If you run your mouth on immigration, #ResistanceGenealogy has receipts
February 27, 2018 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Last month, White House official Dan Scavino said chain migration was “choking” America. “So Dan,” genealogist Jennifer Mendelsohn wrote on Twitter, “Let’s say Victor Scavino arrives from Canelli, Italy in 1904, then brother Hector in 1905, brother Gildo in 1912, sister Esther in 1913, & sister Clotilde and their father Giuseppe in 1916, and they live together in NY. Do you think that would count as chain migration?” Your selective memory on your family history will do you no good, because the genealogists are coming for you.
posted by DirtyOldTown (47 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
 
And the point of this is....what, exactly? That policy is inconsistent? That politicians are inconsistent? That chain migration has been around for decades?

Nobody cares what the policy was 100 years ago, nor who took advantage of it back then. What matters is what's going on today.
posted by tgrundke at 9:53 AM on February 27 [3 favorites]


The point is that what’s happening today is no different that what happened in the past.
posted by mpbx at 9:57 AM on February 27 [63 favorites]


Also, that "chain migration" is a racist myth that was promoted by literal Nazis.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:59 AM on February 27 [124 favorites]


And the point of this is....what, exactly? That policy is inconsistent? That politicians are inconsistent? That chain migration has been around for decades?

TFA makes pretty clear that the point is to disabuse right wing politicians of the selective memories and family mythologizing that allows them to pillory current immigrants as "bad" immigrants even as they make demonstrably false claims casting their own ancestors as "good immigrants." When Miller insists immigrants must speak English to come to the US, it's more than fair to remind him his ancestor only spoke Yiddish.

Here are more examples, along with why they are relevant to the specific rhetoric of the people to whose families they pertain:
The grandmother of the Iowa Republican congressman Steve King—who has said that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies”—arrived at Ellis Island as a child, in 1894. Mendelsohn discovered that the great-great-grandfather of the Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren—“Respect our laws and we welcome you. If not, bye”—had been indicted for forging citizenship papers, in 1917. A Swiss ancestor of Lahren’s colleague Tucker Carlson—“Why does America benefit from having tons of people from failing countries come here?”—came to America looking for work, in 1860.
Again, all in TFA.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:00 AM on February 27 [89 favorites]


In the early 20th century, Italian anarchists were the scary “other” in the way that Muslim terrorists are now. But stopping all Italians, like Scavino’s family, from entering the US would have been absurd.
posted by mpbx at 10:01 AM on February 27 [14 favorites]


And the point of this is....what, exactly?

The point is that white supremacists believe white supremacist myths about their own backgrounds. The point of this movement is teaching them that they are garbage and the things they believe about themselves are garbage.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:02 AM on February 27 [70 favorites]


The point is it's bullshit to say that since your grandma already got here just fine, we can go ahead and slam the door on immigration now.
posted by Comrade Doll at 10:05 AM on February 27 [15 favorites]


And the point of this is....what, exactly? That policy is inconsistent? That politicians are inconsistent? That chain migration has been around for decades?

The point - or rather, the two points - to the article are that

a) all of the people saying what they're saying about Chain Migration are themselves descended from people who benefitted from that same practice, so they are utter and total hypocrites who have forgotten their own ancestry; and

b) the proof of their hypocrisy was so easy to find that a woman working alone at her kitchen table while wearing bunny slippers was able to find it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:15 AM on February 27 [35 favorites]


Except they don’t care about hypocrisy and never have. They only want immigration for rich white people, that is their open, stated position and thier voting base agrees with them.

The only aNswer to remove them and thier donor base from power and influence.
posted by The Whelk at 10:19 AM on February 27 [11 favorites]


Trump is against chain migration because it brought his in-laws here.
posted by Miss Cellania at 10:21 AM on February 27 [4 favorites]


The only aNswer to remove them and thier donor base from power and influence.

You're right, but you've levelled up already; this is more for the rest of the class. :-)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:22 AM on February 27 [18 favorites]


They only want immigration for rich white people, that is their open, stated position and thier voting base agrees with them.

This is true for many of the ones being dragged on twitter, sure. However, there are a lot of less openly & avowedly racist white people who believe nonsense family myths about their sainted Nordic ancestors, who have believed the whitewashing handed down from generation (whitewashing in the "whited sepulchres" meaning, not just "erasing POC"), who are watching the ways that actual history belies those narratives, who are re-evaluating the stories grandma used to tell, and who might stop retelling them to subsequent generations once they realize they were always made up.

Responses to blatant racists are not just about educating blatant racists. They are also visible to people who "mean well" and still believe untruths.

This is how norms change. It is weird to see multiple people in this thread suggest that public shaming of white supremacists is somehow pointless.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:27 AM on February 27 [44 favorites]


They have found a way to say, "We only want immigration for rich white people," without having to sound like they're saying it. A lot of people who oppose chain migration don't go to bed telling themselves they believe immigration is for white people. The more rhetorical detours white supremacists can put between their message and their statements, the harder it is at many levels to fight what they say.
posted by little onion at 10:31 AM on February 27 [8 favorites]


My great-grandfather came from the middle of nowhere, Tromsfylke (Troms county), northern Norway, via Oslo (because you had to), through Ellis Island and onto middle of frickin' nowhere, Manitoba. Canada.

My great-grandmother followed a year later, from the western tip of a remote promontory flanked by sheer granite cliffs on three sides and the sea on the fourth, on Flakstadøya, Lofoten, Norway, also via Oslo. (How'd they move to a remote promontory accessible only by sea? Well, they moved there by sea, obviously. Then they walked when needed.)

Once in exotic Manitoba, they were promptly targeted as dirty potato-farming, forestry-job-stealing Norwegians and had to change the family name to one that sounds English in order to find work. That was successful.

My grandfather, their youngest son, took off to Oregon in his twenties and married a dirty potato-farming Irish girl born to poor Irish immigrants in northern North Dakota. Ja eh.

They never forgot how terribly they had been treated due to their background, and were very outspoken about equality.

On the other hand, on my maternal side, my great-grandmother came from a line of Plymouth colonists. Her parents refused to let her marry a dirt poor German farmboy from Iowa, so she showed them the finger and married him anyway.

The family have all remained proudly working class, with a wide variety of political views. (Though, yeah, I got the worst luck with 1970s revival evangelical Christian parents, sigh.) I was the first to get a college degree.
posted by fraula at 10:36 AM on February 27 [20 favorites]


The purpose is to perpetuate the myth of rugged individualism. Of course chain migration makes sense, it saves resources for the immigrants and the new country. It allows new arrivals to integrate more quickly and it reduces the risk of a new arrival needing state assistance. It's the sensible way to move your family. Of course the Republicans pretend it's bad and they never did it.

I swear, they have just turned into a group of contrary old men, being contrary for the sake of it. If they ever had policy positions behind this stuff they've lost it completely.
posted by fshgrl at 10:37 AM on February 27 [7 favorites]


While this is all true, y'all are forgetting that the right wing commentators' ancestors were what we now consider white, and what they're arguing for is trying to stop non-whites from entering the country, so there's no actual inconsistency, just garden variety racism.
posted by signal at 10:47 AM on February 27 [4 favorites]


As my family's resident amateur genealogist I support this effort. No single effort is going to be a panacea for white supremacist thinking and anti-immigrant sentiments but if you have a thousand different efforts each peeling off a few individuals here and there then that helps and is useful.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:48 AM on February 27 [8 favorites]


The fact that pretty much everyone on both sides is calling it "chain migration" now without thinking twice now means the right has won a victory on the subject that is far more substantial than whatever pointing out their hypocrisy is going to do. See also: referring to social services as "entitlements."
posted by griphus at 10:52 AM on February 27 [43 favorites]


The fact that pretty much everyone on both sides is calling it "chain migration" now without thinking twice now means the right has won a victory on the subject that is far more substantial than whatever pointing out their hypocrisy is going to do. See also: referring to social services as "entitlements."

I dunno... I mean yeah terminology can be important, but terms that start off loaded can become entirely neutral, or positive, pretty quickly. This worry feels a bit like worrying about people using words like "Obamacare" and "queer" in positive or neutral ways, rather than focusing on the issues at hand. Maybe saying "chain migration" is a problem, but I feel like you'd need some data to actually back that up before calling it a "substantial" victory.

Also, people are entitled to social services.
posted by howfar at 10:59 AM on February 27 [11 favorites]


When USCIS director Cissna announced they were removing "a nation of immigrants" from their official language, I joked he must think he's 100% Native American.

Turns out, he's only 1st gen on his mother's side, grew up speaking Spanish, and still speaks it at home. And his wife's family is from the Middle East.

These f*ckers.
posted by NorthernLite at 11:01 AM on February 27 [25 favorites]


While this is all true, y'all are forgetting that the right wing commentators' ancestors were what we now consider white, and what they're arguing for is trying to stop non-whites from entering the country, so there's no actual inconsistency, just garden variety racism.

And if it can be demonstrated that their stated positions don't hold water and all they want to do is keep out brown people, there's a non-zero number of people who actually believed their lies but will be disgusted by the truth. No matter how small that number may be, it's worth the effort.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:10 AM on February 27 [13 favorites]


family myths about their sainted Nordic ancestors

A little over a century ago a Finnish family emigrated to the midwest -- Minnesota, as I understand it -- but after a year or two found America so unwelcoming that they decided to return to Finland. On their return trip, the family passed through Ontario, where one of the daughters crossed paths with a lad from a family of Scottish immigrants. I am not really sure what happened next, save that they married and had three children, one of whom would later be my grandmother.

My own sainted Nordic ancestors tried that country and found it lacking. The history of emigration to the US is not all glorious blue-eyed people rejoicing in their fortune to be at Ellis Island and away from the miseries of the Old Country.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:23 AM on February 27 [7 favorites]


My own sainted Nordic ancestors tried that country and found it lacking. The history of emigration to the US is not all glorious blue-eyed people rejoicing in their fortune to be at Ellis Island and away from the miseries of the Old Country.

Yes. That is the point of both the article cited in this FPP, as well as my own comment that you quoted.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:39 AM on February 27


I am not really sure what happened next, save that they married and had three children


I'm pretty sure what happened next.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:40 AM on February 27 [11 favorites]


It is weird to see multiple people in this thread suggest that public shaming of white supremacists is somehow pointless

You can't shame the shameless and I don't think this will actually change anyone's mind. But that's OK - we don't need to change their minds, we just need to out-vote the fuckers. And this may infuriate people to the point that they are driven to the polls at the next election.
posted by she's not there at 11:48 AM on February 27 [2 favorites]


I dunno, The WhiteSkull - Scots and Finns aren't known for being particularly outgoing, so maybe even they never knew what happened next.
posted by scruss at 11:50 AM on February 27 [9 favorites]


I think it’s different when you’re talking to people with maybe unexamined views (I’ve had to knock down some pernicious Irish slave myths within my family) vs trying to shame politicians without shame or point out thier argument doesn’t make sense. They’re not in it to make sense, they’re in it to win and advance a white nationalist agenda
posted by The Whelk at 11:51 AM on February 27 [4 favorites]


So, scruss- you're thinking that the conversation with the families went something like this?

Young Scottish-Ontarian man: "Ahm no a grass."

Young Finnish woman: the Finnish equivalent of "Ahm no a grass."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:17 PM on February 27 [2 favorites]


In the early 20th century, Italian anarchists were the scary “other” in the way that Muslim terrorists are now.

I'd go even further than that. In at least one well-known instance from the 1890s, American anti-Italian sentiment went beyond abstract suspicions of anarchic political leanings to full-on public lynchings in retaliation for supposed Mafia crimes. Full assimilation took only a few generations after that, and only 100 or so years later we have proudly hyphenated Italian-Americans excoriating immigrants in basically the same terms.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:20 PM on February 27 [12 favorites]


I've gotten into genealogy stuff in the last year, and it is really interesting and eye-opening and thought-provoking, on a wide range of these very contemporary issues of immigration, refugees, xenophobia, reparations, identity construction both in individual family history/fictions, and national/regional/racial ones. And this is in terms of learning about the actual facts, but also in terms of reflecting on one's own beliefs/wishes/etc about this stuff that get churned up in the process. Tracking down a given person's (really, any one particular person/family, doesn't have to be your own) path and story is such a different window into the stuff that I knew the history of abstractly. It's really powerful stuff, and I'm glad to see it being used for good rather than evil.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:31 PM on February 27 [6 favorites]


Nobody cares what the policy was 100 years ago

People making it reaaaally clear that they don't really mind what was happening from about 100 years ago up to around May 8th 1945 is actually one of the problems these days.
posted by XMLicious at 2:37 PM on February 27 [7 favorites]


And the point of this is....what, exactly?

That this thing that conservatives are now objecting to not only benefited them in the past, but it is basically the entire fucking point of America.
posted by rokusan at 2:59 PM on February 27 [22 favorites]


My father's parents (Nordic, but not sainted, if my aunts' and uncles' testimonies are to be believed) emigrated from Norway as children. The family had a lot of kids. Not quite "chain immigration," but surely diluting the American stock. As the grandchildren of immigrants, fuck anyone who wants to deny others the same opportunities, and doubly fuck the hypocritical assholes who want the pull the ladder up behind them and their dubious ancestors' opportunities.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:30 PM on February 27 [2 favorites]


The Irish were drunkards who got into fistfights. The Italians were sneaky crooks who got into fights with knives. The Polacks were dumb, backward manual workers. And so on. Their kids got subsidized mortgages in the nicer parts of cities and the newer suburbs, some before WW2, some after; their grandkids got union jobs or went to college when it was cheap; many of that generation have assimilated to the point of being ladder-pulling Know-Nothings bullshitting about how their ancestors "did it the right way".

That's the point: if you make the argument in essentialist terms -- my ancestors Did It Right, these immigrants are Doing It Wrong -- then you deserve to be shown up in public by genealogists over what your ancestors actually did.
posted by holgate at 3:44 PM on February 27 [28 favorites]


The fact that pretty much everyone on both sides is calling it "chain migration" now without thinking twice now means the right has won a victory on the subject

Please, no. Social historians coined this term and have been using it for at least 5 decades. It was a straightforward word for a real pattern that existed and was commonly used in non-ideological settings until recently. It is the right that co-opted it, but they did not invent or own it. I've mentioned this here before.

Most of the migrants from Southern, Eastern, and even Central and Northern Europe during the 1800s whose descendants are "now considered white" were not considered "white" until at least the 1920s. So it does matter that whiteness is and always was a perceived advantage, and that efforts then and now were very clearly to keep out the nonwhite...however that is or was defined. Hint: skin color wasn't the determinant.
posted by Miko at 9:15 PM on February 27 [15 favorites]


I agree about the phrase “chain migration”, Miko, but not about the whiteness of southern and eastern European immigrants. They were legally classified as white throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This is pretty clear from things like naturalization and census records, which said whether people were white or not.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:42 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]


My favorite relevant tidbit is that Tucker Carlson's father married into the Swanson family of frozen foods fame and fortune. His stepmother's grandfather, the founder of the company, was named Carl A. Swanson. If you look back at the NYTimes archives, you'll find that he arrived in the US at the age of 17 with a sign around his neck reading "Carl Swanson, Swedish. Send me to Omaha. I speak no English." Omaha, of course, being a community of Swedish immigrants.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 11:27 PM on February 27 [5 favorites]


A++ for effort.
And I even agree that there is a lot of racism going on in this debate.

That said, I think the whole argument as it is presented here is pretty unconvincing:

Was chain migration legal back then? (I suspect yes, but I'm not sure.) If yes, then Granny came here legally. Times change and so do laws. There are lots of things that were legal then and are illegal now, and the other way around.
And even if chain migration was illegal at the time, the argument is still unconvincing: So Granny was "illegal". Does that mean I have to approve of other illegals and somehow give them shelter from the law? What if it turns out that Granny was a thief or even a murderer? Does that mean that I have to turn a blind eye to theft and murder as well?

What if policy maker X wanted to introduce a law that restricts guns, and it turns out that his ancestor not only owned a gun but actually shot someone with it. Would that make policy maker X a hypocrite the same way that the article argues the proponents of chain migration are hypocrites? Would it tarnish his credibility? What the f*ck do some ancestor's actions have to do with our beliefs and our credibility of today?

What exactly is the hypocrisy here?

To be very clear, this is not an argument against chain migration, which I am in favor of at least to a certain extent (to be debated). But the arguments presented here are quite weak and essentially just veiled ad hominems attacks. But then again, maybe that's the only way to score points in this kind of debate these days.
posted by sour cream at 2:59 AM on February 28


The point is not that the term "chain migration" was made up out of whole cloth. The point is that it was co opted and weaponized in a way that is going to be with us for decades. Efforts like this are not valuable because they point out hypocrisy*, but because they attempt to de-weaponize the term: "Yes, chain migration is a thing. It is how most non-refugee migration happens. It is how your ancestors got here. It is new, it is not evil, it is not something to be afraid of."

* Pointing out hypocrisy is almost never valuable, except perhaps to energize those already on your side. People are too good at rationalizing for it to be an effective tool in actually changing minds.
posted by Nothing at 3:25 AM on February 28 [2 favorites]


"In the early 20th century, Italian anarchists were the scary “other” in the way that Muslim terrorists are now."
"I'd go even further than that. In at least one well-known instance from the 1890s, American anti-Italian sentiment went beyond abstract suspicions of anarchic political leanings to full-on public lynchings in retaliation for supposed Mafia crimes."
Although contentious - not the least because it's been co-opted by the part of the Right that play-acts at scholarly deconstruction of a largely-imagined Left 'hypocrisy' - it's worth remembering that Fascism arose at the same time, at least partly as a reaction to European (& particularly Italian) anarchism. And that rise and flowering was watched with interest, not the least by many business and government leaders in the US, as a worthwhile experiment or even a possible model for the future of democracy.

In particular, Mussolini's success with what was basically his brand of enlightened despotism and central planning seemed to hold the answers to some of the issues facing democracy and capitalism. Now, granted, Fascism both changed & fell out of favour, and has since (in no small part due to a concerted propaganda campaign after Mussolini aligned his party with the Nazis) become a by-word for authoritarian menace. But it wasn't always so and, as I said, it's worth remembering its roots as a reaction to both the failings of democracy and capitalism, and to scary "othered" groups who threatened the status quo.

Now, does that sound familiar at all?
posted by Pinback at 5:18 AM on February 28 [1 favorite]


They were legally classified as white throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

I'm not sure what records you're referencing (I'm familiar with this article by a notoriously reactionary scholar, which has a lot of rhetorical problems and has received a lot of scholarly pushback) but I can point to FHA policies during FDR's presidency that made it clear that regardless of what Southern and Eastern Europeans were called on the census, they were redlined out of Anglo white neighborhoods, as just one example of whiteness privilege that excluded them. I have also spent a lot of time knee-deep in primary sources from the late nineteenth century and early 20th century that makes it quite clear that many powerful people in society referred to non-Anglo white people in ways that are distinctly "other," as in referring to the Irish or Italians as "races." There's no question that immigrants' ethnicities excluded them from status and privilege afforded Anglo "white" people. At the very least, it's complicated. But to the central point - were ethnicity, skin color and complexion, and presumed national character used to exclude and harass immigrants by othering them in a way that divided them from the mainstream, Anglo-American majority in power in the US from 1850-WWII? Unequivocally yes. There is also the issue of shifting definitions, as it advantaged the powerful to count people as "white" in some contexts (census determines representation, for example, as well as real estate valuation) and not in others. So though one can debate about how different measures and entities constructed whiteness at any given point, it's not debatable that racial/ethnic characterizations that defined people out of the mainstream - whether they were technically "white" or not in a given context, have long been central to questions of immigration polity. .

Was chain migration legal back then?

If by "back then" you mean "before 1924," it was not legal or illegal - it was just unregulated in any way: Ben Railton, No, Your Ancestors Didn't Come Here Legally.
posted by Miko at 5:21 AM on February 28 [4 favorites]


Was chain migration legal back then? (I suspect yes, but I'm not sure.) If yes, then Granny came here legally.
Family reunification is currently part of US immigration policy, so the debate about "chain migration" is exclusively a debate about legal immigration. Racists want to change the policy so that family members of citizens are no longer given preferential treatment for legal immigration.
I'm not sure what records you're referencing (I'm familiar with this article by a notoriously reactionary scholar, which has a lot of rhetorical problems and has received a lot of scholarly pushback) but I can point to FHA policies during FDR's presidency that made it clear that regardless of what Southern and Eastern Europeans were called on the census, they were redlined out of Anglo white neighborhoods, as just one example of whiteness privilege that excluded them.
I'm not saying that those people were never subject to prejudice, nor that they were never subject to racial prejudice. I'm saying that they were always white. They were always, for instance, allowed to become naturalized US citizens at a time when the law said that only white people could do that. There's a lot of confusion about this, because some not-great scholars wrote stuff without understanding what kind of category whiteness was for most of American history. It was a *legal* category, which gave people access to certain legal rights. And it was mostly pretty unambiguous, although there were court cases fought about the legal status of people perceived to be at the margins, like Armenians, people from Syria and Lebanon, and people from India. There were some instances of people contesting the whiteness of Italians, although I think they were pretty limited and unsuccessful. I don't know of any similar cases for people from Eastern or Central Europe. And that really matters, because US history would be very different had most 19th and early 20th century immigrants not been legally white.

So it's right to say that Southern and Eastern Europeans were subject to discrimination on the basis of race, but it's factually inaccurate to say they weren't white. And that's an important distinction, because of the privileges that were afforded people who were classified as white, regardless of whether they were subject to other forms of prejudice and discrimination.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:44 AM on February 28 [4 favorites]


Somewhere along the way my Czech/Polish relatives decided to post that quote from Teddy Roosevelt on Facebook:

“There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

My relatives who still, 3 generations later, only marry other Eastern Europeans, and who make it a point to go to Slovak Day at Kennywood every year. My relatives who didn’t seem to grasp exactly who it was Teddy was talking about with this quote. My relatives with a clear recollection of their grandparents only speaking Czech at home. My relatives who still remember their grandparents and parents telling them about how hard it was to find work as anything other than manual labor in steel mills. Who were so impoverished for so long that it took 3 generations to finally get someone through college.

I called them out and promptly unfriended them because i know they won’t change their minds and are actually more likely to just double down.
posted by mikesch at 7:45 AM on February 28 [3 favorites]


And that's an important distinction, because of the privileges that were afforded people who were classified as white, regardless of whether they were subject to other forms of prejudice and discrimination.

Yet at the same time, some of them were excluded from privileges that fell outside the legal category of "white/nonwhite" but were nevertheless explicitly written in ethnically and racially prejudiced policy that distinguished between some kinds of (ethnically 'pure') whites and other kinds of merely-legal 'whites'.

I don't really think I'm confused about this history, but I appreciate your pointing out the nuance. I would just amend your comment to say: "it's factually inaccurate to say they weren't white in specific legal contexts."
posted by Miko at 9:02 AM on February 28


I called them out and promptly unfriended them because i know they won’t change their minds and are actually more likely to just double down.

That's really sad, mikesch.
posted by sour cream at 9:48 AM on February 28 [1 favorite]


After further thought, A_and_C, I just wanted to say that I see the accuracy of your point and am more convinced by your argument of the importance of not making a shallow case that European immigrants pre-WWII weren't accorded the legal privileges of whiteness, no matter what other kinds of white -associated privilege they were denied. It does seem people went to court a lot to "prove" they were "white" after having been categorized non-white by some census taker or immigration record-keeper. Still, there was a binary in place from the 18th century and even though many non-Anglo Europeans were considered scientifically racially inferior, they tended to fall on the white side of the binary.
posted by Miko at 9:56 AM on February 28


Making logically-perfect accusations of hypocrisy against specific people, while entertaining, is pretty secondary here.

The pivotal point is that "Dey took arr jerbs!" and the associated constellation of lazy xenophobic racist propaganda themes in which all problems in society are the fault of those immigrants and those outsiders—and if we just strike back at them all problems will be solved—is completely ahistorical bullshit. It's all such complete bullshit that proponents can hardly say a few words in this vein without tripping over even their own personal histories and identities in the way highlighted in the OP.

We have to be completely relentless in denouncing this because it's basically an Elder God of populist evil: it's as ancient as the Athenian metic class, who despite not being slaves would never be full citizens of the state held as the Classical model of democracy and freedom, and it's undoubtedly far older. It's a fundamental motive behind a thousand years of European anti-Semitism and anti-Romanyism: the Jews and Romani were regarded as permanent immigrants, no matter how many centuries their ancestors had lived somewhere.

And yet somehow, from the children of the generation that actually defeated Hitler to millenials who grew up in the 21st century with more information at their fingertips than the most erudite scholars during most of human history and hence have no excuse whatsoever to not know better, great swathes of Americans have gleefully endorsed rounding people up by the millions, and mass population resettlement of, the undesirable elements of society somewhere outside the borders—exactly the contemporary public cover story for the Holocaust.

Notably on the political right—after years of denouncing as incipient tyranny executive orders from Obama which did things like reshuffle the order of prosecution priorities at the DOJ—that cheerful endorsement involved lauding Trump &co. trying to legitimize its bullshit by invoking FDR's wartime executive orders rounding up Japanese "aliens and non-aliens" (non-aliens being a euphemism for Japanese-American citizens, but they had trouble saying it out loud) and placing them in what FDR and successive presidents and other contemporaries openly referred to as "concentration camps".

Also notable is that the perennial refrain from the right says the government can't do anything correctly. So when they propose or blithely Pied Piper for a plan of mass population resettlement on a scale that has resulted in mass murder in every other instance—as well as at smaller scales in American history itself in the instances of the importation of the slave workforce and the resettlements of Native Americans—they aren't actually worried at all that history might repeat itself again.

It's only because of monumental incompetence on the part of the Trump administration and direct action and resistance on the part of countless other Americans that his promise to remove all "illegals" from the country has thus far been a flash in the pan and only manifested in the form of threats, increased precarity in the lives of immigrants, and increased normal deportation rates.

So we have to strike back at every opportunity, without mercy, against the rewriting of history encapsulated in the appropriation of "chain migration" for xenophobic, racist, and nationalist propaganda and related fictions and policies based on them. Even if the country as a whole makes it through the Trump administration in mostly one piece, next time it may not be the Fisher-Price Toy Circus version of authoritarian nationalists we find ourselves facing, and preceding generations clearly were not successful in erecting any sort of societal immune system against this stuff.
posted by XMLicious at 12:02 PM on February 28 [4 favorites]


« Older "it seems less clear that the trade-off was worth...   |   Mulletfest 2018 Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments