Collective Memory and Racial Hierarchy in the Present
Abstract and Keywords
Using interviews, this chapter highlights the ways in which blacks talk about immigration. In particular, the chapter seeks to uncover how blacks use their group’s past racial experiences (e.g., Jim Crow) to understand their present circumstances. Interviews conducted by the author reveal that respondents see their blackness as being devalued in American society. Their racial history aids in their assessment of their comparative racial progress. Through the particularities of their group’s history, they are able to understand how racial hierarchy positions their group relative to whites, and how the presence of immigrants highlights their disparate states in society. However, respondents in these interviews harbor no major hostilities toward immigrants. Rather, they are discomfited by the ways they perceive whites as exploiting immigrants in an effort to enforce the subordinate status on their group.
IN THE PREVIOUS chapters I have outlined my core argument that black attitudes toward immigration are mediated by feelings about their own partial incorporation into American society. Insofar as blacks care about immigration, it is because it provides a vehicle to air their grievances regarding their current circumstances, which they view as being the result of past and ongoing racial discrimination. This chapter provides an analysis of discourse that demonstrates the ways in which black people dialogue about race and its connection to immigration. This chapter does not argue that the relationship between the past and present is linear; it does argue that to understand black attitudes, it is necessary to appreciate how black people relate the past to their present (Dawson 1994a; Harris-Lacewell 2004; Walters 2009). In this chapter I demonstrate how collective memory bonds the past to the present and provides the connective tissue between the realities of black people’s lived experiences and their attitudes about immigration. What I am able to show is that blacks’ present worldview is steeped in their collective memory of their community’s struggles for racial equality (Kachun 2009; Nunnally 2012; Shackel 2003; Walters 2009). Consequently, immigration is necessarily seen through a black/white racial lens, and the immigration issue is used by blacks as an indicator of their group’s progress. I demonstrate that blacks exhibit a complicated range of responses to immigration, which I characterize as ambivalent and far more uncertain than appreciated. Using the community of Durham, North Carolina, as a case study, I explore the uniqueness of this locality, especially in terms of its long fight to end school segregation, (p.97) to make more general claims about the importance of the past in understanding present attitudes. I first move to a discussion of Durham and the particularities of the city and state that make it a compelling case for understanding the ways in which race informs and constrains black public opinion with respect to immigration.
Durham: Black Progress and Racial Retrenchment in North Carolina
Durham, North Carolina, was one of the success stories in black America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The home of black entrepreneurship and middle-class progress, the many cultural and educational institutions that catered to the city’s black population concealed the vast economic and racial disparities seen in many other parts of the country where blacks lived. Because blacks occupied so many places of power in the city, it masked the rather draconian racial climate of the state at large. Durham had so many blacks registered to vote by 1965 that it was not covered by the pre-clearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act1. Still, Durham had deep racial problems that remain to this day.
Part of the Upper South, North Carolina was viewed as relatively progressive compared to its slave-owning cousins in Virginia and South Carolina, owing to its relatively small slave markets (Johnson 1937). Nevertheless, the bugaboo of race has permeated every fiber of the state’s being. The durability of black and white racial dynamics, like other southern states, remains a dominant feature of the city’s and state’s political landscape.2 Despite the great waves of immigration beginning in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that characterized the North, the South remained a fundamentally biracial space. North Carolina, despite its identity as a quasi-liberal state, is undoubtedly Southern and as steeped in the legacy of enslavement and Jim Crow as any other place.
Durham, one of North Carolina’s oldest cities, has been influenced by that same legacy of slavery. Tobacco, for which the city was renowned, had been the source of the city’s growth. Tobacco was central to the relationship between blacks and whites both during and after slavery. Well into the 1940s and beyond, the city’s tobacco factories were a source of employment for most Durham residents, as well as the locus of much racial animus between blacks and whites (Greene 2005).
(p.98) A considerable black middle class existed in the city for many decades, which makes Durham unique with respect to comparable places.3 Black Durham was anchored by three very important institutions. The North Carolina Mutual and Life Insurance Company, founded in 1898, is the oldest and largest black owned and operated insurance firm in the country.4 The Mechanics and Farmers Bank—chartered in 1907, opened in 1908, and still around today—was one of the most fiscally sound black owned and managed financial institutions to cater to an African American clientele.5 And finally, what is now known as North Carolina Central University (NCCU) opened its doors in 1910 under the leadership of Dr. James E. Shepard with a mission to educate Negro men and women; this institution was integral to the city’s sit-in movement during the 1950s and 1960s campaign for civil rights. These bodies served as important organizing institutions of the city’s black community but were unable to completely shield its members from the indignities of racism.
Despite the presence of these organizations, more blacks were employed by the tobacco manufacturing industry than in black institutions (Gershenhorn 2001; Green 2005; Jones 1984). These low-paying, low-skilled jobs were a far cry from the wealth that black Durham was known for. Black Durham has always been stratified economically into the “haves” and “have-nots.” Although at certain moments the class differences in this community have led to some intraracial hostility, race has been the most salient unifying force among black Durham residents.
Although poor and middle-class blacks led very different lives, the space they were allowed to inhabit as a whole was limited. Discrimination in Durham was not about class but about race. Monetary resources did not necessarily bring physical and social mobility. Despite black residents such as C.C. Spaulding6 being viewed as gatekeepers of the black community, the financial resources wielded by Spaulding and others were unable to stem the tide of white racial prejudice in Durham. Geographically constrained by segregation, blacks were not only barred from participating in the white public sphere, they were physically removed from the presence of whites. As the map demonstrates, blacks were relegated to clearly defined communities that created and reified patterns of inequality. All areas marked with a “D” were majority black and poor, the areas were deemed “risky” by the insurance authority; consequently, the homes in these areas were undervalued and because of redlining, it was nearly impossible to obtain a mortgage. This made maintain the city’s color line easier as official and unofficial authorities conspired to keep Durham’s (p.99) communities segregated (Rothstein 2017). This segregation unwittingly provided the fodder for black collective organization. The Hayti neighborhood, located in area D6, was established in the late 1880s outside the Durham city limits, and was the hub of much of black life in the city (Litwack 2004; Rabinowitz 1976). Blacks developed a parallel business and social community in Hayti for the provision of goods and services (Anderson 1990).7 This was not unique to Durham; black enclaves were created out of necessity to serve the economic, social, educational, and political needs of black communities, both North and South.
The literal and figurative separation of blacks and whites was also replicated in tobacco factories, where labor and workspace were segregated according to gender and color (Hunter 1997; Jones 1984). Although tobacco factories paid better than agricultural work, blacks worked the “dirty” jobs in factories and did so in separate buildings from whites; in tobacco (p.100) factories, this work consisted of “sorting, cleaning and stemming” tobacco (Jones 1984: 444). It goes without saying that such racial hierarchy was reflected in differential earnings and in the unsafe working conditions blacks were subjected to. Poor ventilation, lack of safety equipment, verbal and physical abuse, and often sexual abuse for black women were standard practices in Durham’s tobacco factories (Bynum 1992; Griffin and Korstad 1995; Jones 2009). These exploitative business practices overlapped with the social customs of the day that denigrated blacks.
Blacks in Durham did not experience these effects uniformly. Black women were particularly vulnerable to (sexual) abuse and low wages on the job (Greene 2005; Jones 1984). In Durham, as in other parts of the country, black women were more likely than their white counterparts to work outside the home (Greene 2005; Hunter 1997; Jones 1984; Wolcott 1997, 2001). This made them vulnerable to all manner of sexual misconduct on the part of employers. Black women fortunate enough to gain employment with one of the city’s black firms were somewhat insulated from such sexual harassment (Brown and Valk 2004; Kelly 2010). Yet, for a number of black women who worked outside the home, the workplace was fraught with all types of dangers (Collins 1990; Greene 2005; Kelley 1993; Jones 2009). For those who needed the wages, albeit substandard, there was often no alternative. Unfortunately, for black women this added injury was usually without resolution because the code of (racial) justice in the South did not include any penalty for white men who transgressed the boundaries of black female sexual autonomy (Collins 1990; Edwards 2005, 1991; Greene 2005; Hodes 1997; McGuire 2010; Mitchell 1999; Roberts 1997; Wiegman 1995; West 1999).
Even though race was experienced disparately by class and gender, black Durhamites coalesced around their racial identity (Greene 2005). Racial segregation, though oppressive in most ways, enabled blacks to develop the resources necessary to resist the city’s segregation (Greene 2005; Weare 1973). The entrepreneurial community played a vital yet complicated role in the city’s race relations. Because black elites were able to access the city’s white power structure, their role with respect to the larger black community was strained (Greene 2005). This tension was caused by the dual responsibilities and functions served by the black middle class. In addition to being arbiters on behalf of their community, black elites also served a quasi-police function with respect to the city’s black populace when racial tempers flared and resulted in open defiance of white supremacist practices (Anderson 1990; Greene 2005). In these instances, black (p.101) elites seemed to collude with white authorities to mollify black residents and quell conflicts. In so doing, black elites achieved greater gains for themselves owing to their ability to access their white counterparts. Unfortunately, the interests of black elites did not always result in the most equitable outcomes for the majority of blacks (Anderson 1990).
Still, the black business community was a much needed and utilized resource. Not only did they provide money for civil rights efforts, they also had access to physical space, which was necessary for organizing. Because of the nature of the industries these entrepreneurs were involved in, such as funeral homes, insurance, and beauty care, they had organizational skills, capital, and space essential for building thriving businesses and supporting burgeoning political movements on the part of blacks (Boyd 2000; Brown and Valk 2004; Gill 2004; Greene 2005; Holloway 2002; Silverman 1998; Brady, Verba, and Schlozman 1995). Moreover, by serving a racially homogeneous clientele, black businesses were able to access large swaths of the community that allowed them to facilitate social movement networks (Gill 2004; Holloway 2002; Silverman 1998). In a perverse way, the activism of the black community was greatly enabled by Jim Crow segregation. Freed from the capriciousness of white employers, black entrepreneurs were able to support a number of civil rights organizations and their political activities. The organizing activities that many of these ladies and men participated in would have guaranteed their termination and expulsion from the white employment sector. By controlling their own purse strings, black entrepreneurs did not have to fear economic retaliation by whites.8
The “independence” provided by segregation gave them the space to formulate a black counter-public resistant to the denial of their civil rights and liberties (Brooks 2005; Dawson 1994b; Squires 2002). From all corners, the black community began to demand everything from the provision of basic city services to better education for their children (Anderson 1990). Mirroring the larger civil rights movement, black Durham organizers concentrated much of their efforts on integrating institutions of higher education. This tactic of integrating educational institutions was chosen because Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) established the “separate but equal” clause, which maintained separate black institutions were permissible if they were equal to white institutions. Black institutions were rarely equal to white institutions, which was abundantly clear when looking at the state of black schools relative to their peer white schools. As a result, the constitutionality of these institutions was challenged for violating the (p.102) “equality” standard, with the thought that if states were unable to meet the mandate of maintaining the same institutions for black and white students they would be forced to integrate these institutions. Thus, if integration of educational institutions could be achieved, then this would clear the way for the integration of public accommodations and other parts of segregated life. In this way, education was a small piece of a comprehensive strategy toward ending Jim Crow segregation.
Although blacks were not prohibited from applying to white colleges in the state, it was clear they would not be accepted. Furthermore, the North Carolina College for Negroes, the only historically black college in the city, did not have any graduate or professional programs.9 Thus, it was a certainty that black students would have to relocate to obtain a graduate degree because there were no schools in the state offering professional training to black students. This reality made segregated education in North Carolina ripe for legal challenge.
Challenging Jim Crow
Durham attorneys Conrad Pearson and Cecil McCoy, with the assistance of NAACP attorney William Hastie and the support of C.C. Spaulding, sought to test admissions criteria using college student Thomas R. Hocutt as a test case (Anderson 1990; Gershenhorn 2001). Hocutt was a student at the North Carolina College for Negroes and was the only student brave enough to volunteer for the undertaking in 1933. Hocutt, accompanied by his attorneys, attempted to enroll in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s (UNC) pharmacy school, where he was summarily denied admission because of his race. This denial gave the attorneys grounds to sue, because neither the university nor the state had any professional programs for blacks at this time. Soon after filing the lawsuit, the support that Pearson, McCoy, and Hocutt received from black elites evaporated amid intense pressure from their white allies (Gershenhorn 2001). Even among those whites considered racial liberals, support for equality ended at calls for integration of the public sphere (Carter 2012, 2013). Although some whites believed Hocutt should be able to pursue graduate education, they felt he should do so at a black university.
Of course, Hocutt’s case presented a number of problems for blacks and whites, albeit for different reasons. C.C. Spaulding, who initially supported the Hocutt case, withdrew his public support because he did not want to upset the rather pleasant relationships he enjoyed with local (p.103) whites. A racial moderate, Spaulding continued his advocacy of the case privately as he both recognized the importance of pushing a more racially inclusive agenda while maintaining friendships with whites for his commercial and community interests. James Shepard, the president of NCCN and a racial gradualist, at no point supported the NAACP and Hocutt’s efforts. First and foremost, Shepard’s college received funding through the state legislature. By necessity he had to adopt a far more conciliatory tone to maintain this funding, which was already lacking and subject to the whims of white state legislators. What is more, Shepard was rightfully concerned that the admission of blacks to predominantly white institutions meant less incentive for the state to put resources into black colleges for more robust degree programs (Brown 2002; Gasman 2013; Harvey, Harvey, and King 2004; Kelly 2010). For these reasons, Shepard believed the Hocutt case was not only wrongheaded but had potentially deleterious and unforeseen consequences on the long-term viability of black institutions such as the one he helmed. As such, Shepard saw the Hocutt case as an opportunity to leverage the state into granting more money to black institutions to serve the graduate and professional needs of students in the state.10 Consequently, Shepard did not provide an official university transcript for Hocutt’s application.11 Shepard’s refusal to provide Hocutt with an official transcript gave the University of North Carolina a nonracial reason to reject his application, which they did, although it was a suspect claim. Still, it is necessary to put Shepard’s actions in context. The NCCN relied on the state for funding, and this was during the Great Depression, which meant the already meager funding was more threatened. By taking away Hocutt’s individual opportunity, greater group gains were achieved. However, Shepard’s individual beliefs and actions were not the sole reason that Hocutt’s attempts to register at UNC were unsuccessful.
White moderates were also opposed to Hocutt’s admission to Chapel Hill. They saw Hocutt’s exclusion as necessary to preserving the sanctity of their institutions. Segregation, as a physical manifestation of white supremacy, was foundational to UNC and institutions of like mind; by rejecting Hocutt they were by extension protecting their institutions and white supremacy (Carter 2012, 2013). Then president of UNC Frank Porter Graham believed segregation was wrong, but was unwilling to lobby against the Board of Trustees and their desire to keep UNC racially white (Gershenhorn 2001). Indeed Graham, like other whites who believed in interracial cooperation, were prepared to pursue professional schools for (p.104) blacks only so long as their own universities and full integration were off the table. In this sentiment, Shepard and Graham were unified. Thus, both white and black elites privately attempted to get Hocutt and the national NAACP to vacate the case.12 In fact, UNC officials offered Hocutt guaranteed funding for his out-of-state tuition as an inducement to leave the case. It was feared that a finding in favor of Hocutt would be a slippery slope that would not only put their beloved institutions at risk, but also their children and white women (Hodes 1997; Vander Zanden 1959). This preoccupation that racial integration would lead to miscegenation was one of the more persuasive arguments for maintaining segregation. If black people, particularly black men, became the social equals of white men, then it would only be a matter of time before they desired to have the ultimate symbol of social equality with white men—white women. This “race mixing” would serve to weaken white gene pools and create social chaos for America. Of course these fears were largely unfounded, but they were powerful and had the intended consequence of cooling white sympathies toward the project of racial integration. On the other side, black elites were concerned that failure to get Hocutt to leave the lawsuit would harm their educational institutions and send the message to white elites that they did not hold sway over their communities.
When the case finally received a hearing, the state court affirmed the university’s decision to refuse Hocutt’s admission. Although the courts ruled UNC could not be compelled to admit black students, there was still hope among black North Carolinians that the state legislature would pass a bill to pay the tuition of black students seeking professional or graduate degrees out of state. The bill failed, and no subsequent cases challenging segregation in higher education in North Carolina were pursued. The NAACP decided Hocutt was not the type of plaintiff it needed in a state as resistant to integration as North Carolina; Hocutt was not a stellar student, and both blacks and whites agreed that another filing of the case was undesirable.13 Although Hocutt may have been collateral damage on the road to racial progress, it cannot be denied that even in its failure, the Hocutt case was part of the lineage of other legal challenges to segregation in higher education.
Missouri ex. rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938) in Maryland is one case inspired by the legal maneuverings in Hocutt. The Supreme Court ruled “state universities admit blacks to graduate or professional schools unless equivalent instruction were available at black institutions” (Anderson 1990). Missouri ex. rel. Gaines effectively pushed the issue of integration in (p.105) higher education down the road, but also opened a range of opportunities for black students. The Hocutt case also helped the North Carolina College for Negroes obtain funds to build a law school and other facilities to improve the university. In 1939, the state legislature granted a charter for the founding of a law school at North Carolina College for Negroes.14 Rather than integrate the white institutions already in existence, the previously resistant state legislature opted to build the capacities of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Furthermore, activism in Durham reached an apex.
A number of organizations and individuals began advocating for public works projects, attacked primary and secondary school segregation through the law, raised the prominence of the NAACP in the state, increased voting efforts, and aggressively lobbied city council for better representation (Anderson 1990; Elliott 1996; Payne 1989). One of the major forces for change in the city was the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs (DCNA) founded in 1935. A group of some “150 blacks representing every aspect of black life,” were called together by C.C. Spaulding, who was subsequently elected as DCNA’s first chairman, to form this collective action group (Anderson 1990: 373).
One of the DCNA’s major undertakings was voter registration; at the close of the 1920s there were only 50 blacks registered to vote in Durham (Anderson 1990; Morris 1986; Newton 1957). By 1943, Durham County had the highest number of black registered voters in the state of North Carolina. The inroads made in voter registration proved successful as blacks were able to wield a modicum of political power in the city for the first time. Although a gradual process, blacks were eventually able to elect blacks to “positions on commissions and boards, a few public offices, a fire station manned by blacks, a few black policemen and recreational facilities,” such that by 1953, Rencher N. Harris became the first black person elected to the Durham City Council (Anderson 1990: 373).15 By 1958, Harris became the first black person on the Durham City Board of Education. This newfound political power gave black residents the resolve necessary to battle segregation in public schools and other public accommodations, which proved to be some of the most difficult and enduring fights between blacks and whites in the city.16
Like many of their Southern counterparts, Durham’s white residents were not anxious to formulate a more open community. Not only were the public schools not ready to integrate following Brown v. Board of Education (1954), but local universities such as Duke resisted integration in its (p.106) graduate and professional schools until 1961 and in its undergraduate schools until 1962. Rather, whites were more committed to preventing racial conflagrations that had been witnessed by other cities. To that end, they were willing to work with blacks in some limited capacities to keep the peace.
However, this conciliatory move did not translate into a committed and consistent posture toward integration in the city of Durham. In fact, Durham and the state of North Carolina actively avoided school integration well into the 1970s through their adoption of a pupil reassignment plan. Formally called the Pearsall Plan (1955), under the leadership of Governor Luther Hodges, North Carolina devised a strategy that was technically compliant with the Supreme Court decision but still acceptable to whites. The plan granted
each local school board the authority to review and decide, each on its individual merits other than race, applications to reassignment in the public schools. Parents of either race had the option of applying for reassignment of their children to schools of their choice. Each school district also had the option to close its schools by a majority vote. (Anderson 1990: 432–433)
This meant segregation would continue indefinitely because white parents could simply shuffle their children as needed to avoid formal integration. Although black parents were free to make reassignment requests, they were generally denied. In the most extreme cases, parents could opt to shutter schools altogether. It was not until 1963 that Durham was compelled by federal court order to integrate its schools more rapidly. While more than one hundred black students were transferred to white schools, the city school board effectively curtailed integration by adopting a pupil assignment policy based on neighborhood zones, which, because of residential segregation, kept schools racially organized as black or white.
In this way, integration became the onus of black parents who were able to or interested in availing themselves of the lengthy transfer process. Black parents and children would not receive any relief from these practices until 1970, when Durham city schools were compelled to integrate by court order. Forced integration was “achieved by pairing black and white schools and creating attendance zones for the two high schools” (Anderson 1990: 434). Unfortunately, the court’s attempts were for naught at this point because by 1970 the Durham public school system (p.107) was majority black because of white flight and the proliferation of private academies that catered to this fleeing white community (Clotfelter 1976; Clotfelter et al. 2003). By 1974, the black population in the Durham city school system was over 70 percent (Wheeler et al. v. The Durham City Board of Education 379 F. Supp. 1352 (M.D. N.C. 1974)), thus rendering moot school assignment by neighborhood and transfers as ways of addressing school integration.17
However, it is important to note that most of the wrangling over school desegregation occurred at the city level. Durham city and county schools were separate entities; consolidation of the two systems was an issue effectively resisted by blacks and whites, albeit for different reasons, until 1992 (Fairclough 2004). Whites wanted to preserve the racial homogeneity of county schools, the county being majority white. On the other hand, blacks did not wish to see their teachers, administrators, and children compromised by integration once the systems were joined (Doddy and Edwards 1955; Fairclough 2004; Gaines 1996; Kelly 2010; Rabinowitz 1974).
By the 1970s Durham county and city were becoming “blacker.” More affluent blacks were making the choice to reside in the county; at the same time, low-income housing was being developed outside of the city proper and changing the racial composition of the county (Anderson 1990). In addition, blacks residing in the city began making a number of requests for transfers from city to county schools. As a result of such racial shifting, Durham was faced with a situation where whites were placing their children in private schools while blacks were beginning to place their children in county schools. Consequently, class cleavages, which had always been there but were subsumed by the exigencies of Jim Crow, were reasserting their role alongside race as a prominent fault line in Durham.
Into the 1980s, the parties of the Wheeler case continued to press the matter of school desegregation. It was also during this period that a proposed merger of the city and county systems would generate more support. In 1988, Durham County Commissioners developed a Merger Issues Task Force in an effort to gauge the effectiveness of each of the school systems. This large body consisted of 40 members and 40 alternates. When the Task Force delivered its report one year later, they found the city system was plagued by dilapidated physical facilities, poor fiscal mismanagement, below average test scores, and an astronomical dropout rate (Apostoleris 2018; Cyna 2019; Eden 2001a; Schmidt 1995).
(p.108) Although the Task Force would identify disparities within and between the city and county school systems, they stopped short of recommending a merger. Instead, they suggested a referendum on the issue because the Task Force itself was divided, primarily along racial lines, on how to elect the school board of a merged school system (Strom 2001).18 By North Carolina state law, the powers to merge school districts fell to local boards of education; yet racial relations were so frayed it was nearly impossible to get all interested parties to agree on most things (Schmidt 1995). At the same time, County Commissioner Bill Bell, who would later become mayor of Durham, sought help from State Senator Jim Hunt in drafting a bill that would grant county commissioners the power to merge school districts without public vote or consent of the school boards. By unanimous vote the Durham County commissioners, both black and white, agreed they would take the lead in a merger of the school systems (Apostoleris 2018; Cyna 2019). Thus, by the time the bill was approved in 1991, the commissioners had begun devising a strategy for the merger.
Although county commissioners thought they were doing what was best for the community, this move engendered more outrage because community members felt they should have been given a voice on the issue (Herriott 2001; Schmidt 1995). The racial divisions that characterized the attitudes of the larger Durham community on the merger would eventually be seen on the Durham County Commission. Despite commissioners agreeing that a merger had to take place, the issue of how school board members would be elected remained unsettled. Blacks had a majority on the Commission and felt election districts should be drawn to ensure consistent black representation on the Board of Education. White members of the Commission wanted an at-large system, which would have harmed black representation; at this time, a majority of the registered voters in Durham were white (Eden 2001a, b). Although black members of the Commission would get their way, they needed the approval of the State Board of Education to approve the new voting plan; the State Board of Education rejected the proposal.
This impasse would eventually be settled by yet another compromise devised by Commissioner MaryAnn Black, an experienced local office holder then serving in the North Carolina State House of Representatives. When the city and county schools finally merged in 1992, the transition to a racially integrated system was anything but smooth. Almost immediately after the merger, the school system lost nearly 100 teachers and a dozen administrators from the central office, mostly from the former (p.109) city schools (Eden 2001b). In addition, the newly merged system suffered from white flight as parents removed their children from the Durham school system to avoid reassignment; the 1992 school year began with 600 fewer students than the previous school year (Eden 2001b). The racial integration the merger was supposed to facilitate became harder to realize. To complicate matters further, the school system was plagued with an incompetent and inefficient transportation system that heightened concerns about the unified school system (Eden 2001b).
Although it may appear that many of the cleavages that caused blacks to seek legal curatives to the racial situation of the previous decades had passed, in post–Civil Rights Act Durham, these issues remained just below the surface of black/white relations. Although blacks and whites in Durham have disagreed on a number of racial issues, the domain of education has been the area in which these disagreements have played out most visibly (Apostoleris 2018; Cyna 2019). For example, racially balkanized voting as well as frequent verbal altercations were features of school board meetings and other related activities into the early aughts (Herriott 2001; Strom 2001).19 One of the major causes for this racial rift was the fact that African Americans did not have a majority on the board of education but represented a majority of the population (Schmidt 1995). It was not until 2016 that Durham’s board of education became majority black, a first since the school systems merged.20 Therefore, to say that Durham has “overcome” its racial past would be an overstatement. Although outright racial discrimination and violence only make episodic appearances, the tension between white and black communities remains a defining feature of the racial landscape in the area.
The purpose of this brief history has been to provide the broad contours of the black and white racial context in which the area has been mired for centuries. While Durham is a Southern city, this narrative is one that is rather indicative of American life more generally. As the bearer of America’s symbolic racial memory, the South has been a particular locus of black disenfranchisement but is not unique in that sense. An affront and challenge to black citizenship and inclusion, both nationally and locally, (Southern) white racism has proven a durable lens through which blacks have come to view their place in America’s racial hierarchy (Baker and Nelson 2001; Cash 1991; Cobb 2005; DeLombard 2001; Hale 1998; Key 1996; Marx 1998; Painter 2002; Singh 2004). The story of race is a thoroughly American story despite the mythologies we have created about the liberal North and racist South. Likewise, the story of school desegregation (p.110) is simply a microcosm of larger racial dynamics. Looking at cities like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and many others, these types of tensions characterize black and white racial relations nationally. It is not atypical to find blacks suspicious of the actions of whites, which have often left them without control of their communities and institutions regardless of where they are located (Pew Research Center 2016).
Thus, blacks recognize their citizenship and the ability to participate in the democratic process does not safeguard them against social, political, and economic exclusion. Although I have spoken extensively about education, this is still very much a story about immigration. This is because newly arriving persons are becoming a part of a rough racial terrain where the dynamics between blacks and whites are central for understanding black attitudes toward newcomers. Consequently, the uncertainty expressed regarding immigrants is as much about blacks’ fraught relationship with whites as it is immigrants.
Memories, the Past and the Present
Although memories suggest a reflection on the past, they have relevance in the present. In the case of African Americans, so much of who they are as a people is about the communal nature of memories of their history. Collective memory as a concept suggests our memories are a social practice that helps groups define a sense of self. That is, memories provide a way for us to cooperatively define the narrative of our group; by providing an origin story of sorts, this act of autobiography becomes more than simply myth-making in an effort to unite one’s group or raise a group’s self-esteem. Rather, it becomes elevated to a political act that bonds the group such that it can agitate for its own best interests that come to be defined out of these communal narratives.21 For example, although contemporary blacks have not experienced enslavement,22 this history is a powerful, unifying force for black Americans who have ancestors of this period and understand this moment as connected to shaping the contours of black lives, both past and present.
Memories are a resource all groups have. These memories assist groups in determining who they were and who they are. For marginalized groups, collective memory can be a powerful mechanism in mounting effective resistance to oppression as well as deciding community interests (Dawson 1994b, 2003; Nunnally 2012; Walters 2009). Collective memory is important for black people because it gives them a context to determine (p.111) their best interests as individuals and as group members (Cohen 1999; Dawson 1994a, 2001; Harris-Lacewell 2004; Nunnally 2012). Nunnally (2012) notes that community is how many blacks learn about whom to trust both interracially and intraracially. This type of social learning relies, in part, on memories of parents, community leaders, and other trusted individuals who use their experiences to guide the racial learning and trusting behaviors of later generations. In the cast of racial trust, and as suggested in the previous chapter, the history of African Americans offers important guideposts to blacks about how they can expect their group to be treated by the country. In this chapter, I return to one of my central claims, which is that white supremacy is viewed as an ongoing barrier to black inclusion in the body politic. To the extent that blacks believe structural racism to be operative in the current political climate, this influences their understanding of their place relative to immigrants. The main argument I attend to here is the ongoing significance of the black/white racial paradigm in influencing black perceptions of immigrants—in particular, their sense that recent immigrants present a potential barrier to their own full inclusion.
Using Durham as a case, this chapter focuses on the ways blacks understand the different trajectories of citizenship for their group and for others given their racial past. I argue it is collective memory that anchors blacks’ past racial history to their present claims regarding their rights and privileges as Americans. Thus, this chapter provides a framework for understanding black public opinion on immigration, which is rooted in their unique experiences. To this end, I ask how the history of black struggle influences their contemporary opinions regarding immigration. How does collective memory help people articulate a clear understanding of their place in the nation’s racial hierarchy? I turn now toward a discussion of the methodology of this chapter; a deeper discussion of collective memory, its uses, and importance to individual identity formation; and the everyday ways in which blacks talk about the intricacies of immigration.
To address these issues, I begin with a brief discussion of memory, its uses, and its importance to individual and group identities. By using a series of thirteen23 interviews with African American Durham residents, I delineate several ways collective memory influences attitudes on immigration. I identify several ways that blacks talk about immigration: how (p.112) race impedes blacks’ abilities to be viewed as full citizens; disappointments over America’s failure to live up to its promise regarding blacks; and the perceived failure of immigrants to understand fully the nature of white supremacy.
The way black people talk about immigration is one of the areas where we see this general distrust of whites’ racial motives. The respondents for this work represented a cross-section of the local Research Triangle Park area composed of the cities of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This region, like so many around the country, has a well-documented recent history of immigration (Carter 2007; Deeb-Sossa and Mendez 2008; McClain et al. 2006, 2007; Powers 2005; Singer 2004). Primarily, this immigration is from Mexico and other parts of Latin America. Therefore, my respondents equate Latino with Mexican and immigrant in many of the interviews. Let me be clear, this book focuses on immigration writ large, not on immigration from a particular region. Yet, given the prominence of the association of “Latino” with “immigrant,” particularly undocumented immigration, in national discourse on the topic, I do not believe this to be a regional phenomenon (Chavez 2013; Perea 1997; Pérez 2016; Sanchez 1997). Using a snowball sampling technique, I conducted semistructured interviews with African American Durham residents regarding their impressions of immigration. These ten women and three men represented a cross-section of the community. Although all participants hold high school diplomas, and all of them had some college, three of the people I spoke with had completed college and none had advanced degrees. Respondents were interviewed in their homes, which demonstrated a level of trust they had in me as a researcher. More importantly, I agreed to a home setting because that was where respondents would feel the most comfortable and potentially forthcoming. Given the topic of conversation, I did not want my respondents to feel inhibited by meeting in an unfamiliar space. Although this was not a random sample, this technique was best considering the circumstances. Because I was talking to people about race, especially their racial attitudes about other groups, it was fundamental to establish a rapport.
Because respondents were asked to speak to me by trusted associates, I was treated as an insider. Given the camaraderie I was able to establish with my respondents, the conversation focused not only on immigration but also evolved into a larger conversation regarding black/white racial relations that have long been emblematic of this region’s racial dynamic. Although this area has become a model of “racial reconciliation,” there (p.113) remains an undercurrent of racial resentment that is framed not as racial hostility, which is critically important, but as uncertainty, anxiety, and a desire for acknowledgment (Carter 2007; McClain et al. 2006).
Thus, the critical intervention of this chapter is to demonstrate the continuing importance of white supremacy that has blunted the significant gains of civil rights activism. In particular, the past racial experiences of black people are so significant that “pain suffered by persons one has never met can seem to the participant . . . as present as yesterday’s pain, suffered by one’s relatives and friends” (Abdel-Nour 2003: 699). Thus, the collective memory of past experiences informs how blacks feel about the presence of new immigrants because, as it stands, there is no imperative to pursue an agenda of racial justice for blacks (Perea 1997).24 Consequently, the presence of immigrants brings to the fore the myriad ways in which our founding principles of equality and openness have been elided by racist practice. Much like the foreigner-founder theorized by Honig (2001), the presence of immigrants makes blacks’ questioning of the core principles of this country possible in a way that is increasingly difficult in an era of colorblindness.25 Yet, as these “foreigners” become permanent residents, it becomes more difficult for blacks to negotiate this new racial environment that is increasingly populated by non-white newcomers. This fact alone is not an indictment of immigrants. Rather, this chapter demonstrates the difficulties of rights claims for excluded blacks because America can still proclaim itself as the proverbial “chosen land” for self (re)making, open to all—yet this waning version of the American Dream26 remains woefully unavailable for many of its black citizens, who are allegedly better situated to take advantage of their nation’s bounty by virtue of their citizenship.
Collective Memory and Black Public Opinion
The concept of collective memory is not without controversy. Too often in this country’s history, black people have been told to simply “forget,” “move on,” “let the past be the past,” because it is wrongly believed that invocations of slavery and its memory on the part of blacks render them ill-equipped to join the rest of society.27 Because such sensibilities are undergirded by a belief “that racial subordination was largely past and that social inequalities, if any, reflected the cultural failings of minorities themselves,” discussions of past racial wrongs are viewed as illegitimate deflections that make blacks incapable of taking personal responsibility for (p.114) their life circumstances (Haney-Lopez 2007: 990). In short, the harm only applies to those who were actually enslaved, or those denied opportunities under Jim Crow, not their descendants. What such statements fundamentally misunderstand is the essential role history plays in our present. In the face of calls for blacks to stop talking about race, this nation has inaugurated Donald Trump as its president who routinely venerates a past that, as a matter of course, marginalized, excluded, and murdered blacks. The slogan “Make America Great Again” is a pithy phrase in a moment where blacks continue to be harassed, beaten, and murdered by police, and where white supremacy is routinely sanctioned by the White House. The America Donald Trump and his acolytes harken to and hanker for holds the WASP, straight male as its exemplar of Americanness. Thus, calls for blacks to simply forget ring hollow in a nation that routinely resurrects its racially coded past in a way that endangers black people (Abdel-Nour 2003). Moreover, such calls disregard the extent to which black in-group members feel these calls to “forget” are not only antithetical to their responsibilities as group members,28 but are another form of oppression (Price 2009; Walters 2009). Indeed, linked fate has proven to be significant when delineating how a black political orientation is developed amid these myriad practices of exclusion (Dawson 1994a; Tate 2003).
Although we cannot draw a straight line from the period of enslavement to the present condition of blacks, it is clear that blacks themselves do not necessarily view the forward trajectory from slavery to freedom as strictly demarcated points in time. While blacks moved from slavery to freedom, their freedom was deeply impeded by the remnants of slavery and a white populace bent on maintaining relationships of dominance and dependence. For example, Jim Crow was a response to blacks’ changed status as free and citizens post–Civil War. Jim Crow, and the systems of practices and laws it gave rise to, were to keep blacks in “their place.” Racial segregation was not a mistake, and it was not enforced solely by the actions of corrupt individuals. Jim Crow, like the system of enslavement that preceded it, was a coordinated effort that used state, local, legal, and extralegal authorities to keep blacks in an inferior position economically, socially, and politically. This meant blacks could not own property, defend themselves, or live as they wished—as was promised by the Declaration of Independence. This practice, which continued for another 100 years after slavery, has been a severe impediment to black wealth generation, health outcomes, family structure, and neighborhood stability; we see today the implications of slavery as continued under Jim Crow (Hamilton, (p.115) Darity, Price, Sridharan, and Tippett 2015; Lui, Robles, Leondar-Wright, and Adamson 2006; Shapiro, Meschede, and Osoro 2013; White 2007). A most recent study by Perry, Rothwell, and Harbarger (2018) demonstrates that properties owned in neighborhoods that are at least half black are valued at significantly reduced prices compared to neighborhoods with little to no black representation. This is not simply a matter of poor neighborhood quality. Rather, realtors use evaluation methods that harm black neighborhoods in relation to housing of similar quality. Moreover, white homeowners on the market for homes avoid neighborhoods that are “too black” (Rusk 2001); this segregated market costs blacks an estimated $156 billion (Perry, Rothwell, and Harshbarger 2018). As a consequence, the children in these neighborhoods face a more difficult path to upward mobility because housing taxes provide the foundation for educational funding. This story is a contemporary story, not one of redlining from fifty years ago, though it is part of the same legacy. Thus homeownership, a reliable method for building intergenerational wealth, becomes a boondoggle for black folks who live in majority-black neighborhoods. This is yet another example of the ways in which American racism infiltrates all aspects of life.
In short, the same white supremacy that became the justification for slavery became the convenient justification for disallowing blacks from becoming a part of the American demos, and sees black neighborhoods systematically undervalued. Although the larger nonblack community might view enslavement, Jim Crow, and post–Civil Rights as distinct cutpoints in black life that are different from one another, by and large blacks do not (Kachun 2009; Nunnally 2012; Walters 2009). Enslavement was the defining institution of black lives in the United States from 1619 until its abolishment in 1865, but the racial hierarchy established in the prior 200 years did not simply vanish along with the institution. Rather, after the Reconstruction, Jim Crow stepped in to reinforce the racial boundaries set up during slavery so that white domination would continue to thrive and be supported by American social, political, and economic institutions. As Justice John Harlan stated in his opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896): “The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is, in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth, and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to its constitutional liberty.” Harlan’s statement, despite being made in the context of a dissenting opinion, was no doubt the foundational logic of Jim Crow.29 Jim Crow segregation was a (p.116) national institution, despite being portrayed as a uniquely Southern practice, which did not see its official eradication for another 100 years post-slavery with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.30 Therefore, we can only view blacks as being truly free people in this republic from 1965 to the present. Said in another way, black people have been “full citizens” for only 50 years; however, by 1965 the damage had been done. Blacks were behind on every major indicator of social progress and remain so (Massey and Denton 1993; Mettler 2005; Oliver and Shapiro 2001; Perry et al. 2018). Therefore, by viewing the arc of black history from this vantage point, it is difficult not to understand how black life is bounded by and to past circumstances, because they are not past events but frame the racial dynamics blacks find themselves living in at present. This is not because blacks are backward-looking victims; rather, this is a demonstration of the power of communal or collective memory and the vigilance required so that we do not return to that place (Kachun 2009; Kousser 1999; Nunnally 2012; Walters 2009; Williams 1998). Recent attempts, and successes, at rolling back black voting rights, and the racial dog whistles of the Trump campaign (now Trump administration) are a few ways that looking backward allows black people to be future oriented.
As Dawson (1994a) highlights in Behind the Mule, blacks understanding their individual path as dependent on what happens to other blacks is a key organizing principle of black opinion. This, in part, comes from being steeped in a tradition that recalls blacks’ travails in trying to access the levers of social progress. Collective memory, by extension, suggests memories do not necessarily have to be individual in nature to be real or meaningful. What collective memory proposes is that something individuals experience privately can become part of an aggregate memory, particularly when that event is something of great cultural significance. This does not mean we all remember that event in the same way; what it suggests is that the event has some resonance for the society, culture, or group.31
. . . defined by its distance from the everyday. Distance from the everyday (transcendence) marks its temporal horizon. Cultural memory has its fixed point; its horizon does not change with the passing of time. These fixed points are fateful events of the past, (p.117) whose memory is maintained through cultural formation (texts, rites, monuments) and institutional communication (recitation, practice, observance).
From this vantage point, the cultural touchstones of slavery, emancipation, and civil rights become part of a collective experience that becomes accessible across time and space. In this way, blacks quite often view their past as part of their group’s present, because the behaviors, institutions, and structures that have traditionally harmed blacks have not fundamentally changed. They are still facing racial segregation and have a set of lived experiences that are qualitatively different from those of whites (Haney-Lopez 2007; Massey and Denton 1993; Shapiro 2006).33 This is not to suggest that blacks’ lives have not evolved in significant ways or that there is a monolithic “black experience.” Rather, the injustices faced by black people, such as disproportionate incarceration, are treated as slippages in the application of core American values, not a fundamental problem with the founding principles of this nation. Consequently, blacks who view the United States as having a tradition of ongoing oppression are less likely to believe their communal gains are indicative of some enlightenment on the part of the (white) nation as a whole. Although this oppression has transformed itself, and yielded in some instances to black demands for equality, there has yet to be true reconciliation. Thus, the ubiquitous past becomes a primary referent in explaining blacks’ current circumstances.
Because the potency of memories has little to do with proximity in time, the present is highly contingent upon events of the past. Groups make and understand their place in the world as they push their memories to the fore and compete for a place in the historical register. In short, memories bear truth to the existence and experience of a people; the experience of black people is, at best, a mixed bag of triumph and failure. For example, in the 2012 presidential election, black voter turnout exceeded that of whites for the first time in American history. At the same time, numerous states instituted stricter voter identification laws in an effort to thwart so-called voter fraud, but had the effect of making it more difficult for blacks to cast ballots in future elections.34 In the 2018 midterm elections, black voters found themselves contending with exact match laws, voter roll purges, and other measures used to suppress their votes. The individual successes of some blacks do not negate the multiple ways in which many blacks consistently live in a democracy where even something as sacrosanct as the franchise is insecure when it comes to their group. Even for those blacks (p.118) who are fiscally secure, their wallets are no protection from the indignities of a society that uses their race to mark their exclusion (Alexander 2011; Bell 1993; Massey and Denton 1993; Feagin 2010).
This class dynamic has been discussed as potentially cleaving the black community into a group of haves and have-nots, but this has yet to be borne out practically or empirically. Even the educations and incomes of high-status have not dampened their commitment to black communities (Dawson 1994a; Gay 2004; Lacy 2007; Patillo-McCoy 2000). Despite affording them some privileges, the class status of black Americans does not seem to change their experiences with racial discrimination, their ability to recognize racial discrimination, or their commitment to racial justice (Bell 1993; Brown and Shaw 2002; Price 2009). In some cases it has been shown that higher-status blacks are more disenchanted with American racial politics (Feagin and Sikes 1994). This is because their opinions are driven not by their class status but by their racial identification, which is often more evident and likely to influence their daily experiences (Shelby 2005).
Hence, it matters less that all black people do not experience the same racial traumas in the same way. What does matter is that they have some awareness of their communities’ racial history. This knowledge is passed intergenerationally by parents, grandparents, and other community members, as well as well as media sources that report ongoing instances of racial discrimination (Jackson 2001; Nunnally 2010, 2012). For example, recent deaths of black people, including children, at the hands of police—such as Sandra Bland, Emantic Bradford, Jr., Chavis Carter, Philando Castile, John Crawford III, Jonathan Ferrell, Freddie Gray, Akai Gurley, Botham Jean, Tamir Rice, and too many others to name35—who lost their lives despite being unarmed, are viewed more than skeptically. Although these people allegedly were killed for reasons other than their race, the circumstances of their deaths all strongly suggest they died because they were black. Because of this country’s long history of devaluing and destroying black lives, official accounts of their deaths do not sit well. There is very little in the collective memories of black people to suggest these young people died for any reason besides their race. Thus, the racial past weighs heavily in black evaluations of these moments that some would like to characterize as having little or nothing to do with race. Although these are extreme examples, this mistrust of official authorities when dealing with black lives translates into other arenas as well, where blacks fear potential mistreatment, such as shopping (Brewster and Rusche 2012; Higgins and (p.119) Gabbidon 2009; Nunnally 2012). This sense that whites are not interested in black people is ever-present in conversations about immigration.
Memory, Discourse, and Immigration
For blacks, their strength comes from remembering and nurturing these connections from the past. As the work of Nunnally (2012) amply reveals, many learn about race from prior generations as well as a number of racially formative experiences. This may not always be in terms of details, but clear messages about racial norms are transmitted from older cohorts to younger peer groups. Likewise, Price (2009) demonstrates there are generational differences in how closely these racial norms are held. Yet, even for those who may disagree with “how to be black,” the legacy of the civil rights movement, even for those born after this moment, looms large in these conversations. Not only does this moment register through images, but it is very much a part of many peoples’ lives. For example, my parents and grandparents are products of the Jim Crow period. From these family members I learned that to be defiant of the prevailing racial etiquette could be extremely dangerous. My mother told me of the terror she felt as a preadolescent living in Warrenton, North Carolina, at the time of Chicago-raised Emmett Till’s murder in Mississippi. Although she was still a child, she knew being black meant you did not have the opportunity to be young; geography would not protect you if you were to run afoul of a white person.36 My awareness of race and the Jim Crow period was shaped by my parents’ and grandparents’ reminiscences of these moments. As Nunnally (2012) states, “socialization about race, thus, educates blacks about the social and political realities of race in America” so they can effectively negotiate the many racial situations they will encounter over their life course (p. 60). Furthermore, this socialization “suggests how ‘race and place’ are interwoven into the meaning, operation, experiences, and lessons of race,” such that blacks not only know how to think about race but how to conduct themselves in interracial and intraracial scenarios (Nunnally 2012: 62). The sharing of experiences is a social practice that reinforces black collective memory. Therefore, through the transmission of their experiences, my family socialized me to think about race in particular ways despite being separated from the specificity of their circumstances.
Throughout the interviews, one of the oft-repeated themes across subjects is the lack of confidence they have in the “system” working for them, particularly in the face of newly arrived citizens. Although my respondents are clear they are Americans, they are less sanguine in their abilities to harness this national identity for greater gains for their community. This sense of being “outsiders within” has been a usual part of black discourse from the early nineteenth century, and as I show earlier, blacks advocated for emigration as a response to American exclusion and oppression (Tillery 2011). This sentiment would continue throughout the twentieth century as black artists, political elites, and others often captured this sense of “twoness” that comes from being black in an America that routinely snubs their attempts at inclusion (DuBois  2003; Woodward 1974). Nonetheless, this sentiment is prominent among my interview respondents who frequently see their group as being outside of the American family of citizenship.
For example, when asked “Do you think that what happens to other black people matters for your life,” Diane,37 a 28-year-old phone company employee, says: “Uh because as a. . . ., you have to look at us as a whole. We are one people, and we do the best that we can to, to show more interest in, in things that’s going on with our people.” She suggests an understanding about the ways in which American-style racism operates to homogenize black people, but also sees racial unity as a source of strength for black people. At the same time, when black people do enter the white public sphere, there is great awareness that they are unintelligible in many ways. This sentiment was best captured by Marie, a 31-year-old administrative professional at a local medical center, relaying an interracial conversation experienced at the workplace:
[O]ne thing in particular was one time I was at work and it was a group of ladies talking, and they were talking about one lady who had, it was three white ladies and myself, and they were talking about, um, one lady that had a heart attack. But they keep calling her “that girl,” “that girl,” “that girl,” and I didn’t know who they were talking about. And they were like, you know, the black lady and [inaudible]. And I was like oh that lady, you mean, so she’s kind of older? Yeah. And then they kind of gave me that look, like ok wait (p.121) a minute, we said girl talking about her, but then they used white lady, they said white lady, but when referring to her they said girl.
What these kinds of unacknowledged slights say is that black people are not worth getting to know. So much so that the interlocutors in this particular conversation did not even refer to “that girl,” who was in fact an older woman, by her proper name or any of the social deference befitting a woman of her age. Indeed, the honorific of “lady”38 was reserved for the white women whom they, at least discursively, viewed as being worthy of respect. In fact, it was not until Marie raised the issue of age that her interlocutors perhaps recognized the social faux pas of referring to an older black woman as a “girl” rather than a “lady,” which age and race would dictate as the most appropriate title outside of her given name.
These kinds of incidents were not limited to or unique among my participants. All participants, regardless of gender, could relay at least one moment where they were made to feel suspect because of their racial classification. This was especially true for male participants who had to deal with the extra burden of being men in a society that almost invariably treats youth, blackness, and maleness as being synonymous with crime (Eberhardt, Goff, Purdie, and Davies 2004; Oliver 2003; Peffley, Hurwitz, and Sniderman 1997; Quillian and Pager 2001; Steffensmeier, Ulmer, and Kramer 1998; Welch 2007). For his part, Henry, a 32-year-old musician and part-time apartment manager, discusses in quite vivid detail what it feels like to be thought of as a threat in his own community.
Um, I’d say, um, a lot has changed, but a lot has not changed. Uh, the other day I was coming out of the gym, and my truck was parked beside a lady who was getting into her car, her vehicle. It’s a public area, it’s populated, there’s people around, it’s a big parking lot, shopping center, and . . . as soon as she rushes to get into her car, she locks the door. Um, so like I said, I’m clearly coming out of the gym, I have, you know, workout stuff on, and so in seeing that it’s kind of like oh we’re back at this again. Um, is it just because I’m black or because I’m a man? And you have your two children that you’re oh, you know, you watch the news and say oh gosh this could happen to me or whatever. Are you just that scared? If it was a woman, would you do the same thing? Or if it was a white man would you do the same thing? So, in experiencing that and (p.122) then saying I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what type of black person you are, if you’re black and that happens to you, or someone clutches their pocket book tighter, or someone rushes to lock their door, or whatever, then it’s going to affect you. You’re going to think about it and say, “Damn we’re right back at this again.”
Another significant part of my exchange with Henry had to do with the fact that he recognized his blackness made him someone to be feared. He wondered aloud whether this woman’s reaction would have been the same had he been a white man or even a black woman. His incredulity at being considered dangerous despite obvious signs of safety (i.e., daylight, his gym clothes) is palpable as he talks further about the alienation he feels at being a lifelong resident of this community—he has resided in Durham since he was a small child—but being viewed with suspicion while carrying out the most mundane tasks. He cites the fact that he is well known in this community because “everyone knows us,” referring to him and his friends who have been lifelong Durham residents, but this is not enough to stop a stranger from viewing him as a criminal. Henry views himself distinctly as an insider in Durham because of his reputation; this belonging should shield him from such indignities, but it does not, because race trumps the esteem he holds, or views himself as holding, in his community.
In fact, Henry, who describes his social network as being diverse including both black and white intimates, which he indicates by the fact they have been friends since their youth and they were welcomed in each other’s homes, this incident was not uncommon. Moreover, he references the fact that he hadn’t “been called a nigger in years,” as evidence of racial progress, albeit small. Because he had the comparative experience of attending college in South Carolina in the 1990s, he said with confidence, “here [North Carolina], it’s [racism] not that bad, but it does still exist.”39
Although I did not follow up to inquire what “that bad” meant or looks like, this theme of comparative racial progress was a regular feature of my interviews. Thus, what often passes for progress for this group of rather young black people is the fact things are not as bad as they were under Jim Crow, which all of their parents and grandparents experienced, and which they learned of through history and socialization. This Jim Crow measure of progress was referenced multiple times by my respondents who wished to recognize that race relations are improved. However, they stopped short of saying that race no longer matters, which is evidenced by the fact they (p.123) each had a story to tell about racism and how it has operated in their lives at one time or another.40
These brief narrative accounts demonstrate collective memory to be significant for how blacks conceptualize their relationship to the group. This work extends the literature on linked fate by demonstrating how the past is a key organizer of black public opinion (Dawson 1994a). Black opinions are not only about being steeped in black communities and accompanying social networks, but about the racial learning that takes place within these communities (Nunnally 2012; Walters 2009). Furthermore, much of how blacks forecast what is happening with and to their community is by looking back to understand how to evaluate present conditions and the possibility for change and improvement. These individuals are involved in communities that provide them with a way to contextualize their—and other blacks’—current circumstances. Most prevalently, my respondents express a certain understanding that they are invisible as constituent members of the American body politic. That they can be both hyper-visible and invisible in their community and workplaces suggests the ways in which the American project has left them out as members of the populace. This is not by accident; in fact, this is the way race is designed to work such that some people have the right to be afraid of a black stranger, yet that same stranger does not a priori fear this unnamed white person who is representative of the ideal citizen (Bonilla-Silva 2006; Mills 1997). According to my respondents, part of what impedes broader understandings of black people is a lack of knowledge of their struggle; this is especially true of newly arriving immigrants, whom blacks see as being ignorant of American racial history.
Black History and Immigrants
One of the prevailing themes in popular coverage of interminority relations has been the competition over resources among these communities (Dzidzienyo and Oboler 2005; Mindiola, Niemann, and Rodriguez 2003; Telles, Sawyer, and Rivera-Salgado 2011). From Texas to Florida to California, competition and conflict have come to be among the primary lenses through which to view the political relationship between blacks and other communities of color, particularly Latinos (Bobo and Johnson 2000; McClain and Karnig 1990; McClain and Tauber 1998; Oliver and Wong 2003; Waldinger 1997). Often, these conflicts are cast as haggling over finite resources and insecurity on the part of blacks, who have achieved (p.124) political maturation yet are faced with an uncertain (political) future because the Latino population has surpassed them in absolute numbers and continues to grow. There is no denying that the zero-sum nature of political contests and outcomes has fueled much of this negativity, because there is no way to adequately share the limited political bounty (Bobo and Hutchings 1996; Meier, McClain, Polinard, and Wrinkle 2004). When minority group members come into contact with one another politically, it is generally for a definable set of possibilities (i.e., a mayoral seat, city council election, school board election). Because there can only be one mayor, one city council person from an assigned district, and the like, one group’s success—assuming they have different preferences—will necessarily mean loss to the other group. This type of situation breeds a level of competitiveness because outcomes and resources are limited, and everyone is invested in their own success. This does not mean they wish to see others fail to thrive, but it does mean every group is self-interested. Consequently, self-interest dictates one’s course of action, and in the case of finite resources (i.e., city council seats) there is no way to share that resource.41 Thus for blacks, who have only been in political offices at the local, state, and national levels since 1965, the stakes seem even higher. Therefore, one would expect some resentment to be expressed by blacks with respect to immigrants.
However, this type of hostility was not present in my interviews. Rather, I found a great deal of ambivalence on the part of blacks, who empathized with the plight of immigrants but felt immigrants did not necessarily share the same sympathies toward them. Both Diane and Marie reasoned this was because immigrants really do not know much about black people. In fact, Marie states:
Um, because they’re not, they don’t, they don’t learn it [inaudible] unless they’re in school, I mean maybe the younger population that’s in school, but the ones that are adults I don’t think so.
In her statement, Marie claims the level of knowledge that immigrants would need to be sensitive to, or at least aware of, African American history is unavailable unless provided through some formal setting, like school. For the adult immigrant population, the possibility for knowing more about black Americans is limited because of their absence from educational settings where this information could be gleaned. Although it is clear that African American history can be learned at any time and at (p.125) any point in life, my respondents see this as a highly unlikely event—not because it is unimportant but because immigrants have other concerns. As Diane notes:
Their [immigrants] main goal is to get a better life. A better life does not include looking back in the past and saying “what is the basis of this better life? why do we have this better life?”. We [i.e. black people] are a different people, a different culture, a different skin color . . . and we can’t come here, we can’t prosper in our own country. Um, so I don’t think they [immigrants] care . . . but since they’re allowed to come over here and, you know, . . . without having to learn about our [black people] history and our culture, then it doesn’t matter. They’re disinterested.
However, this perceived disinterest on the part of Latinos presents consequences for the Latino and black communities. For my respondents, their black history could serve as a cautionary tale to Latinos who may not be as savvy about the ways in which race in America operates or, put more bluntly, the ways of white people. As Henry says, “for right now it doesn’t matter because they’re getting in, everything’s good, there’s no problems, everything’s going smooth, but at the end of the day if somebody doesn’t look into it and say oh my goodness, you know, back in the day this happened to black people, this could happen to us, we’re the new black people, so this could happen to us.” From multiple respondents I heard statements similar to those made by Diane and Henry. Brenda, a 25-year-old television producer, makes this statement more clearly:
Oh, if they’re thinking about taking over, the minorities, being the largest minority group, they’re going to take on the issues that the minority group deals with, that’s racial profiling, that’s discrimination, you know, I think ultimately that all the things that are going their way because I think that the majority race is now seeing them as the new, as the new minority, the new black people. So, you know, they’re going to deal, I think, with the same issues that they [i.e., black people] dealt with. And I think, uh, you know, eventually, they’re going to start facing some of the same issues, I think they’re going to probably start being a part of more, of the lower income, you know, welfare and things like that. So, I think, you know, all those things are going to end up affecting them.
(p.126) What these quotes suggest is a sense that as Latinos become more acculturated, they will come to see their high status relative to blacks diminish as whites come to see them as more like black people. Thus, whatever positive relationships Latinos are able to cultivate now, they do so at their own risk, because my respondents view whites as being interested in exploiting people of color. My respondents seem to think that white interest in Latinos is fleeting and highly contingent on Latino’s deference to white people. As Brenda’s quote suggests, white charity for Latinos will wane as the novelty of Latinos wears off and they access social services, like welfare, which are consistently viewed negatively (Gilens 2000; Hancock 2004; Jordan-Zachery 2009). Once Latinos, like blacks, begin to demand access to social and/or political institutions in a way that seems to be excessive or burdensome to whites, Brenda suggests whites will terminate their support for this community. Although Latinos are enjoying this honeymoon period and relative good will from whites, they also need to be cognizant of the vagaries of white privilege. This idea is expressed in Brenda’s and others’ statements, which imply that whites choosing when to be supportive and when to withhold that support is indicative of their privilege. However, the capriciousness of whites has real consequences for minorities, and my respondents suggest that one way to see this is by looking at the historical record of black/white racial history.
In this way, my respondents are turning the “model minority” paradigm on its head by suggesting the black experience is the definitive racial experience in America. Arthur, a 27-year-old graphic artist, states definitively that Latinos are “the new niggers.” For Arthur, Latinos will find their station in this country much like that of blacks as they too live in neglected neighborhoods and interact with multiple agencies and institutions that have little if any regard for their well-being. In short, Latinos will soon find themselves in the position of black people. Thus, they need to build a racial awareness that begins with an appreciation for the black experience in America.
I think these statements point to a broader view of community on the part of blacks that can apply cross-racially from blacks to other racialized minorities, like Latinos. This is not because history is necessarily uniform, but the lessons of the past regarding how blacks were treated seem to suggest something to black respondents about the future of Latino welfare. Although this may vary depending on region, it is clear that blacks share the view that what happened to them will matter to Latinos.42 Thus, for my respondents, the racial history of blacks is a key way Latinos can forecast (p.127) what will come of their group; indeed, respondents relied heavily on the past to think through the possibilities for their group in the face of newly arriving immigrants. My respondents see immigration as a way for whites to continue to deny opportunities for them. By focusing their energies on Latinos, my respondents viewed whites as wanting to avoid the rights claims of blacks. Moreover, my respondents saw their experiences as a cautionary tale for Latinos because they see America’s racial ordering as exclusionary and one that will foreclose whiteness to Latinos, particularly as they become acculturated. Whatever temporary reprieve Latinos have is because they are viewed as being different enough from blacks to warrant white attentions. However, this attention is conditional on Latinos “knowing their place” and not challenging white authorities. Thus, the extent to which the “ethnic option” that Latinos currently exercise, which allows them to be of any race, will fade as their presence upsets the racial hierarchy.43
This is for two related reasons. First, there is the expansive notion of blackness and the constraints of whiteness. Blackness is less a coherent biological category than it is a social reality that sets up different (non-white) people for unfavorable treatment in society. Used in this way, blackness is an understanding and social location associated with ongoing, entrenched exclusion as a matter of course. At different points, the racial category black was a catch-all that covered all comers that were not white. For example, Asians have been placed within the category black because the U.S. government had no idea what to do with them, since they did not fit neatly into the racial schema (Kim 1999). Thus in the segregated South, for the purposes of education Asians found themselves functionally black (Kim 1998). Likewise, the U.S. Census tried to count “mulattoes” as a category separate from both blacks and whites in the 1850 enumeration (Nobles 2000). This experiment was quickly abandoned in the subsequent decade, and those “mulattoes” were effectively absorbed into the black racial category. What these moments show us is that race is rarely, if ever, about codifying genetic groups that we come to know as “races.” Rather, these categories are functional and tell us who belongs where in the racial hierarchy. This is no less true in the present, when we can still witness a rather stable racial order where blacks, in the aggregate, remain worse off than most other Americans (Shapiro 2006; Shapiro and Oliver 2006). Consequently, the American racial order moved from being about “whites” versus. “non-whites,” as white racial identity stabilized and ceased to admit new members, to one of “blacks” versus “non-blacks,” (p.128) where groups are categorized in the racial order relative to their distance from this bottom category (Mutua 1999). As a result, newer groups are understood as moving between these two poles, which is anchored by black racial identity. As such, my respondents see Latinos as being more akin to the black racial group than they are to whites. Not only do they feel Latinos “don’t look white,” but they have none of the institutional power that comes along with being prototypically white in their minds. Still, they understand that Latinos are potential defectors because they are not limited by blackness.
As a corollary, whiteness has often been defined by what it is not. As Jacobson (2001) highlights, the category white was rather exclusionary and was defined on negative rather than affirmative terms. The category white only opened up to previously excluded “lesser European stocks,” like Jews and Southern Europeans, when it became politically expedient. Thus, whiteness was strictly delimited and held out as a prize for those seeking to make their way up the social ladder of America.44 However, for whiteness to remain a prize, it had to be much more rigidly defined. This meant those who were deemed unassimilable could not and would not be incorporated into this designation. Asians are a prime example of this. Because Asians, writ large, were viewed as too distinct phenotypically and culturally, they could never be part of a white community. They were not seen as the prototypical citizen the Founders had in mind when devising the qualities it took to be an American. Indeed, Asians were viewed as a national menace the country needed to contain. This was never more apparent than the Japanese Interment during World War II. The idea that Asians could be habituated into whiteness was not a consideration of the moment. They did not “look white,” and they certainly did not “act white” (Kim 1999). Because Asians were non-Christian and maintained their linguistic and culinary distinctiveness, they were viewed as too culturally distinct to assimilate into whiteness. Although this was a slippery set of criteria, it is no mistake that people of European descent eventually came to be considered white people even though there were cultural differences that made them lesser whites.45
In the time of demographic shifts that favor minority groups in terms of absolute numbers, it is important for blacks to consider what this will mean for their group. Of course, they know they will never be considered socially or racially “white,” but they are concerned what this will mean for their Latino counterparts. If whites embrace Latinos, (as they did with Eastern and Southern Europeans) to augment their numbers, this could (p.129) present a problem for blacks. This seems less likely because all Latinos may not be phenotypically able to assimilate into whiteness en masse. Of course, this presupposes Latinos desire whiteness. Given Latino population growth, the development of group consciousness, and the racial attitudes of many whites toward Latinos, assimilation and whiteness may not be all that desirable. On the other hand, it could be that whiteness will become a more exclusive category of belonging in an effort to maintain the supremacy of the group vis-à-vis the omission of non-Europeans. Another possibility is that Latinos become a middle category, a buffer category sorted somewhere between blacks at the bottom and whites at the top.46 From Brenda’s vantage point, much of this racial posturing is about white fears of becoming a minority:
Oh I think it’s just someone taking something away from them. They’re so used to always having that I think it’s almost like they’re feeling, I don’t know if they’re at the point where they’re feeling threatened yet, but they’re at that little threshold where they want to make sure that they keep what they have and they keep their majority status. I think they want to make sure that they keep the jobs and the education and all of that. I just think they want to maintain a monopoly. And their status quo. I think that’s it, that they don’t want to lose their status quo.
This is speculative for sure, but my respondents do evince an understanding of whiteness that is partially biological (i.e., based on phenotype), partly numerical, but more significantly about privilege. For respondents, whiteness is about control and access. Whiteness is not simply a racial descriptor but a state of being. It is a place that is beyond the incursions of others. Thus, if whiteness is a social status, then it de facto does not apply to Latinos or any others that “don’t look white” as Henry suggests below. In relaying a personal story Henry suggests how whiteness consistently insulates itself from out-groups:
A buddy of mine at the beach who has a mortgage company, he just was talking about how he sat down and had a meeting with an Asian lady, and she just moved to South Carolina or whatever, and she was saying that she never realized how white people could be, that she really didn’t like white people. And he was saying, you know, “why?” And she said because I’ve never been so, you know, (p.130) wrongly treated and unfairly treated by any other culture in America since she’s been here. And so, it’s like wow, that almost adds validity to the fact that when it comes down to it, when push comes to shove . . . you’re not white. You definitely, if you’re not white, you’re more nigger than anything.
Part of this argument is made on quasi-biological grounds (i.e., “they don’t look white”) but also from a sense that “real” white people would not be treated like this by other white people. If this is the standard for measuring or establishing membership in the family of whiteness, then Latinos clearly do not meet that standard. Thus, Henry is employing a notion of an expansive blackness that incorporates all non-whites, including immigrants, to some extent. Even those minority groups viewed by whites as “better” than blacks, such as Asians, are not necessarily protected from the vagaries of racism, which seems to be thought of as a treatment that pertains to all minorities but that has been tried and perfected using the bodies of black people as practice.
They [whites] will go to bat for themselves, of course, or whatever, and they might have their own pecking order in the back of their minds, you know, and they might wait and say “oh, he’s Asian so he’s not that bad,” or “he’s, um, Indian so he’s not that bad.” But ultimately, he’s still a nigger. You’re not white.
Despite the supposed disdain that whites might feel for immigrant groups, my respondents believe this does not stop whites from using immigrants to undercut black social, economic, and political mobility. Indeed, what seems concerning, despite their seeming skepticism at the potential for these minorities to pass fully into the category of “white,” is the idea that these groups (i.e., Asians) will still be in a more favorable position than blacks because their group is the most disliked in American society.47 Therefore, whatever provisional status may be available to other minority groups, they are not black, and that counts in the racial context of the United States.
Immigrants and Black Social Mobility
The preceding paragraphs point to the pernicious ways in which the history of race remains key to blacks’ diagnosis of the current racial climate. (p.131) Blacks perceive that they remain far from the ideal of integration, and the presence of immigrants presents further challenges to their desire for greater social mobility. Although my respondents were not necessarily hostile to immigrants, they were highly suspicious of the ways in which whites seem to cater to immigrants. For example, my respondent Henry readily admitted that blacks distrust white people because of history. He says, “Why? Um, it’s history basically. It’s, uh, yeah, it’s history based. It’s Willie Lynch48 based. It’s from all of that. It’s from those days.” What is more, not only do blacks distrust whites, they see whites as contributing to the mobility of Latinos in ways they do not for blacks. According to Brenda:
I see it more, because I think more white people are more compassionate toward Hispanics than they are toward blacks. So I think if anything, I’ve seen instances where, um, local PTAs have, you know, they’ve had a handful of Hispanic students in their community, and they’ve basically taken them on and done more for them whereas they have probably a handful of blacks in their school as well, but they’re not doing the same things for them because I think it’s the whole compassion issue. I don’t think that they’re compassionate toward them. So if anything, I could see them joining forces in smaller groups like that. I don’t necessarily know of a whole, but . . .
This compassion, as she calls it, stems from the idea that immigrants are viewed as benign, hardworking people attempting to make a better life for themselves and their families despite deficits such as having less facility with the English language. Unfortunately, the compassion expressed for immigrants does not extend to black people because “they [white people] don’t think of the black race as a whole as being willing to work for it. I think we’re perceived as just sitting back and waiting for the government to hand us something.” Therefore, because blacks are viewed as undeserving of white attention and aid, their children who may face depressed circumstances, similar to Latinos or immigrants, are not privy to the alms of whites. This sentiment is not limited to the educational sphere. My respondents perceived other ways in which whites were more willing to assist immigrants than native-born blacks. Unsurprisingly, this came up with respect to the issue of entrepreneurship.
(p.132) This has been a sore spot in the black community for decades and probably reached the height of American awareness in the Los Angeles Rebellion of the early 1990s. Although the Rodney King verdict was the catalyst for days of uprising in the city, there were long-standing issues that had been just below the surface for decades preceding this moment. The death of Latasha Harlins has been cited as being as significant as the Rodney King verdict as a catalyst for the unrest in the city (Ikemoto 1993; Stevenson 2015). Blacks were frustrated by the city’s lack of attention to the needs of their communities, such as failing schools, substandard or nonexistent public facilities like parks and clinics, and a lack of ownership and economic control in their own neighborhoods. This was most glaringly captured in the standoffs between armed Korean merchants and black rioters who were poised to loot and burn their businesses.49 Although I do not seek to rehash this moment, what was key was that blacks did not feel like stakeholders in their communities because they saw newly arriving immigrants as being able to establish businesses that contributed little to their community’s development and continued to deplete the economic base of their neighborhoods (Abelman and Lie 1995). What was important was the sense that businesses owned by “foreigners” were given an unjust economic advantage from the government that wanted to install them as a new breed of land barons that sought to keep blacks in a state of semi-serfdom. While for many this seemed hyperbolic, this view is not uncommon or out of step with the views of my respondents, who are separated geographically and generationally from this moment yet were able to articulate a similar point of view about their communities. Below is a sampling of what this opinion looks like in discursive practice.
Um . . . I don’t think that they have a significant problem being here. I think that they get more benefits than other people that are here. (Diane)
Um, they get, they get seven years without paying taxes. Um, they’re able to get more help from social services. I think that not only here in Durham, but the United States caters to foreigners before they cater to their own. (Marie)
They don’t want to understand us as much as we want to understand them because we want to know hey how did you get that store over there? Wow, you know, we would like to get a store. You haven’t been here half as long as we have and you’ve already got a (p.133) store, you already got almost your own community. You have movie stores, you have clubs, so . . . (Henry)
In the U.S. and I feel like there is a sense of resentment that, that people look at them and say you know they’re not even from here, and they’re coming here, and they’re getting more than what we have, and you know, we’ve been residents of Durham or wherever for this amount of time, and they’re coming in and almost rising above us. And they don’t even speak the language, you know, but yet still it seems like they have more. (Brenda)
Um, the only thing I would say is that, I mean as long as, as long as immigrants are coming here, I don’t think that it’s going to make it better for America in general if when they come here they get, you know, more opportunities than the people that are actually here. (Mohammed)
These quotes demonstrate the prevalence of the belief that the government and other actors are interested in the promotion of immigrant opportunities to the detriment of blacks. Although these alleged “tax breaks” do not exist in a real sense, the impression they do exist is integral to how these individuals understand the ways in which economics operate to disempower and disable black people. For them, the “system,” which is manned by unnamed whites, is set against black progress. This harm is not necessarily caused through explicit efforts to harm blacks, but through subtle behaviors such as assisting immigrants in establishing businesses that help immigrant groups achieve economic independence and mobility at the expense of black people, who do not find the same avenues of credit open to them (Black and Strahan 2002; Blanchflower, Levine, and Zimmerman 2003).50 After all, immigrant enterprises are located in black communities and rely on black dollars for support (Cheng and Espiritu 1989; Min 1997). Yet, blacks are not allowed to participate in such entrepreneurship because they are deemed unworthy of such efforts on the part of the government and other institutional agents. For those immigrants who are not going to achieve business ownership, it is clear there is a white preference for their labor (Maldonado 2006; Powers 2005; Tomaskovic-Devey and Roscigno 1996). In either case, the end result is further exclusion of black people from the type of commercial activities that could ensure their individual and communal viability. This is a clear indictment of white preferences and the ways in which those preferences militate against black success, not an indictment of immigrant (p.134) achievement. Thus, blacks do not have a problem with immigrant success but with discrimination they see as preventing them access to similar resources and wealth-building potential. In each instance where these alleged tax breaks are mentioned, it is clear that immigrants do not bestow these benefits on themselves. These benefits are granted by whites, the ultimate arbiters of societal benefits. Black respondents were not mad about this, but wanted the ability to capture some of these gains for themselves. Thus, my respondents are clearly laying this inequality at the feet of white preferences, not immigrant behaviors.
The result of all of this is the idea that immigrants are favored by America because they are more easily exploited and are not viewed as having the same history of protest as black people.51 As Maureen, a 42-year-old administrative worker states, “we feel like we still the umm like we . . . like we the step kids. Like all of a sudden, you know, it’s like we low on the totem pole, but now we’re even going even lower [sic].” Again, using the family metaphor, Maureen situates black people as perpetual outsiders in the blended family that is America. Literally the black sheep of the family, immigrants make more apparent how unwelcome blacks remain in the American landscape. Immigrants have not functionally changed the low status and esteem of black people, but the presence of immigrants makes it more possible to continue to deny blacks what they deem is their just due as members of the American community. In short, an immigrant presence is understood as being a way for whites to continue to ignore black needs and undercut black attempts at greater mobility.
The main purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate the importance of history in structuring the ways in which blacks understand their present circumstances. Although blacks view themselves as thoroughly modern, it is clear that history plays a prominent role in the ways these individuals understand the lives of black people. This distinctiveness in perspective becomes clearer relative to immigrants. In short, blacks view American society as remaining adverse to their progress. This is through quotidian racial practices that mark them as lazy, criminal, and undeserving of white sympathies and efforts at greater racial equality. The result is that blacks do not see the promotion of the American Dream in their community through concrete educational and financial partnerships. Consequently, blacks see their communities being chronically underserved and watch (p.135) as newly arriving immigrants excel. What becomes clear is that blacks really want the opportunity to succeed, or fail, on their own merits. They do not want special treatment; what they want are opportunities that elude them but seem readily available to immigrants, which seems unfair. Not only is this unfair, it is part of a larger pattern of neglect black people have witnessed and continue to perceive with respect to their communities over time. Hence, their analysis of their position is directly related to their collective memory of their communities’ struggles with equality and inclusion.
Second, this chapter seeks to demonstrate the lack of hostility and resentment toward immigrants one might expect on the part of blacks. For their part, blacks tended to view the “system” as the root of many of their communal problems. Although there were some references to individual responsibility, the issue of immigration is viewed as something clearly out of black and immigrant hands. In this narrative, whites are the most empowered, and minorities are trying to exist within the parameters that whiteness has set for them. Racial hierarchy wrought by white supremacy is real for black people, and immigration makes this abundantly clear. Although there is a tendency to conflate immigrant with Latino, as does a general sentiment in our national conversation on the issue, the overarching theme seems to be a sense that America is an unfair place for people of color, particularly blacks. Thus, blackness becomes a way to understand how the racial politics of this America works. Immigrants help make that point more starkly, but immigrants are hardly being held responsible for the ways in which white supremacy sorts minorities in this society. Thus, what these interviews help us to see is the profound disappointment with the incomplete incorporation of black people into American society because of their race. An important undercurrent of this chapter has been what the idea of America means to blacks and how they employ national identity to make their claims to privilege in the American political landscape. The next chapter looks more concretely at how blacks utilize national attachment to form their opinion on immigration. More particularly, the following chapter examines the degree to which nativist tendencies are present in African American opinions and to what extent, if any, does this lead to hostility toward immigrant communities.
(1.) Preclearance was a provision of section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act that made covered jurisdictions seek preapproval from the Department of Justice to make any changes to the time, manner, and location of elections. This section was essentially gutted by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder (2013). The majority opinion of the Court held that preclearance is unconstitutional because the coverage formula was based on data that was over 40 years old. This made it possible for state election officials to circumvent voter protections, and ushered in a wave of voter identification measures, exact match laws, and shortening of early voting periods that had proved a boon for minority voters in previous elections. The abandonment of this provision of the Voting Rights Act has had the (unintended) consequence of legalizing, or at least countenancing, voter suppression efforts in more than half the states in the union. For a more detailed discussion of voter suppression in the aftermath of Shelby County v. Holder see Blacksher, James, and Lani Guinier. “Free at Last: Rejecting Equal Sovereignty and Restoring the Constitutional Right to Vote: Shelby County v. Holder.” Harvard Law & Policy Review 8 (2014): 39.
(2.) North Carolina has been ground zero for many of the recent fights around the retrenchment of voting rights for blacks in the state. Started by Rev. William Barber, head of the North Carolina NAACP, the Moral Mondays protests began in 2012 when Republican Governor Pat McCrory and the Republican majority legislation made moves to restrict voting rights as well as passage of a more conservative agenda that endangered the environment and various social programs. Since the beginning of this social justice movement, its model of civil disobedience has spread to other states around the country.
(3.) Atlanta, GA, is most akin to Durham, NC, in this respect. The black community of Durham began in the 1880s, and the black businesses of that city got their start in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—earlier than other cities with large, black middle-class populations. Although lacking much of its former reverence, Durham was an extremely popular destination for blacks seeking better (p.202) fortunes. In its prime, Durham was held in great esteem by scholars (DuBois 1912; Frazier  1997) and laypersons alike, having a reputation as “Black Wall Street” because of the presence of North Carolina Mutual and Mechanics and Farmers Bank, which ultimately stimulated the growth of other black-owned businesses along Parrish Street.
(4.) North Carolina Mutual and Life Insurance Company was founded by John Merrick—barber to tobacco executive Washington Duke and multiple–business owner—and Dr. Aaron M. Moore, Durham’s first black physician. Later, Charles Clinton (C.C.) Spaulding was brought in during the company’s reorganization. Overall, there were seven men associated with the founding of the company, including Dr. James E. Shepard, founder of NCCU, and W.G. Pearson, local businessman and business associate of John Merrick.
(5.) The Mechanics and Farmers Bank was chartered by a collective of black businessmen in the city of Durham. These included R. B. Fitzgerald, J. A. Dodson, J. R. Hawkins, John Merrick, Aaron M. Moore, W. G. Pearson, James E. Shepard, G. W. Stephens, and Stanford L. Warren.
(6.) C.C. Spaulding was a well-respected Durham businessman. The son of an ex-slave, Spaulding was the president of five companies. He founded three insurance companies, a bank, and a property company.
(7.) It should be noted that blacks did live in other parts of the city; however, Hayti was the flagship neighborhood that anchored most of black life in Durham until it was greatly disabled by the building of North Carolina Highway 147. For a more detailed discussion of Hayti and other black Durham neighborhoods, consult Andre Vann and Beverly W. Jones, Durham’s Hayti (1999), and Pauli Murray’s (1999) biography Proud Shoes.
(8.) However, entrepreneurship was not a guarantee of blacks’ safety. North Carolina Mutual and Life Insurance Company built fireproof headquarters presumably because of the very real possibility of arson at the hands of white criminals (Brown and Valk 2004). Moreover, the company also provided some residential space for female employees who may have been harassed by white landlords for their association with the company as well as facing sexual harassment by white men because of their unprotected status as black women (Brown and Valk 2004).
(9.) The North Carolina College for Negroes was renamed the North Carolina Central University in 1969 after undergoing several name changes. Founded by Dr. James E. Shepard and chartered in 1909 as a religious training school, the university opened in 1910 and later became a teacher’s college for blacks with the help of Mrs. Russell Sage (Anderson 1990). By 1925 the school was expanded to a liberal arts college, and by the 1940s it began to incorporate graduate training. By the 1970s North Carolina Central University was a regional university joining the Consolidated University of North Carolina system.
(10.) According to Gershenhorn, at the time of the Hocutt case North Carolina had more college and normal school students than any other segregated state (2001: 283).
(11.) Hocutt was unable to include a certified transcript with his application because James Shepard refused to send the transcript to UNC. UNC would not accept an unofficial transcript sent directly by Hocutt (Anderson 1990). Although this technical detail did not matter much, it should be noted UNC’s pharmacy program was an undergraduate program, thus it was argued by Hocutt’s legal team that a college transcript was not needed.
(12.) Shepard was still reeling from a public relations fiasco in 1930 where he supported John J. Parker, a Supreme Court nominee put forward by Herbert Hoover. The black community stood against Shepard because Parker was very vocal in his denial of black voting rights. As such, in 1933 at the time of the Hocutt case, Shepard could not afford another public dust-up with the black community. Although the Depression heightened Shepard’s anxiety about continued funding for NCCN from whites, he depended on the black community for the conferral of legitimacy and authority as a leader. Because the majority of blacks were in favor of Hocutt’s efforts, Shepard and Spaulding were very careful in how they approached this case.
(13.) All parties, including the national NAACP, agreed an appeal in the Hocutt case was a lost cause given the state’s racial climate and the fact that Hocutt was not a strong student. Still, they opted not to refile the case rather than to bump Hocutt as the lead plaintiff, citing Hocutt’s bravery in participating in the case. Alas, the case was never appealed, and Hocutt never became a pharmacist. Hocutt relocated to New York City where he worked for the transit authority.
(14.) For a more detailed history of the founding and legacy of the North Carolina Central University College of Law, please refer to “So Far” (http://law.nccu.edu/wordpress/img/uploads/2010/09/so-far-2009.pdf).
(15.) By 1953 activism had reached new heights in Durham; there had been a race riot in the Hayti neighborhood, and a 16-year-old girl was fined for refusing to go to the back of the bus (both events occurred in 1943). Also, by 1944 two black police officers were added to the Durham police force. Moreover, the prosperity of Durham’s black community was recognized nationally by a feature in Ebony magazine.
(16.) It should be noted that because Durham had such a high number of black registered voters at the passage of the Voting Rights Act (1965), this county was not covered by the Act. The same is true of Wake and Orange counties. Given the disastrous Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), key provisions of the VRA, such as preclearance, have been struck down, and now approximately 40 counties are no longer covered by Section 5 of the VRA.
(17.) These cases consolidated after initially being filed in 1960 for the dismantling of segregation in the Durham County and city school systems. This case effectively (p.204) pushed Durham city and county to form a unitary school district. This case would be revisited several times as the plaintiffs continually sought further relief, especially in light of Supreme Court rulings such as Green v. School Board of New Kent County (1968). This ruling found the freedom of choice plans being used by the different Durham administrative school units to address segregation to be inadequate to disassemble school segregation. However, the Wheeler case would not be settled well into the 1970s, with other administrative matters surrounding the case not settled until the early 1980s.
(18.) The Merger Issues Task Force was followed by the Merger Vision Task Force, which reviewed the initial report and recommended a merger of the school systems (Apostoleris 2018).
(19.) In 2002 the local NAACP, under the leadership of Curtis Gatewood, filed complaints with the Department of Education charging that Superintendent Ann Denlinger, a white woman, violated the policy on site-based decision-making committees when she fired the principal of Hillside High School, a historically black high school, replacing him without the input of this committee. The complaint claimed that Denlinger had destabilized the learning environment of Hillside High School because of her constant administrative changes (Cyna 2019; Herriott 2001). Moreover, Denlinger aroused further anger when she required 24 Hillside employees to reapply for their positions (Abram 2002; WRAL 2002b). Another investigation was launched by the Office of Civil Rights in 1998 after the Durham Committee for the Affairs of Black People charged that black students were being unfairly suspended and placed in remedial and special education classes. The Office of Civil Rights came to the conclusion that these charges were unfounded subsequent to an 18-month investigation. Another lawsuit was heard in 2007 regarding the targeting of black students for suspension (WRAL 2007). This case was subsequently dismissed.
(20.) According to Durham Public Schools, black students are 44.7% of the public school students; 30.7% are Hispanic/Latino; and 18.8% are white. For more information on the demographic breakdown, please refer to durham.schoolwires.net// site/Default.aspx?PageID=324. As of the 2016, blacks make up approximately 37% of the city’s 254,620 residents; the remainder of the city is 42 percent non-Hispanic White, 4 percent Asian, and 14 percent Latino (of any race). For a more detailed breakdown of Durham city and county by race, please see the U.S. Census.
(21.) Communal narratives, also called creation stories, are ubiquitous. In some cases these are based on genetics, others around culture or geography. Regardless of their orientation, these narratives are considered constitutive of group identity and provide the “roots” of a group’s ongoing connection, thereby guarding against potential cultural dislocation. In sum, these narratives provide a fairly stable basis for the existence of a group and its members that is considered necessary and valuable.
(22.) Although there were free blacks, the institution of slavery necessarily bounded their freedom because of their racial identity as black people. Thus, the free black experience was different, but nonetheless connected to those enslaved. In fact, free blacks were very active in the abolition movement, and in many cities, like Philadelphia, they organized mutual aid societies and other efforts to assist escaped slaves and those relocating to free states (Hershberg 1971). For a more thorough discussion of free blacks and their activism, see Leon Litwack’s North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States (2009) and Horton and Horton’s In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community and Protest among Northern Free Blacks, 1700–1860 (1996).
(23.) Although thirteen is not a large number, it has been demonstrated that for non-probabilistic samples, themes are made apparent in as early as six interviews. Moreover, “saturation,” the point at which the researcher ceases to discover new information by the inclusion of additional participants, is reached in approximately twelve interviews (Guest, Bunce, and Johnson 2006). Although I can hardly determine causation from the number of interviews I have, this is not the purpose of these interviews. I use the interviews to provide an understanding of the ways blacks talk about immigration, which is the crux of public opinion. Everyday talk has been shown to provide the best evidence for what black people think (Harris-Lacewell 2004; Price 2009; Sawyer 2005). Surveys are a way to measure certain ideas, but they are limited by the imagination and resources of their creators. The interview is another tool that can give us important insights, albeit in a different fashion and with more nuance.
(24.) This is to suggest that in a moment where there is a black president, yet the Supreme Court has been steadily eroding the force of the Voting Rights Act, it would seem that greater equality for black people is on the wane. Indeed, it has been argued by Perea (1997) and others (Bell 1993; Von Eschen 1997) that black people only received greater social inclusion when it became important for the United States’ interests, as in the Cold War. Another important part of these moments was the organizing activities of black people (Parker 2009; Von Eschen 1997).
(25.) In Democracy and the Foreigner (2001), Honig argues that immigrants are symbols of renewal. Immigrants reaffirm our beliefs in the nation and its principles at times when we are undergoing great challenge. For example, Honig explains that stories of immigrants’ successes at a time of economic distress, such as during economic recession, function to renew the belief of the less successful native-born in upward mobility, despite rampant unemployment. In this way, immigrants allow us to remain hopeful about our future economic progress despite indicators that would suggest otherwise. By renewing our collective faith in the bedrock principles of hard work and economic success, the core principles of capitalism that structure such negative outcomes remain unchallenged.
(26.) In her text, Facing Up to the American Dream, Jennifer Hochschild describes the “American Dream” as an ideology that suggests and “individual can attain success and virtue through strenuous effort.” Those groups who are not successful are viewed as somehow deficient because they are seen as having poor cultural values that do not support social progress. This is a particularly pernicious myth that has plagued black communities for decades but became more crystallized with the infamous Moynihan Report that blamed a “pathological” black culture for upholding a “culture of poverty” antithetical to American virtues of hard work, thrift, and delayed gratification (Nunnally and Carter 2012). Hochschild finds the most likely culprit of this lack of success as the nation’s failure to provide enough access to those institutions we know create the kind of success the American Dream espouses.
(27.) In 2013, a Tea Party operative by the name of Glynis Racine sent a Twitter message that read “White Irish slavers were treated worse than any other race in the US. When is the last time you heard an Irishman bitching & moaning about how the world owes them a living?” The offending message, though it does not mention black people by name, attempts to shame black people into leaving the legacy of slavery behind, which she reads as both historically inaccurate because some Irish people were enslaved, and as “bitching & moaning” by blacks who are simply holding onto the legacy of enslavement in an effort to receive a handout, presumably from the government. Although the offending tweet was quickly removed, her follow-up message read, “Slavery is a black mark on American history, but it’s time to move on.” Again, imploring those who commemorate slavery as woefully stuck “back there” and unable to move on, failing to acknowledge that neither she nor any other person can tell black people when it’s “time to move on,” and that people do not want to leave the legacy of slavery behind because that would be, in many ways, leaving themselves behind. To read more about this incident, coverage can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/18/tea-party-racist-tweet_n_4467221.html. More recently, the fight to remove, or preserve, Confederate statues curiously mirrored many of these same conversations—except whites reacted violently to the removal of these monuments to white supremacy. In Charlottesville, VA, protests by white supremacist groups and their sympathizers resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, other injured persons, and property damage.
(28.) Although there are no strict rules for responsible group membership, there have been ongoing discussions within the black community about what it means to be a member of the racial group. Many of these conversations were not simply about political preferences but also about individual behaviors and how they reflect on the esteem of the group (Cohen 1999; Gaines 1996; Griffin 2000; Kelly 2010; White 2007; Wolcott 1997). Often called the politics of respectability, early efforts on the part of blacks adhered to these principles, which preached moral rectitude and good values as the key to group success. Although this has (p.207) shifted over time, it is clear there is something called a black community self-identified racial group that members value. Further, this identity has real political implications, as authors as diverse as Dawson (2001), Greer (2013), Harris, Sinclair-Chapman, and McKenzie (2006), Harris-Perry (2011), Nunnally (2012), Parker (2009), and Price (2009) have demonstrated. Although prosecuting racial group interests is one of the outcomes of responsible group membership, group solidarity can have differential outcomes for different group members. For example, group members of nonconforming sexualities, women, and/or poor may not have their interests acknowledged, if represented at all, and many deny their individual needs so as to not besmirch the identity of the larger group, especially when that group, like blacks, has a stigmatized public identity (Nunnally and Carter 2012; Carter and Pérez 2015; Cohen 1997, 1999).
(29.) Justice Harlan was the sole dissenter to the Supreme Court’s “separate but equal” logic in the Plessy v. Ferguson case. Nevertheless, although Harlan frames his dissent based on a reading of the U.S. Constitution as a colorblind document, he clearly has a view of racial hierarchy that places white citizens as top-tiered citizens. He does not view whites as in any danger because of their numerical superiority; he does see the potential for white supremacy to be threatened by fomenting distrust among the black population because of this ruling, which suggests blacks do not have enough self-control to sit in train cars alongside whites. In short, according to Harlan, allowing blacks to avail themselves of public facilities will not bring about the equality of races in all spheres. For a complete reading of Harlan’s decision, see Plessy v. Ferguson 163 U.S. 537, 229 (1896). To see a legal analysis of the Harlan dissent, see Haney-Lopez (2007), “A Nation of Minorities”: Race, Ethnicity, and Reactionary Colorblindness, Stanford Law Review 59(4): 985–1063.
(30.) Although the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) is often cited as the dissolution of segregation because it overturned the “separate but equal” rule of the Plessy v. Ferguson case, these practices would continue well into the 1960s because states were able to maneuver around these dictates, and the “all deliberate speed” clause of the Brown decision was sufficiently vague that states could avoid acting on the directive immediately.
(31.) There are many events that individuals may not experience personally or in a profound way (because of distance or lack of interest), but they can form some recollection of it because of the significance of that event. For example, September 11, 2001, had a significant impact on many Americans who were separated from the primary zones of attack. However, because the event was framed as an attack on “us” (i.e., America) and it was covered as the most significant terrorist attack on the nation, over and above the Oklahoma City bombing, that moment has a special place in American collective memory and identity. In contradistinction to September 11 is the enslavement period. Although this period is arguably one of the most traumatic for this country, and not only for black people, this (p.208) trauma is not framed or experienced as an “American tragedy.” Despite the institution of slavery being the catalyst for the Civil War, this nation is far more comfortable venerating these battles than the lives of black people who were the lynchpin of this historical moment. Although I do not wish for black people to be caricatured as enslaved persons for the purposes of recreating the past, this nation has not had a full discussion on slavery or race. The attempts to do so often have been thwarted or never fully realized. The Clinton Forum on Race circa 1992 was heralded as this moment, but the report from this moment was largely ignored, and none of the measures the working group suggested were ever addressed. For a more detailed discussion about the psychology of memory, see Pennebaker, Rim, and Paez 2013).
(32.) There are different terminologies used by scholars of memory, such as “collective,” “social,” and “cultural.” These differences are largely about disciplinary approach rather than disagreement about the important social considerations in memory creation, production, and perpetuation. Although I do not attempt to adjudicate these issues here, for the sake of clarity I refer to “collective memory” throughout this chapter, yet retain the authors’ language when discussing their theories.
(33.) Unlike September 11, the trauma of enslavement and the Jim Crow period are collectively ignored, if not outright denied, because the so-called black experience is viewed in many ways as separate and apart from the American experience. Instead, America is characterized as being part of a legacy of resistance from Great Britain, the Founding, and the documents of this founding moment. However, Abdel-Nour argues that national responsibility is ours by virtue of our national identity. Thus, for us to claim the triumphs of the Founding we also have to accept responsibility for the terrors of this time, such as enslavement. As he states, “an Individual incurs a national responsibility for actions performed by others (dead or alive) when she actively associates herself in a very specific way with these actions” despite the length of time that has passed (Abdel-Nour 2003: 694). Yet, the responsibility for the egregious treatment of blacks in the recent past is not something the United States has managed well. For example, there has yet to be more than a tepid acknowledgement of responsibility for the harm caused to blacks in specific cases of terrorism, like the Wilmington, NC Race Riots of 1898 and the Tulsa, OK Race Riots of 1921.
(34.) Voter identification laws have either been enacted or have been placed on the legislative agenda in 30 states. These laws typically increase the identification necessary to register to vote. They have been criticized as thinly veiled measures to discourage voters of color who are not as likely to have the various forms of identification required by these new state laws (i.e., social security cards, birth certificates, state-issued photo identification) and the least likely to feel politically efficacious and turn out. Further, some critics argue that by requiring state-issued photo identification and/or birth certificates, which are not provided for (p.209) free, these laws would have the effect of making people pay for the privilege to vote, which is illegal (Gaskins and Iyer 2012). Thus, these laws do not and are not devised to stop virtually nonexistent voter fraud. They are in place to prevent chronic nonvoters from even attempting to participate through intimidation. In October 2013, a North Carolina Republican operative, Don Yelton, admitted on “The Daily Show” that these laws were meant to hurt black voters and deprive Democrats of their votes.
(35.) Emantic Bradford, Jr. was shot in the back three times on Thanksgiving 2018 after being misidentified as a mall shooter. Twenty-one-year-old Chavis Carter was found shot in the head inside an Arkansas police cruiser in summer 2012. Mr. Carter was in the company of two white men when they were pulled over for suspicious activity. However, he was the only person detained by the police. Although Mr. Carter died while in police custody, no formal charges were brought against the officers. An unarmed Jonathan Farrell was shot ten times by a police officer that he was running toward for help after a traumatic car accident. The officer who killed the recent college graduate has been charged with voluntary manslaughter. In 2014, John Crawford was killed by a police officer inside of an Ohio Walmart holding a BB gun sold by the store. In 2015, Freddie Gray died while in police custody due to spinal cord injuries. Six officers were charged in his death but were either acquitted or not prosecuted. In 2018, Botham Jean was shot and killed in his home by Dallas office Amber Guyger who wrongfully entered Mr. Jean’s home. She is currently awaiting trial on the charge of manslaughter.
(36.) My mother, like my father, both graduated from segregated high schools and attended historically black colleges despite the passage of Brown v. Board of Education (1954). In fact, many of the public accommodations in my mother’s hometown that would have had to be integrated, such as schools and movie theaters, were either privatized or shuttered. The trend toward creating private schools that were de facto “white only” institutions to circumvent school desegregation has been well documented (Clotfelter 1976; Ryan 2004; Walder and Cleveland 1971). To date, there is not a movie theater in Warrenton, NC.
(37.) Names of respondents have been changed to protect their anonymity.
(38.) The term “lady” was highly contested because it was a term used exclusively for upper class, respectable white women (Barnard 1993; Feimster 2009; Sharpley-Whiting 1995). Therefore, calling a black adult a “boy” or “girl” was not viewed as impolitic among whites. It would have been unfathomable to bestow a title of respect on a black person, especially by a white person. In a similar fashion, the practice of calling black adults either “Uncle” or “Aunt” was another way to avoid having to show deference by using the titles Mr. or Mrs. In his seminal book, The Miseducation of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson argues some white men would go so far as to not wear hats when in the presence of blacks so as to not have to remove or tip it to a black woman, as was customary.
(39.) South Carolina was the target of an NAACP boycott in the late 1990s because of the state’s insistence on flying the Confederate flag over the statehouse, which it had done since 1962. The media attention and boycott embarrassed the state and cost it significant tourist revenues. As a result, the South Carolina legislature retired the Confederate flag from the statehouse in 2000. However, the flag was moved to a prominent place in front of the Capitol next to a monument honoring Confederate soldiers. It was not until 2015, subsequent to the brutal Charleston, SC church shootings by white gunman Dylann Roof, which left nine black parishioners dead at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, that Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, signed a bill to discontinue the use of the Confederate flag altogether. For a more significant discussion of the Confederate flag and its history, see Woliver, Ledford, and Dolan (2001).
(40.) Post-racial language has pervaded the conversation of contemporary race relations since the first election of Barack Obama in 2008. Because white voters turned out to vote for Obama in numbers not anticipated and never seen before for a black candidate, some suggested we were getting to a place where race mattered less than it had in prior generations. This myth of a post-racial world has quickly been debunked by multiple scholars and journalists who demonstrate the bifurcation of the nation along racial lines despite the election of Obama (Bonilla-Silva 2010; Mukherjee 2016; Ohl and Potter 2013; Tabak 2010). In fact, some argue the election of a black president and increasing prominence of minorities have left us more polarized than ever before, because whites have reacted negatively to their declining dominance in U.S. society and elected Donald Trump.
(41.) This is not to suggest members of different racial groups are opposed to supporting representatives from other racial groups. However, it has been shown that those who are high identifiers with their group are more apt to desire a same-race representative. Furthermore, it has been shown in some instances that the election of different-raced individuals will not necessarily mean other groups will be harmed. For example, Meier et al. (2004) find that in situations where there are more minority administrators, minority students tend to do better. This suggests minority representation, from any group, can be a boon for all minority students.
(42.) Although it is clear that other groups besides Latinos are recognized as immigrants (i.e., Asians), the presence of immigrants from other regions is not discussed primarily because of the questions I asked and the many ways in which black ethnics are obscured on the landscape because they are largely subsumed by the larger category of blackness, given the ways in which race operates in this country (Greer 2013; Rogers 2006). Moreover, although the southern region of the United States is being dominated by Latino immigration, the conversation in this space mirrors the conversation happening at the national level, which overlooks immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean.
(43.) According to the Office of Management and Budget that administers the U.S. Census, Latino is not a racial category. Rather, Latino is an ethnic category whose members can be of any race. This means Latinos are not technically counted as a race. Nevertheless, the majority of Latinos in the United States choose the “white” racial category. For a more detailed rationale, see “Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010” by Karen R. Humes, Nicholas A. Jones, and Robert R. Ramirez (http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf).
(44.) The extent to which Latinos will remain better off is hard to forecast. Nevertheless, Sears and Savalei (2006) argue that Latinos exhibit a high degree of group consciousness, but this tendency weakens over time as group members become more acculturated. To the extent that blacks continue to experience racial discrimination, this will continue to condition their political consciousness. Consequently, Sears and Savalei suggest the color line will continue to discipline blacks in ways that it does not other minorities, including Latinos.
(45.) Religion was a major concern with Southern and Eastern European immigrants, as well. Anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism were prevalent in the United States. However, because of their skin color, in most cases, these European groups were passable as racially “white.” However, this racial logic excluded Asian people as potential inheritors of whiteness. For example, in the Bhagat Singh Thind (1923) case the Supreme Court ruled that for the purposes of naturalization, Indian persons did not meet the criteria of racial whiteness despite the fact they were understood as “Aryan.” Moreover, it was also believed that other Asian people had a permissive culture rife with drug abuse and a desire to have access to white women (Lui 2009).
(46.) This notion of a middle tier of racial categorization with respect to Latinos has been explored by Dávila (2008) and O’Brien (2008). The basic argument is that a white supremacist racial hierarchy is self-interested in its own preservation. To do so, some racial categories are selected to act as buffers between privileged whites and relatively lower-status groups by providing these middle-status groups with some benefits. This prevents organized opposition from lower-status groups, because those in the middle statuses are relatively better off and more content with their racial place in the hierarchy.
(47.) This statement has to be qualified with respect to Arab Americans and those deemed “Arab-looking,” such as South Asians post-9/11 who found themselves under scrutiny and in some cases physically assaulted because they were deemed “Muslim” and therefore terrorists (Sekhon 2003). The “us” versus “them” discourse changed the ways in which people viewed those with darker skin who may have been viewed with some degree of favorability prior to this moment (Kinder and Kam 2010).
(48.) This is a reference to an unauthenticated speech allegedly delivered by a white man named Willie Lynch in the eighteenth century. Entitled “The Making of a Slave,” and variously referred to as the “Willie Lynch Letter,” this document (p.212) advocates keeping black people enslaved by controlling their minds and sowing seeds of dissension within the group by pitting them against each other using devices such as skin color and the like. The idea was to prevent blacks from gaining liberation by enslaving their minds, thereby preventing intragroup unity. Still, the content of this piece retains some cultural significance in black communities and is shorthand for a type of thinking that is antithetical to racial unity and black mobility.
(49.) It is important to note that many constituencies of the Los Angeles community where the riots took place were looting. Yet, it is the image of the black rioter cum looter in a protracted battle with Korean merchants that received the majority of media coverage. For a discussion of this dynamic, see the works of Abelman and Lie (1995), Johnson, Jones, Farrell, and Oliver (1993) and Ikemoto (1993).
(51.) This is clearly not the case. For example, Latinos were at the forefront of civil rights protests, particularly in the western United States, and Asian Americans have been represented, albeit in a more limited capacity, in these same struggles (Donato 1996; Iijima 1997; Maeda 2005; Tamayo 1995). Still, it has been shown that blacks are viewed as angry troublemakers (Hugenberg and Bodenhausen 2003; Powers 2005; Russell-Brown 2009).