Sunday, July 01, 2018

Who is an American?

The indigenous inhabitants of North America were, for example, not granted citizenship until the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. 

When the US constitution was being written, enslaved African-Americans were deemed “three-fifths” of a person, a status they would hold for seven decades. It would take a bloody civil war and a constitutional 14th amendment to grant African-Americans citizenship.

In 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed into law, barring the entry of people of Chinese descent for the next eight decades. 

Alarmed by the influx of “inferior races” like Italians and Jews the United States would go on to pass the National Origins Act in 1924, establishing quotas that essentially banned Southern and Eastern Europeans from entering the US for the next four decades.

In the 19th century, employers felt no qualms about routinely inserting “No Irish need apply” clauses into job ads. They weren’t really fully human anyway, so why hire them?

During the Second World War, citizens of Japanese descent were sent to concentration camps because they were deemed a threat to national security. Indeed, part of the Supreme Court ruling in favour of the travel ban was the decision to repudiate the constitutionality of Japanese internment – something upheld by the Supreme Court for the past half-century.

The US has a long history of separating and/or interning families of colour – citizens or not. During slavery days, owners would routinely sell enslaved members of families to different owners, thereby tearing apart the family bonds enslaved people forged in the face of massive oppression. Native children were often taken from their families and sent to government-run boarding schools where they would be punished for speaking their own languages and would often never see their parents again.

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