Monday, September 18, 2006

A Dissertation Update

So, I just finished the first draft of my last chapter. Rather than get into all the details, as I sooo love to do, let me jump to the fact that I had to engage this debate on whether or not new immigrants (primarily from Latin American countries) "take" jobs from natives and specifically from low-wage workers, assumed in the minds of many authors, to mean black.

Don't get me wrong--black people are disproportionately represented in low-wage, dangerous, unpleasant jobs. But this assumption, that such jobs are "black jobs," has led some scholars to argue that the whole question of who immigrants displace is something of a red herring for deeper questions--like why, in this country, are such jobs the domains of people of color and why aren't we more concerned about that?

I've also found an amazing level of hypocrisy, not so much from people in the field, but from restrictionist politicians who attempt to address the question. On the one hand, they point to poor black communities and the difficulties some of us have in finding jobs and say work would be more readily available if immigration was restricted, if new immigrants didn't fill the dirtiest, most labor intensive, most dangerous jobs. On the other, when the issues of black under- and unemployment and poverty are brought up outside the context of immigration debates, then they are the result of all sorts of black pathology, from children being reared by their moms to lack of internal motivation. Rarely are there structural, systemic, or institutional causes. Somehow, somewhere, somebody brown is to blame.

The most troubling thing is, the whole debate is being used to divide, to cause intergroup conflict between African Americans and Latinos. I ran across numerous newspaper articles with titles like "Blacks join Minutemen" and "Blacks Offer Little Support to Immigrant Protests." I am so worried that we're getting caught up in that "the enemy (restrictionists) of my enemy (Latino immigrants) is my friend" b.s. , that we'll forget the most vocal critics of immigration haven't historically been all that sympathetic to the plight of poor black workers.

Oh, and my conclusions about the issue? You'll just have to read them when the book comes out. :-)


trillwing said...

Sounds fascinating! Congratulations on finishing your final chapter.

And thanks for the "Reading Rainbow" closing--it made me smile. :)

Elle said...


the final chapter is finished but 2 in the middle are not! :-p

Quinn said...

way to keep us hanging, Elle! Congrats on this milestone.

RachelsTavern said...

Have you read Stephen Steinberg's recent article on this subject. Here's a link if not
You can also google the journal New Politics and see the responses that it prompted--at least 3 or 4 responses.

Elle said...

I have the article, but not the responses. I have to find them!!!

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...