Posts tagged Nativism

Wednesday Lazy Linking

Welcome Farkers: I noticed (from the massive surge in impacts on my web server) that this post — in particular, Jourdon Anderson’s letter to his former captor, which I originally found through stuff white people do (2009-04-28) — was recently featured on the front page of Fark.com. I’m flattered; and presumably this also means that for the time being I’ll be getting a lot of readers who are more or less new to the blog. By way of introduction, to who I am, where I’m coming from, and what I care about, you might check out the links at GT 2009-01-29: Welcome, Antiwarriors.

For reference, I’ve also written many other articles on the topic of slavery, and on the ways in which we talk about, or don’t talk about, the history of slavery. See particularly: GT 2005-01-03: Robert E. Lee owned slaves and defended slavery, GT 2008-04-18: Just shut the fuck up, GT 2006-03-21: The humane slave-driver, GT 2006-03-04: Republican virtue (or: the Man who would be King).

  • Quote for the Day: After the end of the Civil War, many former slavers tried to contact the black men and women they had once enslaved — even those who had escaped during the war and headed north — to try to convince them to return to the plantation and work the land as hands or tenant farmers. One of those freedmen, Jourdon Anderson, wrote a letter back to his former captor, explaining the terms on which would return. This may be my favorite thing that I read all week. Emphasis is added.

    Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865

    To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson
    Big Spring, Tennessee

    Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col. Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville hospital, but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

    I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here; I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson), and the children, Milly, Jane and Grundy, go to school and are learning well; the teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday School, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated; sometimes we overhear others saying, Them colored people were slaves down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks, but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Col. Anderson. Many darkies would have been proud, as I used to was, to call you master. Now, if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

    As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost Marshal General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you are sincerely disposed to treat us justly and kindly—and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future.

    I served you faithfully for thirty-two years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid for our clothing and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, esq, Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night, but in Tennessee there was never any pay day for the Negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

    In answering this letter please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die if it comes to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

    Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

    From your old servant,

    Jourdon Anderson

    The letter was reprinted by Lydia Maria Child in her anthology, The Freedmen’s Book. Jourdon Anderson’s body now rests in the Woodland Cemetary, in Dayton, Ohio, so it seems that his old captor never accepted his offer. For reference, the back wages he demanded — $11,680 in 1865, before adding interest — would be worth about $162,452 in 2008 dollars.

    Discovered thanks to stuff white people do (2009-04-28)

  • The invasion begins tomorrow: SubRosa community space (2009-05-02): First Ever Santa Cruz Anarchist Convergence! May 7-11. The Santa Cruz Anarchist Convergence is coming to town! Yes, here, between the forest and the ocean, among the students and the yuppies, where Santa Cruz anarchists have fostered a close-knit community dedicated to destruction of this world and the creation of another. Santa Cruz is a hub of anarchist culture and resistance, with a long history of radical struggle and active anarchist projects spanning decades. Santa Cruz is proud to host the Santa Cruz Anarchist Convergence, a four-day anarchist event for building community and resistance and sharing radical ideas.

  • More one-way mirror transparency (+): Jesse Walker, Hit & Run (2009-04-23): In Bailouts End Responsibilities.

  • On crony-statism, state capitalism, and living in a bubble: Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom (2009-05-01): Of, by, and for the elite

  • Libertarianism or Barrbarism? Roderick Long, Austro-Athenian Empire (2009-05-04): More Crap from the Libertarian Party (with a hat tip to Soviet Onion in the comments back here). In which the Libertarian Party sends out a press release urging the United States government to control the border, escalate the use of police-state checkpoints against immigrants, and consider all would-be immigrants diseased until proven healthy.

    I’d be pissed if I weren’t beyond caring about anything the LP says or does. Individual party members are often perfectly good people, and well worth talking to, and well worth inviting to something new and better; but the party, as an organization, is worth taking notice of only as an enemy, to be shoved out of the way along with the rest of the belligerent busybody Know-Nothing creeps.

  • He’s wasn’t using it, anyway: Mike Gogulski (2009-05-03): Steal this number: 595-12-5274

  • More on decentalism and localism: A couple of comments from Darian Worden following up on the recent monster thread here: DarianWorden.com (2009-04-27): Individualist International and DarianWorden.com (2009-04-30): Stick It To Your Kind. Whether or not I agree with Darian about multiculturalism depends on what the word’s being used to mean (there’s a lot of different things called multiculturalism, some of them descriptive theories about American history; some of them normative theories; some of them overtly relativistic; others universalistic; etc.). Otherwise, twinkles.

  • On the production of knowledge in a peer-to-peer society: Michel Bauwens, P2P Foundation (2009-04-27): Ryan Lanham: dissolving universities?. I think that the discussion underestimates the importance of architecture and physical space in creating scholarly community; I think it also underestimates what I think would be the most noticeable effect of less businesslike, more mutualistic universities, without the distorting effects of state funding and state-imposed accreditation systems — that they would be smaller, more numerous, and less oriented towards churning out professional degrees in subjects that would be better taught completely outside of the university setting, if not for the political-economic distortions that shove them into institutional structures where they don’t belong. I also protest the notion that there’s something wrong with esoteric subject-matters or that best-selling authors, just as such, somehow have a better grip on what’s relevant than scholars working intensely on a tightly-focused subject. (Surely they have a better grip on what’s relevant to people outside the University. But that’s not necessarily the kind of relevance that a University ought to be concerned with.) But I agree that Universities are set for a radical change, in an increasingly peer-to-peer world, and that the change will involve less institutional aping of business, a more mutualistic orientation, and hopefully less credentialism. It’s an important discussion and this is a good start.

  • I’ll never finish the Internet: Dare Obasanjo, (2009-05-05): RSS readers modeled after email clients are fundamentally broken. Actually, I’m inclined to say that presently-existing e-mail clients are also fundamentally broken, although they call for a different sort of fix.

  • Shameless Self-Promotion opportunities: Jeremy Trombley is now running a regular What Are You Up To? Wednesday feature.

Sin Fronteras

We are often told that immigration is a complex policy issue, with a lot of competing interests to sort out, finicky bureaucratic details to adjust, and a desperate need for civility and compromise. We’re told that it’s complicated because we need to balance complicated economic and humanitarian needs, on the one hand, with the varying interests of U.S. workers, the social welfare system, the education system, our culture and heritage, law and order, and national security. Hand-wringers, both liberal and conservative, like this line, because it allows them to portray themselves as sensible middle-of-the-roaders without actually committing themselves to any serious challenge to the immigration system as it currently stands. Taking a principled stand on immigration policy will likely get you involved in emotional fights; fiddling with the system to tweak it here and there, but leaving it essentially as it stands, allows you to dismiss opponents as unrealistic zealots and try to move on to something that you feel more comfortable talking about, like Social Security or the upcoming Presidential election.

But immigration is not a complex policy issue. It is a simple moral issue: peaceful people should never be physically attacked just for trying to move from one place to another. Innocent people should not be at the mercy of the State just because they have moved into a home where they are welcome and gotten a job with a willing employer, in a desire to make a better life for themselves.

Nativist bullies often like to pretend to be friends of labor; so they whine about the effects that immigrant workers have on wages, forgetting, or deliberately ignoring, the fact that the immigrant workers’ wages go up when they come to the U.S. — that is, after all, why they do it — and therefore their proposal boils down to using government violence to prop up one set of workers’ wages, by physically forcing another, poorer set of workers out of the country. That’s outrageously immoral.

Nativists who complain endlessly about the alleged burden that undocumented immigrants place on the welfare state or the educational system wilfully disregard the fact that undocumented immigrants pay most state and local taxes (as well as federal taxes, if they’re working with forged documents), while having no access to most federal benefits and many state benefits. When confronted with the fact that, even in those cases where undocumented immigrants are net tax recipients, they are no different from any suburban brat, elderly pensioner, or subsidized plantation-owner in the ever-expanding welfare state, they will routinely state that, since the welfare system is unlikely to be abolished in the near term, they prefer to get the government to attack immigrants, because undocumented immigrants are more politically vulnerable than native-born welfare recipients, or the welfare system as such. Targeting the weakest people, even though they are not to blame for the existence of the political system at the root of your complaint, because it’s easier to take it out on them than it is to challenge that system, is grossly immoral.

When challenged, nativists are often unwilling to cop to the fact that they are, in fact, proposing for force to be used towards these ends — as if deportation consisted of a nice crossing guard escorting you home, rather than forcible exile from your current home at the hands of armed men who will restrain, beat, or shoot you if you don’t comply with their orders. A while ago, when I dared to explain to a commenter at Vox Populi that his proposal of ending massive unskilled immigration necessarily entailed being willing to forcibly restrain, beat, shoot, confine, and exile from their current homes those unskilled immigrants who did not volunteer to leave at your command, my interlocutor was outraged that I’d go around telling me I’m willing to do hitler like things and that even deportation does not mean forcibly restrain, beat, shoot,. [sic] If you think the US government would do that, and if you think white americans would countenance that, you are deluded. Well, what do the mass deportation and mass interdiction plans mean, then? A polite request that the immigrant can ignore and remain in the country unmolested? If so, I have no real quarrel with it, but it’s not a deportation policy. If you do intend to back it up, then forcible exile is indeed what you intend to do, and forcible restraint and confinement, with beating or shooting as necessary to make it happen, are the necessary means. If you’re not actually willing to cop to that, you’re not actually willing to enforce an immigration policy. If you’re willing for it to be done, but prefer to cover the fact over with bullshit euphemisms, then you are no less immoral; you’re just insisting on immorality with a P.R. campaign to cover it up and spin it beyond recognition.

Meanwhile, the efforts that professional-class Sensible Liberals make to intervene in the debate rarely amount to anything more than minor fiddling. While they rightly condemn the violent racism of the most bellicose nativist factions, their concrete proposals would almost never make any large-scale or systematic changes to the existing system of international apartheid and internal anti-immigrant surveillance. At most they would like to carve out a few new exceptions — perhaps for the same-sex partners of gay immigrants — or lift a few caps here and there — perhaps allowing a handful more political refugees per year. Mostly what passes for pro-immigrant rhetoric from liberals and Progressives is calling for increases to the funding or scope of government welfare and social work agencies, perhaps with some bilingual application forms. As worthwhile as it would be to liberalize immigration policy wherever and to whatever extent it can be liberalized, it must never be forgotten that all these proposals invariably leave La Migra, the border cops, the immigration courts, the detention centers, the Ihre Papiere, bitte treatment for new employees, and all the rest of the sprawling system of government command and control still in place. Millions of peaceful, productive people will still be stopped, screened, harassed, restrained, confined, or exiled by the government based solely on their nationality. Millions of undocumented workers will continue to live with the looming threat of losing their livelihoods, their homes, and even their families to a forced deportation. Millions of refugees will continue to languish, to starve, and to die in concentration camp hellholes because the wealthy nations of the world continue to stop them, at bayonet-point, from moving on to a new home and a new life.

Meanwhile, any extended debate or controversy over immigration policy is usually waved off by Sensible Liberals as unimportant, or as a distraction from issues that white liberals are more comfortable talking about. In the few cases where they do say a few words about the need for a substantially new approach to immigration, their proposed moderate reforms end up dressing up crude nativism in reformist language. While calling for a mild liberalization of immigration policy, they scrupulously avoid the unforgivable sin of supporting an extremist or unrealistic idea by reiterating and reinforcing echt-Nativist nonsense about assimilation or American jobs. Occasionally this is followed up by suggestions for creating new programs, or escalating existing programs, that are actively harmful to the lives and livelihoods of undocumented workers, such as so-called demand-side policies to penalize Americans who offer work, loans, homes, or other goods and services to undocumented immigrants. The idea is to forcibly drive down the demand for immigrant labor, which means forcing willing immigrant workers into unemployment, and whitewashing this anti-worker legislation with pseudo-populist rhetoric about greedy corporations—sometimes on the implicit claim that American workers are more deserving than other workers, simply on the basis of their nationality, and sometimes on the even more outrageous claim that forced pauperism is for the immigrants’ own good.

Perhaps the only consolation is that Sensible Liberals’ attempts to intervene in the debate and shift the rhetoric towards moderation have been so completely ineffectual. This controversy, like the debate over slavery, like the debate over abortion, and like all other controversies over simple moral issues, is and should be a debate between extremists, not a case for middle-of-the-roader rhetoric or halfway-house solutions. It is immoral for the government to stop, harass, restrain, confine, and exile peaceful people from their current homes, solely on the basis of their nationality. It is criminal that even one refugee cannot immediately escape from danger, or must live even one day longer penned up in a refugee concentration camp, simply because governments in the U.S. and Western Europe continue to enforce the SS St. Louis immigration policy. It is inexcusable that even one undocumented worker should have to live in fear of emergency workers, neighbors, or her boss, simply because she failed to get a signed permission slip from the federal government before she set out to make a living.

And it is ridiculous that these facts continue to be obscured by nativist bullying, by national security mysticism, or by pseudo-reformist wonkery-wankery. Goodbye to all that. The demand for open borders and immediate amnesty is simplistic, naïve, starry-eyed, unrealistic, extremist, uncompromising, radical, and also obviously correct. It is your job, reader, to live up to the best part of yourself and make that demand loudly, courageously, without compromise and without apology. Mumbling dismissal and pseudo-reformist compromise mean not prudence, but complicity.

Smash international apartheid, now and forever.