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American While BlackAfrican Americans, Immigration, and the Limits of Citizenship$

Niambi Michele Carter

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190053550

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190053550.001.0001

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Citizens First?

Citizens First?

African Americans as Conflicted Nativists

(p.37) 2 Citizens First?
American While Black

Niambi Michele Carter

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explicates the author’s theory of conflicted nativism. This theory argues that blacks use their identity as Americans to claim privilege in American society. Yet, this identity is only superficially related to nativist attitudes and is not accompanied by restrictionist impulses. Using immigration as a lens, blacks have been able to identify the perniciousness of white supremacy that treated them as strangers in their own land. Rather than being threatened by immigrants per se, blacks understand white racism as the real threat to their upward mobility and therefore do not organize around immigration restriction. Furthermore, they are resistant to other race-coded messages.

Keywords:   conflicted nativism, immigration, blacks, national identity, nativism, national attachment, citizenship, immigration policy, American

BLACKS HAVE SOUGHT to redefine the United States through their experience by asserting themselves as creators of American life and experience. They have insinuated themselves into the American story by defying systemic practices that sought to delegitimize their citizenship. Claiming national belonging that, at best, was tentative, black people gave expression to a sensibility that this county, with its mythology of openness, does not value blacks as Americans. Using immigration as a lens, blacks were able to identify the perniciousness of white supremacy that treated them as strangers in their own land. This difference of condition was nowhere more evident than in comparison to recent immigrants.

Immigration has occupied a part of black discursive space since the nineteenth century (Collins 1997; Diamond 1998; Ferreira 1999; Hellwig 1977, 1978, 1981, 1987; Malloy 1996; Rubin 1978; Scott 1999; Shankman 1978, 1980). Immigration had not been a national phenomenon until about 1990 when it moved past traditional receiving contexts, which largely included major cities of the North, West and Midwest. However, post-1990, immigration has spread to smaller cities of the rural Midwest and South. These “new immigrant gateways” represent a geographic dispersion of immigration that has not been seen before (Durand, Massey, and Charvet 2000; Suro and Singer 2001; Singer 2008). Nonetheless, blacks have been talking about immigration since the 1830s (Ferreira 1999; Shankman 1980). Writers as diverse as Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, A. Philip Randolph, and a vigorous black press all addressed the issue of immigration at some time or another (Ferreira 1999; Hellwig 1978, 1981; Malloy 1996; Shankman 1980). In many ways, blacks have seen their futures as Americans (p.38) enmeshed with U.S. immigration policy (Diamond 1998; Ferreira 1999; Hellwig 1978; Shankman 1980). One of the major developments of the civil rights movement was the Immigration and Naturalization Act, which along with the Voting Rights Act (1965) and Civil Rights Acts (1964), formed a triumvirate of legislation that made America more open for native-born blacks and non-European immigrants. The Immigration and Naturalization Act was not a victory separate from the civil rights movement but was part and parcel of the movement for black inclusion. Therefore, when immigrants from Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, and Latin America arrived in the United States post-1965, it was a direct result of black struggle for inclusion. This was unlike immigrants of the early twentieth century who were favored by whites as saboteurs of black progress (Diamond 1998; Hellwig 1981). This was not the fault of the immigrants but the result of national policy and a labor market that preferred to hire Europeans over native-born blacks (Diamond 1998; Tolnay, Adelman, and Crowder 2002).

Despite the clear harms that early waves of European immigration brought to the black community, the accompanying xenophobia around these new arrivals often served as a barometer of the nation’s stance on race issues. At times when the nation became more exclusionary with respect to immigrants, it is not coincidental that it also became more closed to black civil rights, because the racist logic that buttressed restrictionist immigration policy also supported black exclusion. This is because of a longstanding (but wrong) assumption that immigration, particularly from non-Protestant and non-European countries, meant whites were going to lose their cultural currency in the country (Avila 2004; Higham 1970; Leitner 2012).

Consequently, black outlets often critiqued the nation’s immigration policies because they targeted certain groups in much that same way blacks were singled out by Jim Crow policies (Hellwig 1977, 1987; Scott 1999). For example, when the United States became more restrictionist with respect to Japanese immigrants, blacks viewed this as an attempt on the part of U.S. authorities to maintain white hegemony by alienating itself from its alleged core principles of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” For black critics of anti-Japanese policy, this was about more than Japanese people. This moment of prohibition demonstrated how quickly their group, barely Americans themselves, could be disinherited from U.S. citizenship. As members of the black press noted, “[C]arried to their logical conclusion, anti-Japanese policies would reinforce the idea of America as exclusively a white man’s country” (Hellwig 1977: 96). What is more, many of these immigration policies used race-neutral language, (p.39) but because nationality was linked with race, the effects were felt disproportionately by those considered non-white by whatever metric was being used at the time (Jacobson 2001; Ngai 2004; Tichenor 2002). Therefore, blacks had to make certain their advocacy of pro-restriction policies were not being made on the same racist grounds as the white majority (Hellwig 1977). Still, black criticism of racist immigration policy was not necessarily an endorsement of the foreign born. Some black writers were highly unfavorable toward Asian culture and suspicious of this “strange people” (Junn 2006; Shankman 1978). However, they did not appreciate the selective application of U.S. immigration control; if there was going to be immigration restriction, it seemed to many blacks that the policy needed to apply equally to all newcomers, not only those outside of Europe. Although these black writers did not necessarily like foreigners, they abhorred the hypocrisy of American racism more, and the white supremacy that supported these policies was viewed as the real enemy of black incorporation.2

This is not to suggest that black views on immigration were monolithic. In the main, however, because of their experience with racial discrimination by native-born whites and immigrants, black opinion on immigration vacillated between restriction and empathy (Hellwig 1978; Scott 1999). Although blacks viewed their status as native-born “Americans” gave them a primary claim to privilege over all immigrant groups, they were often strongly opposed to the inherent racism of immigration regulations (Burns and Gimpel 2000; Diamond 1998; Hellwig 1977, 1982). Because blacks were not politically strong enough to pursue an immigration agenda of their own, they used the immigration issue for their own ends, which meant that immigration became a way for blacks to critique their partial incorporation into the American public sphere. For instance, Booker T. Washington’s infamous Atlanta Exposition Address (1895) was made at a time when immigrants made sporadic appearances in the South, but in a context where Washington realized Southern whites were looking at immigrants as instruments to undermine black progress. Washington used his speech to appeal to whites’ sense of national brotherhood rather than white supremacy (Bonacich 1973; Loewen 1988; Rhee 1994). In this speech, Washington attempts to get blacks and whites to understand their mutual interests. In particular, he says to:

“those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, (p.40) were I permitted I would repeat what I say to my own race, ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’ Cast it down among the eight million of Negroes whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your firesides. Cast down your bucket among these people who have, without strikes and labor wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded [sic] your railroads and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the South.”

While making the case for black and white mutual aid, Washington is trying to highlight the efforts blacks have made on behalf of whites, from nursing their children, caring for them in sickness, and fighting in their wars, which in his estimation warrants whites’ loyalty to blacks rather than foreigners. More than loyalty, however, Washington is making the case that blacks have earned their status as true members of the American citizenry and, for this reason, whites should demonstrate to blacks the same loyalty and eschew foreign labor.

For example, after Reconstruction, Chinese laborers were brought to the Mississippi Delta region in an effort to prevent black mobilization for increased political and economic rights. This project was largely a failure because Chinese persons quickly worked their way out of low-skill, low-wage employment and became entrepreneurs. Working primarily in small groceries, these Chinese businesses largely served a black clientele. Thus, they did not become the replacements for black laborers in the way white elites hoped. Although the efforts to lure immigrants to the South largely failed, as witnessed by Mississippi, it was nonetheless clear that whites did not view blacks as allies in the many ways Washington presented and would seek whatever opportunity presented to keep black people in a state of semi-servitude. This included, but was not limited to, using immigrants to stymie black mobility (Posadas 1982; Steinberg 2005).

Although there has been some writing on black public opinion with respect to immigration, there has been little theorizing on the substance of their national attachments and how this is reflected in their attitudes toward immigrants (Carter 2007; Carter and Pérez 2015; Diamond 1998; Greer 2013; Masuoka and Junn 2013; Rubin 1978; Thornton and Mizuno 1999). This text focuses on nativism, an expression of national identity characterized by a chauvinistic posture that exhibits as favoritism toward (p.41) co-nationals and xenophobia toward outsiders. This has not generally been explored with respect to blacks (Carter and Pérez 2015). Because of this, we do not have a complete representation of how blacks understand themselves with respect to the nation state and how this manifests itself in their attitudes toward immigration.

Although blacks have been presumed to have negative attitudes with respect to immigrants, particularly in light of small, local skirmishes from Pennsylvania to California, it is necessary to know whether blacks see themselves as “prototypical” Americans with a culture to protect (Esses, Dovidio, Jackson, and Armstrong 2001; Vaca 2004; Waldinger 1996)2 and to what extent this American identity operates to exclude “others.”

In this country, one of the defining features of nativist rhetoric has been the idea that immigrants change the collective identity of a nation if they are allowed to enter unchecked. However, these movements have been underwritten by whites. The Know-Nothing movement was a white organization designed to protect the interests of white citizens.1 Similarly, the Minuteman Project is largely fronted by whites who fear (Mexican) immigrants, particularly the undocumented, because they allegedly represent a threat to national security.2 In the years since Donald Trump has taken office, this preoccupation with protecting American borders and culture has taken on a new relevance. Not only has Donald Trump proposed to send 15,000 armed American troops to the Mexican border to fend off asylum seekers, he disseminated a racist advertisement via his Twitter page that blamed Democrats for making America unsafe because they are “soft” on undocumented immigrants. The advertisement opened with the line, “Illegal immigrant, Luis Bracamontes, killed our people!” While the “our” in this advertisement is ostensibly Americans, given the white supremacist sympathies of this administration one cannot be certain. Donald Trump is not the only offender, as the dog whistle of “illegal immigrants” was weaponized throughout the 2018 midterm elections.

For example, in Kansas, where undocumented immigrants make up a relatively small portion of the population, gubernatorial nominee Chris Kobach (R) suggested creating a database to document these individuals, revoking in-state tuition for the undocumented, and punishing localities that offer sanctuary to these individuals (Valverde 2018). Although border protection is often framed as a matter of fairness and law enforcement, much of the anxiety around undocumented immigration is about race (Banks 2014; Pantoja 2006; Pérez 2016).3 More concretely, much of (p.42) the apprehension about immigration is about non-white people literally changing the face of the nation—to the point that President Trump has proposed revoking birthright citizenship, a constitutional provision and cornerstone of American identity, for the children of undocumented immigrants. Though an executive order would not trump the Constitution, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has doubled down on this proposal and vowed to introduce legislation to mirror Trump’s suggested executive order (Lesniewski 2018). These attitudes at the national level, unfortunately, are not out of step with the attitudes of the broader public. Research has shown that the immigration debates are partly influenced by race. People are not as preoccupied about undocumented immigrants from Europe, for example (Brader, Valentino, and Suhay 2008; Burns and Gimpel 2000; Espenshade and Calhoun 1993). Thus, claims about the sanctity of American identity are highly racialized because the version of America that proponents of more restrictionist policies are attempting to preserve is not inclusive of people of color.

It would seem from the prevailing arguments that individuals are concerned with the degree to which immigrants will make this country less racially white. These anxieties will likely be heightened, as demographers have shown the inevitability of a waning white population in the United States. The U.S. Census estimates the United States will cease to be a white-majority country by 2043. The Brookings Institution notes these changes are largely the result of immigration that has occurred in the decades since 1965, higher birthrates among non-whites, and declining birthrates among whites (Frey 2011). California, New Mexico, Texas, and Hawaii are already majority-minority states. Although “Latino” is officially considered an ethnicity, it is unclear if Latinos are socially understood as socially white, though they can be on paper. What is more, whites—in general, but particularly white men—feel aggrieved in this changing racial climate and see themselves as victims of racial discrimination amid calls to make the nation more reflective of these demographic changes (Berbrier 2000; Myers 2018). This particular display of “white fragility” makes it difficult for these types of changes to go unnoticed and unchallenged by whites (DiAngelo 2018).

All too often, the most effective opposition mounted by whites to the racial outsiders (in this case immigrants) who threaten their superordinate identity is to create an immigration regime to cordon off, detain, and/or neutralize those threats to American national identity (Tichenor 2002). This makes it difficult, then, to default to white attitudes and opinions, (p.43) and makes it particularly difficult to understand whether, how, and to what degree blacks identify as exemplars of national identity (Harris-Lacewell 2003). Given their status as an excluded group within the American polity, I posit that blacks have adopted an ambivalent perspective on immigration. On the one hand, blacks believe in the right to self-determination and are empathetic to the plight of immigrants (Ferreira 1999; Hellwig 1978; Rubin 1978). This is not to suggest blacks do not value American identity or that they are unwilling to make strides toward shoring up that identity. A unique part of the black struggle for inclusion in this country has been the cooptation of American identity despite official efforts to divorce blackness from Americanness (Gaines 1996; Parker 2009; Tillery 2011). On the other hand, they recognize immigrants may represent a challenge to their group’s social mobility because immigrants receive benefits based on their distance from blackness and/or have access to opportunities not afforded to blacks (Hellwig 1982). While I am not suggesting immigrants are colluding with whites to harm blacks, I am suggesting there is recognition among blacks that some immigrants are viewed as preferable to their group, and in cases where black versus non-black distinction has been made, it has not boded well for African Americans (Adelman and Tolnay 2003; Pager, Bonikowski, and Western 2009; Rosenfeld and Tienda 1999; Waldinger 1996). The important point here is that blacks do not view immigrants as a problem because they will corrupt American culture. Rather, blacks are concerned that immigrants will be favored by whites and thus retard blacks’ ability to become full participants in the citizenry. It is my sense that while blacks may hold some nativist attitudes, these attitudes are devoid of a set of policy preferences and disembodied from mobilization efforts that would do harm immigrant communities. Historically, whites have attempted to use immigrants to dampen black demands for equality, particularly in the labor sector, which embittered some segments of the black population4 (Hellwig 1978; Loewen 1971; Malloy 1996; Scott 1999).

Labor organizer A. Philip Randolph, made famous through his efforts with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Porters, expressed what can best be characterized as anti-immigrant views, particularly because the Pullman Corporation attempted to use Filipino immigrant labor in an effort to subvert black demands for better working conditions. More recent controversies in California regarding the specter of black workers being replaced by Latino labor have raised a similar concerns on the part of blacks who see their share of the labor market being eroded by (p.44) the presence of this group (Briggs 2003). Consequently, blacks use their status as American citizens, however marginal, to claim greater status for themselves in the polity as a privilege of birthright.5 As Hellwig (1981) notes, “if immigrant restriction did not lead to a substantial improvement in the daily lives of the average black citizen, it might at least, the leaders hoped, preserve their positions and those of their followers until a better life could be forged for all in a land of 100 percent Americans” (p. 123). Thus, black support for some limitations on immigration at different moments in time was generally about trying to ensure their group’s future improvement—not necessarily a meanspirited attempt to hurt others.

For example, in “The Shape of Fear,” W.E.B. DuBois (1926) argues that white reactions to blacks, as well as immigrants, was about their fear of losing their dominance. Therefore, organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, along with racist legislation advancing national origin quotas, are about maintaining a racial purity at all costs. However, DuBois believes anti-Catholicism, anti-Semitism, and the like can be distilled easily into hatred for black people. This is because “they [the American] people realized that no group in the United States is working harder to push themselves forward and upward than the Negroes” (DuBois 1926: 302). Thus, what gives rise to the Ku Klux Klan’s brand of hatred is the “the fear that white America with its present machinery is not going to be able to keep black folk down,” despite their attempts to use violence and legal devices to dissuade blacks from pursuing equality (p. 301). Consequently, instead of being praised for their accomplishments against great odds, blacks are punished and harassed. Therefore, by exercising their individual and constitutional liberties, blacks are pushed further to the margins of America.

Nativism and National Identity

In Strangers in the Land, John Higham (1970) offers a historical look at trends in nativist sentiment in the United States. Nativism is defined as a concern that some group originating from abroad threatens national identity. In the United States, these attitudes have often been expressed by whites who view immigrants as dangerous to core American values and principles that have traditionally been embodied as white, male, and Protestant. Immigrants aroused hostility based on their supposed “foreign connections,” which marked them as unassimilable and potentially disloyal to the nation (Higham 1975: 4). In general, white Americans have viewed immigrants, including those from Southern and Eastern Europe, (p.45) as racial and cultural dangers to the unity of this nation (Higham 1970; Huntington 2004; Jacobson 2001). Thus, eagerness to subdue foes of the “American” way of life has frequently resulted in campaigns and legislation to restrict the flow of new arrivals (Higham 1975; Knobel 1996; Jacobson 2001). For instance, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 arose in response to fears that Chinese immigrants were a threat to American citizens’ ability to find employment, particularly in the rail and mining industries. The hysteria created around the presence of Chinese immigrants constructed them as not only racially different from native-born Americans but also made them the first “illegal aliens” and thus criminalized their presence in this country (Lee 2002a). The Chinese Exclusion Act marks the first time a specific nationality was prevented from coming to the United States, essentially codifying the act of immigration and naturalization as the province “free white persons” (Lee 2002b). Moreover, Chinese exclusion ushered in a period of unprecedented surveillance and enforcement of national borders, particularly with Mexico, and criminalized Chinese persons already residing in the United States (Lee 2002a; Sheridan 2002).6 Thus, by the time the National Origins Quota Act passed in 1924, immigration policy was devised in such a way as to actively preserve the notion of the United States as a white-identified country.7 The resulting policy was such that most non-Europeans were prevented from entering the country, and the racial composition of the immigrant pool remained majority European (i.e., white).

Empirical research has shown that these types of attitudes are far from inevitable, because the presence of newcomers as such does not elicit uniformly negative associations. Strong national identity does not necessarily lead one to be a nativist (De Figueiredo and Elkins 2003). Nativism is generally understood as a chauvinistic belief in the superiority of one’s country over others (Citrin, Haas, Muste, and Reingold 1994; Feshbach 1994; Hurwitz and Peffley 1999; Sidanius, Feshbach, Levin, and Pratto 1997). Patriotism generally connotes an affinity and attachment to official and unofficial symbols of a nation; this is generally viewed as a positive expression of nationalism (Citrin et al. 1994; Huddy and Khatib 2007; Hurwitz and Peffley 1999; Sidanius et al. 1997). While one should use care not to conflate these related concepts, what is clear is that nativism has a deep and persistent quality that expresses itself when a country experiences, or believes it is experiencing, an influx of “foreigners.” Nativists view immigrants as threats to the nation’s foundational identity and population and believe that a country is best when (p.46) it rejects foreigners (Higham 1975; Huntington 2004; Knobel 1996). Although the language of nativists is often universalistic, in the case of the United States it is clear nativists believe the country is, by definition, racially white as the Founders intended. Thus, the ideal citizen as constitutionally and ideologically imagined is white and male; blacks were not envisioned as ideal citizens and neither were “non-white” immigrants, Native Americans, or women. Because the ideal citizen is already racialized as white, those immigrants not understood as racially “white” are always outside of this definitional citizenry. By relying on nationalist rhetoric of “fitness”8 for citizenship and the like, nativists are able to make exclusionary claims about the criteria for domestic identity and belonging that appear race neutral (Lindsay 1998; Mills 1999). For instance, a commitment to Protestantism has often been used as a way to measure a group’s suitability to the principles of Americanism (Tichenor 2002). Although Protestantism is not racialized on its face, it is clear that if this is a criterion of acceptance, some groups will not be included. For instance, as the United States began to receive immigrants from Ireland and Italy, the nativist response through the 1830s and 1840s was largely based on anti-Catholic religious discrimination. Because America was, by design, opposed to hierarchical authority, which is how the Catholic Church is organized, adherents of the religion were seen as opposed to the founding traditions of the republic (Higham 1970; Knobel 1996). Many white Americans viewed the Catholic Church as opposed to liberty because of its relation to monarchies and feudal governments (Higham 1975). The United States, being especially sensitive to such control because they had just defeated the empire of Great Britain in the Revolutionary War, created a government of diffuse authority. More importantly, however, Protestant Americans feared the authority of the papacy. They viewed Catholic immigrants as emissaries of the pope, sent to the United States to disrupt American institutions (Higham 1970). Because it was thought Catholic immigrants would only submit to the authority of the pope, they were viewed as being devoid of the capacity for self-government (Higham 1970). Because the ability to own and govern the self was viewed as essential for American citizenship, Catholic immigrants were, by definition, deemed unfit for citizenship. Although we have moved past this place, this Protestant bias lingers and is evidenced in our political choices. To date, John F. Kennedy, Jr. has been the only Catholic person elected to serve as President of the United States.9

(p.47) It is generally agreed that nativism is not the same as patriotism (Carter and Pérez 2015; Citrin et al. 1994; Citrin, Wong, and Duff 2001; De Figueiredo and Elkins 2003; Schatz, Staub, and Lavine 1999; Sidanius et al. 1997). However, the degree to which nativism and patriotism are reciprocal is a source of debate (Citrin et al. 1994, 2001; De Figueiredo and Elkins 2003; Sidanius et al. 1997). Nativism is a negative type of nationalism, resulting in the discrimination and mistreatment of immigrant communities; however, patriotism is not generally associated with the same types of xenophobic responses. Usually patriots are more prepared to recognize immigrants or others who are willing to adopt the signs and symbols of their new homeland (De Figueiredo and Elkins 2003; Schatz et al. 1999). In most cases, patriots respond to newcomers without the racism and jingoism that has characterized nativists. Yet, there is some evidence that patriotism is related to classical racist ideas. The work of Sidanius et al. (1997) shows that for whites who identify with patriotic symbols, there is an increase in racist attitudes. Although the purpose of this work is not to adjudicate this debate, I think it is important to note, despite the fact there is general definitional agreement regarding nativism and patriotism, the relationship between these concepts has yet to be reconciled.10

While I ascribe to the definitional claims of the work on nativism, with few exceptions, this research has focused almost exclusively on whites; therefore, we do not know how these concepts operate for blacks who have a different experience. Most basically, because blacks are a racially excluded group, albeit highly visible, their incorporation as full members of the body politic remains less than fifty years old and far from complete. Thus, what authors have identified as the contours of nativist thought in the United States is informed by the attitudes and actions of whites (Citrin et al. 1994, 2001; Higham 1975; De Figueiredo and Elkins 2003). This bias in the literature continues despite the fact blacks also have written extensively on the topic of immigration from the nineteenth century onward. Comments on immigration appeared in opinion sections of black newspapers nationally. In particular, blacks were dismayed they were being overlooked in favor of immigrants. In response to national origins quotas of 1924, the black press argued that the law did not do enough to prevent Mexicans from coming to the United States, which meant blacks would now have to compete with them for menial jobs (Hellwig 1981). This position was self-interested on the part of blacks because they believed their economic and social prospects would be improved in the (p.48) absence of competition from immigrants. As stated earlier, they were not as bothered by the restrictions on immigration as they were by the racial logic that gave rise to the creation of this type of legislation. What is more, the color of the immigrant did not matter as much to them, because they tended to fare worse whenever immigrants were present (Diamond 1998).

I argue that blacks’ experience as insecure Americans produced a particular form of national identity I term conflicted nativism, which is animated by a different set of lived concerns than traditional nativism. Rather than being distressed that immigration will harm U.S. culture, black nativists are more concerned that immigration will be bad for black people. This is an important distinction to make, because it has often been the case that immigrants were feared simply because they were different. In this case the anxieties around immigration are not about immigrants per se, but about the ways in which immigrants are used against blacks in a white supremacist society such as the United States.

Race and Citizenship

From its inception, as evidenced by the Constitution, the United States was viewed as a white man’s country. Although the Founding documents of the nation established this identity, federal entities, local law, and custom thoroughly reinforced this notion well into the twentieth century as formal citizenship was the sole province of (wealthy) white men (Brenkman 1993; Jacobson 2001; Collins 2001; Mills 1999; Smith 1988, 1993, 2001; Wiegman 1995). Even though black men obtained the franchise in 1868 via the 14th Amendment, it would be another century before the United States would make good on its promise of universal suffrage. Unlike many authors who see the founding vision of the United States as expansive and inclusive (Hartz 1991; Huntington 2004; Myrdal 1962[1942]; Schlesinger 1998), I argue, as do many others, that the exclusion of women, blacks, Native Americans, Asians, and others was not a perversion of the application of civic ideals but rather a requirement of Americanness (Brenkman 1993; Dawson 2001; Haney-López 1996; Collins 2001; Jacobson 2001; Mills 1999; Singh 2004; Smith 1993, 2001). The Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) illustrates this point most cogently.11 In the majority decision, the Court provided legal support for the belief that black people had no rights that a white man was bound to respect.12 More importantly, Chief Justice Taney, in delivering the majority opinion, stated in unambiguous language that black people were never considered (p.49) “citizens” by the Founders; therefore, Scott did not even have standing to bring his case. As the Court argued:

The words “people of the United States” and “citizens” are synonymous terms, and mean the same thing. They both describe the political body who, according to our republican institutions, form the sovereignty, and who hold the power and conduct the Government through their representatives. They are what we familiarly call the “sovereign people,” and every citizen is one of this people, and a constituent member of this sovereignty. The question before us is, whether the class of persons described in the plea in abatement compose a portion of this people, and are constituent members of this sovereignty? We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word “citizens” in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them.

The case signified the cleavages in the United States around the issue of slavery; however, using a strict constructionist approach, the Court was able to assert that the Founders never intended for those who were not white and male to be citizens of this country. For a majority of the Supreme Court, black rights were a moot point because if this group was not considered part of the citizenry at the time the U.S. Constitution was devised, they cannot simply be ushered into citizenship. Any claim to a universal acknowledgment of citizenship for black people was rejected by the nation’s highest court as being a fundamental misreading of Founding documents. Because people of African descent were considered as articles of property as articulated in the Constitution, their status as outsiders was fixed.13

Moving from a colony to a republic, the newly minted United States developed its own criteria for national membership. Because the new republic abandoned the British form of hierarchical, aristocratic government, the polity essentially belonged to “the people” (Higham 1970). (p.50) Thus, “the people” were responsible for administering the public will, which required that citizens be able to conceive of and do what was in the best interest for the greatest number of the members of the republic. Consequently, the ideal citizen had to be self-possessed, with the ability to suppress his “passions” for the betterment of the polity. Hence, to be a “fit” citizen, they had to be recognized as part of the polity and have the ability to share a common vision for the progress of the nation (Brenkman 1993; Collins 2001).

As a settler republic, indigenous peoples were necessarily excluded because they were believed to be barbarians without the capacity for self-governance (Brenkman 1993; Jacobson 2001; Nagel 1997; Washburn 1965). This racial mythology was a significant element of the rationale for the conquest and usurpation of native lands in North America and other colonial enterprises (Rogin 1975; Washburn 1965). Moreover, enslaved Africans, free blacks, and their descendants were literally and figuratively kept from self-ownership (Jacobson 2001; Roberts 1997). As a physically and socially distinct category of beings, African-descended people could not, and would not, be incorporated into a republic of self-governing individuals. Unlike indigenous people, who were not fully evolved beings, they thought Africans did not have the intellectual capacity for self-government. Africans were thought to be inherently inferior groups, incapable of the perfection necessary for self-governance. Therefore, because of the explicit connection made between race and citizenship from the nation’s beginning, later solidified by social custom and science, blacks were dispossessed of an American identity (Collins 1997; Jacobson 2001). Evidence of this thinking can be seen in the Naturalization Act of 1790, which granted a right of entry to free white persons and naturalization after two years of residence14 (Jacobson 2001). In its brevity, this statute shows national belonging had nothing to do with defined territories or borders but everything to do with color.

The bond between race and citizenship would be heightened in the nineteenth century as the republic expanded westward, slavery was on the wane, and the flow of free “white” persons from Southern and Eastern Europe began to increase rapidly (Haney-López 1996; Jacobson 2001; King 2009; Ngai 2004). Latent anti-immigrant sentiment was reignited throughout these periods as concerns over labor competition and cultural preservation were heightened during moments of increased immigration. This nativist impulse remains part of contemporary immigration discourse and practice (Carter and Pérez 2015; Masuoka and Junn 2013; (p.51) Sanchez 1997). For example, California’s Proposition 187 was an effort to bar undocumented immigrants from receiving medical care, educational, and social services. Service providers would be on the front lines of this effort because teachers, hospital employees, and the like would be empowered to question an individual’s citizenship status. The impetus for the law was the belief that undocumented immigrants represented an undue burden to the social service system in California.15 Although the law was framed as an attempt to stem economic hardship for Californians, many critics saw this as a discriminatory measure that unfairly targeted Latinos and Asians who only began coming to the United States in large numbers after 1965 (Adelman and Tolnay 2003; Lieberson 1980). This new immigration changed the way America looked. Yet, the persistence of English-only propositions, as well as moves to disallow social services for immigrants, indicate that policing the borders of American nationhood remains a powerful political preoccupation (Alvarez and Butterfield 2000; Espenshade and Calhoun 1993; Johnson, Farrell, and Guinn 1997; Pantoja 2006). What remains unclear is the degree to which blacks are moved to support or oppose any of these efforts.

The “Twoness” of Black Citizenship

DuBois’ metaphor of “twoness,” or double consciousness, is often evoked to describe the experience of being both black and American. Taken from his classic text The Souls of Black Folk (1903), DuBois describes the difficulties that come with retaining one’s identity as a black person and trying to reconcile that with a national identity that conspires against black incorporation. Yet, despite the apt nature of DuBois’ metaphor, there is still much to parse regarding how blacks view their American identity juxtaposed against the presence of the newly arrived. Much like their white counterparts, blacks were deeply engaged in their own immigration debates from the nineteenth century through the twentieth century (Ferreira 1999; Hellwig 1977, 1979, 1981; Diamond 1998; Shankman 1977, 1978). Blacks used immigration to define what national belonging and citizenship, as the embodiment and guarantor of national inclusion, meant for their community. Although opposed, on the one hand, to the racism of the white nativist movement, blacks were far less sanguine about what the continuing arrival of new immigrants meant for their own social progress. Thus, blacks developed a distinct immigration agenda that deployed their American identity as a primary claim to privilege but did not include (p.52) immigrant exclusion as a primary objective. Rather, blacks were attempting to find a way to protect their community by putting forth a social and political agenda that made their communities’ needs immediately clear and actionable. Blacks were not waiting to be overlooked; they were going to assert themselves into the conversation on immigration (Diamond 1998; Hellwig 1978, 1981; Tillery and Chresfield 2012).

As early as the 1840s, black writers and intellectuals such as Frederick Douglass were intensely concerned with how European immigration would affect the status of blacks (Ferreira 1999; Malloy 1996; Shankman 1980). Although Douglass and others were committed to the dissolution of slavery, Douglass was also sensitive to the plight of immigrants, especially the Irish (Ferreira 1999; Shankman 1980). While blacks were being enslaved in the United States, the despair of the Irish people left a lasting impression on him when he went to the country in 1845. After the publication of his life story Douglass became a celebrity of the abolitionist movement and this increased the likelihood that he could be captured and reeslaved.16 Initially, he went to Britain seeking refuge because he was technically a fugitive and did not have freedom papers; like other blacks, even free blacks, Douglass undertook this journey as a stateless person. Not long after his arrival, Douglass traveled to Dublin where he spent several months and became supporter of Irish home rule and witnessed the worst of Irish oppression, particularly the ravages of the famine (Ferreira 1999). Upon his return to the United States in 1847, Douglass organized fundraising efforts to aid the cause of the Irish people in Ireland (Ferreira 1999; Shankman 1980). In the Irish peasant’s struggles against England, Douglass saw parallels with the abolition movement in the United States. This sense of empathy and initial enthusiasm on the part of Douglass and the larger black community was dampened as the stream of Irish arrivals came to shun black solidarity and cast their lot with the native white majority (Ferreira 1999; Roediger 1999; Shankman 1980).

Not only were Irish immigrants pro-slavery in many instances, their willingness to adopt anti-black attitudes and commit violent acts against black “citizens” disquieted those who considered themselves friends of the Irish (Dooley 1998; Jacobson 2001; Roediger 1999; Shankman 1980).17 Although Irish immigrants faced harsh treatments and discrimination, they were not enslaved in this country and could hope to advance to citizenship (Ferreira 1999; Shankman 1980). As Douglass (2003 [1855]) said, “The Irishman is poor, but he is not a slave. He may be in rags, but he is not a slave” (p. 422). This disparity in situation made native blacks resentful (p.53) of the fairly easy path to citizenship created for European immigrants (Malloy 1996). The realization that immigrants could hope to find a better life, a basic right that eluded black people because of the intransigence of racism, caused blacks to be more vigorous in their challenges to white supremacy.

Although black “nativists” lacked the political capital to mount a formal institutional barrier to immigration, they developed a more forceful set of critiques of America’s racist practice that denied them full citizenship for no other reason besides being born black (DuBois 1925). Because blacks appreciated the ways in which the fate of immigrants was predicated on a racial logic that had negative implications for their community, they increased their critiques of U.S. immigration policy. Thus, in black media outlets throughout the twentieth century, they used immigration policy as a way to frame their grievances with American racial policy. For example, blacks’ critique of the Gentleman’s Agreement with Japan in 1907 was based on the policy’s exclusion of non-Europeans. For blacks who were entitled to the rights and privileges of full citizenship, the biggest hurdle to their incorporation was white racists who were committed to an ideology of exclusion (Dawson 2001; Malloy 1996). Yet, their contributions were denied in an effort to reinforce white supremacy and their place at the bottom of the American racial hierarchy (Hellwig 1978; Kim 2000; Malloy 1996). Blacks realized that shared nationality was an unreliable criterion for citizenship. This sense of racial insecurity became amplified in intra-communal dialogues about immigration (Hellwig 1977, 1978, 1981, 1987; Malloy 1996; Rubin 1978; Shankman 1978, 1980; Weill and Castañeda 2004; Wilhelm 1971). In spaces where blacks could speak to other blacks, they were preoccupied with their ongoing exclusion and were waging a decades-long fight for freedom. In the cases of other immigrant groups singled out for segregation vis-à-vis U.S. immigration policy, blacks were particularly empathetic with those groups’ struggles. In the case of Japanese people, black newspapers offered an empathetic posture with regard to their exclusion and the racist grounds on which it was perpetrated. The Baltimore Afro-American (1920) noted the “exclusion of Japanese . . . was grounded in color prejudice.” And while blacks were mostly self-interested, there was a measure of admiration for representatives of the “Orient” such as the Japanese. As Jun (2006) notes, this type of reification of the “Orient” by blacks is “appealing to disidentified black subjects who are attempting to imagine liberatory possibilities, identifications, and historical futures in spaces that have been defined (p.54) as not the United States” (p. 1050). Yet, this positive sensibility toward Japanese citizens was not reflected in the same way when it came to Chinese exclusion. While some blacks were highly critical of Chinese exclusion, other blacks used the stereotype of the unassimilable Chinese to define their Americanness. This does not mean that blacks had the power to influence immigration policy or thwart moves toward anti-Chinese discrimination. It does mean, however, that blacks’ opinions on immigration were complicated and context dependent. More to the point, blacks attitudes about immigration seemed to hang on what grounds the United States sought to exclude a particular group of immigrants. If immigrants were being excluded on their distance from American cultural values, black were going to demonstrate how much and how well they themselves approximated these American norms relative to the foreign born, in an effort to seek inclusion. Thus, blacks’ opinions on immigration were highly focused on their own group’s well-being.

Although the institution of formal enslavement was constitutionally dissolved in 1865, the continued denial of black civil rights significantly delayed black progress (Estes 2005). Everywhere the message to blacks was that they were not “real Americans.” For almost a century, European immigrants were afforded full citizenship rights ahead of native-born blacks (Estes 2005; Jacobson 2001; Malloy 1996). Even after passage of the 14th Amendment, blacks were keenly aware that the Constitution meant nothing when it came to guaranteeing their incorporation in the polity (Dawson 2001). Although blacks had attained formal recognition as Americans, this status was in name only as they continued to face social, economic, and political disenfranchisement (Adelman and Tolnay 2003; Collins 1997, 2001; Conley 1999; Dawson 1994b, 2001; Estes 2005; Franklin 1992; Massey and Denton 1993; Sugrue 1996).18

As the United States was rapidly industrializing, World War I opened up factory positions, and immigration was slowing, new employment opportunities were being created for blacks in the North and Midwest (Adelman and Tolnay 2003; Collins 1997; Lieberson 1980; Sugrue 1996). Despite blacks migrating to these regions in the hope of obtaining better employment opportunities than in the South, they could not compete with immigrant workers (Collins 1997; Hellwig 1981; Malloy 1996; Lieberson 1980; Rubin 1978). Black and white workers had to deal with decreased bargaining powers as a result of the cheap labor immigrants provided. Unlike native whites, however, blacks had the additional burden of anti-black prejudice (Hellwig 1981).

(p.55) Despite the fact many blacks were willing to accept substandard wages, white employers preferred hiring non-black workers (Adelman and Tolnay 2003; Collins 1997, 2001; Fairlie and Sundstrom 1997, 1999; Johnson 2004; Maloney 1995; Maloney and Whatley 1995). It was already difficult competing with native-born whites for employment, but blacks took umbrage at having to compete with foreigners (Malloy 1996). Blacks felt entitled to available employment, as well as other benefits of U.S. society, by virtue of birthright. Booker T. Washington was concerned about this very thing and supported early efforts to stem immigration from Europe. Washington believed black labor was the key to social progress, which he feared might be retarded by the presence of immigrant competitors who provided cheap labor and had white skin (Malloy 1996). Thus, he surmised that limiting immigration was the appropriate manner to ensure the upward mobility of his community (Hellwig 1978, 1981; Malloy 1996; Rubin 1978). Washington’s ideas were also echoed in the black press as opinion pieces and letters to the editor often favored limiting immigration (Tillery and Chresfield 2012; Hellwig 1978, 1981; Malloy 1996; Rubin 1978). Although this sentiment received some support from various corners of the black community, they were in no position to push the government to place limits on immigration.

Furthermore, blacks realized that limiting or banning immigration would not remedy their core problem, which was white supremacy (Hellwig 1978, 1981; Rubin 1978). Although blacks knew limiting immigration would substantially lessen competition in the marketplace, they also knew the only groups that would be banned would be other persons of color (Hellwig 1978; Rubin 1978). Chinese exclusion in 1882, as well as the Immigration Act of 1924, proved that the United States was less willing to limit the migration of other whites, which was a move blacks condemned (Hellwig 1978; Rubin 1978). For example, in 1921 an anonymous opinion piece published in The Appeal, a black writer based in St. Paul, Minnesota, states “[t]he hordes of foreigners who are planning to come to this country, if possible, are a menace to the opportunities of the native born colored working people who should be protected by appropriate legislation” (p. 2). The author recommends unnaturalized immigrants be required to pay for an annual license to work so as not to escape taxation. He sums up his piece by saying “the colored people are all citizens and taxpayers and their interests should not be overlooked” (p. 2). What this author expresses is an abiding sense that immigrants come to this country and reap all of the benefits without any of the burdens. Because black citizens comply with (p.56) their duties, like paying taxes, but receive little to no representation, the author asserts black interests are being violated by the U.S. government. To use the often quoted language of the American Revolution, he says that blacks are currently in a situation of “taxation without representation,” a blatant violation of the country’s civic ideals. Immigrants are seen by this author as both a source of economic and political competition. For him, the government’s reluctance to place limits on new arrivals symbolizes the country’s indifference to black progress.19 Not only are immigrants labor market competition for blacks, they are not necessarily committed to or invested in the nation in the same way as blacks.

Still, this did not negate the fact that banning immigration was a shortsighted strategy for dealing with the systemic issue of white supremacy. The opinion of this author seems to be born of frustration with the black condition, not outright intolerance of immigrants. Undergirding immigration policies were decisions made by a government helmed by whites who lacked the political desire to assist the advancement of black people. Thus, it becomes easier to attack immigrants who are closer to blacks in terms of their social location and status rather than a government that is engaged in organized, anti-black prejudice. Still, it is clear that for many black authors, going after immigrants was a classic case of picking low hanging fruit (Diamond 1998; DuBois 1929; Hellwig 1981; Scott 1999; Shankman 1982). It was easier to be critical of immigrants and express less than flattering attitudes toward them than to mount opposition to white institutions.20 This is not to say blacks refused to confront injustice—this would be historically inaccurate. During the Nadir, the period between 1877 and 1940, black opposition was largely local in nature and was unable to achieve the sweeping changes associated with the modern civil rights movement (Logan 1954).21 What blacks are seeking vis-à-vis immigration policy is an acknowledgment of their institutional disadvantage. Unless structural discrimination and other routine causes of black exclusion and disenfranchisement were addressed, blacks knew they would remain outside the body politic no matter what the demographic picture of the nation. Consequently, immigrant restriction, although cathartic, was seen as a less viable solution for addressing long-term community needs (Diamond 1998; Morris 2000) because even if all future immigration was prevented, it would probably change black life chances only on the margins, where it might be easier for them to obtain certain types of employment. However, the changes blacks wanted to see could only (p.57) be achieved by ending white supremacy. Therefore, putting all efforts on immigration restriction would not end the entrenched problems blacks sought to remedy.

Throughout the twentieth century, blacks were uneasy about supporting efforts to exclude other communities of color, although they were not necessarily opposed to immigration restrictions if they were to be applied to all groups equally (Hellwig 1978; Malloy 1996). Although blacks were sometimes negative in their feelings toward immigrants, they were even more wary of supporting white nativist activities. They knew that in supporting exclusionist measures aimed at other minorities, they were also supporting their own degradation. After all, these anti-immigrant groups were the same groups that supported their segregation in American society (Diamond 1998; DuBois 1925; Higham 1975). Therefore, if blacks were complicit in supporting Chinese exclusion, for example, it also meant they “[agreed] with the ideology and practices of the white supremacist who wanted to retain the black American in a position of semi-servitude in his place of birth” (Hellwig 1973). Blacks, despite holding some anti-immigrant attitudes, had a fundamentally different understanding of the meaning of immigration than their white counterparts (Morris 2000; Nteta 2013). As Hellwig notes, “the America white nativists wanted to defend or resurrect was one which excluded blacks—regardless of their values—from full citizenship,” which is a clear divergence in perspective from blacks (Hellwig 1982: 95). Blacks, however nativist in their opinions, were seeking to achieve full citizenship and looked at immigration restriction as an impartial achievement of that incorporation (Hellwig 1982). Although inclusion in the body politic was not something blacks were willing to negotiate away, they were also unwilling to sell their souls to achieve this end.

What differentiated blacks who held nativist opinions from white nativists was largely how they interpreted immigration (Hellwig 1982; Scott 1999). Blacks saw immigration as an important tool for diagnosing their political condition (Hellwig 1978; Malloy 1996). Immigration policy became a metric used by blacks to forecast how open the country would be to the expansion of their civil rights (Hellwig 1978, 1981, 1987; Shankman 1978). When the United States was engaged not only with the domestic issue of immigration but also with international skirmishes, such as in the Mexican American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and the like, blacks used these moments to voice their (p.58) grievances with their treatment at home and push for insertion into the political system, because these events magnified American hypocrisy (Dawson 2001; Dudziak 2004; Gaines 1996; Gallicchio 2000; Hellwig 1987; Parker 2009; Plummer 1996; Von Eschen 1997). As blacks made the connections between domestic and international politics, they gained a deeper appreciation of the globalization of white supremacy and the ways in which people of color were harmed by its persistence (Tillery 2011). The United States’ handling of immigration, in many ways, proved the country’s reluctance to recognize blacks as full citizens. Blacks now met the criterion of self-possession, yet state and federal authorities consistently undermined their constitutionally guaranteed rights as citizens. For example, European immigrants, even those who were not yet naturalized in some cases, could vote; black (male) citizens could not hope to exercise this right despite the fact they were citizens and were granted suffrage in 1870 by the 15th Amendment (Anbinder 1995; Gaines 1996; Mayfield 1993; Sheridan 2002).22

Therefore, blacks remained focused largely on the core issue of white racism that was more willing to extend filial bonds to foreigners than to native-born blacks (Hellwig 1981). White racism was so powerful that nationhood meant little when applied to blacks; they were provisional Americans. Because they were black, they were not included in the larger national narrative in the way some immigrants eventually were. Blacks were castaways in their own birthplace as America increasingly identified itself as a white country (Hellwig 1978). However, no matter how racist the United States, blacks never stopped using their status as citizens to push for inclusion in the public sphere (Dawson 2001; Rustin 1971; Tate 2003). More importantly, they continued to use their status as native-born Americans to separate themselves from immigrant Americans and the newly arriving (Diamond 1998; Hellwig 1978, 1981, 1987; Malloy 1996; Rubin 1978; Scott 1999; Shankman 1978). Although it was not much, Americanness was the idiom available to register their dissatisfaction with their ongoing exclusion.

Race was what kept them beneath immigrants. Race was not a useful basis for blacks to draw distinctions between themselves and immigrants as it was for whites, and was not really employed. Race, despite birthright, stood between blacks and the realization of full citizenship. But their status as American citizens, no matter how precarious, buoyed black claims and gave them the leverage to make demands on the government and demonstrate their worthiness, however small, over immigrant groups.

(p.59) Conflicted Nativism

Blacks thought very deeply and critically about immigration and its consequences for their community. However, this intragroup dialogue about immigration was not of recent vintage and was not solely about immigration. Immigration helped blacks articulate their misgivings about America and its investment in white supremacy. As such, immigration opinions in black communities vacillated between empathy for newcomers and a desire for fewer arrivals. This is what I term conflicted nativism. This is meant to capture blacks’ simultaneous opposition to white supremacist logic that is more accepting of immigrants and their own community’s compassion for the plight of immigrants.23 Therefore, immigration becomes symbolic of a lack of black incorporation into American civic and social life because of white supremacy. Thus, this ambivalence arises from blacks’ use of the issue of immigration to articulate their vision for national belonging. The subtext of black discourse on immigration has been and remains about their lack of incorporation in American society and the (as of yet) unfulfilled promise of citizenship for their community, not antipathy toward immigrants as many sources in the present suggest (McClain et al. 2006b; Mindiola, Niemann, and Rodriguez 2003; Vaca 2004).

Consequently, the issue becomes less about immigrants and immigration and more about what these issues mean for black people. Blacks, despite their maltreatment, claim some form of an American identity that they use to assert the primacy of their claims in the American hierarchy (Dawson 2001). Yet, because blacks are sensitive to the potential contradictions in holding a contrarian position toward immigration, they tend to eschew outwardly hostile positions toward immigrants (Hellwig 1978; Scott 1999). After all, how can one support the cause of social justice for their community but not for all others, particularly the racially excluded?

However, this does not mean blacks are always in favor of immigrants (Gay 2006; Malloy 1996; Weill and Castañeda 2004). What it does mean is that blacks tend to have a softer position than whites on the matter of immigration (Alvarez and Butterfield 2000; Cummings and Lambert 1997; Morris 2000; Thornton and Mizuno 1999). In addition, blacks are usually skeptical of racially motivated anti-immigrant actions and appeals (Hellwig 1978). Moreover, they remain committed to the eradication of racism rather than limiting immigration. Thus, although immigration (p.60) has received much attention as of late, particularly as it pertains to black and Latino relations, racism continues to be a chief issue for blacks along with governmental intervention to lessen racism’s effects (Dawson 1994a, 2001; Krysan 2000; Kuklinski, Cobb, and Gilens 1997; Steeh and Krysan 1996). Thus, I argue, immigration is an issue for blacks insofar as it amplifies black insecurities and displeasure at their treatment in the nation.24

Dimensions of Conflicted Nativism

Although blacks have discussed immigration throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there has been relatively scant attention paid to black national identity. I think this is primarily because of a more robust set of anti-immigrant attitudes and politics among whites. Still, it can be said that blacks have harbored nativist sentiments, albeit for different reasons. This section parses the various dimensions of conflicted nativism to have a better understanding of how it presents among blacks.

It is important to bear in mind that black nativist sentiment is not totally antithetical to traditional nativist attitudes. For example, black nativists largely agree with the idea that America is a Judeo-Christian society (Carter 2007; Carter and Pérez 2015; Hellwig 1981, 1982). Also, some blacks are comfortable with the idea that to be an American one should be able to speak English (Carter and Pérez 2015). However, in practice, language proficiency and religious adherence have not protected black people from racism; therefore, as important as these criteria may be for establishing some baseline of American identity, these issues have not been significant enough for blacks to join nativist movements (Parker 2009).

One of the hallmarks of black nativism has been an avoidance of anti-immigrant organizing. Blacks have had gripes with immigrants, primarily around employment, but they have not mobilized resistance to immigration, even though they have at times joined unions or other organizations where immigration restriction was a key component. However, there have been few to no grassroots black organizations organized whose chief purpose is to exclude foreigners from U.S. soil.25 I think this is partly because of the regional concentration of immigration in traditional receiving contexts of the North and West. It was not until the 1990s and early 2000s that Southern cities and parts of the rural Midwest became new “immigrant gateways,” making immigration a truly national phenomenon (Suro and Singer 2002). Nevertheless, despite the existence of immigrants in (p.61) the major cities where blacks migrated in the first half of the twentieth century, there was no real push to organize against immigrants.

Additionally, blacks traditionally have not had enough political clout to cause the government to act either in favor of or opposition to immigration. Although blacks would come to be a significant part of the Democratic Party coalition, their electoral possibilities were extremely limited (Frymer 1999). Thus, black participation in traditional forms of political activity like voting did not hold much promise for pursuing their political interests. As marginal members of the nation, black opinions regarding immigration were rarely actualized as part of a national political agenda. Furthermore, although they viewed the issue of immigration as germane to their struggle for inclusion in the American polity, black organizations like the NAACP, UNIA, Urban League, SCLC, and the like focused more on eradicating barriers to black social progress (such as educational segregation, workplace discrimination, and police brutality) rather than banning immigration. Moreover, if we examine the issues that have traditionally comprised parts of a black political agenda, immigration has typically not been considered a pressing concern. The issues that black legislators tend to address are civil rights, affirmative action, education, unemployment, housing, and other issues they believe are more immediate concerns of their black constituents (Bratton and Haynie 1999; Gamble 2007).

More importantly, conflicted nativists tend to empathize with immigrants. Although it seems contradictory, blacks usually relate to the immigrant cause. Although many blacks came to America by force, they believe in the right to self-determination. After all, making America live up to its promise was a key mantra of the black struggle in this country. Moreover, mistreatment and lack of opportunity inspired black migrants to leave the South and go North and West for better job and living opportunities during the Exoduster and Great Migration eras (Tolnay 2001; Wilkerson 2010). In some cases, blacks left the United States to live lives of dignity they felt were unachievable given the American racial climate (Akpan 1973; Clegg 2004).26 Thus, blacks see immigrants as similar to themselves in that they want an opportunity to achieve better lives. Yet, blacks are as reluctant to aid immigrants as they are to oppose them. From their own history, blacks have seen their community harmed by immigration. Whether being displaced economically or being denied citizenship, they have seen how immigrants have been used as tools to impede their progress. Because immigration and white racism have been (p.62) so inextricably linked, blacks are unable to fully support anti-immigration efforts. Although they are wary of immigration’s potential outcomes, they are far more concerned about the havoc they know white supremacy routinely visits on their lives.

Finally, it is significant to understand how much conflicted nativism is informed more by whites’ racism than by immigration. As mentioned previously, blacks have been necessarily preoccupied with race and racism for most of their existence in the United States. Blacks often use the nation’s immigration debates as a barometer of the nation’s attitudes on race relations. While the United States claimed (white) America for (white) Americans, they frequently favored immigrants over black citizens. In the political sphere, housing, education, and employment, blacks were effectively placed below immigrants because they were black (Jacobson 2001). However, this was not a result simply of European immigration. Indeed, blacks fear their economic prospects are threatened by the presence of non-European immigrants (Gay 2006; Doherty 2006). This is not necessarily because of immigrants but because of the ways in which immigrants are preferred to blacks (Powers 2005). For blacks, immigration is, and was, an inherently racial field of play that demonstrates the potency of white skin privilege. Historically, the U.S. policy of allowing European immigrants to enter the country and subsequently naturalize, while curbing the presence of non-Europeans and oppressing native-born blacks, has demonstrated the country’s deep investment in white supremacy.

As such, conflicted nativists do not accept the proposition that America is a white man’s country. And in the area of American immigration policy, whiteness was clearly linked to citizenship. Thus, American citizenship was largely available to any white person regardless of national origins. Blacks, though very aware of this official position, resisted this notion. In their pleas for greater inclusion, blacks deployed a universal understanding of the language of the Founders to press their claims as Americans (Bernasconi 1991; Chambers 2013). Prior to the 15th Amendment, blacks continually used the rhetoric of the Founders to challenge the racist dimensions of U.S. citizenship. Rather than allowing whiteness to coopt the language of citizenship to narrow the notion of who constituted a citizen, blacks used it to argue for a more expansive notion of citizenship. Therefore, blacks employed an alternate reading of the American ideals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to upset the explicit, foundational understanding of whiteness as always, automatically, representative of a citizen. The black presence challenged the notion that the United States was a (p.63) white man’s country. In fact, the United States would not exist had black people not supplied the labor necessary for the country to develop (Baron 1983). This line of reasoning was present during the emigration debates of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as blacks deliberated whether they should leave the United States and return to Africa or other more hospitable nations. Although some did choose to leave, most blacks were unwilling to cede their stake in America because it was their country.27 Still, by 1964 the situation for black people had not changed much, as Malcolm X astutely observed in his “Ballot or the Bullet” speech. X says, “If you and I were Americans, there’d be no problem. Those Honkies that just got off the boat, they’re already Americans; Polacks are already Americans; the Italian refugees are already Americans. Everything that came out of Europe, every blue-eyed thing, is already an American. And as long as you and I have been over here, we aren’t Americans yet.” More importantly, X notes that blacks’ consistent exclusion makes them less prone to accept the idea of America. Although this has not resulted in the majority of blacks fleeing the United States, it has ensured a certain distance from identifying with all things American. This means blacks exhibit what has been called “iconoclastic patriotism,” whereby they demonstrate their devotion to the nation by challenging the nation live up to its core principles of inclusion and equality (Henderson 2010; Shaw 2004). Because their race has often assured blacks’ status as second-class citizens, they have been unable to deploy their skin color as a symbol of power. Thus, conflicted nativism does not hinge on race in the same way as that of white nativists; it hinges on some sense of privilege earned by struggle against American racism. Although immigration caused whites to reassert their dominance, because of the relatively stable position of blackness at the bottom of the American racial hierarchy, being racially identified as black in the United States has little social currency. As Bashi (2004) argues, blackness and the relative contempt for people racialized as black has militated against black inclusion in Western nations that are racialized as white and ardently anti-black. As a result, race for black people has proved useless in drawing distinctions between themselves and immigrants. This is true even for those immigrants deemed non-white, but who have been able to gain some esteem because they are not black (Kim 1999).

For example, in the case of Asian Americans, Kim argues that Asians are figured between blacks and whites in the racial hierarchy but on slightly different grounds. On the one hand, Asians are considered “less than” relative to whites because they are viewed as forever foreign. This (p.64) process, which Kim labels “civic ostracism,” suggests Asians cannot ascend to full inclusion because they are viewed as perpetual outsiders. On the other hand, Asians are considered better than blacks through a process of relative valorization. Because Asians are viewed as having better cultural values than blacks, they are seen as being above them in the racial hierarchy. Therefore, blacks have tended to use their nativity as grounds for assigning privilege and drawing distinctions between themselves and immigrants, not race.

Likewise, black nativists do not tend to use culture as grounds for discriminating against immigrants (Shankman 1982; Tillery and Chresfield 2012). Although some blacks do say unflattering things about immigrants, they do not characterize immigrants as perpetual foreigners who threaten the American identity and way of life. Blacks do not seem to believe total assimilation on the part of immigrants is necessary. Although some non-black authors, such as Samuel Huntington, seem to lament the flagging primacy of the English language and other cultural norms as anti-assimilationist, blacks do not seem to fear those characteristics in the same way (Huntington 2004; Smith 1988). For instance, a number of blacks cleave to cultural signifiers, such as names and the like, because those cultural practices have been stripped from their community (Brown and Shaw 2002; Fryer and Levitt 2004). The same is true for those blacks who may be the children of immigrants, who regard those markers of their national legacy as important to their American identity (Greer 2013; Waters 1994). Therefore, they do not necessarily see total assimilation as necessary for one to be American. This has traditionally been a central tenet of white nativism that blacks do not subscribe to.

As a result, blacks tend not to favor immigrant restriction in the same way as white nativists. From the historical record, it seems blacks are wary of allying themselves with those it deems racist, yet they understand the practical benefits of less competition from immigrants in the labor market (Hellwig 1977, 1981). Blacks have been ideologically nativist in some ways, but not politically. They are conflicted about what immigration means for them and want to protect their community from foreign encroachment, yet they are not dedicated to the politically motivated efforts to keep immigrants out, especially immigrants of color. This means they tend not to organize or manifest these interests as part of a collective political agenda.

As previously stated, immigration restriction has consistently been omitted from a larger black political agenda and has not traditionally been (p.65) cited as a major issue for black people.28 Blacks do see immigrants as threatening to their economic interests, and for that reason, immigration is important to them. My previously stated argument indicates this stance is largely the result of racism and the ways in which whites traditionally have, and continue to, manipulate immigrants for their ends, with the seeming consent of immigrants and to the detriment of blacks (Betancur 2005). Although it is understood that immigrants do not set the “rules of the game,” it appears they have not been too concerned with the outcomes of their immigration for black people. For example, McClain et al. (2006) find that Latino immigrants come to the United States with negative stereotypes about blacks and are concerned with not appearing too close to them. On the other hand, blacks feel a sense of linked fate with Latino immigrants; this makes them more positive in their assessments of this group (McClain et al. 2006; Weill and Castañeda 2004).


The purpose of this chapter has been to provide some context to the contours of black attitudes toward immigration as it relates to their national identity. Looking at both historical and contemporary moments helps clarify the nuances of black experiences as insecure citizens and how this influences their ambivalence toward immigrants, which I term conflicted nativism. On the one hand, blacks empathize with immigrants and their desires for self-determination. On the other hand, they are concerned that their own attempts at social progress will be harmed by the presence of immigrants.

Moreover, this chapter provides what I have termed the dimensions of conflicted nativism. Black people are complicated, and in the domain of immigration they have vacillated between restriction, as in the early twentieth century, and openness in the later twentieth century. In short, conflicted nativism rests on a basic sentiment that immigrants are not what is wrong with the nation; rather, white supremacy is what truly impedes blacks’ ability to move ahead. Therefore, although blacks demonstrate pride in and attachment to America, they are less settled about the appropriate role of immigrants because they cannot be sure that their own social, economic, and political progress will expand in the face of new immigrants. Again, this is not because of their fears that immigrants are bad for American culture but because whites may use immigrants in an effort to thwart black progress. This was true historically, and blacks use the (p.66) collective memories of these moments to inform their present attitudes on the issue. In an era of official colorblindness, white supremacy has proven more difficult to defeat. As a constitutive American ideology, it is increasingly difficult to address a phenomenon alleged not to exist and for which there is no legal protection.

In any event, blacks hold citizenship above all else as a marker of national belonging. For many black people, being a citizen is more significant than any other factor in determining American identity (Carter 2007). I think this speaks to the myriad ways that citizenship is enmeshed with black identity and blacks’ articulation of national belonging. Citizenship was denied to blacks for most of their experience in the United States; therefore, the premium placed on citizenship has made it a symbol and underwriter of national belonging. Although there are many other ways one can signify their place in American society, this chapter demonstrates the key role of citizenship in black peoples’ sense of national identity because it was withheld for so long.

At the same time, blacks have tried to figure out how to leverage governmental interventions for their inclusion. Because the government’s immigration policy has frequently been racist, blacks have used this to gauge whether the nation would be more open to their claims for greater civil rights. For blacks, the idea that the government should be involved in their community’s improvement has been difficult to reconcile with the government’s policy of disallowing non-Europeans from entering the country.

Overall, this chapter emphasizes that to understand black attitudes toward immigration, it is necessary to understand the fundamental ways in which their race has shaped how they see their place in the racial hierarchy. During periods of immigration, blacks are especially insecure because they have never been full citizens. Therefore, for blacks, immigration is never solely or even principally about whether foreigners should be allowed in the country. Rather, the issue of immigration has always been about the nature of black/white racial relations and the extent to which immigration would speed or slow black progress to full citizenship.

In the end, this chapter is not about exposing blacks as traitors to the principles of equality. Neither is this chapter about presenting blacks as holding political views that are diametrically opposed to, and therefore more just than, those of their white counterparts. Rather, this chapter aims to shed light on the complexity of black opinion on immigration through time. Immigration has long occupied a place in the black imagination, and (p.67) to ignore this could lead one to draw such faulty conclusions as “blacks are always hostile to immigrants and immigration.”

I offer this chapter as a foray into black national identity and its linkages to expressions of nationalism, such as nativism. How these ideas have been expressed historically by blacks regarding their own groups’ circumstances is the focus of the next chapter. In particular, the following chapter demonstrates how blacks envisioned themselves as emigrants and sought to employ emigration as a tool for their own liberation. By critically examining the past, the chapter demonstrates blacks’ long engagement with the issue of immigration, particularly as a tool for their group’s sociopolitical advancement.


(1.) Although this party was only active from about 1843–1856, they organized, mainly in northern industrial areas, around Irish Catholic exclusion. They were able to harness the energy of this anti-immigrant fervor for electoral gain. Campaigning on fear of the “Catholic menace,” they presented themselves as an alternative to the Democrats, a number of whom were Irish Catholics (Hanagan 1998). Although this movement was short-lived, they were able to win several elections in the 1850s. Their biggest achievement was control of the Massachusetts legislature and governorship in 1855 (Higham 1976). In various cities, such as Philadelphia and New York, campaign promises to hire native-born American workers were extremely popular and helped the American Republican Party win city offices. Although this organization was episodic, the sentiments of the organization and its appeal to native-born white Americans continued to resonate.

(2.) This controversial organization was founded in the late 2000s to stem the flow of immigrants from Mexico to the United States. Located primarily in the southwest, this organization and others like it have cropped up throughout the country.

(3.) Alternatively, the border control issue has also been framed as a safety concern because porous borders suggest to would-be terrorists that America is ripe for another attack.

(4.) For a more detailed discussion of this particular case, see Barbara M. Posadas (1982) “The Hierarchy of Color and Psychological Adjustment in an Industrial Environment: Filipinos, the Pullman Company and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters,” Labor History 23(3): 349–73.

(5.) This sensibility that blacks are entitled to a certain consideration in racial matters because they are the archetypal minority in the United States would exist despite the fact immigrants naturalize and subsequent generations become birthright citizens. The fact immigrants naturalize and become some version of Americans supports the sense that blacks are unfairly penalized for their race, while those believed to be descended from immigrants are deemed more valuable because they have a culture that understands and practices hard work, thrift, and other symbols of the Protestant work ethic.

(6.) Mexican exclusion would not come until significantly later; however, it followed many of the same contours as Asian exclusion. For a more detailed discussion, please refer to Clare Sheridan (2002), “Contested Citizenship: National Identity and the Mexican Immigration Debates of the 1920s,” Journal of American Ethnic (p.192) History 21(3): 3–35 and Ariela J. Gross (2003), “Texas Mexicans and the Politics of Whiteness,” Law and History Review 21(1): 195–205.

(7.) The 1924 act placed quotas on immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe, Asia and India, the Caribbean, and Africa. One of the key provisions of the act was to disallow individuals from immigrating to the country if they could not become citizens. This had the effect of preventing Japanese, Indians, and other Asians from entering the country because at the time, they were not allowed to naturalize.

(8.) The idea of a fit citizenry is one where those who are considered part of the body politic are those viewed as having the qualities that make for a functional society. In general, the fit citizen was one who was self-possessed and able to put aside their individual needs for the greater good. Such a person was ruled by reason rather than passion; therefore, he or she practices self-governance in a way that makes the survival of a democracy possible, because this individual is concerned with doing the best thing for the most of us. Consequently, because of prevailing norms and practices, the only individuals thought to hold the requisite characteristics for citizenship were white, male, Protestant, wealthy, and educated.

(9.) When Senator Joe Lieberman was selected to be Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, his religion became a central part of the conversation because many speculated on how Lieberman would be able to complete the duties of his position as an orthodox Jew who observes the Sabbath on Fridays. Likewise, Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) has been heavily scrutinized as the first Muslim elected to Congress in 2007. Moreover, one of the chief oppositions to President Barack Obama was the idea that he was an undercover Muslim.

(10.) The relationship between acculturation and assimilation is similar to that of patriotism and nativism. Acculturation is the process of becoming familiar with the identity and practices of one’s new nation. However, assimilation connotes a replacement of one’s national, cultural, and ethnic identities with that of the home country such that vestiges of one’s native culture are no longer perceptible. In either case, the drive is to belong in the new nation, but the acculturation approach attempts to do so while retaining cultural markers from one’s native community, and assimilation seeks to obliterate those connections in order to be absorbed by the new, receiving context.

(11.) Dred Scott was an enslaved person who lived for two years in free territory with his owner. In Missouri, Dred Scott sued for his freedom declaring that because slavery was illegal in that territory, he was being held illegally. The Court took the case one step further and suggested Congress had overstepped its authority when they passed the Missouri Compromise in 1820. The Missouri Compromise was an attempt to contain slavery as the United States expanded westward; the idea was to permit slavery in those territories where it already existed but not to allow the expansion of this system, as Congress sought to strike a balance between slave and free states.

(12.) Native Americans were also named in the majority opinion, where the Court suggested that Native Americans were “foreigners not living under our Government.” Thus, Native Americans, according to the Dred Scott decision, would be treated as immigrants and allowed to naturalize if they wanted to live among whites.

(13.) Part of the defense of this reading of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, according to Chief Justice Taney, is the idea that the Framers were too learned to have made the mistake of including enslaved Africans in the clause, “all men are created equal,” because the inclusion of blacks in the family of humankind would have been contradictory. On the contrary, as Justice Taney argued, these were great men who understood what they were writing, and some of them held slaves. Therefore, they necessarily separated black people from ideas of citizenship because black people’s incapacity for civilization doomed them to a lifetime of slavery. The Founders, being aware of this, properly understood them as belongings.

(14.) The residency requirement was extended to five years and fourteen years in subsequent revisions of the law in 1795 and 1798, respectively. The right to naturalize was broadened to Africans in 1870, Native Americans in 1924, and Chinese were allowed to naturalize in 1943 after the official Chinese exclusion policy was repealed.

(15.) Even though Proposition 187 passed, it was effectively killed after being challenged on appeal. Morris (2000) found that interminority conflict did not predict black support of Proposition 187. In fact, Morris found that blacks were more likely to support the ballot measure as their personal finances improved. Thus, black support for Proposition 187 seemed to be more a function of socioeconomic status rather than racial animus. Nevertheless, 47 percent of California’s black voters supported the measure (Cummings and Lambert 1997). However, the state NAACP and other organizations were firmly opposed to the act.

(16.) Douglass’ sympathy for the Irish people was subsequent to a visit he made to the country in 1845. It was there he witnessed the Irish famine, as well as their struggle for independence—two themes that resonated with his abolitionist activities. Because citizenship was not legally granted to blacks at this time, Douglass went to Ireland as a man without a country. Therefore, he traveled to volatile Ireland without the protection of the U.S. government (Ferreira 1999). There is a mural portraying Frederick Douglass in Belfast, Ireland, where he is regarded as a hero for the voice he gave to the Irish cause in their battles with Great Britain.

(17.) I bracket the term citizen because blacks, both slave and free, were not technically American citizens at this point; citizenship was not granted to blacks until 1868. However, blacks frequently applied this appellation to themselves despite this legal formality.

(18.) The Reconstruction period (1865–1877) was a brief moment where blacks saw their political fortunes change. With the federal government occupying the South after the Civil War, blacks were able to successfully engage the political system and elect the first representatives to state governments across the South. However, these early successes were quickly lost upon the federal government’s departure from the region. Still, the Reconstruction was not a panacea. For example, the Georgia State Legislature ejected over twenty black, duly elected officeholders in 1868. Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, a member of the African Methodist Episcopal clergy and a Civil War chaplain, was among those removed from office. His address, “On the Eligibility of Colored Members to Seats in the Georgia Legislature,” offers a great reflection on this period and the state policies used to undermine black gains made during Reconstruction.

(19.) It should be noted that this piece was run eight times verbatim in The Appeal from January 1921 to March 1921. It appeared bi-weekly in January, weekly in February, and bi-weekly in 1921. Why this particular piece ran this often is unclear, but it does suggest the urgency some blacks felt with respect to the issue and the desire to have a government that would protect their interests through tighter restrictions on immigration.

(20.) The fact that black critics of white America, particularly journalists, did so under the threat of death has to be kept in mind. Public critics of white supremacy spoke out at great peril. Ida B. Wells-Barnett was forced to flee Memphis for her writings on lynching, and her newspaper was destroyed. Similarly, the Wilmington, NC, Race Riot of 1898 began partly because Alex Manly, the editor of the black newspaper the Daily Record, condemned lynching by writing that white women willingly entered into interracial relationships with black men. Manly was forced to escape Wilmington because there was a bounty offered for his death, and the Daily Record’s offices were destroyed, as were original issues of the newspaper. The Daily Record never recovered, and Alex Manly never returned to North Carolina. Moreover, because of the riot, a number of Wilmington’s black residents fled the city. Race riots like that in Wilmington occurred in Springfield, IL (1908), East St. Louis, IL (1917), Tulsa, OK (1921), and Rosewood, FL (1923). Thus, given the racial climate of this time, any type of perceived opposition to white supremacy was dealt with by extreme shows of force. In fact, simply being black was a crime that could result in punishment. Mary Frances Berry, in her piece “Reckless Eyeballing: The Matt Ingram Case and the Denial of African American Sexual Freedom,” (2008) discusses the ways in which black bodies are criminalized.

(21.) Rayford Logan defined “the Nadir” as a period where black efforts to gain equality were fiercely resisted, legally and extra-legally. For example, the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decision affirmed the constitutionality of Jim Crow, lynching of black people increased, and the general retreat away from black civil rights was fairly widespread. Although Logan stopped his analysis, scholars have extended his (p.195) original periodization and argue “the Nadir” lasted until around 1940, where white supremacist behavior nationally was at its peak.

(22.) It should be noted that these were very masculinist conceptions of national belonging (Estes 2005). Although black women were as much a part of the black struggle, voting rights were not fully extended to black women until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The right to vote was not granted to women until 1920 by the 19th Amendment, and to blacks not until 1965, doubly excluding black women.

(23.) This is not to suggest that European immigrants were not racialized. Nor is it to suggest that blacks were unaware of the ways in which whites used employed immigrants from other parts of the world, such as Asia, to undermine their efforts at employment equity, higher wages, better working conditions, and the like. What it does suggest is that blacks were far more empathetic to the motivations of immigrants of all stripes for coming to the United States, but not to the ways in which these immigrants were mobilized to retard black upward mobility.

(24.) Immigration is far from the only issue to have a dampening effect on black optimism. Events such as Hurricane Katrina, the murder of Trayvon Martin, the rollback of voting rights provisions and statewide voter intimidation initiatives, high unemployment, rampant incarceration, as well as a host of other issues, also matter. Although these issues are not the focus of this text, I wish to acknowledge their import as it pertains to the development and crystallization of black public opinion.

(25.) Groups like Choose Black America and the African American Leadership Council are exceptions. Although these groups are fronted by blacks, they cannot claim to represent black interests. In particular, Choose Black America was founded by the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a larger, majority white, anti-immigrant organization, which discredits their claims to speaking for a general black population. Likewise, the AALC is highly critical of established black organizations such as the Congressional Black Caucus and the NAACP for being too lenient on immigration in ways that hurt black Americans. The Black American Leadership Alliance, founded in 2013, is another ardently anti-immigrant group, has organized rallies in opposition to immigration, and is opposed to any type of amnesty for undocumented persons. Despite the sensationalism surrounding these groups, they are far from mainstream organizations and do not represent the prevailing attitudes of blacks with respect to immigration as borne out by numerous public opinion polls. These groups are in no discernible way connected to black America. For example, the Pew Research Center (2006) shows that blacks generally hold positive views with respect to immigrants despite their concerns about economic competition from Latino immigrants. This mirrors work by Thornton and Mizuno (1999), which shows that blacks typically have warmer feelings toward immigrants than they do toward whites. Additionally, both the NAACP and The National Urban League (p.196) have issued statements supporting comprehensive immigration reform. This is significant because, as long-standing organizations focused on the betterment of black lives, these agencies recognize the import of immigration reform for black progress. As Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, noted, it is important to have temporary work visas for immigrants provided there is also job training particularly for blacks and Latino citizens, so that their job prospects are not harmed by the presence of immigrants.

(26.) Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) focused strongly on the resettlement of black people in their ancestral homeland of Africa. Garvey’s attempts to finance this action through the ill-fated Black Star Line would be the impetus for his prosecution and subsequent incarceration in federal prison, after which he was deported to London.

(27.) A form of this black nationalist tradition of self-determination was still around in the later twentieth century as blacks experimented with alternative living practices in this country. For example, Soul City, North Carolina, was established in 1969 as one of the first model city programs in the country. The idea was to make a racially harmonious community that would serve the educational, social, health, and recreational needs of the area’s largely black rural community. Similarly, the Republic of New Africa was conceived by the Black Government Conference as a self-sustaining nation to serve the needs of black Americans. The country would be composed of majority-black states of the former Confederacy (Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina) and would secede from the United States. The belief was that as long as blacks continued to live within the confines of a white-identified country they could never hope for true self-determination. The MOVE Organization based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was another attempt by blacks to lead self-sustaining lives. Founded in 1972, MOVE was a small organization whose members lived communally, eschewed technology, and maintained a vegan lifestyle. Most of the members of MOVE were killed when the Philadelphia Police Department bombed their home in 1985. Eleven people, including several children, were killed by the bombing. Ramona and Birdie Africa were the only two survivors.

(28.) This has changed somewhat in the current political environment because immigration has become a much more prominent national issue. A July 2013 Gallup poll cites immigration as an important issue, but is not as salient as unemployment.