Racist Rag: The Immigrants are Buffalo’s Misfortune

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A century ago, Irish, Italian, and Polish immigrants weren’t considered white or American, as they are today. It took generations for these immigrants to assimilate, and scholars have written extensively about the economic and social interventions that occurred to hasten these immigrant groups’ acceptance by white America as part of white America. The ethnic and racial slurs against these immigrants still exist in our vernacular. Paddywagon, asserting that Irish were criminals. Guinea, insinuating that Italians were African. Polish jokes. 

Today, especially in the wake of the last decade’s global economic crash, an economic uncertainty lingers. Our economy doesn’t look today as it did when people grew up, and things have changed. For some, seeing a woman in a chador or a brown man with an accent offers all the proof they need of who is to blame for these changes and uncertainty. 

It would be the height of racist hypocrisy for Buffalo, which prides itself on its ethnic diversity to the point of holding wall-to-wall festivals all summer, to now reject or condemn new immigrants and refugees en masse. Immigration has always been a uniquely American success story. Immigrants – including undocumented ones – contribute more to the United States economy than they take out. Immigrants are twice as likely to start a business than native-born Americans. They commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. They do not take away from native Americans, but add to productivity. There is effort involved in coming here, and immigrants are loath to waste that opportunity. 

Scapegoating immigrants as an invading horde of rapists, murderers, drug pushers, and social drains has become part of contemporary conservative dogma. It is the signature platform plank of the Donald Trump campaign. 

There are good immigrants and bad immigrants, as it happens for any particular population. So it came with some surprise that conservative radio commentator David Bellavia, who is a veteran of the Iraq war, posted this article to his Facebook wall, commenting that it was “Alot here to digest” [sic]. 

There isn’t, though. It’s practically a word-for-word reboot of Nazi-era anti-Semitic screeds in Der Stürmer – just substitute “Muslim” or “immigrant” for “Jew”.  What it purports to be, on the surface, is a story about the awful Yemeni deli owner in Lovejoy who was arrested and arraigned recently for crimes related to mishandling of EBT accounts. He and his family made quite the spectacle of themselves when they appeared in court, flipping the bird to TV cameras and yelling, “fuck America”. Not nice people. Not good people. 

But is their behavior and alleged criminality to be projected onto the entire Yemeni (if not Arab or Muslim) population in Buffalo? That’s what FrontPage argues, and Bellavia endorsed. 

The article starts with a story about the burning of Buffalo during the War of 1812, and the origin of the “Lovejoy” name. After the destruction, the story goes, Lovejoy was a thriving community just a century later, filled with, “German, Polish, Jewish, and Italian immigrants”. What’s omitted from that passage is the way in which those immigrants were treated by the FrontPageMags of the day. They were all denigrated as invaders – un-American – other. 

In the past decade, Erie County “resettled” nearly 10,000 refugees. Most of them have been inflicted on Buffalo and Black Rock, the same targets as that original invasion two centuries ago that claimed Sarah’s life.

No links to the Beobachter here – but note the scarequotes and use of “inflicted”, like an injury. “Sarah” alludes to Sarah Lovejoy, who was killed defending her home in 1812 from the British and Indian forces. The theme kicks off right away: refugees are invaders. They are an injury, inflicted on a neighborhood to destroy it and kill its inhabitants. Immigration is terror. 

The image that accompanies the article has nothing whatsoever to do with Buffalo. A Google Image Search reveals it to be a photograph of Syrian migrants protesting at the Budapest train station

Buffalo has four resettlement agencies working to bring as many Muslims as they can. Among them is the International Institute of Buffalo which was set up after WWI to bring “war brides” to America, but which now specializes in bringing Muslims here instead. Tickets to the Institute’s big event, Buffalo Without Borders, run as high as $10,000 a piece, and it is billed as “A Party Only the IIB Can Throw.”

The International Institute is an incredibly responsible resettlement agency. It was set up in 1918 to “support immigrants who faced exploitation and discrimination in the United States”, not to “bring ‘war brides'” here like some human traffickers. Right off the bat, the article defames the IIB. From its website, “The International Institute of Buffalo was originally established by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in 1918 to help prevent the exploitation of women brought to our country as domestic help. The Institute separated from the YWCA in 1934 and incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization. In 1973, the International Institute moved to its current location at 864 Delaware Avenue.

By the way, tickets for “Buffalo Without Borders” run $40. It’s on November 3rd at the Hotel Lafayette. Only the Gold Sponsorship runs $10,000. 

One of these parties featured chocolates “inspired” by Iraqi Muslim migrants.

Why the scarequotes around “inspired”? 

The article explores how an elderly Italian man had until recently owned the corner store that was bought by Ahmed Alshami, who is now accused of welfare fraud. And because Alshami is accused of criminality, the article explains, 

The Alshamis were part of the flood of Yemeni Muslim migrants who had washed up in Buffalo.

And the Muslim Yemeni population has a way of making headlines.

Six Yemenis made up the infamous Buffalo Cell, who had attended the Al Farooq training camp in Afghanistan, met with Osama bin Laden and were convicted for providing material support to Al Qaeda. The seventh member of the cell, Jaber Elbaneh, is a fugitive still wanted by the FBI, which describes him as armed and dangerous.

Floods don’t really “wash up”, and the propagandist goes out of his way here to simply link Alshami to the Lackawanna 6 because they’re both Muslim and Yemeni. Guilt by religious affiliation and nationality. 

The article alleges that Alshami’s business became a public nuisance, quoting Councilmember Rich Fontana on that point. It goes on to point out a few more Arab deli owners on the East Side who have been arrested for some illegality in recent years. So, time to scapegoat all immigrants  – Muslims in particular. 

When politicians promise us that Muslim migration will create small businesses and produce jobs, they forget to mention who will be paying for them. There are some 5,000 Yemeni Muslim settlers in Buffalo. Population numbers have increased as much as 242%. While the traditional population in the area declines, with Christian and Jewish populations falling, the Islamic population continues to grow, fed by refugee resettlement.

Cheerful news stories celebrate how “refugees” are “bringing Buffalo back.” The question raised by the Alshamis and so many of their compatriots is what is Muslim migration doing to Buffalo?

They move into and revitalize decimated neighborhoods. As I wrote last November, the State Department’s underlying resettlement process takes 18 — 24 months to properly vet and screen refugees coming to the US. It’s also safe to say that any refugee seeking passage to the United States from Europe will be subjected to a level of scrutiny about which you or I would become so incensed, that we would write scathing Facebook posts or Yelp reviews condemning it. 

As the Syrian refugee crisis was gearing up, local news outlets reported in September that up to 300 Syrian refugees were likely to eventually settle in western New York. (WGRZBuffalo NewsBuffalo NewsBusiness FirstWIVB). They would not simply teleport to WNY en masse to impose Sharia Law on Erie County.

Let’s go back to the Beobachter: 

Large numbers of Muslims have been dumped in the area from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Buffalo’s heritage and its working class roots are being traded for the Koran and the hijab.

That’s sort of how it works in a nation of immigrants. New immigrants come, and old immigrants hate them. New immigrants take some time to become assimilated. In the meantime, they cluster together, as Poles did in the East Side and Italians did on the West. Nothing is new under the sun. 

Buffalo is listed by the State Department as a “preferred community” for resettling migrants. Sizable numbers of Syrian Muslim migrants are headed there now. It’s even been studied by European advocates for migrants. But the cost to ordinary American neighborhoods like Lovejoy has been overlooked. Media accounts trumpet the Iraqi markets opening up, they don’t look at what those markets are up to. There are celebrations of ethnic food accompanied by the decline of local American communities.

Instead of inciting race-hatred and religious war in Lovejoy, query why Fontana or someone else hasn’t declared predatory businesses as public nuisances. This article, frankly, isn’t deserving of a detailed fisking. It’s nothing but hatred and fear, masquerading as a facile history lesson. Buffalo’s refugee population is overwhelmingly peaceful and hard-working. This article explains just how Buffalo’s refugees contribute to Buffalo’s rebirth. “The four most populous and recent refugee groups now in Buffalo are the Burmese, Bhutan, Somali, and Iraqi communities.” They wash the dishes in your restaurants, they make your black rice sushi roll, they clean visitors’ hotel rooms, and they open businesses to serve their own communities – and the community at-large – as these families struggle to make their way in a new, oft-hostile place. Bellavia’s article would treat the entrepreneurs at the West Side Bazaar like the Nazis treated the Warsaw Ghetto. It’s downright un-American. 

Buffalo has faced catastrophe before and recovered. But the question is how long will it take to salvage it from this latest invasion. America is being targeted, invaded and carved up town by town and city by city. Much as two centuries ago, Buffalo is being invaded. But the invaders are not a weapon being used by a foreign government against Americans. Instead this weapon is being wielded by our own government.

I’ll remember that next time I have pizza from an Italian shop, a pierog from a Polish place, or any ethnic food or product available from myriad shops and restaurants in the area. Every immigrant population has had to go through this kind of blind hatred, and I guess we’re still not beyond that. Here is a pretty typical comment to Bellavia’s Facebook post sharing this abhorrent “article”. 

That’s what the WASPs said about your people 100 years ago. 

Although the 10,000 refugees to western New York came here between 2003 – 2014, the article’s tags are, “destruction, Left, Obama”. 2003 to 2014

Race hate and religious war aren’t a good look, Buffalo. 

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