Thank you for showing up I’m going to talk today a little bit about our history of immigration in this country And tie it into a discussion of where we are currently But I want to start, those of you who have seen me do presentations before know that I like to ab lib a lot And I just kind of like to say whatever’s on the top of my top of my head and go from there But because of what we’re observing this week, and because of the importance of this, I did actually write some stuff down for once If you like my tangents I will probably wander off on one of those shortly But I did just want to start with some prepared comments, because I think for the place that we’re at in American history today, they are necessary And as we’re celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. King, it’s really important to remember that for many of us these are actually really dark times Since the election in 2016 things have changed pretty drastically in America We’ve seen a resurgence of white supremacy, of nativism, and hatred in this country that threatens not only the accomplishments of Dr. King, but also our very identity as a nation We have tended– we tend to pride ourselves on being a melting pot, on being a country that welcomes people from around the world, and out of this mosaic of cultures forge has a unique identity We are and always have been a country of immigrants Yet some continue today to believe that this is a white nation We’ve seen the march in Charlottesville, Virginia, and around the country, emboldened by the hateful language of our president But this is really nothing new For the entirety of our history some whites have claimed this country is theirs and theirs alone They have sought to disenfranchise, terrorize, and ban those who looked, talked, or practiced differently than them They’ve labeled us criminals, rapists, threats to racial purity, and to the very safety and peace of the nation But this has never been a white country These are Native American lands before they were, quote unquote discovered by Europeans When Europeans came to this country, some of them brought with them African slaves, the ancestors to many in the black community Mexicans lived and worked in the southwest long before it was part of the United States And our Asian brothers and sisters came here to work in the 19th century, to lend their sweat and blood to this country, even though they could not become citizens This week as we reflect on Dr. King’s legacy– and race in America today– It’s important to recognize the nativism and racism that we see from this administration is nothing new There is the tired cliche that those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it And I fear this is what we’re seeing today For too long we have failed to acknowledge the continuing legacy of nativism, racism, slavery, and segregation in this country, so now we’re repeating it Today I want to talk to you about that legacy, and specifically about the treatment of immigrants Because it’s important for every American to know, and also because we must understand and acknowledge our past if we actually want to break out of this cycle of hate And so I’m going to cover a lot of history on immigration over the course of these next slides If there’s any questions along the way, please feel free to raise your hand I’m happy to answer them But really what this talk is about, is about how we’ve constructed immigrants in America Because while we celebrate our immigrant legacy in this country, a lot of this has been wrapped up in trying to keep people out, trying to form an identity that excludes many Today we talk about Muslims We talk about Latinos But in the past it was Catholics It was the Irish It was the Chinese or the Japanese And so I’m going to run through this, and I’ve included in these slides some historical cartoons Because I think they help to set the stage And I want to lead off with some quotes, or two passages from a speech that Barack Obama gave in 2010 He said, we define ourselves as a nation of immigrants,
a nation that welcomes those willing to embrace America’s ideals, and America’s precepts That’s why millions of people– ancestors to both most of us– braved hardship and great risk to come here So they could be free to work, and worship, and live their lives in peace The Asian immigrants who made their way to California’s Angel Island The Germans and Scandinavians who settled across the Midwest The waves of the Irish, Italian, Polish, Russian, and Jewish immigrants who leaned against that railing to catch that first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty This is the first part of our myth, or a national identity, as an immigrant country Yet at the same time we’re standing at the border today, because we also recognize that being a nation of laws goes hand in hand with being a nation of immigrants This too is our heritage This too is important, and the truth is we’ve often wrestled with the politics of who is and who isn’t allowed to enter this country At times, there has been fear and resentment directed towards newcomers, particularly in periods of economic hardship And because these issues touch on deeply held convictions, about who we are as a people, about what it means to be an American These debates often elicit strong emotions This was back in 2010 And things haven’t changed much If anything we’ve seen a regression in this country We’ve seen a stepping back, and we’ve seen emboldening white supremacy and hatred Our Latino brothers and sisters, our Muslim brothers and sisters, live in an America where they have to feel nervous about when they leave their house They have to be worried, including– and I’ve had students in my class say that they were worried about going out and walking on the street, because people will yell slurs at them as they’re walking But this isn’t the country that many of us believe that we should be And I think it’s important to keep in mind that we have to be optimistic about where we can get together And so by looking back at this past, by looking back at how we’ve characterized past generations of immigrants, that can help us get a better sense of why we believe what we believe today Because everything today is a product of our history And in 1755, Benjamin Franklin– one of the framers– stated that a colony of aliens who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us, instead of our Anglifying find them, will never adopt our language or customs any more than they can acquire our complexion Now this is a quote that you can change some of the words around, and you could be talking about Mexicans today, or Latino immigrants In this case Benjamin Franklin was talking about Germans He also didn’t like the Dutch all that much either And this is a bit of a historical oddity to many of us I’m half Irish When I go back and I look at how Irish were characterized in the 19th century with the same kind of simian features that were used to caricature African-Americans during the period of slavery and segregation It’s kind of weird, because my Irish family– in terms of skin color– there’s some of the whitest folks I know And yet at one point, they were considered to be of a lesser form of whiteness There were debates in Congress about the danger to racial purity posed by the Irish and Italians And one of the ways that we get to where we are in terms of immigration, is that as in 1790 the only way to become a citizen in this country was to be white And this wouldn’t change for a really long time This is part of shaping– a deliberate shaping– of America’s cultural identity An identity that, at least for the framers, and for many generations of political leaders who came after, they wanted this to be an Anglo-Protestant country They wanted those borders defended This was how you built the nation You chose a cultural identity And many of them believed it was hard, if not impossible, to actually truly be the Nation of immigrants that we supposedly were Because the myths that we have today existed then as well And there was a great deal of suspicion of the foreign born If you go back in the congressional record,
they stated that people born in other countries– in some cases no specific country, but just people born in other countries– were more likely to be criminals That they made up the majority of people in mental institutions And this may have come in part from the British practice of transportation You haven’t heard that term before, it was what you do with a criminal population when you were a relatively small– comparatively speaking– island country And you essentially put them on a boat, and you send them somewhere else And for a while they sent them here In particular, people accused of religious crimes, or ideological crimes Anarchists, for instance After we stopped taking them, where did they send them? Australia, right? Again another country that saw a genocide against the native population, a claiming of native lands as the lands of white settlers And a country that today continues to deal with that legacy And beyond just the exclusion of non-whites from naturalization, there was a deep suspicion of certain groups of individuals who were technically considered white, right? Because whiteness is usually taken to be synonymous with Caucasian Anybody know what a Caucasian is? From the region of the Caucasus If you can trace your ancestry back to the region the Caucasus, you’re technically a Caucasian If you’re Latino, you may be surprised to find out that you are Caucasian, and therefore you’re technically white Although the Supreme Court took care of that in 1924, when they said, well this whole thing’s just made up anyway And you’re not white, unless other white people look at you, and think you’re white And this was in response to a gentleman who challenged the categorization of him as nonwhite, by saying that he was a Punjabi Sikh That he could trace his ancestry back to Arians That Arians were technically Caucasians And that therefore if white and Caucasian were synonymous, he should be allowed to be a citizen And the Supreme Court took a look at him, and said, no You’re definitely not what we’re thinking of when we’re thinking of white folks So there was this tendency to classify certain groups during this period as of a lesser form of whiteness People of Irish , ancestry Germans, Poles, Italians, and many of these individuals had the same negative stereotypes at that point in time associated with them, that we still deploy against immigrants today They take our jobs They break the law They are lazy I mean really those same stereotypes kind of apply across racial groups, and immigrant groups, just depending on what historical time period we’re talking about But this tendency to see the Irish and other groups as of a lesser form of whiteness really spiked in the 1800s And this is when you saw a real push to actually develop legal means of keeping these individuals outside, of excluding them And there was a party– this later we now call them the Know Nothings– they first went by the Native American Party That became the American Party And then today they’re largely called the Know Nothings But they ran on an explicit platform of anti-immigrant in the 1850s And anti-Catholicism, if you go back and look at some of the congressional debates during this period, some of the newspaper accounts, some of the cartoons, there was a fear that anybody who was Catholic owe their allegiance not to the United States government, but to who? The pope That this would give the Vatican influence in America
And would in some way degrade our religious identity as a Protestant nation Now these stereotypes would shift a little bit, eventually we became less afraid of Catholics Although you can still find some academics on the right who claim that Latinos pose a threat to this country, because Latinos tend to be Catholic And that we are going to fundamentally change American culture, because we’re going to bring Catholicism with us We’re not afraid of the pope anymore We supposedly have a cool pope now, that many people find a little less offensive, and don’t see him as trying to conquer America, or anything like that But there is still that fear by some And this is represented– this was a cartoon on the part of the Know Nothing party, you see the Irishmen and the German running off with the ballot box And again this was one of the fears in regards to these groups that were of a lesser form of whiteness Because even though they were of a lesser form of whiteness, what could they do? They could vote, right? That’s one of the reasons that you denied people the franchise That’s one of the reasons you denied people the right to vote, is you take the right to vote away, you ensure that they can’t get any political power You ensure that even racists in your country don’t go, well man, this is a close election, I don’t really like black people, but they may be able to get me over that line So maybe I should do is to tamp down that segregation talk a little bit, and reach out to some black churches Which is something that we would actually see in the latter part of the 1940s, early 1950s Where they can vote And so this was one of the reasons that a lot of these anti-immigrant groups wanted to see these individuals excluded, because not only did they degrade America’s racial character, but they also potentially had political power And these anti-immigrant attitudes were really– we didn’t invent them America didn’t invent racism These were European imports And it was European thinkers– German physiologist actually– who first kind of came up with this idea that you could divide people up into about like five different races And this was when classifying everything, that was kind of the thing And of course if you’re German– if you’re a Caucasian– who were you going to say is at the top of the hierarchy? You’re going to say, oh people who look like me Nobody looks in the mirror and is like, you know what, I kind of fall somewhere in the middle I’m kind of average So I’ll put people like me right there in the middle But man Vietnamese people, just so much better looking than me I think they look so much more aesthetically pleasing, we’ll put them up a few notches But this initially was an aesthetic classification This didn’t denote anything about your intellectual and moral capacity But that would come later That would come with eugenics, ideas that you can measure parts of people’s head, and that would tell you whether they were musically inclined, or moral, smart Have you ever seen that bust of a head with lines drawn all over it Phrenology, right? This idea that there was something more fundamental to race And that’s something that we still have some belief in today I wouldn’t recommend anybody visit the website Stormfront, but if you ever want to get a snapshot of what racist people think, take a look at some of those internet forums They’re weird But it gives you an idea that some people still believe this Or there’s something fundamentally different based on nothing, but the color of our skin Which actually denotes nothing, and actually genetically speaking, there is greater variation within races than between races But we like to think of ourselves as in some way being fundamentally different And so these fears of Catholicism– this notion of America as an Anglo-Protestant country– made many believe that anyone not from this stock degraded the nation And here’s an example of how the Irish are characterized This is from a British magazine And you can see the Siemian features ascribed
to the Irishman in a cage This is the Irish-American dynamite skunk An American advocate of indiscriminate murder Now keep in mind, why were the Irish characterized in this way by the English? What was going on? They were colonized If you’re Christian and you’re claiming to be a good person, what do you do when you go and take their land, treat them as subjects, give them no rights? Well you say they’re in some way not really people They’re in some way impure Or they’re less civilized, and therefore they need our civilizing influence Europeans love that line All right, we civilized them We came to America and we gave Native Americans our wonderful culture, and therefore they should thank us We’re sorry about the genocide and all, and the broken treaties But man, we gave you civilization The same thing the British said in India We raised them up And these were based on European concepts, right? This was based on this idea that the Irish were closer to apes, because you want to dehumanize the people who pose a threat to you And you want to dehumanize those that you’re mistreating, because that provides a justification And here in America, we compared the Irish– in some cases– to African-Americans This is from Harper’s Weekly, which if you are looking for a whole bunch of old racist cartoons, they’re a great source of it It’s got pages and pages of them This it shows on one side of the scale you see African-American from the South, on the other side you see an Irishman from the North, and they’re balancing each other out The Irish were the problem with the North, and the blacks were the problem of the South And a lot of the characteristics of the Irish were similar characteristics that were used in discussing African-Americans This is a cartoon from the latter, the mid-part of the 18th century, 19th century, on Italians And this it says regarding the Italian population, they’re a nuisance to pedestrians, they sleep in crowded apartments If you’re Latino that probably sounds familiar They’re afternoon’s pleasant diversions is stabbing someone to death And then you see the way to dispose of them is something that we probably wouldn’t advocate today But you’re essentially putting them into a cage and dropping them into the water And this again demonstrates where we were at the time in terms of thinking about immigrant groups And the thing that the Italians and the Irish had in common during this period, is the Irish and Italians who were coming over were poor The Irish were fleeing the Great Famine And they were coming over, and they were poor, and they were looking for work And again this tends to be how we characterize these groups That’s what we do to Latinos today People who are pursuing the same dream that brought many of our ancestors here, we characterize their dream as somehow different And this wasn’t just limited in the 19th century to whites, or two whites of a lesser form of whiteness The actual first major piece of immigration legislation in this country, that excluded people based on race, was a Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 And this declared all Chinese immigrants inadmissible You could not come here If you’re a Chinese and you’re already here, if you left, you could not come back And there a reason for this Reason was the Chinese were no longer needed They came here and they provided a lot of assistance, in particular in building the railroad from the east coast of the west coast Once it was done, they moved off to do other things And suddenly the narrative turned into they’re taking our jobs They’re putting good American men out of work We don’t need them anymore
The Chinese Exclusion Act didn’t begin– as some anti-immigrant measures do– it didn’t begin with, Congress, or the president This actually began with labor agitation in the United States With labor unions saying Chinese are being brought in this strikebreakers Something that later Cesar Chavez would claim And while Chavez was a great civil rights leader for Latinos, he was a great civil rights leader for native born Latinos, or for legal Latinos But not necessarily so much for our undocumented brothers and sisters, who were still coming in pursuit of that same dream And the Chinese Exclusion Act was the first major act restricting immigration that wasn’t just aimed at– quote unquote– undesirables And you can see here in this cartoon from latter part of the 19th century, that they’re breaking strikes, that they’re begging, that they’re voting multiple times, they’re fighting, they drink, that they loaf, they’re lazy Now the curious thing about immigrants is we tend to hold two somewhat conflictual stereotypes about them One is that there are lazy And the other is that they’re putting American workers out of jobs Which really when you think about it, doesn’t make a lot of sense, because if you’re lazy you’re probably not working all that hard Therefore you’re probably not really competing for jobs But we like we like this characterization This is the stereotype of the Latino, leaning back under a tree with a big sombrero over his head And this was something similar that was used in regards to the Chinese And here we see a representation of that second stereotype And it says, what shall we do with our boys And you see the Chinese worker here has multiple hands because is working so damn fast And all of these poor white American workers are just standing out there with no job And this really was used to demonize the Chinese This and they are corrupting our women Which again was something that was very common in terms of both immigration but also race They claim that women were being seduced into opium use Taken advantage of by Chinese immigrants who ran these opium dens And again this is something that is not uncommon, right? We would see this in regards to African-Americans on multiple occasions, and also continuing today, in regards to the hypersexual of African-American– in particular– men, right? Claims that they pose a threat to white women And this says Uncle Sam’s farm in danger, and again shows a wave of the Chinese– here shown as locusts– invading American lands And again this was very deliberate If you want to keep people out, you have to scare people It’s today saying that Islam is a religion of violence That Muslims are terrorists You scare people and you create a justification for keeping them outside your political system, but also outside of your social system Making them in some way fundamentally different, fundamentally lesser than And so we have this basic tension in the United States, of this our identity as a melting pot But also this question of how you forge an identity out of a melting pot And this is really in part because we’re not the only nation to do so We’re one of a handful of nations to do so To try to forge an identity, it doesn’t have a deep basis in the past Where we are trying to forge an identity, and say who we who are we And in some of my classes we do this exercise, and we say what is American, right?
What is this thing that we expect immigrants to assimilate into in coming here, right? Because that’s what we hear a lot in regards to immigrants Well they just don’t assimilate They don’t do things that Americans do And you know what? The bizarre thing is when we run through this list, we don’t really get anything We get cheeseburgers, right? Here’s you’re welcome to America it includes a bag of McDonald’s We occasionally get NASCAR I don’t know if I have any, if there’s any NASCAR fans in the room, but it does seem like a fundamentally American thing to want to watch cars drive around in circles for like 4 and 1/2 hours But we don’t come up with anything Well they don’t celebrate our holiday Yes they do Well they– I’ve got nothing, right? Because I can’t say, well it’s because their skins are a little too dark, or because they’re not white, because that would make me a racist So I’m going to try to say it’s because they won’t assimilate They retain some of their culture Oh man I saw these protest about DACA, and man they were waving the Mexican flag How un-American? Anybody here have been to st. Patrick’s Day parade? There’s Irish flags everywhere And there are those flags are being waved by people who are like 1/60 Irish And yet we go, oh that’s cool No, they’re just celebrating their heritage It’s all good But man is a Latino does it, oh they hate America They don’t really want to be Americans We’re held to a different standard If you’re white, you can celebrate your ethnic heritage all you want Hell you could wave the Confederate battle flag around, and we’ll go, oh well you know what, they’re just misunderstood But if you’re somebody wants to celebrate your ethnic heritage, and you happen to be Latino, or Asian, or from the Middle East, oh that’s– no sorry, that’s not American And so we have this tendency to classify our national– to form a national identity, in a way that really sets up just an us versus them We know we’re American, because we’re not those folks that we’re keeping outside We’re not those people who are identifying as being un-American And in 1894, we have the forming of the Immigration Restriction League And this was a group that really focused on limiting the number of Jews and southern Eastern Europeans who would come to this country And the way they wanted to do it was a literacy test And they would eventually get that literacy test And then they would realize that a lot of the people who were coming actually passed that literacy test And so then they were a little bit upset, because they just assumed they were all illiterate And then that would lead to a further piece of legislation But the Immigration Restriction League really pushed for an end to immigration from these countries that were seen as being less than pure And again, a lot of this had to do with things like they’re taking our jobs, right? This says the inevitable result to the American working man of indiscriminate immigration, right? They come here and they’re poor, right? They’re taking bread and whatever that lump of yellow stuff is I’m assuming butter, but that’s a hell of a lot of butter [LAUGHING] But they’re taking that from the tables of hard working men We were talking in my class today about the Freedmen’s Bureau It was set up following the Civil War to help former slaves transition to freedom, right? And we had a cartoon about the Freedmen’s Bureau too And it was the same deal It showed White men working out in the fields with the lazy Negro leaning there just collecting those welfare checks essentially And this is the same thing we were saying with many of these immigrants from Southern Eastern Europe They’re poor They’re coming here And keep in mind back then we didn’t have welfare There was no social safety net in America for them to leech off of
Back in those days if you wound up poor and down on your luck, you better hope your family likes you, or you have some really nice friends Because otherwise you’re relying on charitable organizations, which are pretty hit and miss, especially during economic downturns And this is another cartoon from the latter part of the 19th century And it says the greatest fear of the period that Uncle Sam will be swallowed by foreigners And so this shows on one hand an Irishman, on the other end a Chinaman, and they’re both gobbling up poor Uncle Sam And then probably because the Irishman is kind of sort of white, then the Chinaman eats him too But gets a variation on his hat for some reason But the problems with this did not go unrecognized by other immigrant groups, right? The problem, the fact that Chinese immigration– sorry, Chinese restriction– was likely to lead to the restriction of other groups This didn’t go unnoticed This is another cartoon from the period, and it says what color is to be tabooed next? Fritz– meant to be a German– to Pat, if the Yankee Congress can keep the yellow man out, what’s to hinder them from calling us green, and keeping us out to? And this is actually a little predictive of where things would go Because of course, after the successful restriction of Chinese immigrants, restrictionists in this country were emboldened The Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907, between the United States and Japan denied Japanese immigrants who wanted to come here to work visas The 1917 Immigration Act gave the Immigration Restriction League– as I mentioned– their literacy test And it also created the Asiatic Barred Zone, which essentially barred people from anywhere in Asia from immigrating to the United States legally And this shows that during that period– this is from I think early 1900s, I think 1903– and this is direct from the slums of Europe daily This is another anti-Italian cartoon And you can see them swimming out of the boat characterized as rats with hats that say, mafia, anarchist Again, this idea that we are being flooded with foreigners who posed a cultural threat to our nation And while the literacy test was meant to keep these individuals out, it didn’t work, because as I mentioned too many people were passing it And so what we got was the Immigration Act of 1924– also known as the Johnson-Reed Act– sometimes referred to as a National Quotas ACT And this set up a quota system for immigration And this was specifically targeted at Southern and Eastern Europeans I’ve read through all the congressional debate on this And this was their goal, was to prevent southern Eastern Europeans from coming here They kept immigration at 150,000 And they capped the quotas at 2% of the foreign born present in 1890 So each country got a quota Each European country– sorry not every country in the world If you’re from countries that were classified as being nonwhite, you were just lumped together into a racial category And oddly enough the people were lumped into the kind of catch all Asian category, they still couldn’t legally immigrate here But they were given a cap anyway in case there was somebody in that country who wasn’t Asian, who wanted to come to the United States But 2% of the foreign born as of 1890 Anybody want to guess why 1890? We run a census every 10 years This is 1924 Why would they pick the census of 1890?
Yeah, because higher numbers of good immigrants, lower numbers of bad immigrants So that was a way of tweaking the quotas to ensure that you getting the people that you wanted to get in That you are setting the quotas as low as you could for these countries that you wanted to keep out And it just excluded all of those and ineligible for citizenship And for my Asian brothers and sisters, you wouldn’t actually be able to naturalize in this country until the 1950s This wasn’t one of those historical blips that was so far in the past We tend to think of things in that way But 1952, that’s within a generation And one of the things that we have to keep in mind when we’re talking about history, or when we’re talking about the Civil Rights Movement, is one generation is nothing, right? One generation doesn’t change anything So with the restriction of the European immigrants– which is relatively successful– Congress next turn to Mexicans Mexican immigration in the southwest had been seen largely as being a response to the labor demands Immigration officials on the southwest border largely saw Mexicans as coming in when their work was needed And then leaving when their work was no longer needed It was essentially an unregulated free flow of immigration across the southern border Now that began to change in the 1920s This notion that we should allow people just to kind of walk back and forth whenever they wanted to, that began to shift And part of this was around the growing chorus amongst politicians that there was– quote unquote– a Mexican problem And this is from the Fullerton Daily News in 1924 And you see the immigration official doing nothing, while the Mexican peon– and this says ignorance and disregard for law– crosses in the United States without inspection And Mexican immigrants of course are– if you say let’s talk about immigration, what are be talking about today? We’re talking mostly about Mexicans for the most part, Latino immigrants broadly But now if you’re talking about immigration, that’s for the most part, what you’re talking about And that’s what people take that word to mean, right? We’re talking about illegal immigrants And the curious thing was for a long period of this nations history, they weren’t illegal, right? They crossed back and forth When there was work, they came in When there was no work, they didn’t come in And in 1929, we began to try to restrict Mexican immigration The first was through administrative means Charging people a head tax to come into this country And especially poor Mexicans could not pay that head tax So the idea was that they wouldn’t come in We also subjected them to delousing vans before entering Because there was a perception that Mexican immigrants were dirty, were diseased We didn’t do this to Canadians by the way And in 1929, there was a Senate bill 5094 that for the first time legally criminalized undocumented immigration It declared undocumented entry– the first instance of it was a misdemeanor And the second time it was a felony And if it was a felony, that meant that you could never legally immigrate to this country with a felony charge on your record The border patrol was also formed in 1924 And it wasn’t really to patrol the borders of the United States It was to patrol the border of the United States, right? Which remains our primary focus in this country There were illegal European immigrants coming in through Canada We weren’t really worried about them We were worried about the southern border And that was the focus of the border patrol during this period And continues to be the focus of the border patrol today In 1929, we also entered the period of the Great Depression What remains the biggest economic downturn in US history And as a result of that, the desire to get Mexicans out
increased So this spurred a program of Mexican Repatriation And the idea with this was you threaten them with deportation, you threaten them with neighborhood and workplace raids, and they’ll go home And many did Estimates vary between 500,000 and 750,000– about 20% of the Mexican population in the United States– returned during this period Went back to Mexico They weren’t all that they weren’t all undocumented Many of them were legal, but couldn’t prove that they were legally here And therefore, they went back rather than face potential fines if they were believed to be here illegally And this is something that we’re actually seeing today Donald Trump’s immigration raids, they’re not going to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country Well what they’re meant to do is create a climate of fear to hopefully convince some of those immigrants to return home on their own Because again, we couldn’t actually afford to deport 11 million people Nor would we like the optics of putting people in boxcars to have them taken them back to Mexico, right? Especially considering what we like to believe about ourselves as a Country and there are also historical parallels to the denial of refugee status for many Muslim immigrants In the pre-World War II period– and we typically forget this– in the pre-World War II period we refused entry to Jews who were fleeing the beginnings of the Holocaust We didn’t get involved in World War II until the bombing of Pearl Harbor We didn’t get involved because we were concerned that Jews were being killed in massive numbers, on a scale that was impossible to ignore We only cared when Japan made the mistake of bombing us We denied Anne Frank’s family asylum here And she became one of the most well-known faces of the Holocaust She was killed And all of those deaths they lie on our national conscience, because we could have done something different We could have taken them in And we chose not to, not because of anything to do with the individuals, but because of the anti-Semitism in this country during that period of time Again something that we’re seeing today as we deny Syrian refugees the ability to come here and be safe And we claim it’s because of we don’t vet them closely enough, or they could be terrorists When they’re fleeing the very people that we’re supposedly fighting And they’re saying we want to come there so we can be safe And a of people have died Because European countries have refused, again because of the religion of the individuals And also because of the color of their skin If Syria was a white Christian country, we’d be accepting them in droves And some of the rhetoric of our president also comes out of this period, America first This was something that was used to keep us out of World War II, right? While the Holocaust was happening, right? When we knew about what was happening there– America first This is something that we say today We need to put the jobs and the health and the welfare of Americans before the health and welfare of refugees And this is– and some people– many of you maybe– well I’m assuming all of you have heard of Dr. Seuss, right? Well many don’t know that he also did a lot of political cartoons And this says, and the wolf chewed up the children and spit out their bones But those are foreign children, and it really didn’t matter And again, here we are today saying the same thing
Those are foreign kids, doesn’t matter if they die horribly And if they die in a way that’s preventable, well we can do something about it Because you know what? Well they’re not really our problem And a student– I don’t remember which student– but a student sent me this after one of my classes And this is on the left 1939 a Jewish family looking for refuge And then on the right in 2015, a Muslim family looking for refuge Again where we are repeating the errors of our past And in 20, 30, 40 years, we’ll look back on this period with shame, with the same kind of shame that we have now in regards to denying all of those families, all those people, safe harbor in the United States People who would be alive today, who would have grandchildren, maybe great grandchildren Who could have become we don’t know what But instead we left them to the Nazis And today we’re leaving them to civil conflict, to ISIS And then after World War II we continue to demonize Mexican immigrants We launched Operation Wetback in 1954, a mass deportation program That I believe our current president actually somewhat referenced at one point They said the goal of deporting 1 million immigrants Again using drawing on tactics that were very similar to those used during Mexican Repatriation And all this ties back to– and this is going to be the light for hundredth time my students have seen this slide– but this all ties back to what Roger Smith calls the tradition of a scriptive hierarchy in America This notion that true Americans– in some way– are in some way chosen by God, history, or nature to possess something special Something that makes us unique And something that justifies treating others as second class citizens And this is usually tied to race This is usually tied to gender And sometimes this is tied to class But it’s a way of justifying it It was the way in which we justify the taking of native lands Manifest Destiny, God wanted us to have this country And today, we’ve also privatized the incarceration of immigrants The private prison industry represented by GEO Group– the Corrections Corporation of America– who just changed their name to something that sounds less evil, slightly less evil They make a profit now out of warehousing black and brown bodies Immigration detention– the contracts they got for immigration detention– saved those companies from bankruptcy in the early 2000s And now they sit at the table and help to craft immigration policy in this country They helped to ensure that we see more people thrown into detention facilities, that are run for profit And as a result of being run for profit that means that they cut corners The guards are under-trained It was actually a lawsuit against GEO Group, because they were making prisoners clean their own cells, cook their food, and they weren’t paying them Or they were paying them with things from commissary And today those same groups sit at the table with lawmakers and help to craft policy In the same way that they helped to craft our drug policy in the United States Which has resulted in a disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans and Latinos While states like Washington celebrate legalization of things like marijuana And in other states, people are still sitting out mandatory minimum sentences 15, 20, 30 years for something
that now would be legal in Washington Why is marijuana legal now? Why now? Because everybody smokes Seriously That’s what it is You can’t classify it anymore as a black thing or a Mexican thing, right? You’re good little college student Johnny, you shouldn’t be thrown in jail for 15 years for you know slinging some weed on the side He’s really a good kid He has a bright future ahead of him Now if little Johnny was an inner city African-American, oh no, throw his ass in jail for as long as you can, because man he’s scary Super predators, right? To quote Hillary Clinton, who then wondered why the black community wasn’t overly enthusiastic about voting for her And so I want to end just by talking a little bit about where we go, because I know this is a lot of depressing stuff I tried to introduce at least a few little laugh moments here and there But it’s not particularly upbeat But the one thing that I have a lot of hope in, is that this moment that we’re in right now inspires us to see the fight of one group as our fight As Martin Luther King did with Cesar Chavez And he wrote a telegram to Cesar Chavez in 1966 And in that telegram he said, as brothers in the fight for equality, I extend the hand of fellowship and goodwill And I wish continuing success to you and your members The fight for equality must be fought on many fronts In the urban slums In the sweatshops of the factories and fields Our separate struggles are really one A struggle for freedom, for dignity, and humanity And that’s what I hope we take out of this moment that we’re in right now That there’s no difference between us That we have to stand together, because that’s the only way that we’re actually going to start to– not erase our past, because we shouldn’t want to erase it– but that’s the way that we move together towards our future, towards realizing our national myths Towards truly becoming that melting pot that we claim to be And so I will stop I promise in just one second But I just I also wrote up a just brief closing statement So as I’ve covered in these last couple of slides, from the very founding of this nation, we’ve looked on immigrants with suspicion We’ve accused them of taking American jobs, have claimed that they are a threats to our culture, and to our very safety, and at the same time we too often been divided in our response If we surely want to fight white supremacy, we have to do so together We must realize that an injustice against one of us, is an injustice against us all The fight of our Syrian brothers and sisters is my fight too, despite the fact that I’m not Syrian, and I’m not Muslim The fight of our African-American brothers and sisters is mine too, despite the fact that I’m not African-American Martin Luther King saw this, as did Malcolm X, as did Cesar Chavez, as did Fred Hampton We are stronger together, and can only prevail if we actually realize that And to our white brothers and sisters, they also have to realize that in far too many cases your silence is deafening I’ve taught a lot of classes on race and politics I’ve given a lot of talks at this point And one thing in reaching out to the white community that I just must stress, is that you have to confront this with us No more laughing at racial jokes No more not having those uncomfortable confrontations with your racist family members, or your friends, who maybe send you an email with a racist cartoon If you want to be an ally, you have to stand together with us You have to face that same discomfort that anyone who is a racial minority faces every single day of their life You have to stand up
Because if you don’t, we don’t break out of the cycle of hate Those stereotypes are maintained within the white community They’re OK, right? Because somebody laughed at your joke Because your racist Uncle Joe, well he can go off about how he’s worried about that black family that moved into his neighborhood, or he’s worried about those Latinos taking his job But this also goes beyond race and beyond our borders We have to see that the fight of oppressed people everywhere is our fight And this is also something that the great civil rights leaders recognized, because institutionalized racism isn’t just a problem in America It’s a problem globally And it’s entrenched in the institutions that today dictate global trade and loans As a man we also stand with our sisters We’re seeing an awakening in the United States that I think is really important right now We’re seeing a lot of discussions about sexual harassment, about misogyny about on equal pay And as men we have to stand behind– not just the women in our lives– but the women in this country as they fight for greater justice We also have to stand with our LGBTQ family We have to realize that their fight is our fight too That transphobia, homophobia That we have to stand up to those things as well Because again their fight is our fight And that’s the only way that we move forward And this administration really is based on nothing more than edifice of hate What we’ve seen the president do, is nothing more than try to undo every single thing that was done by his predecessor, the first black president And I do believe that will come out of this stronger I believe that this administration is helping us realize our common cause, our shared humanity, and our shared interests, regardless of our race, gender, sexuality, or gender identity And I believe that we’ll do all that we need to do to win this And I believe that will we face a brighter future Because we’re being forced to confront our past And we’ll meet the hate that we see in America, we’ll meet it in the schools, we’ll meet in the state houses, and if necessary we’ll meet in the streets And we’ll win, because this has never been a white country This has always been our country If you look around this room, this is America And this is my America And we need to move forward together to realize that And I believe we will So thank you I’m happy to take any questions [APPLAUDING]