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New Jersey’s Congo Takes Center Stage in Immigration Debate

As you may have noticed on the other post on this blog about Congo, there are really two debates going on: whether Congo's behavior was...

Joy  |  Dec 4th 2007


As you may have noticed on the other post on this blog about Congo, there are really two debates going on: whether Congo’s behavior was appropriate and immigration. Me, I’m more concerned about Congo and the threat to him because he seems to have behaved EXACTLY the way he was supposed to and would be expected.

But it appears that some people are more concerned with the origin and legal status of the man who is the focus of the event, the worker. The recent ABC video makes some interesting points on this issue.

First, Congo’s family is upset that this discussion has become about immigration and not Congo. Next, Rivera’s lawyer is saying this is about racism. Let’s talk about that a moment.

Is this really about racism? Maybe for some people but for others I suspect this is more about culture and the feeling that their world is running out of control. So why talk about this on a dog blog? Because for many European-based cultures, dogs mean something different than in some other cultures. I’m not being racist here; I am simply stating a fact. We have many wonderful non-North American and non-European Dogsters and Catsters. From China to Brazil, the word of dog is spreading. Dogs are loved around the world. And we welcome everyone into the love of dogs and cats. But we also know that it is an uphill struggle in many parts of the world where people still see dogs as food, not fun.

In North America dogs are most often seen as family members, oftentimes with rights as such. That’s certainly the case in my house where we have a nightly “discussion” over bed space.

The Congo situation is a clash of cultures. Congo is a family member and behaved exactly as he should as part of his pack. Rivera was unaware of the culture in which he worked. Either because he could not speak English (which I have been told was not the problem since the father of the family spoke to him in Spanish) or he did not understand or disregarded the directions, Rivera walked onto a property before he was given an okay. I suspect it was because in his culture there is generally not an expectation that the dogs would be loose.

But then it gets stickier. He was attacked and awarded $250,000 for wounds that, frankly, didn’t look that bad coming from having had a tussle with a German Shepherd. I’ve had worse from getting in the middle of a play session with my pack. So with all that, Rivera walked into a maelstron of ire fed by North American fears of undocumented aliens, fears of supposedly out of control legal awards and the North American love of our dogs. Then, add into the mix that there is a feeling among many of us that this is not about dog versus human because the human was in the wrong. The dog did not attack some stranger walking in the neighborhood; he attacked a man he saw as an interloper and attacker of HIS human. If Congo is killed because he did the right thing then whose dog or home is safe?

On a broader view, many North Americans feel like they are being overrun by people who do not share their language, their culture and even their regard for the law since they are living in the US illegally. Now someone who openly admits he does not speak English and is undocumented threatens the life of a family dog, a family member.

Stir all this together and you have a major emotional debate.

So once again I ask, is this racism? Or is it instead the bursting of an emotional boil that was bound to explode sooner or later? Rivera’s lawyer in the video says that the immigration issue would never be discussed if this was a mailman or UPS driver. Of course not because both of those people would have been familiar with the culture and the language.

To try to paint the call to save Congo’s life as a racist issue serves no one, especially not Congo.

All that said, I’ll open this up for discussion. But let me give you fair warning — keep the discussion on the higher ground. If a post becomes abusive in any way towards any one I will delete it. No apologies.

And do not start claiming I am racist simply becasue I put all the pieces together and ask people to look at the whole picture. I challenge us all to understand the situation so we can work to find answers and heal wounds.

Thanks to the unnamed Dogster who barked in the link to the ABC video.