Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Long, Inglorious
History of Xenophobia

The United States has a long history of xenophobia dating back to the beginnings of the country. The current wave of hatred for Mexican immigrants is only the latest example. It is funny how the trends repeat. What was said about Chinese laborers in the 1880's is being said again, word for word, about Mexican workers today. The faces and skin tone may change from decade to decade, but the hatred is consistent.

1790 Immigration Law (non-whites)
Declared only "free white persons" could become naturalized American citizens. Was not repealed until 1952.

Know-Nothings - 1850's (Irish)
When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics." ~ Abraham Lincoln
The Irish Potato Famine led to the massive immigration of Irish families to the United States. A semi-secret political movement sprouted around the hatred of Irish Catholics. The name came from their habitual answer, "I know nothing," when asked questions. They fielded a presidential candidate, Millard Filmore, in 1856. He lost.

Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion - 1880's (Irish and Italians)
We are Republicans, and don't propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been rum, Romanism, and rebellion. We are loyal to our flag. ~ Samuel Buchard speaking to the Religious Bureau of the Republic National Committee, 1884
By the 1880's, the corruption and scandal within the Republican Party had diminished the party. In 1884, the Republican Party nominated for president the Tom Delay of their day, James G. Blaine was a notorious bride taker. (Oddly Democrat Grover Cleveland was the Bill Clinton of his day, having fathered a child out of wedlock.) Republicans were reduced to a three word platform, opposition to: Rum (appealing to the religious temperance movement), Rebellion (blaming Democrats for the Civil War), and Romanism (opposition to all things Catholic).

Chinese Exclusion Act - 1882
The Chinese must go. ~ Denis Kearney
Denis Kearney was an Irish-American who led the movement to expel Chinese from the United States. Chinese immigration to the west coast started with the California Gold Rush. The Chinese were accused of driving down wages and take jobs away from Americans (sound familiar?). The act excluded all Chinese laborers from the United States. Two years later the law was amended to apply it to all ethnic Chinese, whatever country they were born in. The law was renewed in 1892 and again in 1902. It was repealed in 1943. The United States Code: Title 8, Chapter 7 is still entitled "Exclusion of Chinese."

The California Alien Land Act - 1913 (Japanese)
Prevented aliens, mostly Japanese farmers, from owning land. Repealed in 1948.

National Origins Quotas - 1924 (Jews)
Popular music is a Jewish monopoly. Jazz is a Jewish creation. The mush, slush, the sly suggestion, the abandoned sensuousness of sliding notes, are of Jewish origin. ~ Henry Ford 1920
Escaping pogroms in eastern Europe, two million Jews had entered the United States by 1924. This law restricted immigration mostly to western and northern Europe and was drawn up to limit Jewish, Polish, and Italian immigration. Interestingly, Mexican immigration was unrestricted because of the need for cheap labor in the Southwest; however, in separate legislation, the concept of "illegal alien" was introduced in 1924.

Japanese Interment - World War II
A Jap's a Jap ~ General John L. DeWitt, commander of the internment program
The forced relocation of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans, two-thirds US citizens, into interment camps. Authorized by executive order. The round-up was facilitated by the FBI, which had compiled its Custodial Detention index two years before the US entered the war. Some of the legal justifications developed for the Japanese Internment are being used to justify President Bush's acts today.

Operation Wetback - 1954 (Mexicans)
The only racing I like is spic racing. Watching the wetback run for the border is fun. ~ comment found via Google on an internet chat
An INS program that rounded up and deported one million Mexican laborers. Many Hispanic and Native American citizens got caught up in the sweeps.

California Proposition 187 - 1994 (Mexicans)
They keep coming! ~ from a Pete Wilson campaign commercial
"They" were Mexicans. Pete Wilson, Republican Governor of California in the mid-1990's campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform. Proposition 187 was the pointy end of the wedge. It provided that no one could get public services, like primary school education or medical care, until they had proven they were in the country legally. Prop 187 passed with 59 percent of the vote; Wilson won reelection with 55 percent. The proposition was declared unconstitutional, Wilson's presidential ambitions evaporated, and California went from a swing state to a solid blue.

Some additional links:
Outline of Immigration to the US
Events Affecting Interracial Americans
Mexican Immigrant Labor History
Landmarks in Immigration History


J. Max Wilson said...


Interesting quotes. Thank you for posting them. While you are right that for a number of people, xenophobia is a major factor in their feelings about Mexican immigrants, it is only fair to note that the fact that so many of them have come into the country illegally is a major factor as well.

While I am a gringo by birth, I speak Spanish nearly fluently and, some years ago, I lived in South America for almost 2 years. I love the Hispano Hablante cultures and peoples. I am happy to see them come to the United States and contribute that which is good in their cultures to our great nation.

However, those who have entered the country illegally are flouting the rule of law and by refusing to work within the system, contribute to, rather than dispel, the unfortunate xenophobia.

Illegal Immigration is grossly unfair to those who have worked within the system to become legal immigrants. It also complicates law enforcement issues immensely, because illegal immigrants are outside the system.

There is also a portion of the Mexican population that views the South West as rightfully theirs, and their illegal immigration is a form of reconquista. When La Raza takes precedence over the law and the constitution, it represents a form of xeno-aggression and it is bound to stir xenophobic sentiments among the citizens of the United States.

So, for a number of us who love the hispano hablante cultures, it is not the Mexicans themselves that we abhor, but the illegality.

Parvez Iqbal Malik said...

Now add Islamophobia to the list.