For nearly 400 years, since 1620, the dark secret of American immigration has been its policies detrimental to Blacks (Black Africans, Black Cubans, Black Caribbeans). Most slaves to North America arrived through the Caribbean.
We see this dark secret replayed given the contrasting treatment of Black children to that of the thousands of Latin children coming from Central American and Mexico, crossing the Rio Grande into America, with help from their countries and ours, leaving most things unchanged for immigrants from Black Africa, Black Cuba, and Black Caribbean. Thus, America has been confronted with the problem of immigration and race since its inception.
Today’s reactions to the voluntary child immigrants ranges from embarrassed and angry, to happy celebration, from seal the border, to take down the walls and fences and let in any who wants to come (Jimmy Carter urged the latter when he was president). The continuity is that again, others are leap frogged over Blacks.
Central American countries and Mexico have offices established to provide papers for people to cross the Rio Grande to offices in the USA ready to receive them, as our federal government assigns them to different cities as they come in. Also taking advantage are Al-Queda members from the Middle East. How many seeking America’s charter of liberty can get into “lifeboat America” before America sinks?
The Black immigrant experience was involuntary: slavery, Jim Crow, and now continued discrimination under continued quota systems that discriminate by sawing off the legs of the ladder of mobility and by installing a ceiling. Ask Black Haitians. Ask Black Cubans. Ask Black Africans.
William Kunstler, the brilliant and sometimes radical civil rights attorney (mid 60s – mid 90s), stated that “My purpose is to keep the state from becoming all-domineering, all powerful,” especially over minorities. William Kuntsler, of a different mind, worked to end blocking those seeking an opportunity for a better life for American Blacks and for immigrants.
In the mid-1960s, Harlem’s Congressman Adam Clayton Powell exposed the secret quota system being run by the Immigration Service, blocking the entry of Blacks from around the world from entering the United States of America. Ebony magazine ran its landmark exposure article in 1971. There was no liberal outcry other than from a small group of Black Americans and an even smaller group of White liberals. Many Black Haitian and Black Cuban “boat people” drowned in the Caribbean as a result of America turning them away from America’s borders.
Read the speeches printed into the Congressional Record by Harlem’s Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., by Illinois Congressman William Dawson, by New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, by Michigan Congressman John Conyers, and as continued by the Congressional Black Caucus today, as these issues remain unresolved. Black America has stood mostly alone in exposing this ongoing racially charged immigration policy.
I remember the riots in the 1980s at the Atlanta federal penitentiary in Atlanta, GA, by Black Haitians and Black Cubans, some who had been held for over five years in federal detention with no charges made against them. It was that policy of holding people indefinitely without charge that evolved into the policies at our military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
White immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe, seen as kinsmen, are protected as Whites with White privilege. How different has been the experience of immigrants from Africa, from the very beginnings in America. They could not/can’t invoke White privilege. America’s purposeful race amnesia continues.
America’s dark history regarding Black immigration – pun intended – continues, as America continues to balk at discussing the issue of race with truthfulness and integrity.