What role does racism play in the American anti-immigration movement?

This GD thread – http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=310224 – on the Minutemen Project brought to mind a passage I read a few years ago in Blood, Class and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies, by Christopher Hitchens (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1990), discussing the “official English” movement of 1988:

That was then, this is now. There are a lot of American “immigration reductionists” who could not plausibly be accused of racism. Commentator Michael Lind of the “Radical Centrist” New America Foundation (http://www.newamerica.net/), for instance, opposes immigration because it drives down wages for American workers (and accuses the “white overclass” of favoring it for the exact same reason); but he also has often written of a racial melting pot in America as inevitable, desirable, and a process already well under way. And the Sierra Club – not traditionally a racist organization – is at present undergoing an internal fight between its old guard and the Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization (http://www.susps.org/), which opposes immigration on the grounds that it leads to population growth and an even greater human burden on the U.S. ecosystem. (SUSPS’ opponents accuse it of actually being a Trojan horse, an attempt by racists to take over the Sierra Club – see http://www.groundswellsierra.org/nation_votes.php.)

Nevertheless, a racist element still seems to be present in the movement – although prominent anti-immigrationists like Pat Buchanan are usually more circumspect than Tanton was, couching their arguments in terms of “language” and “culture” and avoiding any unambiguously racist statements. From the Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_reductionism#Criticism_of_immigration_reductionism:

What do you think? Is it possible to separate immigration reductionism based on racism from immigration reductionism based on non-racist concerns? And if you sympathize with the latter, would you hold your nose and work alongside the racists, on “strange bedfellows” principles?

Here is a very crucial point to consider: The same positions taken by non-racists, may also be taken by racists. There are racist Christians (if you accept the oxymoron) just as there are non-racist Christians. And this arguement can follow to the logical conclusion that not all who hold the positions of preventing undocumented immigrations from crossing the border and restricting immigration are racist. However, I do question the fact that many white supremacist/separatist groups have been both active and vocal supports of those positions. I think it comes down to logic inference.

The problem is that religious and political groups may hold any combination of those positions, and they can be ‘separated’ from the ‘mainstream’ religion or political group and labeled as extreme. The different positions can held by all spectrums of religious and political persuasion. They can either be designated as not the true version of the religion or as an extreme version of the religion. When the Dixiecrats splintered from the Democratic Party, they were defined by the segregation doctrine which seperated them ideologically from the party which they splintered off from because of party platform disputes.

There is no modern-day 'Dixiecrat Party". Unlike with segregation, being for or against immigration has not been embedded into the political parties: there is no Anti-immigration Party, for example. But there are anti-immigration groups: Stormfront, most notably, which discusses these issues on its message board. This is a question of defintion, a person’s intent, and the nature of the issue.

Lou Dobbs on CNN may explain and elaborate on his position, but what can we infer?

Here are the logical arguments that need to be refuted or supported:
If a person declares they are not a racist but hold all the positions of a racist organization, they are a racist.

If a person is against immigration and is not a racist but the anti-immigration position is a essential tenant of racist groups, they are a racist.

Sure. As long as the person does not distinguish between different nationalities / ethnicities, I see nothing racist in supporting immigration reduction.

While I don’t agree with them, I think nativists have often been smeared as racists because some people find it easier than considering their position. I used to believe Buchanan was a racist but when I looked into it I could find no evidence whatsoever (he is a bigot, though, as far as his homophobia goes). VDARE, on the other hand, has had some pretty racist articles and they seem to prefer Northern European immigrants so I would consider it a racist organization.

The interesting thing is that Buchanan, an Irish-American and a fervent conservative Catholic, now is in the position of defending similar policies as the anti-Irish, anti-Catholic “Know-Nothing” or American Party (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Know-Nothing_Party) of the 1850s. And on roughly the same grounds. The Know-Nothings wanted to preserve America’s character as an Anglo-Saxon Protestant country; Buchanan wants to preserve its character as an English-speaking Euro-Christian country. I’ve read some of Buchanan’s writings, in particular The Decline of the West, where he discusses the disproportionately high crime rates of African-Americans. In context, he brings this up as grounds to accuse the press of liberal bias for failing to devote proper attention to it; but I think color really does matter to him, he’s just too cagey to say so right out. When he attacks “multiculturalism,” it’s a thinly-veiled euphemism for race-mixing, IMO.

I think anti-immigration movements themselves are stupid, though not necessarily racist. However, as you pointed out there are overtones in some of them (and even more than overtones in a few) of racism. Its interesting to see groups with obvious racist reasons for not wanting immigration on the same side of the fence with other groups who have non-racist (though sometimes just as loongy) reasons. What role does racism play though? I think a fairly major one if truth be told…even in the ones who want to curtail immigration on environmental grounds. THEIR ‘racism’ is the worst in fact, at it includes ALL of those nasty homo sapients. :wink:

Personally I think all of these folks are short sighted…the US derives a hell of a lot more benifit out of allowing people from all over the world to immigrate here. It FAR outweighs the few minor problems. In fact, immigration is what made America what it is today. To halt it would be to halt what made America great…and probably take away a vital and necessary process in keeping us great. I’m sure other nations are infavor of the US banning or severly restricting immigration…many have been whinning (and rightfully so) about the ‘brain drain’ for years. I’m sure Europe is licking their chops every time they hear about the US throwing up new restrictions or any time one of these groups looks like it might get its way.

(disclaimer: I’m highly prejudiced on this, having immigrated to the US as a boy).


Yeah, I’ve thought of that too. A friend of mine believes that the nativists absorbed like-minded Catholic conservatives about 60 years ago. By that time, the last burst of anti-Catholicism (around 1906, IIRC) had long subsided (and even then it was already relegated to rural areas).

I dunno. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and I’m still not sure.

It’s hard for me to understand the strong feelings about culture, though, since I’m not a nationalist.

Buchanan’s book is titled The Death of the West and it’s more than listing crime statistics and liberal bashing. Buchanan puts out a grand thesis about nothing less than the downfall of civilization! He starts out by panicking about the rising populations in the ‘Third World’ and the declining populations in Western countries and that coupled with immigration, this spells gloom and doom. Just read the first few chapters of the book and you see what I mean. “Absent Divine intervention”, Buchanan writes, “and the future belongs to the Third World.”

One or twice he forgets to use code words and spells out ‘white’, the white race is declining. You bet he is worryed about color. It’s funny and sad that pictures of Indians, Iraqis, Mexicans, and others who are no different than the Irish immigrants that landed in Ellis Island would strike fear with this man. He fails to remember the trials of his Irish ancestors in America not so long ago.

The fact that the white race won’t be the majority race in the America is something that bothers him as if he is going to die or something! I mean when 2050 finally rolls around, he’ll probably be in his grave, so what does he care if most of Americans aren’t exactly white.

It’s funny you mentioned Linda Chavez, BrainGlutton. She is is fellow collumnist of Pat Buchanan and this is what she had to say. Take note of the last sentence, one that really puts light over the whole immigration debate.

From what country?

BTW, I could swear I started a GD thread about whether Buchanan is a racist or not in 2003 or 2004 – “Does Pat Buchanan get a bad rap?” (IIRC, the consensus was no – that is, he doesn’t get a bad rap, he really is a racist and an anti-semite.) But I can’t seem to find it via the search engine.

Sounds like she doesn’t agree with him about anything. In what publication are they “fellow columnists”? Or do you just mean that they’re both columnists, period?

This argument throws the term “racism” around so much that the word has virtually lost its meaning.

The issue is not “race,” i.e. skin color. It’s all about culture.

Up until the last third of the 20th century, the American ideal was assimilation. A person immigrated to the U.S., got a bad job, worked their way up, learned English and lost their accent, got a house in the suburbs and sent the kids off to college, who further lost all traces of their ethnic backgrounds. By the third or fourth generation, ethnicity was acknowledged only at street festivals where everyone got together to eat odd foods and listen to weird music.

Or as my father, the son of immigrants put it “If we had liked the old country that much, we would have stayed there.”

That’s why Republicans love Hispanics. They embrace the American dream, particularly when they bust out of the barrio and go to law school.

Sometime after World War II, a new generation of immigrants showed up. They didn’t much care to learn English (to be precise, they didn’t care about leaving their old langauge behind), didn’t give their children Anglo first names and seemed perfectly content to stay in their own ethnic negihborhoods.

This drives the Pat Buchanans of the world absolutely crazy. They grew up playing by a different set of rules, they succeeded under those rules, and they expect – demand – that the next group play by the same rules.

It’s easy enough for a genuine racist to latch onto those arguments, just as it was easy enough for both Communists and fascists in the 1930s to pretend they were true Americans. And I’m willing to grant that to a Nigerian cab driver working the night shift, it’s a distinction without a difference.

But if Colin Powell moves next door to Pat Buchanan, Buchanan will have him over to dinner. If Colin Powell moves next door to a racist, he’ll find a swastika burned into his lawn.

But that’s just the point, kunilou. To the Pat Buchanans of the world, it’s not about culture, it’s about color. They say it’s about culture, but they don’t really want Latino, Caribbean, African and Asian immigrants coming here in large numbers, even if they are ready and willing to go through the assimilation process you’re describing. Buchanan et al. can’t stand the thought that the blood of the white race might be overwhelmed or diluted. It’s much the same “rising tide of color” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lothrop_Stoddard) kind of thinking that led to the “National Origins Formula” of 1929, which was intended to, and did, restrict immigration from non-European countries.

Another problem, of course, is religion. Most pre-1965 immigration to the U.S. was from countries that were not only white but Christian (assuming we define the term broadly enough to include Catholicism :wink: ). Since the Immigration Act of 1965 abolished the 1929 quotas system, we’ve had vast numbers of immigrants of all religions – Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, African traditionalists. And I think that galls Buchanan even more than their color. They’re not gonna convert. Even if they “assimilate” in every other way, most of their grandchildren will probably have the same, non-Christian faith, if any.

:dubious: It is possible to be a Communist, or even a fascist, and still be a “true American,” you know. You can’t forfeit your national identity by having the wrong ideology. You can’t even forfeit it by an overt act of treason. Benedict Arnold was just as true an American as George Washington. Never forget that!

BrainGlutton this is just the kind of different interpretations of words that led to this entire thread.

Perhaps I should have put “true American” in quotes, because I definitely was talking about ideology, or culture, or values, or mindset or however else it can be described. The “true American” mindset is distinct from that of similar cultures (Canada immediately comes to mind), yet broad enough that even completely different ideologies – communism and fascism – can find some part of it to call their own.

I was a youngster in the pre-Civil Rights era South. When I see the word “racism” it has a precise meaning to me. If it were all about race, the Bosnian Christian and other eastern European immigrants would be more welcome than those from Africa or Asia. From what I’ve read, they’re all being painted with an equally broad brush. To me that suggests the argument is cultural, not racial.

Really? I get just the opposite impression – that many of the immigration reductionists are not equally hostile to all immigrants, but rather, want us to admit more white European Christians and less of all other kinds. (I once worked, very briefly, for a white Southern immigration lawyer who hated integration and seemed to think he had a mission to bring more whites to America. He never had a nonwhite client, so far as I could tell.)

There were ‘racist’ sentiments in the words of supporters of the 1965 Hart-Celler Immigration Bill. Whether those words were used to placate opponents - or were closely held beliefs is anyone’s guess.

Though the mid-60’s reform law virtually eliminated national origin quotas, it replaced them with hemispherical quotas.

If it really was about culture and not race then we should not have had the national quotas system. There was no reason to assume that people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America would not assimilate. Even before they were admitted - without evidence that they would not or could not assimilate - they were excluded by the quota system. They didn’t even get a chance to become part of the early American immigrant experience.

That is the story of the white European immigrant experience.

Most East Indians don’t need to learn English because they can speak English as a result of British colonial rule. If it really was just all about culture, why then was Germany given a better quota deal while India, with millions of English speakers, was given diddly squat? And, supposing the British were never in India, why wouldn’t Americans do as fine a job of teaching English to Indian immigrants in the United States?

One thing I’ve noticed: Those Little Dark People from Third World Countries often have something in common, which is the willingness to work longer hours, for less compensation and fewer benefits, all for the privilege of housing eight-at-a-time in a 1BR in the worst part of town.

It’s obvious they’re an economic boon to domestic proprieters, while a major threat to domestic laborers. And that’s without “outsourcing”.

I think sometimes racist issues are simly a proxy for class warfare; and often that warfare is intra-class. I remember when I was living in DC, there was a spate of firebombings in, I think, the U-Street/Cardozo area. Local blacks were targeting Korean business-owners and their properties, first through intimidation and epithets, then escalating to petty vandalism and theft, and finally molotov coctails. The Korean crime: Turning dirt-poverty into success. Korean’s would buy the absolute worst properties in the worst neighborhoods, pile absurd numbers of people into a single flat, work 120-hours a week, every week, and wind up out-competing their local black neighbors, who could little resist any threat to their limited markets. As soon as the Koreans (who were openly referred to as gooks by the locals) started building on their success, the result was lower prices on goods, and increasing property values as other Asians moved into the area attracted by business, increasing demand. Korean grocers could devastate their local competition, and to add insult to injury, would attract a wave of gook invasion as soon as they got their roots in.

The natives’ response was predictable: Hate. I don’t doubt that if the gooks had stayed poor, uneducated, and unsuccessful, nobody would have noticed them, or cared much about them. But with the economic threat, the sad irony of racial tensions between two lower-class minorities (with only one quickly shedding the lower-class status) manifested as quickly as the disparities appeared.

Whites are no different when it comes to losing on a level playing field.

Obviously, there is a faction that wants people to believe that opposition to immigration is automatically racist. People these days would rather be called a child molester than a racist.

Good white American liberals are convinced that all white people secretly harbor racist attitudes that can be sniffed out with sufficiently advanced psychological testing . They frequently assuage their resulting guilt by engaging in ritual self-humiliation through such practices as mocking hillbillies, loudly expressing a preference for salsa and tortillas over ketchup and white bread (this typically starts around the age of 22), and voting for Mexican nationalist politicians.

They like to use racist epithets in a duly ironic context. This means, “People who want less immigration use these words, but not me.” Immigration threads on the SDMB are rife with this sort of thing.

Pushing open borders gives a particularly satisfying rush of self-righteousness to liberals because not only does it demonstrate their evolved and superior views on culture, it also means that poor whites (the lazy and morally unfit) are increasingly going to take an economic beating.

Well, gee, isn’t it possible to be pro-immigration and not support radical separatists and other individuals who spent their youth on the political fringe? We are, for the bazillionth time, a nation of immigrants. A steady flow of immigrants from poorer nations is quite simply something we rely upon to have a healthy economy. If the US-born can’t compete in our already heavily-regulated labor market, you have to wonder why conservatives are able to pass themselves off as free-marketeers. They’re anything but. Sometimes they sound more like pinko protectionists who want their subsidies and tariffs. No taxation without lowered competition.

As for tightening borders and reducing illegal immigration: I agree with that. I’m not sure if the Minutemen are at all a good way to enforce such a policy. Maybe the hundreds-of-billions we’re spending on the bizarre scheme to keep our gas under two bucks a gallon by flattening Iraq could have been spent on increasing and improving border patrol, and hiring more INS agents. I would have been all for that. Many immigrants from all coutries work incredibly hard to get here legally, and play by the rules. I think it’s a shitty way to reward them have a sieve for a border, while blaming them for problems they didn’t create or contribute too. It’s even more shitty when that blame turns to hate.

Yeah, that’s the conservative way: Fuck things up royally, and then get all pissy when your pork winds up on the butcher block.

Of course it’s possible, Loopy. In fact, it’s the easiest thing in the world. A more complicated and challenging question, and the one posed by the OP, is whether it’s possible to be **anti-**immigration and not support radical separatists, etc.