Stephen Steinberg’s “Immigration, African Americans and Race Discourse” in our last issue of New Politics (#39) elicited several responses. Here they are with Steinberg’s rejoinder. Steinberg’s article, together with a different set of responses and a reply from Steinberg, also appears in the Winter issue of New Labor Forum. We urge readers to follow this debate in both venues. – EDS.
Roundtable on Immigration and African Americans
In this symposium:
"Black people should do more to help themselves. . . . We worked for everything we have. They should too." (Cuban-American Miami resident)
"[Whites] are racists by tradition and they at least know that what they're doing is not quite right . . . Cubans don't even think there is anything wrong with it. That is the way they've always related, period." (African-American Miami resident)*
As Stephen Steinberg says, "There is nothing progressive about flooding the lower echelons of the labor market with desperate immigrants who depress wages . . . It is also problematic when the nation imports workers to fill higher echelons of the job pyramid. . . ." Progressives should support elements of his policy agenda such as vigorously enforcing anti-discrimination laws, expanding affirmative action and creating a job corps for minority youth.
I imagine Stephen Steinberg astride a muscular white horse, whip in one hand, pistol in the other, riding to scourge the American left of its racial amnesia. Or he's a biblical prophet, imbued with the divine spirit and setting the highest standards for the community. Sometimes the need for such a seer is self-evident, and sometimes Steinberg fairly meets it. Sometimes.
Ever since America's negro slaves were emancipated after the Civil War, our nation's generous immigration policies have worked against the interests and advancement of African Americans.
Does it matter that most of the problems that disproportionately affect black Americans don't stem from racism — or at any rate, modern day racism? . . . These issues just aren't particularly black anymore.
I knew when I wrote my piece that I was walking through a minefield of controversy, first of all because I challenge the dominant discourse on immigration and call into question many of the orthodoxies of a new generation of immigration scholars. I therefore came prepared to engage in verbal battle with outraged critics whose scholarship has been called into question. Alas, they did not show up at the table!
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