Friday, February 15, 2008

But these people are brown, not yellow, so it's completely different

Dave Neiwert has an excellent post up that debunks the myths--or "popular delusions", as he dubs them--surrounding the immigration debate. I notice that many of these attacks are recycled from previous attacks on foreigners who dare try to upset the fantasy homogeneity of America.

For instance, number 6 on Mr. Neiwert's list is the idea that "Illegal immigrants bring disease to American shores." Well, Nayan Shah (faculty at U.C. San Diego) wrote a book entitled Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco's Chinatown. The blurb on his faculty page describes it thus:
Contagious Divides charts the dynamic transformation of representatives of Chinese immigrants from medical menace in the nineteenth century to model citizen in the mid-twentieth century. Public health authorities depicted Chinese immigrants as filthy and diseased, as the carriers of such incurable afflictions as smallpox, syphilis, and bubonic plague. This resulted in the vociferous enforcement of sanitary regulations on the Chinese community. But the authorities did more than demonize the Chinese; they also marshaled civic resources that promoted sewer construction, vaccination programs, and public health management. Chinese Americans responded to health regulations and allegations with persuasive political speeches, lawsuits, boycotts, violent protests, and poems. Chinese American activists drew upon public health strategies in their advocacy for health services and public housing. Adroitly employing discourses of race and health, these activists argued that Chinese Americans were worthy and deserving of sharing in the resources of American society.

Here's a review of the book.

Of course, that one isn't limited to immigration--slandering a group of people as pestilent is a standard defamatory tactic, just like declaring them animalistic or subhuman.

Number 7 on Neiwert's list is that "These new Latino immigrants don't want to learn English and are reluctant to assimilate." So I'll point to a post of his from four, five years ago, which includes this reconstruction of a committee meeting:
"I am coming now to certain recommendation I want to suggest to you for consideration, which in view of your own background and training you may at first find it difficult to accept or even clearly understand, but I think we should face these things frankly," Freeman said. "These are not suggestions of the committee, but of myself.

"1. You should sever all connections with the Japanese Government -- that includes disbanding any pro-Japanese organizations designed to promote the Imperial Japanese government interests. There can't be any half-and-half business -- must be 100 percent.

"2. Stop all relationships with Japanese consular representatives.

"3. Stop using the Japanese language."


"May I ask now," Freeman queried, "what was the purpose of running those schools and the older people requiring that the younger people go to the Japanese schools?"

"Just teach them the Japanese language, that is all," Hayashi explained. "No other purpose, I think."

"Our feeling is that they were propaganda schools to teach loyalty to the Japanese empire," Freeman said. "I think we should stop all Japanese-language newspapers and publication in this United States of America. English is the language of this country. Use English and English papers."


Hayashi tried to explain why the Issei found the language so hard: "Japanese language is entirely different from other nations" and it is awfully hard for people to get mastery of it."

"English language is not hard to learn," replied Freeman.

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