Let’s Talk Honestly About The Immigration Issue…
Generally, I am pro-open borders.
However, there is no denying the complexity of the immigration issue, even in our own community.
And I’m talking about the Black community.
While millions of Americans of all colors and stripes have taken to the streets to protest the Muslim Ban, an executive order that bars citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for a period of 90 days, there is another constituency among us who have chosen to sit this protest out.
I’ve seen a lot of the latter up and down my timeline yesterday.
Black people. Some whose lives have been complicated by White supremacy and yet still do not have a problem with the Trump ban. They are not Trump supporters. But they are not feeling the “Let Them In” chants at pro-immigration rallies as well.
The reasons are varied: There are those who come from a place of economic marginalization and whose personal beliefs on immigrants aligns with their poor White counterparts (i.e. “they are taking our jobs”)
Then there are the those who talk about being fatigued. After all, Black folks spent much of former President Barack Obama’s second term screaming to the raptures, “Black Lives Matter” only to be ignored or dismissed for caring about the very issues that folks are now marching about.
And then there is another group of folks who wonder about the collective we are protesting for, immigrants, especially when some of the very folks we are attempting to protect don’t really respect us?
In spite of the politically correct and inclusive moniker of “people of color,” the reality is that POC do not all have the same political interests in America.
As noted by the Southern Law Project in an 2015 article about the growing rift nationwide between Blacks and Hispanics specifically:
“Traditionally, black and brown activists have seen themselves in a natural alliance in a country historically dominated by whites — an alliance of mostly poorer, darker-skinned minorities whose struggles are not dissimilar. But like the civil-rights-era alliance between blacks and Jews, the black/brown coalition has grown more and more strained. Many blacks resent what is seen as Hispanics leapfrogging them up the socioeconomic ladder, and some complain of the skin-color prejudices that are particularly strong in some Hispanic countries, notably Mexico. Just this May, the Rev. Al Sharpton bitterly demanded that Vicente Fox apologize after the Mexican president made what some blacks interpreted as a racist comment. Similarly, many Hispanics say they are treated in racist ways by blacks, some of whom have apparently singled out undocumented immigrants for robbery and worse.
The conflict is growing, as mainly Hispanic immigrants, legal and illegal, pour into neighborhoods that were in many cases previously dominated by blacks.
Many blacks say Hispanics generally will not hire blacks in their businesses, even though many cater to black customers. Many Hispanics say they are being targeted for robbery by blacks who pick on undocumented workers, a group far less likely to report crimes to police. Both groups worry about the implications of blacks’ 2002 displacement as the largest minority in America for the first time in history.”
This growing yet rarely acknowledged divergence in interest manifested itself recently in Kamala Harris’ now historic California run for Senate. That race, which started out cordial between local Mexican and Black communities, eventually turned ugly when Democratic challenger Loretta Sanchez alleged in an interview that the only reason Harris had won the President Obama’s endorsement was because she was Black.
Yet the competing interests is not just an issue between Hispanics and Blacks.
Yes, that is the Honorable Louis Farrakhan supporting then-candidate Trump’s ban on Muslims in a 2016 interview with InfoWars.
On the surface, Farrakhan’s comments might be easy to dismiss. After all, this is Farrakhan we’re talking about here – and InfoWars for that matter. But if we are being honest, Farrakhan’s fears and suspicions about the foreign Middle Easterners are not unique in the Black community.
It’s what Ali Harb took note of last year in his article for Arab American News entitled: Arabs and African Americans: A complicated relationship between solidarity and bigotry.
In the piece, Harb focuses on the often tenuous, and mostly transactional relationship, between Arabs and Blacks in the Detroit area and how that impedes two populations, who should be natural allies, from uniting under a common interest.
And as Harb writes:
“Amer Zahr, a comedian and adjunct law professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, said Arab-black relations have improved over the past few years as more Arab Americans are identifying as people of color.
“It’s not where it needs to be, yet,” he said. “It needs to get a lot further, but I think that we’re moving in that direction.”
Zahr said there is terrible anti-Black racist trends among Arab Americans.
Arab Americans are counted as Caucasians on the U.S. Census.
Some of the anti-black bigotry in the Arab American community stems from that designation, Zahr said.
“One of the main characteristic of whiteness in this country has been anti-blackness,” he said. “So if you try to be white, you manifest that through racism.”
He added that Arab Americans mainly interact with African Americans in a business setting.
Local Arabs own hundreds of gas stations and liquor stores in Detroit. They serve a mostly black customer base.
When you own a business in a low income community that’s not very mobile, and people have to come to you, that creates a position of power structure that’s not very healthy for creating relationships that are good to social justice,” he said.
Zahr added that the uneven, transactional nature of the interactions has fueled bigotry on both sides.
The comedian urged businesses to contribute and invest in the neighborhoods that they profit from. He rhetorically asked about the number of gas station owners who are helping revamp neighborhood parks or sponsoring a local baseball team.
“If we did that, it shows that we respect the communities that we’re in,” he said.”
I should mention that I am not trying to cause division with this post. In all honesty (and if you haven’t already noticed), it’s already there. But when I look at how the issue is being presented in mainstream media, I’m not too certain it reflects the complexity of how people deal with this issue.
This is not only true of the racists and bigoted White America But it is also true of economically and politically maligned Blacks. And of the second and third generation Latin-x Americans who want tougher border enforcement. And the Syrian-Americans who in 2016 cast their ballots for Trump in hopes that he would lead the fight against ISIL/ISIS back in their home country (and yes, that was a thing).
Of course, the answer is intersectionalism. The idea that we fight from where our interests meet. But that fight has to be reciprocal and mutually beneficial.
And while folks like to quote Pastor Martin Niemöller’s poem dedicated to the cowardices of the German people, the truth is they been came for us. All of us.
Before Trump even announced his presidency, he had spent years making disparaging comments about Black folks. Most laughed. Most ignored him. Most continued to invite him to parties. And most took his money.
Before Trump issued his temporary ban with threats of more to come, former President Obama had already deported nearly three million undocumented immigrants – more than any other president in modern history. Most were silent. Most patted him on the back for doing a good job. And most, including those who are now in the streets protesting, gave him money.
Black people are being shot like dogs in the street because most Americans, including the newly immigrated ones, did not see the value in protecting Black lives.
And refugees and other green card immigrants from the Banned Seven are being turned and detained at the borders because most Americans failed to recognize how their lives mattered.
As people of color and second-class citizens in this society, our common enemy should be the White supremacist capitalists structure that kills Blacks folks and creates refugees in the first place. But the question remains, with so many conflicting interests, how do we all get on the same team?
Charing Ball is a writer, cultural critic and smarty-pants Black feminist from Philadelphia. To learn more, visit NineteenSeventy-Seven.com.