We’ll Walk Hand in Hand?
By: Rev. Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder, Ph.D.
"The old avocations by which colored men obtained a livelihood are rapidly, unceasingly and inevitably passing into other hands; every hour sees the black man elbowed out of employment by some newly arrived emigrant, whose hunger and whose color are thought to give him a better title to the place."
“Learn Trades or Starve” (1853)
The Obama Administration and a bipartisan group in the Senate are making serious turns to tackle immigration reform. In addition to declaring that as citizens “our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others,” the President’s State of the Union address spoke of securing borders and decreasing the wait timeframe for the American residential legalizing process. Some twelve million women, men, and children across these United States await with baited breath to see what political deals will be made to construct either a pathway to citizenship or pave a road to deportation hell.
What is intriguing about the immigration conversation is that pundits tend to frame the argument in an "Us-versus-Them" fashion. Using rhetorical scare tactics, proponents for and against are not shy about disrobing a “more of them means less for us” stratagem. While much of this ploy has centered on how the massive number of “non-citizens” will subtract resources from persons of European descent, there is now a political stream that avers even sending “border breakers” to the back of the citizenship line will still reduce jobs among African-American low-wage earners. Words from Booker T. Washington, W.E.B DuBois, A. Philip Randolph and the quote from Frederick Douglass, among many others, are now resurfacing as a clarion call for African Americans to think long and hard about getting on the “brown” bandwagon. Yet, none of the language from the aforementioned historical figures specially addresses Latino immigration.
One must note that the arguments within the African American community are not monolithic. From the likes of Cynthia Tucker who purports that there is no connection between high black unemployment and immigration to the Black Alliance for Just Immigration which parallels immigration rights momentum with the Civil Rights Movement, there really is no clear , dare I say, black or white answer among African Americans. For some this citizenship conversation and border openness is a class issue, and for others it is a point of mutual social justice as African Americans and Latinos are subject to the evil of racial profiling.