our immigration struggle must center blackness

a few days ago i wrote a piece that elicited so many white tears, they could be used to provide the city of flint, michigan, with water. i have also appreciated the ways that people have engaged with and questioned the piece, so that sentence will be the only joke i make about white people in this post.

in reflecting on why some white people and nonblack people of color don’t think some of the behaviors i outlined are destructive, i truly believe it is because our traditional immigration narrative has been rooted in anti-blackness.

i am equipped to speak to the traditional immigration narrative because i am the most model of model minorities. my father received a scholarship to come study in the united states after completing his degree from the Harvard of China. my parents received WIC aid and worked themselves up from factory jobs to homeownership and sending their two children to top tier, ivy league universities. everyone in my nuclear family has citizenship and advanced degrees.

this doesn’t mean that we haven’t felt racism and discrimination along the way, or that we don’t know what to it’s like to survive through poverty. however, i think it does mean that we have rested on those experiences of suffering to not engage with solidarity efforts with black people in the united states, who also suffer racism, discrimination, poverty, and additional violences like police brutality and trauma from slavery.

this is ironic because black people have been at the forefront of fighting for our rights as immigrants in the united states. the civil rights movement fought for voting rights for immigrants, and martin luther king jr and malcolm x were vocal critics of the united states’ imperial war in vietnam. black people have done more in the united states for immigrants than white people, and we need to revise our immigrant narratives to acknowledge the role of blackness.

anti-blackness in the immigrant narrative starts happening when distinctions are created between “good immigrants” and “bad immigrants”, or “good minorities” and “bad minorities”. this is why i am vehemently opposed to narratives about”great” immigrants, because they are used to indict black people and people of color, especially undocumented people, who don’t fit into this mold. black people are criminalized in the united states according to stereotypes like “lazy” and “thuggish”, whereas immigrants are praised for being “hard working” and “upstanding”. donald trump is already perpetuating this good minority/bad minority divide with his order to publish a list of immigrants who commit crimes (funny how white people are suddenly silent about how  “we are all immigrants” on that front). focusing on “great” immigrants is just a white liberal way of doing exactly what donald trump is doing.

the good minority/bad minority distinction is perpetuated by paternalistic descriptions of peaceful, docile immigrants (asians!) in stark contrast to angry, divisive black folks. however, paternalism has always been a key justification for colonial wars. the submissive asian woman stereotype continues to sanction violence to this day, when asian women are killed by their white boyfriends because of a paternalistic narrative of submission. this violent history is at the root of attempts to persuade white people to let in “the peaceful and kind immigrant,” which is why i don’t fuck with appeals to how comfortable my existence is for white people.

lastly, it is important to understand that anti-blackness and colorism plays a role in the erasure of certain immigrant communities. i have often been told that asian americans are too wealthy to concern themselves with the struggle. this may be true of some east asians, but it not true of darker southeast asians, many of whom are refugees, and who live in some of the highest poverty in the united states. anti-blackness and colorism within white communities and our own communities erase immigrants who are systemically disenfranchised because of anti-black discrimination across the globe.

in having conversations over the past few days, i’ve come to realize that the mass narrative of immigration is not accustomed to being challenged at this profound level (though these arguments are nothing new amongst immigration organizers). we’re in a moment of transformation where i think we should question and challenge many of the prevailing ideologies that got us to this moment—including our ideologies about immigrants. i point out these fallacies in the immigration narrative not to be divisive but precisely because we can never come together under an ideology that commits violence against some of the most vulnerable in our society. it is this violence against black communities and people of color latent in white liberalism that divides, not the voices of people of color who point it out.

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Weekly Reading List: Adrian Piper is a Visionary Bo$$ Edition

Stuff I’ve been reading on the internet instead of Jeff Chang’s Who We Be.

Orlando

It’s ok for your heart to break and it’s ok to feel nothing. It’s ok to read all of the articles and none of the articles. I’ve been in mourning. These are just a few articles amid the rubble.

National

Regional

Arts – Dallas

  • The Lost History of Dallas’ Negro Parks – “Joy and suffering exist in tandem in the telling of the story of the Negro parks. Celebration and violence go hand in hand. Whatever peace the parks maintained, they existed in a world that was surrounded by hatred.”

Arts – Other

  • VISUAL CULTURES OF INDIGENOUS FUTURISMS
  • Cannibalizing the Culture of Colonizers and Other Artistic Strategies
  • Art For the Art-World Surface Pattern
    1. We can ignore political problems, but we cannot avoid them.
    2. We avoid political problems by: refusing to read the papers; OR reading the papers BUT refusing to understand what we read about; OR acknowledging or complicity in the problems we read about BUT refusing to admit we could solve them through a personal commitment to change; OR admitting we could solve them through a personal to change BUT refusing to admit that we should make that commitment; OR making that commitment BUT avoiding acting on it.
    3. We avoid acting on a commitment to political change by: refusing to acknowledge the interdependence of the personal and political; OR acknowledging the interdependence of the personal and political BUT refusing to acknowledge the political impotence of our personal lives qua personal; OR acknowledging the political impotence of our personal lives qua personal BUT refusing to recognize its dependence on a system of political oppression of others that makes our personal lives possible: Recognizing this but trying desperately to rationalize our lives by invoking other values like personal freedom, aesthetic pleasures, the right to privacy, etc., etc.- As if such values could have any meaning in the absence of true political freedom.
    4. Art for the Art- World Surface Pattern surrounds you with the political problems you ignore and the rationalizations by which you attempt to avoid them.
    -from the “Paris Biennale 1977” catalog (Paris, France Mus’ee d’Art Moderne, 1977
    Adrian Piper