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Anybody who wants to be unburdened of campus-intellectual fallacies about how racism really works, need only spend a few years living in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, and more specifically its principal city Espanola.

Being white in and around Espanola, equals being what the locals call “anglo.” Neither supremacy nor privilege come with the title, nor do any status of underclass necessarily either.

As a minority group, whiteness is simply nothing special in Espanola. In a community made up of chicanos whose ancestors have been American citizens for nearly two centuries, multiple Indian tribes each with their own so-called “sovereign nation” status and the lands to prove it, Mexican immigrants who dominate whole labor forces virtually without challenge, and the odd specimen of assorted other groups from around the world who end up in the neighborhood, the “anglos” are basically near the bottom of the scale in terms of guaranteed amenities and permanent resources.

Given moreover, that the extended-family structures among anglos is by and large the weakest of all the above-named groups, in a family-oriented setting by tradition and necessity which goes back centuries, the best most local anglos can hope for, is a decent job, a passable credit rating, and a successful application of microcosmic diplomacy resulting in as few enemies as possible. In a place where there are plenty of enemies for the making and plenty of ways to make them.

The chicanos have among them things most so-called “white people” can hardly even imagine; networks and layers of assets anchored in antique land grants tracing back to the Spanish Empire, enormous and relatively cohesive multi-household cooperation within extended families, and on top of all that a dominant role in the massive bureaucratic, educational and administrative sectors within county, municipal, State and federal government agencies. Most such families have long since mastered the programmatic arts, in a region heavily reliant economically on the public sector, and even the most prosperous and stable families have access to public funding in countless ways simply due to their extreme skill at qualifying for and applying for them. And never hesitating to do so. The abiding ethos is “if they’re giving it away, we’re gonna go get some.” The welfare state’s bottomless coffers as a whole are seen generally as simply another available crop to be harvested.

More and more of the local Indian tribes, meanwhile, have casinos and the revenues and dividends that come with them, distributed by racial distinction back into extremely small and protected populations. And as with the chicanos, the continuing perception that they remain still some sort of “underserved” demographic places them at the head of the queue in having public-sector wealth re-distributed artificially back to them, by race and for little more than the asking

Mexican people, genuine Mexicans as distinct from American-born Hispanics who call themselves “Spanish”, also have by means of sheer numbers and ability to network together, total dominance over entire industries’ labor forces, largely in construction and in other blue-collar arenas. Try finding, for instance, a plastering and stucco crew, or a a hot-tar roofing crew, not made up entirely of Mexicans, and it will be a futile search indeed. Many of these are paid high wages in cash by employers who have every interest at stake in protecting and concealing their immigration status, and as well often will take on multiple hires from within a single family or community in Mexico as a way of keeping the whole caper properly under wraps and away from official scrutiny.

And what do the white folks have? If it were not for Los Alamos National Laboratories, that quintessential and literal example of the “city on a hill” operating as an artificial economic engine for an entire vast region, basically, white folks in Rio Arriba would be left with diddly-squat. Surrounded by lands owned outright by people who would never consider selling it to the anglos, by enormous webs of family connections few anglos have any means of entering into and especially not by means of racial intermarriage, white life in Rio Arriba County absent a Manhattan Project, would be one of isolation and desperation, and continual danger in myriad forms, of the consequences exacted on an ethnic group no one would have much further use for.

And any white folks with a lick of common sense who just like New Mexico for New Mexico’s sake (and it is a magnificent place to live in many, many ways) know enough to learn their place in a dense ethnic tapestry where one’s race is everything, which is near the bottom, and stay in it. There are plenty of bodies buried, I assure you, of those who hadn’t.

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