Xenophobia (Continued)

I wrote about this topic on June 6, 2017, after I’d traveled to Boston and learned the meaning of NINA — “No Irish Need Apply”.  That referred the immigration caravan of the 1840s — the inflow of Irish to escape the Potato Famine.  (By the way, the Irish picked Boston because that was the closest American port and they couldn’t afford to go any further.)  From my study of history, I know we haven’t always been overjoyed to see newcomers.

And I’m not the only one.   There’s a new book on this topic, American Intolerance: Our Dark History of Demonizing Immigrants by Robert E. Bartholomew and Anja E. Reumschussel.  From the Amazon.com description —

Contrary to popular belief, the poor and huddled masses were never welcome in America. Though the engraving on the base of the Statue of Liberty makes that claim, history reveals a far less-welcoming message. This comprehensive survey of cultural and racial exclusion in the United States examines the legacy of hostility toward immigrants over two centuries.

The authors document abuses against Catholics in the early 19th century in response to the influx of German and Irish immigrants; hostility against Mexicans throughout the Southwest, where signs in bars and restaurants read, “No Dogs, No Negros, No Mexicans”; “yellow peril” fears leading to a ban on Chinese immigration for ten years; punitive measures against Native Americans traditions, which became punishable by fines and hard labor; the persecution of German Americans during World War I and Japanese Americans during World War II; the refusal to admit Jewish refugees of the Holocaust; and the ongoing legacy of mistreating African Americans from slavery to the injustices of the present day.

Though the authors note that the United States has accepted tens of millions of immigrants during its relatively short existence, its troubling history of persecution is often overlooked. President Donald Trump’s targeting of Muslim and Mexican immigrants is just the most recent chapter in a long, sad history of social panics about “evil” foreigners who are made scapegoats due to their ethnicity or religious beliefs.

The French have a saying — The more things change, the more they remain the same.

 

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