Revising and diagraming the melting pot myth.

This project started back in 2006, when I first became interested in Ugly Betty. I am currently re-writing an essay that looks at Ugly Betty as a story of undocumented immigration. My main contention is that the stories about immigrants to the United States are usually shaped by the myth of the melting pot. Namely, immigrants are the huddled masses, who come to the U.S.A. in search of opportunity. However, before they can reap the full benefits that the U.S.A. has to offer, they must undergo a rite of passage (see Van Gennep and/or Turner). Ideally, the passage leads to gradual assimilation, as immigrants adopt American ways and shed their own customs. If they assimilate fully, immigrants incorporated into the receiving community and granted rights. If they fail, they are doomed to an eternity in liminality. I came up with this diagram to explain the narrative structure of the melting pot myth.

original mP

Click to enlarge.

Since I’m dealing with undocumented immigration, though, this structure doesn’t fit. Undocumented immigrants cannot be fully incorporated into the receiving community because they have committed a transgression against the receiving community. Territory, once settled and demarcated, is considered sacred (see Van Gennep). Therefore, I came up with a different diagram that offers two alternatives, one leading to incorporation, and the other one leading back to a status that I am calling liminal residence (you reside in the receiving country, but lack the rights of the native born or naturalized).

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Thoughts? please leave a comment.

Cuentame: Immigration Crusaders.

Now that Tony Plana no longer plays an illegal immigrant, he’s becoming more active in the immigration reform movement. Plana has put his celebrity to use as a campaigner for Reform Immigration for America, and Cuentame. He is by no means alone, as other celebrities and prominent Latinos(as) have joined the fray. Here’s Plana’s Reform Immigration for America ad:

And this is the Cuentame campaign ad:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/video/video.php?v=392770581902&ref=mf

Cuentame,is a Brave New Foundation project. Its organizers describe themselves as “the Latino instigators.” Unlike the Reform Immigration for America campaign, Cuentame is using Facebook exclusively. I think they have a some things re-think about their strategy. Slick as it is, it has problems.

Now, the use of facebook as a tool for social activism is not new. Nick Judd, in an article posted on tech president, notes as much. He also states that the results of FB activism haven’t been exactly spectacular for Cuentame. Fund raising and national exposure are still relatively low. The campaigns celebrity videos, featuring Tony Plana and Hector Elizondo, can catch the attention of supporters, but without data on sharing and re-posting, all we have to go by is the likes.

Can we judge the effectiveness of a campaign based on likes? if so, is the fact that the Tony Plana video has only garnered 159 likes (as of 5/18/2010) evidence of failure? Cuentame has almost 30 thousand followers. So, 159 likes is less than 0.5%.

Here’s three additional issues I find odd about this particular campaign:

1) The petition drive doesn’t provide any stats about how many people have signed. Even the Tea Party patriots have stats on their petition. When Nick Judd checked for his piece, they had 43,500 signatures. When I checked back today, they had a little over 58,000. How come Cuentame doesn’t have anything like that?

2) I totally agree with Judd. A FB-only campaign has the disadvantage of closing off your video linking ability. I can’t embed it on this blog, like I can with youtube videos. I actually tried to embed the Tony Plana video, after googling how to do it. Guess what: It didn’t work. For me, this begs the question of why on earth would you want to cut yourself off from youtube, the most popular video sharing sites, when you’re producing video?? That just baffles me.

3) The fact that Kobe Bryant’s wife was wearing a “Do I look Illegal” T-shirt could have been significant, but the t-shirt in question looks nothing like the ones that Cuentame is selling (even they admit it). Take a look:

Worse part of it is that Vannessa Bryant’s former housekeeper, a Latina immigrant from Peru, sued her boss for verbal abuse.  The Bryants decided to settle out of court, which is just icing on the controversy cake. I suppose neither of these things should matter, in terms of exposure. But they do. The character issue casts doubts on the legitimacy of the claim. Cuentame, by so joyously jumping on the celebrity bandwagon, might end up doing itself more harm than good, although I seriously doubt that it would go too far anyway. Only one person mentioned the lawsuit on Cuentame’s page. Ergo, it’s not part of the conversation (at least not yet).

The Reform Immigration for America campaign is, in my opinion, much better organized, and obviously better funded. Their use of social media doesn’t ghettoize the campaign to FB. It provides content through all of the most popular sites available, and they’re also taking their message to mainstream media. Indeed, campaigning with new media should complement, not replace mainstream media. It can be effective, as Judd’s article suggests, to build up contacts for future mobilization, but we should acknowledge its limits as well. I don’t think Cuentame does that yet, and until it does, I’m skeptical about its mobilizing ability.

Share