A post in my blog last week, "Knee-Jerk Foreigner-Bashing Gives IT a Black Eye," generated the angriest outburst of reader commentary I've seen in a long time. If there was a common theme, it was that I am a pawn in the pocket of special interest groups from India, an uncivilized country whose unskilled people are here on a mission to ruin our economy and our way of life.
If you're interested in reading the comment thread, get a cup of coffee first. It's a long one. It should be obvious that if we purged all the nasty comments I get in a blog with the tagline, "The more sensitive it is, the more it warrants discussion," as one commenter referenced, there wouldn't be many comments left to allow for any meaningful debate. But this indeed is the post about those disgruntled American IT workers and their comments.
Now, to set the record straight, I have never labeled anyone who expresses these sorts of views as a racist, although some of their comments are clearly tinged with the kind of hate that's associated with racism. One factor, as some readers have pointed out, is that the anonymity of the Internet leads many people who are otherwise decent, rational, civil individuals to say things that aren't the best reflections of their true character.
Beyond that, racism tends to be something that's entrenched in the social fabric, and experienced over time by a body of the population-notably, in our country, by African Americans. We need to avoid using the term too loosely, so that we're not diminishing the difficulties confronted by the people who have truly been scarred by it.
So it's not that these disgruntled IT workers are racists. It's that they're dealing with a range of emotions, from anger and frustration to fear and uncertainty, and there's a natural inclination to fix their resentment on something that's identifiable.
But what should be clear by now is that that solves nothing, and gets us nowhere. There's a lot that's broken, including our economy and, yes, the H-1B visa program. But none of it will be lastingly repaired until the adversarial, divisive, you're-my-enemy approach to solving our problems is resolutely abandoned.