Nonetheless, it is a mistake to see the pro-illegal forces as free of the racist taint. I'm not just talking about Los Angeles marchers seen yelling "hueros" (white people) in front of businesses open on May 1. The very notion that illegal immigrants do the work Americans won't do -- also voiced by President Bush-- is predicated on the unspoken notion that black people won't take jobs illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America grab, while white people don't want to work hard, although they are happy to buy cheap products (as if consumers have a choice).
Beneath the public dialogue is an ugly undercurrent of racism that emerges when people are not speaking for public consumption.
One reader e-mailed that the May 1 marchers "are better Americans than the white trash that dominates our welfare system; they are better than the crybaby black males who are now proclaiming that illegal aliens are the greatest threat to blacks since slavery."
A San Franciscan chided me for being mean-spirited about Latinos -- I wasn't -- when anyone who lives in the Bay Area knows that "Asians have totally taken over this city and surrounding areas with their wealth, greed and filthy personal habits."
There was a time in my career when someone would call me a "racist," and I'd be furious at the facile belief that if you oppose illegal immigration, you are anti-Latino. This week, and not for the first time, I heard from Latinos who oppose illegal immigration but love their heritage. I also heard from illegal-immigration supporters who suggested I was a racist -- but they were the ones spewing hate-filled stereotypes.