Protesting a racist TV show

By Theresa Foster

BURBANK, Calif.--More than 100 people showed up at the Disney/ABC television studios here to rally against the "reality" show Homeland Security U.S.A. (see SocialistWorker.org's article about the show here).

The protest was called by the Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC) to demand that Disney/ABC Studios stop production of the show, which presents negative depictions of Latino and Middle Eastern peoples and perpetuates repugnant stereotypes that serve to foster fear and fuel hate toward people of color, especially immigrants.

"As a documentary filmmaker who deals with social justice issues, I've seen our community being negatively portrayed on TV for purposes of a cheap laugh or to create an environment of fear," said Martin, from Chicanos and Latino Artists for Social Equality. "I hate being treated in the same manner that Latino characters are depicted on television."

The offensive show glamorizes as "heroes" Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. What ICE agents actually do, however, is terrorize immigrant communities by raiding work sites, breaking up families, imprisoning workers in detention centers and treating immigrants with contempt.

The show has also emboldened racist nativist groups, as evidenced by the anti-immigrant group Save Our State coming out to hold a counterprotest.

Face-to-face and chest-to-chest, SCIC activists and allies confronted the 42 flag-waving anti-immigrant demonstrators who showed up. Meanwhile, eight police officers (six in riot gear) stood around allowing the counterprotesters to come into our area and scream out their blasphemies on bullhorns, while telling anti-racists we'd get ticketed if we stepped onto the street.

Antiracist activists regrouped on the opposite corner for a rally. Participants cheered the speakers as they denounced the racist TV show. Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican-American Political Association, connected the issue of immigration and its role in the economic system under which we live. Speakers from SCIC and from the crowd rallied the gathering in denouncing the demeaning portrayal of Latinos on television, the upsurge in ICE raids and the ongoing construction of hundreds of detention centers across this country.

Gary Yeritsian from University of Southern California Students for Justice in Palestine told the crowd, "This is part of a growing international movement on many different fronts, linking the struggle of immigrant rights in this country with the international struggle against neo-liberalism and for the rights of Palestinians."

Taking a stand against racist TV propaganda is just one battle in a larger fight for justice. As Roi Lopez of SCIC explained, this fight includes full legalization, no guest-worker programs and an end to all raids.