History of Race, History of Immigration

So a verdict is in in the Derek Chauvin trial. Of course, he’s on trial for the murder of George Floyd. That means that the judge has been informed   that the jury has reached unanimous verdict. The verdict will actually be announced sometime between 4:30 and 5:30 sometime during this class, probably.

And I must say, it puts me in an odd state of mind. I mean, so much focus on this trial and the meaning for this country… The murder of Floyd, all of you know, sparked protests around this country. Many of you may have participated in those protests. These protests were of huge importance for the nation.

I have lived long enough to see the civil rights movements of various times in this country. But I think the the outpouring of people in the street in the middle of a pandemic was, to me, something I had never seen before. And the willingness of people to begin to talk seriously about police violence and the dangers for black men  – black people in general in this country – people of color, is really it’s extraordinary to think about.

But even if there is a conviction here, which seems likely because there’s been a quick verdict, and prosecutors generally say, when you get a quick verdict that’s unanimous it tends – you can never predict juries.

But there were three counts and it makes people think that this is likely to be some kind of conviction. We all know that won’t solve the problems that were identified in the murder of Floyd and just one of dozens and dozens of victims, several other black men killed during the trial. By police.

There are deep, deep problems that will continue to exist regarding police violence and structural racism, inequality. So Floyd’s murder sparked a revolt of sorts but didn’t provide answers. Those remain to be worked out by all of us. Here.

But that means to belong – belong if we are citizens or even people living here, immigrants living here belong to the country that has seen such unending implications of categories of race.

Now this is a class about immigration. Sometimes we get technical about the laws, but thinking about the history of immigration, I think I said from the very first session in every era, race has played a role from the beginning.

The settling of the country as European settlers pushed out tens of thousands of indigenous people in this country; imported hundreds of thousands of slaves to help their expansion in the country and to create wealth for the nation; uncompensated wealth – uncompensated labor, I should say.

And then with the creation of the country, we’ll talk today about the Dred Scott case and the conclusion of the Supreme Court in the middle of the 19th century that, when the Constitution said, ‘We the people of the United States’, it did not include African-Americans. They couldn’t conceivably have been part of the people of the United States, according to the Founding Fathers. That’s what the court said in ruling against Dred Scott.

You’ve read the 1790 Naturalization Act that limited naturalization to white people. And we’ll take a look at that language.

We talked about the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1880s, and you visited the Museum of the History of Chinese in America and [seen] the unending history of discrimination against Chinese immigrants. Complicated story of Chinese immigrants, but running through a theme that would be seen in the most recent killings in Atlanta, anti-Chinese hate crimes.

We’ve talked about roundups of Mexican workers in the US, but also Mexican-American workers who were deported with Mexican citizens in the 1930s and then the 1950s.

The creation of the national origin quota system in the 1920s heavily inflected with notions of eugenics, and racial superiority, and keeping out the weaker European Nations – the Jews, the Italians, the Eastern Europeans – who are not Nordic Arian, Caucasian white people.

And then into more recent times: the treatment of Haitian asylum seekers in the 1970s and 1980s.

Central American asylum seekers today, where we know that the race of these asylum seekers is part and parcel of the treatment they receive.

Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, Muslim ban, and other efforts to keep out immigrations of color, whether it was supposedly neutral rules like the ‘public charge’ regulation that was written. Everybody knew who it was written against, who it was intended to keep out.

The discussion we’ve had a system of mass detention and deportation consistent with developments of a carceral state. The US imprisons more people than any other country in the world and disproportionately imprisons people of color. And until COVID struck, was detaining over 50,000 noncitizens, overwhelmingly immigrants of color.

And even this week, after everything, after everything this week was a proposal that [they’ve] run away from it now – the proposal of these right-wing Republicans, these Trump Republicans to create an American First Caucus in Congress, a group of members of Congress to get together dedicated – this was their language in their leaked copy of their memo – dedicated to ‘Anglo Saxon political traditions.’

One would have thought that language went out more than a hundred years ago in this country…but it keeps coming back. It keeps coming back.

So the history of immigration in this country cannot be talked about without the history of racism in this country. They just go together in every hour, at every time.

And so this trial has shown, as important as it is, it’s maybe the beginning of getting control of police and protecting black lives in this country.

There’s so much more work to do.

So much more.


More Posts

(Im)migration and Urban Politics

How do migrants shape the cities we live in? How do migrants’ presence and agency relate to pressing urban challenges, such as gentrification and lack of affordable housing? In this event, Ayşe Çağlar and Sophie Gonick reflect on these and other questions that bring the migrant experience to the center of how we understand urban

Read More »

Migration, Displacement and Citizenship in an Urban World

More than ever, the city is the locus of human mobility. The majority of the world’s migrants and forcibly displaced live in urban areas. Migration continues to be a fundamental process to the development and growth of cities.  The role of cities in shaping mobility and that of migrants in shaping cities have been increasingly

Read More »

In or Out? The Biden Administration’s Conflicting Messages on Immigration Policy

OCTOBER 6, 20214:00PM – 5:30PM EST During the presidential campaign, Joe Biden set out an ambitious immigration agenda, pledging to end many of the Trump Administration’s brutal policies. He would stop building the wall, restore refugee admissions, rebuild the asylum system, cancel rules that harmed low-income migrants, reduce detention of immigrants and rein in the

Read More »
Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: