During a debate over an Arizona-style illegal-immigration bill in South Carolina yesterday, Democratic state senator Robert Ford, who is black, said this:
"I know brothers — and I'm talking about black guys — they are not going to do the dirty work at Boeing, to do that hauling and all that building, that dirty work," Ford said.
He went on to say that "brothers" do not want to perform hard work. "A brother is going to find ways to take a break," he said.
He later made a comment about "blue-eyed brothers" also not wanting to work hard.
Ford's comments were immediately condemned by the local NAACP chapter, and leaders of both political parties have asked him to apologize. Are his words as bad as they initially seem, though? It's never right to cast aspersions on an entire race, but it seems as if Ford was including white people those would be the "blue-eyed brothers," we think, although Google was totally unhelpful here in the category of people who don't want to do dirty work. That would greatly alter Ford's point: It wasn't about the work ethic of a single race, it was about the work ethics of immigrants versus non-immigrants. That's how Ford explains it, at least:
"I was talking about the building of America and how every generation of Americans did the hard work," Ford said. "Americans are not going to do real hard work. Everybody in America knows that."
He also tells the AP:
"Black guys and white guys are going to get out there and do the hard work? No. I'm for America, and America's a country of immigrants," Ford said later when reached on his cell phone. "Everybody in America finds ways to take a break."
It's not a totally politically correct position to take, but isn't this actually a pretty widely accepted concept? Plenty of Americans do have tough jobs, but everybody knows that the jobs illegal immigrants take are some of the most low-paying and grueling ones our country has to offer — the busboys, the day laborers, the farmhands, etc. That illegal immigrants are more willing to take these jobs than American citizens has been well documented, as in this AP story from September:
Benjamin Reynosa, who was picking ruby-colored grapes in 90-degree heat near Fowler on Friday morning, said he often is the only U.S. legal resident on seasonal crews. He said most people hear about the jobs through word of mouth or signs tacked outside rural stores, not the electronic registry.
"I've been working in agriculture for 22 years and I can tell you there are very few gringos out here," said Reynosa, 49, of Orange Cove. "If people know English, they go to work in packinghouses or sit in an office."
Ford definitely could have made his point more eloquently and without inflammatory racial language, but what he was trying to say doesn't seem that controversial.
Ford comes under fire for his remarks [Post and Courier]