‘Nation of Immigrants’ Mantra Doesn’t Really Work for Blacks

It's important to remember how most African Americans' ancestors actually came to this country, Maya Rupert writes at the Huffington Post. 

John Moore/Getty Images News
John Moore/Getty Images News

It’s important to remember how most African Americans’ ancestors actually came to this country, Maya Rupert writes at the Huffington Post.

For a phrase designed to inspire feelings of inclusion and acceptance, the familiar mantra “we are a nation of immigrants” makes many in the black community feel excluded and uncomfortable. And now that efforts to draft an immigration reform bill are in full swing in the Senate, we will be hearing this phrase — and other indicators of this narrative — a lot more often.

To be clear, I’m not insensitive to the need to remind people that immigration is a strong part of our national heritage during a time when anti-immigrant sentiment has transformed “give us your tired, your poor… yearning to breathe free” to “give us your best and your brightest and even then we may not let them stay.” But as we celebrate Black History Month, let’s remember the history of black people and how most of our ancestors came to this country, and let that history inform the way we talk about a need for immigration reform.

For a significant part of the black community, the story of black America is not a story of immigration; it’s a story of colonialism and slavery. Thus, not only does the idea that we are all immigrants ring false for many in the black community, it erases one of the worst blights on our collective conscience and creates a needless tension between the black community and those advocating immigration reform …

Read Maya Rupert’s entire piece at the Huffington Post.

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