When Tom Russell, a resident of El Paso-Juarez, wrote "Who's Gonna Build Your Wall," he was reacting to anti-immigrant currents in Texas that exploit low-wage laborers, most of whom are immigrants from Mexico.
But as I travel around the big old world
There's one thing that I most fear
It's a white man in a golf shirt
With a cell phone in his ear.
Russell sings about the guy in the world he most fears, "the white man in a golf shirt/with a cell phone in his ear." He sings about that archetypal White Man in that man's musical language – Country & Western, an aural mosaic that has incorporated many world musical traditions into the song of rural and suburban White America. But the problem at the root of it all, as Russell well knows, isn't just the archetypal White (bogey)Man.
Latin@s work in many capacities in our country, many as undocumented workers paid starvation wages, and many others as professionals – teachers, lawyers, firefighters, doctors, you name it. Latin@ life spans the gamut of the American experience and the spectrum of American politics. It's a damn shame we can't recognize Latin@s for what they are – not our "neighbors," but our brothers & sisters walking the same paths toward a future America as our ancestors did when they arrived.
Who's gonna wax the floors tonight
down at the local mall?
Who's gonna wash your baby's face?
Who's gonna build your wall?
"Who's gonna wash your baby's face?," Russell sings. The person providing the most intimate care for the vulnerable child, the one acting as surrogate for the affluent parents, is the one simultaneously despised, discredited, and suspected. That person does the work of the White Man's family without ever becoming family.
That White Man is so many of us, blind to the bonds of our kinship.