Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Snakehead by Keefe confronting your own perceptions

I want to talk of the book The Snakehead. Perhaps our friends outside the USA will tell us if it is available by them.

We have a stereotype of the hapless Fujianese immigrant and the vile Snakehead. The image of the
Snakehead is the exploiter with no regard for law pushing people into slavery. Officers think it is fear that keeps the immigrants from talking. The media fed image of people being sold into brothels may be true in some cases, but not most.

The Snakehead is a dream maker. He gets people out of China and often provides the pretext for getting into the USA "Just say you were involved in family planning".

Certainly, the Snakeheads have no regards for the laws of the USA. They certainly do engage in dangerous methods to get people across borders. Why bother to have people navigate the St Lawrence River when one can pick a deserted stretch along the Vermont Canada border. Of course having no cell phone service in the area helps law enforcement. Of course if one insisted on using water Lake Champlain would be easier and safer than a dangerous river.

People do die in these scams and the Snakehead should be held accountable for manslaughter. Not that any of this would deter smugglers because the profit is so immense. We see a more balanced view of the Snakehead as a business person. They are still very evil, but more humanized than the cartoon versions portrayed in the media.

I am concerned with the impact on us. We love our Chinese buffets and the lovable staff. Are we prepared to deal with the working conditions of the staff who really just do not want our help. Most live near the restaurant and even in a small town like St Albans VT are invisible. You do not run into these people anywhere as language and cultural barriers keep them in their world.
Oddly in the NYC office these establishments exist, but use Latino labor.

There is something to be said about minorities and fast food places. Some of us look down upon McDonalds or Wendys but a bright hard working type can become a manager. It isn't easy or glamourous but steady. No doubt it is far better to work there than a mom and pop place where
one will never be anything other than a vegetable cutter.

The immigrants know the system and are scamming it. This may not be popular, but we need to hold asylum and refugee spots for more serious cases like Christians fleeing Shariah or professionals fleeing Hugo's hell hole.

We created a policy with great intentions, but it has been abused. This is unfortunately what happens with policies and laws.

Change for the sake of change is not always good.

As much as we love Chinese immigrants, the family planning bit needs to stop. This is an abuse of a well intended system that is out of control. I do not blame those who took advantage of this policy, but it is time we altered our policy to get around this abuse.

The Chinese resturant is every bit a small town staple. Even in Vermont in a small town like St Albans one could find at least four. One could probably find a nail salon as well. The workers do not complain as they are happy to be here but invisible.

Maybe Keefe's next book should be to give a voice to the worker. What would these invisible people we love say. Are we prepared to listen with an open mind or has our love for the friendly buffet or nail salon up the block blinded us to humanity. Perhaps they are just thrilled to be here and conditions that would never be accepted by us are accepted.

The beauty of the book is it challenges your assumptions.


Ducky's here said...

I am concerned with the impact on us. We love our Chinese buffets and the lovable staff.


Do you realize how patronizing and potentially bigoted that statement is?

beakerkin said...


The local Chinese resturant is very much a beloved part of the fabric of a local community. It exists in small towns and big citties.

What is more American than a family
owned small business? No matter where you roam even in rural Vermont there is that good old Chinese place. In larger citties there are fancier versions.

America has a love affair with the local Chinese resturant in a way that is just impossible with a burger joint. The closest thing is the local Pizza shop in NYC. You would not believe what passes for Pizza in VT. The less I say about St Louis Pizza the better. Hey who forgot the dough.

Always On Watch said...

Duck said: Do you realize how patronizing and potentially bigoted that statement is?

The Asians I know don't see Beak's comment as bigoted.

In fact, the Asians I know don't understand why Americans are always playing the bigot card.