Friday, May 20, 2011

"We're All Immigrants!" Excuse

Dan Waters is a snarky 22 year old queer biracial wonderment who is part White, Portuguese, and Native American (Wampanoag-Kiowa). He currently lives in Massachusetts, and plans to become a Lawyer. That is, if he can survive Algonquin language classes and polyamorous dating right now! He also identifies as Two Spirit, and prefers male pronouns, but cherishes his female body that he was given graciously by the Creator. He blogs at Identity Exposure.

So Renee wanted me to expand and make a more article-like piece for my anti-“We’re All Immigrants” stance. Many remember it from my tumblr, and subsequently some anons asked me why I called it an excuse. To give it credence as an ‘argument’ would mean that I see it as a justifiable or legitimate piece. To the contrary, I think it was something uttered by liberal white guys with long hair and rose glasses sitting on their micro bus. It caught on, especially amongst white-run immigrant rights groups, and I can’t help but wonder if they actually looked behind them and saw the arrows pointing at them.

To give full disclosure, I myself am a child of an immigrant. I was raised by immigrants. My Vavo (grandmother) lived with us; I’ve lived in close vicinity of family. I have about 20 cousins, and majority are immigrants themselves. My grandfather, Antonio, moved to Canada and then went to America to make money to send back to my mother and other relatives there. In the post-Salazar rule, poverty was even higher in the Azorean islands, which my family is from. I grew up speaking Portuguese and English. As much as I am a Native First Nations, I am also equally as Portuguese and had an upbringing from the lens of immigration. Portuguese people face the similar stereotypes as Mexicans, and Black people. We’re loud, do cheap labor, make ‘ghetto’ or Portagee repairs, etc.

However, one thing I remember very prominently is that my mother would often help other individuals with their immigration papers to become legal citizens. I remember her translating to Portuguese patients at her work about the billing procedures, and other things. I also still see how completely assimilated she is, in that she is against immigrant rights now and watches far too much Fox News. On the flip side, she often laments that she is a self-hating Portuguese person, because she too has uttered things against Portuguese people she sees at the fish markets or on the corners going to the Portuguese bank. She, and my green-card carrying Vavo, are probably the most prominent reasons why I fight for immigrant rights.

The “We are all Immigrants!” line works counterproductively in two ways, and I will break them both down for you:

1. This argument reinforces this notion of the Bering-Straight ice bridge theory.

This theory, that states that Native American Indians are also immigrants to the land for only a short amount of time. Clovis heads of arrowpoints were found and carbon dated to about 13,000 or so. This dude who found them made tons of money arguing on this theory, which also was used against Native Americans in decisions regarding tribal lands, who is “rightful owner”, etc. With these findings, it was argued that at about 13,000 or so years ago, Paleoindians traveled from Asia to Alaska, dispersed downwards all the way to the South Americas. Scientists (and I use that term loosely) argued that Indigenous occupation was such a limited time in terms of the scope of “more advanced” civilizations, such as Europe and other Western areas. Politicians and anti-Indigenous historians cite these reasons for the legitimization of America’s “inevitable immigration” by the European powers. Because the Indigenous have only been here for such a short time, they aren’t REALLY indigenous, because clearly you need to be on this land much longer. HOWEVER, more evidence has been found and radiocarbon dated to even as far back as 15,000+ years, thus disputing the claims of Native American arrival to the continent as “just a short span of occupation”, and as long lasting (if not more) than said better civilizations. This evidence is rarely heard of, mostly because these scholars do not get the backing of universities and publishing companies because of the prominence of the Clovis/Bering-Strait theory.

2. It provides guilt-free cop out to colonization.

By claiming that Columbus was an immigrant (even though he didn’t end up staying long on the island of Hispaniola long until well in it’s conquest), one is claiming that immigration NATURALLY LEADS to the destruction and abuse of native dwellers. Does this mean that Mexican immigrants should come here and cause a genocide on white people (that would be lulzy, and thankfully I’d be pretty much spared)? Does that mean that any mass group of immigrants from ANYWHERE can just go into a house and occupy it for themselves? We do not see this in actual immigration. Immigration simply means moving to a specific area to live in. Immigrants ARE NOT causing genocides. Immigration comes from a multitude of reasons, but NONE OF WHICH are to gain more land for a main country. The colonizers (which is what they called themselves, by the way, forming colonies like Jamestown and Plymouth) strategically manipulated indigenous people for their resources, and when questioned on the legitimacy of terms agreed, the colonizers conveniently wiped them out. People with direct lines to the Mayflower exist around here, and HELL, I live near some of them! Are they immigrants? Technically they are, however, after they formed the colony and got settled in, they had NO problems beginning trade with a country they supposedly left to escape religious tyranny (see: they left because they hate Anglicans).

So you see, this offends me two fold: both as a Native American, and an immigrant-descendant. Immigration is not colonization. White people’s standard of ‘occupation’ for legitimacy of land ownership are full of holes, and ignores evidence. Granted, that same standard can be used against America, since YOUR occupation here has only been a few hundred years. Try a few thousand next time.

Fight for immigration rights and taking down borders, but DO keep in mind your slogans, and what fucking land you’re on. I am a child of an immigrant, as well, and I fight hard for both my Indigenous AND Immigrant rights. I am currently reading No One Is Illegal by Justin Akers Chacon and Mike Davis. Give it a read, it’s really great thus far. For more about the Portuguese experience, Through a Portagee Gate by Charles Reis Felix is a great read, and something I personally own.