your defense of immigrants is fucking colonialist

This past week, Donald Trump showed his ass. So did white liberals. You know, the ones swathing themselves in American flags and holding pictures of dead Syrian children. For a moment I thought the alt-right had gone so far right it was left again, because some of the white liberalism I witnessed at #NoWallNoBan actions this weekend was downright imperialist in the name of immigration. 

“Yo!” you protest, “Stop criticizing the people that are joining the movement! They should be rewarded with freshly baked cookies and golden safety pins for their allyship!”. To which I reply, without criticism, the only movement that these white liberals are joining is the United States’ movement to colonize the globe. People need to understand what they’re fighting, and it is unfortunately abundantly clear they will never reach this understanding without my salty first generation immigrant opinions ruining their day, nor the voice of other sisters who’ve been fighting their entire lives. 

In no particular order, here are some things I want to express to well meaning white liberals. And trust me, I’m a model minority, so this is the nicest and gentlest way anyone is ever going to explain this to you. 

  • It’s the United States, not America. There are many countries in North and South America, and they sure as fuck don’t want to be lumped in with a monstrous administration that is trying to legislate them out of existence. 
  • The United States’ “greatness” is a code word for expansionist imperialism. It is part of decades-old nationalist rhetoric that says because the U.S. is greater than other countries, they are justified in imposing their greatness on other countries through military violence. Seeing United States flags and hearing “USA! USA” chants is fucking violent to those of us who have seen nationalist jingoism be used to justify military intervention in our home countries. This is not at all a proud moment for the United States, so leave your patriotic pride at home. 
  • Immigrants don’t owe you any explanations for their existence. Please stop with the well meaning talk about how immigrants make this country great, as if we ONLY grant citizenship to great individuals. If citizenship were based on greatness and contribution, we would be revoking the papers of white people who didn’t do anything with their lives. 
  • If it takes a picture of a dead Syrian child to get you to care about immigrants, you might need to have a talk with yourself. If you are NOT a member of a community of color who has PTSD from seeing dead bodies killed by the state, then you should thank the stars for your sheltered existence, and then have a talk with yourself. And then stop circulating those images forever. 
  • Yeah your great grandpa was 1/8 Hungarian or something, but unless Trump signed a ban on travelers from your country OR your family is here due to the U.S. bombing your country, please kindly stop appropriating the experiences of people who are actually suffering. “We are all immigrants” is cute in theory, but it completely erases the role white supremacy plays in specifically targeting Latinx, South Asian, African, and Middle Eastern* immigrants. 
  • Learn some fucking Spanish. Or Arabic. What’s the point of expressing your well intentioned allyship if the people you are supposedly supporting can’t understand you?***
  • Immigrants are among most impacted in the United States by lack of access to healthcare, wage theft, poverty, gentrification, police violence, etc. So if you’re pro-immigrant, consider fighting for those issues that affect immigrants once they have to figure out how to live here.
  • Black people are Muslims/immigrants too. Sudan, one of the countries on Trump’s ban list, is a country of predominantly Black Muslims. The United States has been resettling refugees from Africa for decades. And slaves were brought to the United States against their will. And yet people will hold #RefugeesWelcome signs and in the same breath wonder why #BlackLivesMatter isn’t #AllLivesMatter. If your immigration stance is only based upon uplifting immigrants that are pale (i.e. light-skinned Muslims) or stereotypically docile (i.e. Southeast Asians), then you are not actually pro-immigrant; you’re pro-white. To oppose colonialism is to oppose the anti-blackness inherent in our global systems, and to say #BlackLivesMatter.

Now go drink some water to wash away that salt. Oh, and that poster by Shepard Fairey sucks. 

* 1/31/17 UPDATE: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated “Arabic” and omitted South Asians and Africans affected by the ban.

** 1/31/17 UPDATE: White people have complained that this post leaves them paralyzed and without action items, so I have culled only the directives from what I have written above  :

  • Leave your patriotic pride at home. 
  • Stop with the well meaning talk about how immigrants make this country great.
  • Have a talk with yourself.
  • Stop circulating those images [of dead Syrian children] forever. 
  • Stop appropriating the experiences of people who are actually suffering [via] “We are all immigrants”.
  • Learn some fucking Spanish. Or Arabic. ***
  • Consider fighting for those issues [healthcare, wage theft, poverty, gentrification, police violence, etc.] that affect immigrants once they have to figure out how to live here.
  • Say #BlackLivesMatter. 

***2/2/17 UPDATE: People are apparently tripping out over the fact that language justice is like, a thing, so here’s further explanation. https://www.waysidecenter.org/programs/language-justice/ 

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71 thoughts on “your defense of immigrants is fucking colonialist

  1. This is great! Thank you for writing this. A couple suggestions though: instead of “Arabic immigrants,” say Arab. Arabic is the language. Also, there are a lot of South Asians affected by this as well, so it’d be great to include them here. Solidarity!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. you are right about this – my bad! would love to have more information about how the ban is affecting south asians and how we can stand in solidarity, besides the obvious green card/visa/muslim connections.

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      1. Iranians are significantly impacted by the ban, and they speak Farsi, not Arabic.

        Also, don’t assume Muslim Americans don’t speak English – many affected by the ban have lived in America for years.

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  2. Also, saying “We are all immigrants” and things like singing “This Land Is my Land, this land is your land” perpetuates colonial violence against the Indigenous populations of Turtle Island!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the point is typically directed at anti-globalists who will argue that immigration to the US is inherently harmful. It’s stupid because 98% of the time they wouldn’t even be living in the US if it weren’t for their ancestors migrating here.

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  3. Thank you for this.

    The “We are all immigrants” narrative also erases the fact that large numbers of us are actually descendants of the many Africans stolen from their homes, brought here against their will, and forced into torturous labor.

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  4. When I hear people “defend” immigrants by saying “immigrants do the jobs Americans won’t do” it really bothers me. Makes me think, so you want immigrants here so you can keep exploiting them? By accepting that immigrants will do anything just to have a job allows for people to mistreat them and NOT work towards making their living more fair. I’m an immigrant, but my situation is a lot more privileged that that of many. I know many people (including members of my own family) that legitimately NEED those jobs “no one else would do”, they bust their asses trying to make a living and keep their families a float, they get taken advantage of by landlords paying DOUBLE the rent because they can’t sign a contract, health care… what health care? Coming to America, while Americans have such a perspective towards immigrants is dangerous, it allows to the continuous mistreatment of this group of people that are inherently seen as inferior by anyone who subscribes to the idea that “they’re here for the jobs no one wants” and because they will do it regardless we’re gonna do shit to improve those working and living conditions. The immigrants, those masses people are protesting to keep in here need our help to HUMANIZE them and not just use them to feed our own political agendas and/or just to feel “woke” because you’re holding up a sign.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. This seems like a misreading of the phrase. The intended meaning of “immigrants do the jobs Americans won’t do” could be as a defense against the misconception that immigrants take away jobs, which is an argument conservatives use to fire up anti-immigrant frenzy. Its ambiguously phrased, but don’t think liberals who say that want immigrants to be trapped exploitative jobs. If anything, the phrase is more meant to criticize Americans who refuse to get a job, but blame their joblessness on immigrants. That argument is problematic too, but is not the same things as WANTING immigrants to be exploited.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I would say that, and then yesterday, for some reason, I thought about it, and told myself “wait, that’s kind of fucked up”. Won’t be using it again.

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  5. Does this suggest that, while it’s not the case at the current political moment, proud moments for the US can exist? In your view, could these be moments for a patriotism that is positive rather than necessarily “violent” / “jingoistic”?

    Thinking of my family as immigrants has for me been a helpful way to understand my whiteness. Knowing that my family suffered from being Catholic, knowing that the Irish were mistreated, knowing that my German family was marginalized, all that helped me learn that Whiteness is a social construct that I’ve benefited from. For me it was a doorway to understanding. The argument that it “completely erases” doesn’t match my experience. I’ve found it to be a useful tool for building understanding and compassion and to underscore the injustices experienced by non-immigrant First Nations / enslaved Africans.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 1. I think we can be proud of the US when it stops bombing other nations, provides reparations to the black and native communities, etc… Does that mean never? I hope not.

      2. I think it’s important to have entry points for empathy and I completely understand “My grandfather was _____” as someone’s entry point. However, I think it’s important to not use those entry points to draw a false equivalence between experiences. It is true that Irish slaves existed, but it probably not true that their descendants today live in fear of ICE raids. The experiences of people who are suffering in the current moment need to be prioritized over white genealogical storytelling.

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  6. Somalia is also a country of predominantly black Muslims. And it would be cool to throw in that “we are all immigrants” also completely erases indigenous people.
    Thanks for saying the rest though, and for the headscarf poster link.

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  7. Yes, what Tess said above re: Somalia. And given that Somalia and Sudan are countries in Africa, I would add Africa to your “we are all immigrants” point…

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  8. I agree with a lot of what you’ve said here. I’m just curious if you could expand more on your thoughts about what bothers you about saying “immigrants are what makes this country great” or that “we are all immigrants” (with the exception of those with indigenous ancestry). I have some indigenous ancestry on my paternal side, but other than that my entire family is comprised of many backgrounds and immigrated to the US. This diversity is something I find unique about the US. I studied international and community development and sociology, so I traveled during college. Many of the people I met when I traveled could recount years of heritage and ancestry because their family had always lived there. This was mostly in Europe, Central America, and East Africa. In the US, most people I know have roots from many cultures. I find that there is something special about the amount of cultural diversity that makes the US what it is. As someone who works in social services, I know there are so many inequities that disproportionately affect certain racial groups, but to me that does not cancel out that I value how many cultures come together to comprise the US.

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    1. immigrants are some of the most amazing people i know. however, i don’t support making their rights conditional on how “great” they are. this is the model immigrant narrative that you are invoking when you say that immigrants make this country great – that an immigrant needs to be an Einstein before we afford them the same consideration as a white person of significantly less historic importance. i want the right to be just as mediocre as a fellow white person with citizenship.

      we are NOT all immigrants because the conditions of our migrations are NOT all the same. white people for the most part are descended from settler colonialists who genocided indigenous communities, and that is not the same as someone who migrated because those same settler colonialists bombed their country. that phrase also erases black slaves who were brought here against their will. when you say “we are all immigrants”, you’re trying to find commonality in experiences that are decidedly not the same when you start to examine power, inequality, and access. that statement instead becomes a way for white people to excuse their participation in indigenous genocide, black slavery, and foreign imperialism because “we are all the same”.

      words are ideological and construct the world we want to live in – which is why i am adamant that we be careful with their meanings.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Also, I think that diversity, on the whole, has made the US more accepting, tolerant, free-thinking, and innovative. I think when I say immigrants make America great, this is what I think about. So many different people with so many different life experiences coming together. In recent years, white nationalism has been more prevalent and ugly, but I know so many good people still exist.

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    1. white nationalism has always been prevalent and ugly – see emmett till and the civil rights movement. this is why black lives matter is a critical frame to understand white supremacy and current xenophobia.

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  10. I’m not convinced that this “storytelling” is necessarily an attempt to establish “equivalence”.

    Because such stories are a “way in” for understanding and compassion, I’d suggest they have political value in a big diverse republic like ours, especially in light of today’s public opinion polls regarding Trump’s orders.

    Certainly it’s important to guard against appropriation and vital to tell the stories
    of those suffering now. But I’d say there seems to be room to tell the stories of other times and other policy maneuverings, turning away Jews, stoking fears of anarchist Italians, and on and on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i see where you’re coming from, and maybe that could be clarifying in settings with other white people. however, i also need to be completely transparent and say that this is my visceral reaction whenever white genealogy story hour begins, and i would wager that i’m not the only one. (if i were less inclined to express myself with petty gifs at this hour, i would venture it has something to do with the fact that events like slavery, genocide, and racial suppression prevent black/PoC from being able to fully trace their genealogy). just something to consider or to ask your black/PoC friends when in dialogue with them.

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  11. From one first generation immigrant to another.

    • It’s the United States, not America. There are many countries in North and South America, and they sure as fuck don’t want to be lumped in with a monstrous administration that is trying to legislate them out of existence.

    Response:
    Yes, it’s also AMERICA. The United States it’s a great representation of the people of the rest of the Americas. Many of us are from North America, Central America, and South America and today we are all victims of the monstrous administration that is trying to legislate us AMERICANS out of existence. So yes, this is what the Americas look like.

    • The United States’ “greatness” is a code word for expansionist imperialism. It is part of decades-old nationalist rhetoric that says because the U.S. is greater than other countries, they are justified in imposing their greatness on other countries through military violence. Seeing United States flags and hearing “USA! USA” chants is fucking violent to those of us who have seen nationalist jingoism be used to justify military intervention in our home countries. This is not at all a proud moment for the United States, so leave your patriotic pride at home.

    Response:
    Agreed, leave your patriotism at home.

    • Immigrants don’t owe you any explanations for their existence. Please stop with the well meaning talk about how immigrants make this country great, as if we ONLY grant citizenship to great individuals. If citizenship were based on greatness and contribution, we would be revoking the papers of white people who didn’t do anything with their lives.

    Response:
    Do not leave well-meaning talk about how immigrants make this country great, because now more than ever immigrants are being attacked and defamed by the leaders of this country. And though we do not owe any explanation, we would still like to REMIND YOU, given the current context, of the great contributions and hard work that immigrants have given to the U.S which have made us an indispensable part of U.S economy, politics, and society.

    • If it takes a picture of a dead Syrian child to get you to care about immigrants, you might need to have a talk with yourself. If you are NOT a member of a community of color who has PTSD from seeing dead bodies killed by the state, then you should thank the stars for your sheltered existence, and then have a talk with yourself. And then stop circulating those images forever.

    Response:
    Agree, leave the disturbing pictures at home.

    • Yeah your great grandpa was 1/8 Hungarian or something, but unless Trump signed a ban on travelers from your country OR your family is here due to the U.S. bombing your country, please kindly stop appropriating the experiences of people who are actually suffering. “We are all immigrants” is cute in theory, but it completely erases the role white supremacy plays in specifically targeting Latinx, South Asian, African, and Middle Eastern* immigrants.

    Response:
    Point #1: No one is appropriating experiences in this context. “We are all immigrants” is a truth that needs to be repeated by everyone in this country except Native Americans. This phrase does not erase the role of white supremacy, but actually does the opposite because it forces White Americans to also recognize that this land is not theirs by nativity, and they are not any more entitled to anything in the United States than any other person.

    Point #2: There are PLENTY of immigrants in the US who did not come here because their country is being bombed (myself included) and who are not from the list of banned countries. Their immigrant experience is not less valid because of it. So please stop trying to box us all into your ideas of what constitutes an immigrant or suffering.

    • Learn some fucking Spanish. Or Arabic. What’s the point of expressing your well intentioned allyship if the people you are supposedly supporting can’t understand you?

    Response:
    Not all Latinxs know Spanish, as well as not everyone who is from Arabic speaking countries speak Spanish. It is pompous to require them to learn the language, as it is to require White Americans to learn the language in order to stand in solidarity. Knowing Spanish or Arabic doesn’t make you more sympathetic or understanding of the issues faced by these populations. Learning about the history, the role of the U.S in these countries, and the current socio-political situations in the countries of origins where immigrants are coming from, does. Make better use of your time.

    • Immigrants are among most impacted in the United States by lack of access to healthcare, wage theft, poverty, gentrification, police violence, etc. So if you’re pro-immigrant, consider fighting for those issues that affect immigrants once they have to figure out how to live here.

    Response:
    Agreed, invest in helping immigrants beyond the rally.

    • Black people are Muslims/immigrants too. Sudan, one of the countries on Trump’s ban list, is a country of predominantly Black Muslims. The United States has been resettling refugees from Africa for decades. And slaves were brought to the United States against their will. And yet people will hold #RefugeesWelcome signs and in the same breath wonder why #BlackLivesMatter isn’t #AllLivesMatter. If your immigration stance is only based upon uplifting immigrants that are pale (i.e. light-skinned Muslims) or stereotypically docile (i.e. Southeast Asians), then you are not actually pro-immigrant; you’re pro-white. To oppose colonialism is to oppose the anti-blackness inherent in our global systems, and to say #BlackLivesMatter.

    Response:
    There has been no such race specification that leaves out black people and promotes only “pale” immigrants. When people say #RefugeesWelcome, they are not saying only white refugees. When people are saying Ban the Wall, they are speaking of Mexicans (stereotypically imagined to be non-white). So these chants and signs are not meant to divide, but rather send the message that EVERYONE is welcomed into this country despite skin color and documentation status. And yes, #BlackLivesMatter

    Liked by 1 person

  12. FYI, it’s the United States of America, as Mexico is the Estados Unidos Mexicanos. And “U.S.” can be ambiguous. Other wise, nice post.

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  13. Someone pointing out the “great” things immigrants have done for the US is not saying refugees have to be special to be welcome. Just there are also LOADS of special immigrants who have done a lot for this country. One of the things that has made the US a global powerhouse is the H1B visas. (These are also under attack) The US recruits the best minds in the world with these visas. You can rightly say immigration to the US causes brain drain out of the developing world, you can rightly talk about the consolidation of wealth, but you, with your smartphone and laptop, benefit from their contribution. (And so do I. Disclaimer: my dad came to the US on an H1B in the 90s after the bubble burst, so I benefit directly as well) My dad, along with countless immigrants, helped build silicon valley. I think that’s pretty great.

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  14. Hello and thank you. I am trying to learn from your arguments. They are clear and direct. They have the effect of making me unsure what constitutes resistance to oppression and what actually re-deploys it regardless of any possible intention or desire to resist and subvert it.
    There is a picture linked below. It depicts a demonstrator in military uniform (presumably a current or former member of the united states of am military, possible army) at an airport during one of the recent demos you refer to in your post. The demonstrator is holding a sign reading “Sorry for destroying your home. You’re welcome here.” The image feels complicated, contradictory.
    Your post directs criticism towards several contradictions rooted in privilege, racism, and imperialism, such as white liberals voicing opposition to policies that hurt immigrants and refugees while also espousing politics that are framed in the terms of the very systems that cause the oppression they think they oppose. For that reason I wanted to share this picture and also wondered if you might have a comment. Thank you.

    https://scontent-lax3-2.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/16387211_260446864390091_515135299188500311_n.jpg?oh=e8086746e8de698ee0af7ecc8c84d95e&oe=59483948

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    1. hi, i think this image is as you said, “complicated and contradictory” because of the class/race politics regarding military enrollment, the issues facing vets with homelessness and ptsd, and the imperial project they engage in. it feels more real in its complication/contradiction, however, than “we are all immigrants”. what i think about when i see this image is chapter 2 of mimi thi nguyen’s book the gift of freedom, a book written from the perspective of a second generation vietnamese refugee (and honestly, where a lot of my criticism is inspired). she specifically talks about members of the military asking forgiveness and having their journey to absolution being the central focus of discourse, and writes that this centering pushes the people who suffered out of the discourse (i am oversimplifying her writing). is “sorry” ever an adequate response for destructive warfare? i think that is also part of the contradiction that is being triggered by this image – and maybe the protests in general. in our struggle to be good allies, are we centering our own guilt, or are we centering the people who are most affected?

      here’s the book link. it’s a good, clarifying read in these times, and something i always return to. https://www.amazon.com/Gift-Freedom-Refugee-Passages-Directions/dp/0822352397/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485943596&sr=8-1&keywords=the+gift+of+freedom+war+debt+and+other+refugee+passages

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      1. Thank you for your response. I feel that a ‘journey towards absolution’ on its own is ‘not enough’, and neither is saying sorry. Absolution is not reparation, and neither is an apology without commitment to action. So what is ‘enough’? After reading your piece and your comments, I sought further insight. Below is a quote I found from Alicia Garza. Some people accuse her of self-promotion and cooptation, and I have been unsure myself of some of her arguments and perspectives. But either way, she is down to organize and struggle and take leadership and identifies as a queer woman of color, so I want to pay attention and learn:

        “More than a moral question, it is a practical one. Can we build a movement of millions with the people who may not grasp our black, queer, feminist, intersectional, anticapitalist, anti-imperialist ideology but know that we deserve a better life and who are willing to fight for it and win? . . . Hundreds of thousands of people are trying to figure out what it means to join a movement. If we demonstrate that to be a part of a movement, you must believe that people cannot change, that transformation is not possible, that it’s more important to be right than to be connected and interdependent, we will not win.”

        I think committing oneself to struggles to destroy oppression and envision and help build a better world may be ‘enough’–because it’s not about the immorality of being ignorant and not already having great politics; it’s about the commitment to change over time. That change only comes through collective struggle; not some abstract idea of struggle, but real, regular action to organize power among the contradictory and conflicted communities of the oppressed and exploited.

        I wonder, of the people occupying airports recently, who will stick around for the long haul? Obviously, coming out for one direct action when it’s raw and easy won’t destroy oppression. I don’t think rejecting action until everyone at the action has the perfect slogans will be worth much in the end either. After reading all the comments on your blog, it’s become clear to me that even you have participated in marginalizing and ignoring some of the complexities of identity and language that surround global migration and war. But you listened and learned from the comments, and now you can be a more powerful ally in struggle.

        I wasn’t at an occupation, but what my friends tell me is fascinating, bracing, imperfect, and inspiring. And shot through with contradiction. Those contradictions seem, in many ways, to be the actual point of the actions. We are fleshing out the very problems that have kept us from building a stronger resistance, from having actual solidarity and becoming capable of actual changes in society. I hope we can flesh these contradictions out together, not deny or repress or ignore them, and not let them keep us from building a resistance actually capable of fighting for freedom and building a better world.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. i agree with your latest comment (but wordpress is being weird). one amazing thing about the black lives matter movement over the past few years is how it forced us as a nation to clarify, articulate, and educate a mass audience on the way blackness operates in the united states. i don’t think that type of clarity has been had at the mass level with immigration, and specifically with building intersectional bridges between refugees, immigrants, undocumented folx, indigenous folx, and black folx. there’s a lot of contradictions that need to be worked out when thinking about how to build an intersectional understanding that works for such different and specific experiences. discourse is how we grow and aside from the hate mail i am heartened by the ways in which people are engaging and challenging me, themselves, and each other on the topic.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. But aren’t the Americas, as a concept rooted, in white supremacy and eurocentrism too? Like the name literally comes from Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian explorer. This land has been called thousands of different names by thousands of different cultures and tribes. The European name stuck because European colonists engaged in violence and genocide in this land, wiping out the native peoples who found it first. Its importance to remember that our geographic and political labels are socially constructed too. It shows just how deep the rabbit hole goes that those who have been most oppressed by these systems of thought still rely on the terminology provided by the oppressive system.

    So now you’ve failed to adequately acknowledge the struggle of Black Muslims in Somalia, South East Asians (who have suffered greatly at the hands of America’s neocolonial foreign policy), and Indigenous peoples, both at home and abroad. I appreciate that you have corrected these oversights, but I don’t see anyone mistaking your ignorance for malevolence.

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  16. Of course white liberals are out of touch. However, why alienate them from this movement? The civil rights marches of the 60s, for example, would not have been nearly as successful had it not been for SNCC (largely white, privileged college kids who were probably similarly out of touch). Much of the US didn’t take an interest until they started seeing privileged white kids getting hosed in the marches. This isn’t “right” but it is reality. For the current movement to be successful we need to work together regardless of our vast differences. Please stop creating divisions.

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  17. I agree that we need to keep having these conversations in the left, and I really push back against anyone who tries to quell complexity as “in fighting.” Also, any white protester who isn’t showing up to #blacklivesmatter marches should not be taken seriously. Period. That said, I think many of the probkematic statements of liberal white protesters you’ve identified are aimed at trying to change the opinions of those in the right. For example, my crazy racist family member posted to FB a meme that literally says “only a crazy person would want to let in a welfare recipient that is trying to kill us.” In response to his false claims, I did inadvertently emphasize the model immigrant stereotype.
    Thoughts for doing better?

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    1. i understand that there are things you say to convince your white friends, that perhaps shouldn’t be said to me, because the process of transformation can be ugly and painful. i would just caution that “model immigrants” are often used to separate immigrants into “good immigrant” and “bad immigrant”, as well as to separate people of color into “good minorities” and “bad minorities”. who receives the fallout of this separation? you guessed it – black and latinx folks. that is unacceptable. i think if you’re going to go that route, you need to also just as vigorously defend black and latinx communities in these conversations.

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  18. Honestly, the most helpful languages for assisting those affected by the ban are Kurdish (specifically the Soranî dialect*) and Somali. There is really no shortage of Arabic speakers here, and bilingualism is common enough among the Iranian population in America (which tends to be of very high educational status in the first place) that the need for more Farsi** speakers is limited. However, I don’t know a single native-born American who speaks more than a couple of words of Kurdish or Somali (which is really saying something, because I have spent much of the past decade studying, living in, and traveling around the Middle East, and I now live in Nashville, home to something like 17,000 Kurds and a large Somali population).

    *Soranî is the Kurdish dialect spoken in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, while Kurmancî is the dialect spoken in southeast Turkey and northern Syria and Pałewanî is the dialect spoken in Kordestan and Kermānshāhān provinces in Iran.

    **Somewhat unrelatedly, there is a moderate need for more speakers of other Persian dialects, specifically Dari and Tajik. Many new arrivals from Afghanistan speak Dari and virtually all new arrivals from Tajikistan speak Tajik—and unlike the Farsi-speaking Iranians, they generally do not have a large, bilingual community to support them.

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  19. wow. this is very clear to me, everything you said never occurred to me. But i would still continue reading through the comments and see other point of view. thanks

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  20. I have to say… individual immigrants do not have to be great in order for immigrants, collectively, to make this country great. People from other countries bring their own countries’ cultural attitudes and assumptions with them, and it is good for our society to encounter different cultural attitudes and assumptions. It’s what makes our cities with large immigrant populations so culturally vibrant and adaptive compared to areas where everyone was born in the US to US citizens.

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  21. Starbucks promises to hire 10,000 immigrants across the world. Colonialism is normalized and apologized for in the rhetoric of “well-meaning white liberals” and then it structurally materializes when we appropriate our new neighbors. Turn these people away and we hurt them; so the rhetoric says. At the same time, the fallacy that acceptance of any kind is kind. But an unconditional outpouring of love for all refugees (from the people who USA works well for) nicely ignores the fact that acceptance and incorporation are not the only ends of the battle. “We’ll be your new mother,” says USA, *licks lips*. What if immigrants don’t want to serve us coffee all day then sleep in our AirBNBs at night?

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  22. > It’s the United States, not America. There are many countries in North and South America, and they sure as fuck don’t want to be lumped in with a monstrous administration that is trying to legislate them out of existence.”

    RESPONSE: It’s actually the “United States of America,” sometimes referred to in shorthand by the word “America.” It’s a nickname. It’s literally just part of the name.

    > The United States’ “greatness” is a code word for expansionist imperialism. It is part of decades-old nationalist rhetoric that says because the U.S. is greater than other countries, they are justified in imposing their greatness on other countries through military violence. Seeing United States flags and hearing “USA! USA” chants is fucking violent to those of us who have seen nationalist jingoism be used to justify military intervention in our home countries. This is not at all a proud moment for the United States, so leave your patriotic pride at home.
    Immigrants don’t owe you any explanations for their existence. Please stop with the well meaning talk about how immigrants make this country great, as if we ONLY grant citizenship to great individuals. If citizenship were based on greatness and contribution, we would be revoking the papers of white people who didn’t do anything with their lives.

    RESPONSE: Greatness is in the eye of the beholder. When some talk of its greatness, they may well think certain aspects of this country should be exported elsewhere. Certainly we have historical examples of that. On the other hand, when people talk of American greatness, they also often mean the greatness shown by the many people who have protested, resisted, and reshape this country –sometimes giving their lives. Think everyone from Crispus Attucks to Harriett Tubman to Frederick Douglass to W.E.B DuBois to Cesar Chavez to Rosa Parks to Martin Luther King Jr. to Malcolm X to Sonia Sotomayor and so on. These heroes were part of American greatness, and what they have achieved is extraordinary. They have in mind the generations of immigrants of different races and nationalities who have come here, suffered discrimination, overcome it, and often become leaders, created great businesses, rose through the ranks of the civil service, or held high office. This is a history to be proud of, and when people reference American greatness with respect to immigration, this is what they have in mind. And the greatness of these people and their movements and accomplishment stands against the darkside of American history, and makes it all the more incredible. And — honestly — the people shouting “USA” are not the ones protesting the immigration ban. Come on.

    > If it takes a picture of a dead Syrian child to get you to care about immigrants, you might need to have a talk with yourself. If you are NOT a member of a community of color who has PTSD from seeing dead bodies killed by the state, then you should thank the stars for your sheltered existence, and then have a talk with yourself. And then stop circulating those images forever.

    RESPONSE: This is a straw man. This picture has been referenced, sometimes in a hackneyed way. Sure. But almost no one who had really taken on this issue only came to care of it because of that picture. And c’mon. My wife, for example, is an immigrant. She moved here 10 years ago and still does not have citizen or even permanent residency. She was moved by this photo. It is not why she cares about these issues. But it sure brings home the gravity of what is happening

    > Yeah your great grandpa was 1/8 Hungarian or something, but unless Trump signed a ban on travelers from your country OR your family is here due to the U.S. bombing your country, please kindly stop appropriating the experiences of people who are actually suffering. “We are all immigrants” is cute in theory, but it completely erases the role white supremacy plays in specifically targeting Latinx, South Asian, African, and Middle Eastern* immigrants.

    RESPONSE: The history of immigration in this country is one of the most morally powerful arguments against the Executive Order. It’s not just cute. It is real. And referencing it does not erase white supremacy. Again, we are complex enough people to be able to understand that this country was literally built by immigrants, and celebrate that, while realizing immigrants were exploited along the way.

    > Learn some fucking Spanish. Or Arabic. What’s the point of expressing your well intentioned allyship if the people you are supposedly supporting can’t understand you?

    RESPONSE: Besides the fact that English is well-understood by many/most people in the places affected, this is a pointless point. We should all learn languages, but our proficiency in one, three, 10 has no bearing on people’s rights to care about an issue.

    > Immigrants are among most impacted in the United States by lack of access to healthcare, wage theft, poverty, gentrification, police violence, etc. So if you’re pro-immigrant, consider fighting for those issues that affect immigrants once they have to figure out how to live here.

    RESPONSE: Many people are fighting for those issues. We can care about more than one thing at a time.

    > Black people are Muslims/immigrants too. Sudan, one of the countries on Trump’s ban list, is a country of predominantly Black Muslims. The United States has been resettling refugees from Africa for decades. And slaves were brought to the United States against their will. And yet people will hold #RefugeesWelcome signs and in the same breath wonder why #BlackLivesMatter isn’t #AllLivesMatter. If your immigration stance is only based upon uplifting immigrants that are pale (i.e. light-skinned Muslims) or stereotypically docile (i.e. Southeast Asians), then you are not actually pro-immigrant; you’re pro-white. To oppose colonialism is to oppose the anti-blackness inherent in our global systems, and to say #BlackLivesMatter.

    RESPONSE: We might occupy different worlds, but I have yet to see a single All Lives Matter person marching in the street over immigration. Huh? This is an argument against people who, just, don’t exist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i have witnessed everything that i write about, specifically over the course of two days at los angeles international airport. and, in some cases, have photographic and video proof.

      maybe people aren’t like this in… portland? eh, i’m just kidding, if it happened in liberal multicultural los angeles, it probably happened everywhere.

      Like

  23. I never interpreted the idea of immigrants making this country great as the immigrant must be exceptional to be worthwhile, I thought it was the idea that having so many different perspectives and cultures coming together that makes us unique.

    A lot to think about in this post. Know better, do better.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. This is a tough read as someone who gets to pass as a straight white liberal. I often have to check myself and choose not to do several of these things on this list, because I think to myself, “will what I’m doing benefit anyone, other than making myself feel better?”
    And I am often left wondering if inaction is the safest route.
    The thing is, I’d like to think that people who are raising hell with #nowallnoban are also in agreement that #blacklivesmatter and are supportive of legislation that helps immigrants and minorities rise above the low income status. And yes, we could always have room to learn more about other cultures, including languages. And yes, we should be moved without having to share photos of refugee children.
    But, here’s where I disagree with the author. I think some of the actions of these white *privileged* allies (while we do need to stop and check ourselves, OFTEN) do have a place. We are the bridge to the moderate, the undecided, the relatives and friends from the small towns we grew up in, who are conservative, or christians, who see us protesting, see the photos of dead children. And they are the ones who take pause, and wonder if they are on the right side. We dumb down our fight so we can win over those who are just compassionate if they can picture themselves in the crosshairs of the government. We have to say imagine if that was your child, imagine if your grandparents weren’t allowed into the country, imagine if you weren’t allowed to study abroad. We can agree it’s bullshit that people can’t be compassionate for someone who is nothing like them, but I think there is a place for this kind of protest.

    Like

  25. This is about the fifth article I’ve read since the Women’s March that really bags on well meaning people. The Women’s March, for instance, was NOT just about white women, it was about ALL women (the vast majority of us have the same genitalia, therefore: women). Some people have mistaken that march to be an all-inclusive, blanket protest meant to cover EVERY issue under the sun. It wasn’t.

    OK, no, not all immigrants are great people, I’ve met some real assholes. But I’ve met MORE white US-born assholes than I have immigrant assholes. But don’t they deserve a chance? The pictures of dead babies is meant to shock the shit out of people that are still living in a bubble, but OK. I’ve taken note, I won’t post that picture anymore.

    I don’t know a single person that has fought for healthcare, poverty, homelessness, etc, that was only speaking about white people. When we attack those issues, we do it for EVERYBODY, not just our white selves.

    I’m getting angry that everything I try to do is being dismissed BECAUSE I’M WHITE. Last autumn I made a tweet in support of Black Lives Matter (because I understand the concept behind that movement) and was told “Shut up, white bitch, we don’t need you.” Guess how that made me feel? It made me feel like my support wasn’t necessary. Don’t need me? Fine.

    Your second update is NOT a list of actions that we can take to make it better. No person of color that has written an article or blog post in the past two weeks has provided any tangible actions that people can take to help BRING THIS MOTHER FUCKING COUNTRY TOGETHER. They have all just been about what we’re doing wrong. And we’re trying. Jesus on a cracker, WE ARE TRYING!

    The past two years between Black Lives Matter, police killing black people, healthcare and homelessness, treating our vets like shit, on top of everything we’ve been busting ass at the past two weeks just in regards to dealing with Trump and his cabinet nominees and executive actions HAS BEEN EXHAUSTING. I say again, WE ARE TRYING!!!

    I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and moved to the South a decade ago. All I’ve seen is groups of people of one color or another self-segregating and not working together.

    Nothing will ever get accomplished if one group tries but another group tells them they’re doing it wrong without attempting to TEACH what it is that we can do better. Learning a second language is not the answer. I actually speak pretty good conversational Spanish. Wanna know who I speak it to? Nobody. There’s nobody to talk to.

    Let me put it this way: you’re child is learning to tie their shoes, and they’re struggling. Are you just going to tell them they’re doing it wrong without SHOWING them how to do it right? WE’RE TRYING!

    And on top of all that, we have to defend ourselves against other white people who ask us why we’re even bothering.

    So then I read blog posts like this, and I’m fucking tired after working a ten hour day, calling my senators and representatives on my breaks at work, going home and taking care of my old, doddery mother and all her damn paperwork because I’m her power of attorney and it’s non stop paperwork for the fucking state of Texas, eating unhealthy because I don’t have time to fix myself a decent meal, and I’m doing whatever I can …and I’m told that I’m doing it wrong.

    So, fuck me, I guess. Right? My mother raised me to help people that are less fortunate than I am, but your blog post and the others I’ve read have said only one thing to me: I’m not helping and that I should go fuck myself.

    So there was my salt. We can bicker, or we can work together. But I’m not psychic. I’m flying blind, and I’m exhausted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i promise you, i am serious about all the action items i proposed (which seem less time intensive than calling your senator, to be quite honest). how will it help bring this motherfucking country together? because when white allies show the will to self reflect and change based on listening to the voices of people of color, alienated people of color might actually feel for once that you’re not out to hurt/exploit us and and can be worked with. pretty unifying, no?

      people are tripping out a little bit on the learn spanish/arabic part. i grew up/live in texas and i utilize spanish all the time. since texas is on former mexico land, i can’t imagine never running into someone who doesn’t speak spanish.

      the language critique is based on principles of language justice. you can learn more about it here: https://www.waysidecenter.org/programs/language-justice/

      thank you for trying.

      Like

  26. Good post, though I would warn you against essentialist arguments, discouraging ‘white people’ although justified means that those delusional patriots won’t ever learn :’). Also I don;t understand the context in which you are defining ‘liberal’ – do you mean left wing? neo-liberal? classical liberal? traditional liberal? or is it an American term which loosely means freedom? Though I like your passion and agree with some of your claims. Either way it is clear that you are smart and your written style leads to a good read. Maybe you’d consider looking at this post https://lukesladle.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/understanding-migration-definitions-debates-and-common-mistakes/ I myself am British, my post here attempts to educate people on academic debate of migration and its meanings to help prevent the ignorance in the media and in the general public. (Also I like the imperialist argument you make, Noam Chomsky would probably agree)

    Like

  27. so i get it….but i have a question. it’s okay to feel patriotic about being against the “monstrous administration that is trying to legislate them out of existence” yes? i mean, i feel patriotic about everyone being able to come here, regaurdless of color, religions etc and obviously don’t agree w/ the way Trump is trying to make us safer (at least that is what the thnks he is doing). honestly not trying to be a smartass I just feel like Carol Zou is pretty pissed off and I get it being pissed off, but I want to understand her and her postion better. does this make sense? I think patriotism is fine as long as it isnt misplaced, like i dont think we should be making it a dirty word. that turns into everyone taking sides and then we get where we are now.

    Like

    1. i think many people are defending the united states’ identity of democracy and inclusion when they try to reclaim patriotism, but for me the united states has never been an inclusive place. my entire life in the united states has been defined by culture, education, and people reminding me that i’m not from here, and because of that, i only identify as USA insofar as my taxes fund wars abroad and my lifestyle is built on the exploitation of global labor – which sets me apart from my family back home. as a chinese american this is particular sensitive for me because “communist china” is always invoked as a rhetorical opposite to the united states, usually to justify abusive military/economic policies, without very little education about what communism or china actually is. when i hear those USA chants, i am reminded of that “USA” is dependent on “not being China” (and i hear this from the best of liberals!) and the experiences of otherness that i’ve experienced in my life. can patriotism be reappropriated by the left? maybe. can it be reappropriated by me given my life experiences? i doubt it.

      Like

      1. Thank you this makes more sense to me now, I appreciate it. It is interesting how you use “reclaim” to talk about patriotism – that seems like it comes from the USA never having been inclusive from your perspective and experience. I can very much see where that would be the case. I feel like there are ways that I identify with this, and have similar experiences, just different context, even being a white female who was born here. I struggle with how do I translate that to others without offending them or just shutting them off – the white genealogy story hour thing for instance. I don’t want to make anyone feel that way, exasperated and dismissive- oh look another white person “identifies” with me, I just want to say “oh I think you mean that experience made you feel a certain way” and I want to show empathy for the shitty experience and awful feelings of the experience, and to try and learn from others. but I also get that the limited experiences and situations I have of being excluded, of being other, are not the same as literally an entire life time of being told you don’t belong here on every level. I also get that maybe how I try and relate doesn’t work for everyone. Thank you for sharing and fighting.

        Liked by 1 person

  28. Nice broad brush you paint white liberals with, almost as broad as the brush the Trump administration uses to paint immigrants with.
    Leave your patriotic pride at home. Have not had that for a long time
    Stop with the well meaning talk about how immigrants make this country great. this country has yet to be great
    Have a talk with yourself. AM just delusional enough to do this all the time
    Stop circulating those images [of dead Syrian children] forever. Never did, for all I know they were killed in our name
    Stop appropriating the experiences of people who are actually suffering [via] “We are all immigrants”. Unless we’re indigenous we all are and by the way most of us do no such thing because we understand that we have no fucking idea what it like to be an immigrant and have to deal with what immigrants to this country have had to deal with under the Bush, Obama, and now Trump administrations.
    Learn some fucking Spanish. Or Arabic. ***
    Entiendo un poco de español, gilipollas
    Consider fighting for those issues [healthcare, wage theft, poverty, gentrification, police violence, etc.] that affect immigrants once they have to figure out how to live here. Consider that many “white liberals” have been fighting those issues for years. Do you not want white liberals involved at all? They’re not allowed to offer any help? You know not all of us agree with the deification or canonization of Barack Obama. It is understood that the Democratic and Republican parties in no way represent “We the people” be they indigenous, the progeny of Eurocentric land grabbers, the descendants of slaves, or immigrants
    Say #BlackLivesMatter. Are you saying they don’t?
    This country has NEVER lived up to its noble ideals and when one gets out of school and slowly comes to see that the country ain’t all we were taught it was, it is a harsh realization.
    I am sorry that none of us meet your criteria for what you feel is helpful.
    On a personal level, I do not mind being made to feel uncomfortable in fact that is a good thing for all of us whiteys. Don’t mind constructive criticism. I’m not perfect, never have been and never will be, but to generalize without attention to specifics is not a solution, in fact it is about what we see the authoritarians doing.
    I dunno, perhaps old dinosaurs like myself really don’t belong

    Liked by 1 person

    1. if you don’t do any of these things, then this is not about you, carry on.

      though i will say how interesting it has been to read from white people that just because they don’t witness a phenomenon, they can’t imagine that i witness it.

      Like

  29. Im not a white person. I too am a model minority and deal with shit all the time. Its not fair, but we aren’t going to earn allies by using the same labels as a basis for criticism. My problem is less with your criticism than your approach. I too think people in the U.S. ought to learn a language other than English, and I recognize empire. But whatever, I guess I don’t have things figured out either. I just see white people reversing our same theory and it has exposed how there are ways it can go awry. If Trump and Bannon get what they want it wont matter either way. I like to think in terms of rule based ethics but sometimes you have to be utilitarian.

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  30. […] Your defense of immigration is fucking colonialist. And not noted in this piece, but in addition to citizenship not being based on greatness, I just want to note the obvious, that we are NOT all immigrants. A bunch of people were here before us, and we slaughtered them and took their land. A bunch of other people were forced to come over here as slaves and they are still fighting systemic racism and oppression. So no. […]

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  31. This reads as positionality-deaf, and disrespectful of the white people out there actually doing the work. Some of them are out there reuniting families. (While speaking Arabic, farsi, and Spanish.) If you were on the front lines no one would have to point this out to you. If you want license to lace in to white liberals, go and get your hands dirty first. I’d be willing to bet that once you see the people to your left and to your right, you’d realize how few people this blog post is actually addressed to. (BTW, with your Cornell arts degree, there are lots of charters who cut arts programs taking over south LA and Compton and you could volunteer at a few and make yourself useful.)

    Like

    1. i live and work in a refugee resettlement neighborhood. i describe my reality. now YOU go make yourself useful, stop stalking me on the internet, and volunteer somewhere. (perhaps baking cookies for the good white people you seem to hold so dear).

      Like

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