On Television: Where's The Social Justice For Oil Workers?

It is interesting to me how many of the same people who are preaching patience and tolerance for immigrant or “new American” groups (to use the politically correct term) have not been willing to extend that same courtesy toward the influx of oil patch workers in western North Dakota.

On Friday I sat in on Chris Berg’s week-ending roundtable on Valley News Live, and one of the topics for discussion was the political correctness surrounding a vicious fight in a Fargo park between two immigrant groups of “new Americans.”

That incident is national news now. This Daily Caller article headlined, “‘Immigrant Groups’ Are Battling It Out In The Streets Of Fargo,” was featured on the Drudge Report over the weekend. While the tone of that reporting is a little overheated, the issue is interesting as more than just a crime story.

As Berg noted during our discussion reporters for his station, Valley News Live, were the only ones in the Fargo area to use the term “immigrants” to describe the participants in the fight. He suggested that those objecting to the term “immigrant” were social justice warriors (my term not his) looking to obscure the issue – refugees and immigrants getting dropped in Fargo by groups like Lutheran Social Services as a dubious method for improving their lot in life – behind a fog of political correctness.

…the difference between hostility toward oil workers and hostility toward “new Americans” is that the hostility toward oil workers is much more socially acceptable. It is in-bounds with the politically correct, whereas hostility toward immigrants or refugees is not.

Though I sort of deflected that issue during the segment, I do think Berg is right, and by way of illustrating how right he is consider the way many of those concerned about the portrayal and perception of “new Americans” in Fargo have reacted to the influx of oil workers into our state.

As a citizen of western North Dakota and an observer of the social and political goings-on here I can tell you that any time a local news story is posted on social media concerning some crime in our communities out here there is an immediate, knee-jerk response from many commenters which aims to blame it on people who came to our state because of the oil boom. Whether or not these accusations are true and valid is beside the point. There is a deep well of hostility against these newcomers in our communities lured here by oil jobs and other opportunities, and it very often raises its ugly head.

But the difference between hostility toward oil workers and hostility toward “new Americans” is that the hostility toward oil workers is much more socially acceptable. It is in-bounds with the politically correct, because hatred of the fossil fuel industry fits their political narrative, whereas hostility toward immigrants or refugees is not.

Yet, what’s the difference? Are we not, in both instances, speaking of human beings who have traveled to a new area in order to find a better sort of life?

It is remarkable how often those who preach tolerance and patience with “new Americans” will turn around and rail against the oil industry for increasing crime in our state. The politically correct insist that we use “new Americans” to describe immigrants and refugees in Fargo, yet it is somehow ok to describe workers brought to North Dakota by the oil boom as “oilfield trash?”

It seems to me you can’t have it both ways.

As for the situation in Fargo, I do think groups like Lutheran Social Services deserve some criticism for not doing more to help integrate the people they bring into our communities (emphasis on integrate), but on the other hand the hostility toward those “new Americans” is is very often unwarranted and unfair. Immigration can be a difficult transition for any racial or ethnic group, and sometimes violence becomes a part of the transition. After all, what were the Dead Rabbits and the Five Points Gang if not groups of immigrant ethnic groups? The former were Irish, the latter Italian. We celebrate those ethnic gangs in popular culture today. There is an entire industry surrounding the portrayal of the Italian mafia, and Johnny Depp has a movie out soon about one of America’s most infamous Irish American criminals.

There is nothing particularly unique about what’s going on in Fargo with tensions between ethnic groups. It is one of the unfortunate side effects of our melting pot nation, and it is a little hypocritical for we descendants of immigrant ancestors who already lived through the transition immigrants in Fargo are now going through to be acting superior. Our position should be one of patience, and an expectation that these “new Americans” leave behind the squabbles of their former homes and integrate with society in their new home.

Yet on that same token, I hope the politically correct who are up in arms over the use of terms like “immigrant” and “refugee” – people who generally populate the left side of the political spectrum – can find a similar level of tolerance and patience for workers brought to North Dakota by the oil boom.

My guess is they won’t, because no ideology has a monopoly on hypocrisy.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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