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.

Weekly Reading List: Brock Turner is a Rapist Edition

Stuff on the internet that I’ve been reading instead of Edward Said’s Orientalism.

Social Justice

Arts – Dallas

  • Changing Gears At Dallas’ Office Of Cultural Affairs – After a yearlong search by a $50,000 paid search committee, City Manager AC Gonzalez decided to reject the search committee recommendations and instead appoint someone relatively unknown by the Dallas arts community to the Executive Director position of the Office of Cultural Affairs. I’m willing to not judge Executive Director Jennifer Scripps until we see evidence of whether or not she takes steps to support individual artists, cultural equity, government transparency, and creative ways of publicly leveraging private support (I am very curious if the references to private support means that the onus is on artists and organizations to raise their own funding (ugh), or if the city will find a way to publicly manage private arts patronage) – but if the search committee was pointless, I want that $50,000 of taxpayer money back (#grants, anyone?).  Also, stay tuned for the June 23 special meeting of the Arts Commission, in which the OCA will either try to explain or find a way to ameliorate why they are cutting $60,000 from each city cultural center’s upcoming budget. Dallas, y’all! Supporting culture, one budget cut at a time.
  • GABRIEL DAWE: IN RAINBOWS – An artist from Dallas makes it onto the national scene, and everybody loses their shit (just kidding, I’ve been a fan of Gabriel Dawe’s work for years).
  • Building a bridge, not a wall: Crow Collection announces major partnership with Mexico – The resident museum of Imperial-Era Chinese Art (#NotAllAsia guys, #NotAllAsia) has announced a partnership and traveling exhibition with museums in Mexico, and all this chinita poblana can think about is, does this mean we’ll finally get to have a panel on the ChinaMex origins of the chimichanga?

Arts – Los Angeles

  • Los Angeles Is Hiring a Sound Artist to Help Make its Streets Safer – Almost three years ago, I entered a large gymnasium wearing earplugs and holding a blue balloon. The sound vibrations from the building were so loud I could hear it from the parking lot, and I laid upon metal sculptures designed to transmit the sound vibrations. I’m thrilled to see that Alan Nakagawa, artist behind said piece and one of my favorite people, has been selected as the inaugural LADOT (Los Angeles Department of Transportation) Artist in Residence. I’ve been really interested in this residency program ever since it was announced, for the way that it models itself after programs in San Francisco and New York that create space for artists in civic departments (Mierle Laderman Ukeles is one of my big inspirations, so, you know). I would love to see additional cities and city departments (AHEM, AHEM) create positions for artists-in-residence to contribute to the poetic and experiential reading of the city. I can’t wait to see how Alan’s work in sound art and field recording contributes to a more walkable city.

Misc