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Immigration: The Problems, the Positions, and the Proposals, Part Two

July 1, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry

Additionally, the perception of some American citizens is that some immigrants are not nice. American citizens often feel slighted, humiliated, and disrespected by some of them. Personally, I have felt this way, too. Years ago, we had to boycott Korean stores because of the abusive treatment.

I believe, and I try to persuade others, that “it’s a relatively few who show disrespect; or, maybe, it’s just a cultural difference.” I’m not sure how many are willing to take the high ground. Can you imagine the feelings of someone, whose father’s father – as far back as anyone can remember, who built, fought, and died for the country being subjected to insults by people who just arrived in “their country”; and, then being, lectured to by their leaders, especially political leaders, who are supposed to understand and protect them, but seemingly take the sides of the immigrants, on how they are supposed to behave?

It strikes a hollow, heartless note to American citizens who are destitute, feeling powerless, insecure, and frustrated, for President Barack Obama and others, who are materially-secured, basking in their spacious dwelling places and sitting at the tables with all kinds of delicious food stuff, tell people, crowded in the valley, to share what they don’t have; or, what little they do have, which is rumored, will be taken away. Already, they can see signs of it happening.

They don’t have to compete for the crumbs which have dropped from their lofty perches. The precious jobs and business opportunities which American citizens, especially people of African ancestry, long in this country, can’t get; and, yet, there are people on these jobs or construction sites who can’t speak English.

Moreover, there is a question of discrimination. Americans seem to be concerned only with Latino and Caribbean immigrants and not European immigrants. In addition, there is the balkanization of immigrant communities. In the past, generally, immigrants strove to be Americans. They were proud to be in and of America. There were instances where some immigrants went to the extreme and denied and rejected their own cultures. They taught their children to do the same. They were in America now, and they did everything in their power to be Americanized. It seems now, increasingly, immigrants form their own enclaves, and are not eager to be Americanized.

I am of the opinion that all people should love and be grateful for their history and culture no matter where they are, but like all things, too much of a good thing or the wrong use of a good thing can become a bad thing. I am reminded of the Cuban policy. Years ago, when we would make our annual trips to Cuba, we observed the accommodations they would make for people, primarily students, who came to their country. They had established the Island of Youth. Countries were encouraged to send their young people to Cuba to be educated and trained in their chosen professions. It was understood that they brought their religion and culture with them. To the eternal credit of the Cubans, there was no intention on the part of Cubans to make them Cubans. They were simply preparing them to return to their native lands to improve the lives of their people.

I am not sure that America wants to go that far, but rather wants to adopt the Melting Pot idea, or in the words of David Dinkins, “the gorgeous mosaic,” or, in the expression of others, the “salad idea,” which means immigrants can celebrate their history and culture, and observe their religion. It is the ideal of prioritizing the oneness of America that provides the cohesiveness of all who dwell in the country.

One would think that African Americans, especially, should feel angry, frustrated, and hostile, but pervasively, it is not so. Generally, we have an “Open Arm Policy.” For years, our language for empowerment, equality, and justice have always included Latinos and others. Everyone who comes to this country seems to advance and prosper more than many African-Americans for reasons which are not hard to understand.

They come with a determination to achieve. The fact that they are prepared to go through all kinds of obstacles to which they are subjected indicates a special kind of people with unusual drive or perseverance. They come prepared to make sacrifices, work hard, delay gratification, and band together. They bring skills and experiences. There is a built-in cultural cohesiveness that serves them well. They have the assistance of relatives and friends who are already in the country. In some cases, they receive governmental assistance.

African-Americans still experience roadblocks – blatant and subtle – in our journey to freedom. Our ancestors, as I have pointed out, were brought here against their will. They played a major role in building the country. Their labor and bartered bodies helped to generate the wealth that the slave masters’ children, and others enjoy. Our ancestors fought and died in every war this country ever had – from the Revolutionary War that established the country, to the Civil War that held it together, and all of the other wars which fought to protect the country. Still, some immigrants are treated better than we are.

It is reminiscent during World War I and II. German prisoners were treated better than African American soldiers, especially in southern USA. Black soldiers had to disembark from public transportation in Washington, D.C. and re-board the same transportation by going to the rear reserved for “Colored Only,” in which the accommodation was significantly inferior to the accommodation that read “White Only.”

I joined the Army in 1951. By then, there was an attempt to integrate the Armed Services, but conspicuously, there remained the evidence of the ill-treatment of Black soldiers. After doing my basic training in Fort Dix, I went to Aberdeen Proven Grounds in Aberdeen, Maryland. The barracks where white soldiers used to live before integration were clean. They had well-kept grounds including the grass around the barracks. The service club was a huge building. Inside were spacious rooms for relaxation and a wide array of amenities.

Conversely, the Black soldiers lived down the hill in as kind of valley. The barracks were old and rickety. All around the grounds showed none of the care that was accorded to the white part of the camp. The service club was small and inadequate. The pool tables were ancient with torn cloth and crooked pool sticks.

Let me repeat with all of the emphasis that I can command, African Americans, by and large, are not opposed to immigration. Perhaps, one of the reasons, in some sense, we have had to migrate during slavery and segregation. We had tried to find a better land right here in the United States.

Another reason is that we have felt the excruciating pain of rejection, denial, and humiliation. We don’t want to see others hurting or suffering. Finally, I think there’s something deep and mystic, and maybe, even religious, inside people of African ancestry which tends towards hospitality, compassion, and acceptance of others. Rev. Jesse Jackson used to say during his presidential run in 1984, “When we win, everybody wins.” I believe it’s true. It is also true is that sometimes, in our struggles, others win before us and yet more than us. Sometimes, they leave us behind with little or nothing having gained.

There is a saying in our communities, “We are still waiting for the 40 acres and a mule,” that was proposed by General William Sherman during the Civil War. When we consider what we have given to this country, and have never been remunerated, is it any wonder that the demand for reparation has been articulated by our people, from General Sherman to the present time?

To sum up, I hope I have adequately expressed the rage, anger, frustration, and anxiety of some of the people who are seemingly in opposition to undocumented immigrants. We should understand how deep and pervasive this opposition is. It was one of the major reasons, I believe, that propelled Donald Trump to become the presumptive president of the Republican Party. It’s not only confined to the USA. It’s becoming a world problem. I am told that it was the primary reason for Britain’s recent majority decision to quit the European Union.

James Baldwin once said, “The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.” Well, what about a sizeable population with nothing to lose? I think it is what millions of Americans feel. They have nothing to lose. Their country is being taken from them. Their leaders don’t care or have become a part of their problem by supporting the cause of their problem – immigration. So, they will support anyone who seems to understand and promises to work for them.” Enter Donald Trump. It is a dangerously volatile situation which threatens to explode any day now. It is imperative that we find a solution swiftly.

… to be continued.