The difference in value…

A small portrait of the translator

December 4, 2008 @ 0:05 UTC

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Labor & Immigration

art.dustbowl.cnn.jpg From CNN comes the news of the migrant family that became the icon of a generation:

McIntosh is the girl to the left of her mother when you look at the photograph. The picture is best known as “Migrant Mother,” a black-and-white photo taken in February or March 1936 by Dorothea Lange of Florence Owens Thompson, then 32, and her children.

Lange was traveling through Nipomo, California, taking photographs of migrant farm workers for the Resettlement Administration. At the time, Thompson had seven children who worked with her in the fields.

“She asked my mother if she could take her picture — that … her name would never be published, but it was to help the people in the plight that we were all in, the hard times,” McIntosh says.

“So mother let her take the picture, because she thought it would help.”

The next morning, the photo was printed in a local paper, but by then the family had already moved on to another farm, McIntosh says.

“The picture came out in the paper to show the people what hard times was. People was starving in that camp. There was no food,” she says. “We were ashamed of it. We didn't want no one to know who we were.”

The photograph helped define the Great Depression, yet McIntosh says her mom didn't let it define her, although the picture “was always talked about in our family.”

“It always stayed with her. She always wanted a better life, you know.”

Her mother, she says, was a “very strong lady” who liked to have a good time and listen to music, especially the yodeler named Montana Slim. She laughs when she recalls her brothers bringing home a skinny greyhound pooch. “Mom, Montana Slim is outside,” they said.

The differences in how white folks who are in poverty are treated compared to brown skinned people is really upsetting to me. While a picture of a white family brought help and change from the government–the same picture of a brown family would get ignored if the community was lucky or an ICE raid if they weren't. The life the woman describes here is no different than what Mexicans (among other groups) are living right now today–but nobody considers that a tragedy. And in light of what happened to the black immigrant worker whose life was made less valuable that a 69$ camera by shoppers, I have to ask all those who insist that unions are no longer necessary–are you serious?

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