Thursday, July 09, 2015

The Long, Inglorious History of Xenophobia

The Donald Trump phenomenon is not unique. 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 that Trump is mining is only the latest example. The faces and skin tone may change from decade to decade, but the hatred is consistent.

1790 Naturalization Law (non-whites)
Declared only "free white persons" could become naturalized American citizens. This act was not repealed until 1952. Of course, non-free, non-white persons could still enter the country as slaves.

Know-Nothings - 1850's (Irish)
They are taking our jobs, bringing their diseases and poverty into our country, most of them are criminals, and they are trying to take over our country! In the 1850's this is what the Know Nothing Party was saying about Irish immigrants. The were powerful enough to send several nativists in Congress and ran former president Millard Fillmore who, predicting Trump's current popularity, got 22% of the vote in 1856.

When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics." ~ Abraham Lincoln, 1855

Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion - 1880's (Irish and Italians) 
America would be a grand land if only every Irishman would kill a Negro and be hanged for it. ~ William Freeman, 1881
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). Devoid of a positive platform, Republicans tried relied on patriotic xenophobia. Anti-Irish and anti-Catholic leagues sprung up in any good sized town.

Chinese Exclusion Act - 1882
While Republicans and the East Coast feared Catholics, Democrats and the West Coast were terrified of a Chinese invasion. All the old complaints we hear today were on display. This "Yellow Peril" was taking American jobs, speaking a strange language and looking different, and they were all criminals and drug smugglers. The act tried to block 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)
In my home state, ethnic Japanese were coming to the state, buying land, and doing a better job farming it than Americans. Faced with competition we decided to make foreign ownership of land illegal. In 1920, state voter closed loopholes that allowed Japanese to lease land. In 1946, the state Supreme Court upheld the law. Six years later the same court ruled it unconstitutional.

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. Asian immigration was totally outlawed. Interestingly, Mexican immigration was unrestricted because of the need for cheap labor in the Southwest.

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 planned for this, compiling a Custodial Detention index two years before the US entered the war. 

Operation Wetback - 1954 (Mexicans)
An INS program that indiscriminately rounded up and deported one million Mexican laborers. The justification was familiar, Mexicans were dirty, disease-ridden Communists coming to rape our daughters. Many Hispanic and Native American citizens got caught up in the sweeps because brown skin is brown skin.

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 to keep brown people out of the state. Republicans charged that Mexicans were trying to take over California and return it to Mexico. Proposition 187 said 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. It also marks the last gasp of Republicans in the Golden State. By the time Wilson left off in 1999, Republicans in the state were a pathetic rump of a party made up mostly of paranoid, elderly, white xenophobes.

Arizona Anti-Immigrant Law - 2010
Or the "Show Your Papers" law, shows there is still a place in this country for xenophobic know-nothings determined to expel anyone with insufficient European Protestant blood in his veins.

P.S. If some of this seems familiar, I plagiarized myself from 2006 for much of this.

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