"We're tired of the racial profiling," says Hispanic rights activist Boanca Rojas, who we met at a rally in Doraville, Ga. Race and the South are inevitably entwined. But it's no longer 1950. Rojas and Duluth, Ga., Muslim political organizer Halid Rashid point to new racial and religious fault lines.
Boanca Rojas: "We build your roads. We pick food in South Georgia. We pay taxes. We're here because employers want us here. We have great needs — better education, drivers' licenses, access to health care. We ask, 'Why do I build a road if I can't drive on it?' This country benefits from the work of undocumented people. So why not do the right thing? Give us our human rights."
Halid Rashid: "One of our trustees [of the Islamic Dar-un-Noor School] is an African-American. He was born here. He's a Vietnam veteran. He did two tours in Vietnam. He's a truck driver, but last month [the federal government] took away his hazardous material permit. He's never even had a speeding ticket. He lost his job. Why? One reason. He's a Muslim. I came in 1964 from Pakistan. I am an American."
With blacks and whites, the South remains race-conscious, as Holly Springs, Miss., retired teacher and political activist Russell Johnson notes. Johnson is black, and his remarks resonate with those of Frank Gurley, a white farmer and merchant from Marks, Miss.
Russell Johnson: "What divides people now is money. [Marshall County, Miss.] was once a Democrat stronghold. Still is, way I see it. DeSoto County down the road is Republican. Why more Democrats here, Republicans there? We got more poor folks, that's why. I'm not saying race isn't a factor any longer. But look at the people here. Black and white. There's no hostility."
Frank Gurley: "Around here, most whites are for Bush, but you know most blacks are for Kerry. That's the way things are and I don't see it changing."