappropriate. I think that anti-poverty work of whatever kind is deeply disorienting. Many disabled people in the US obviously do have jobs. To pit one group against another in this irrational way is bizarre and most of the jobs undocumented workers do are not jobs that many disabled people can do or would want to do in the first place.

    Ravi M.

  • Doyle Saylor says:


    The problem for disabled people is jobs. 70% of the disabled are unemployed. The blind and the deaf provide lots of examples.

    But as you say this amounts to pitting people against each other. It’s uniting that is hard. In a technical sense jobs for disabled people ought to be easier because computing suggests ‘universal’ design. In reality the existing adaptive technology languishes because two bit businesses are subsidized to produce computing products that don’t work. In other words the government ought to regulate and nationalize adaptive technology in order that it serve a set standard of universal access. Short of that disabled people are excluded simply because they have no support to do most work they could.

    All immigrants who don’t speak English face similar cognitive problems that disabled people have. There is a strong common ground there for ‘rights’ to unite.

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