By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
I want to address this column quite explicitly to African Americans. If you are not African American, please feel free to read this, however. When you hear Donald Trump wail against immigrants, I hope that you understand that he is also talking about you.
I realize that many African Americans – too many, as far as I am concerned – believe that immigrants from Asia and Latin America are the source of our economic problems. They are not, but I will get to that in a moment. What is more urgent, however, is that we appreciate that what Trump and others are doing is not really crusading against immigrants but crusading against people of color.
Let’s think about this for a moment. Trump attacks Mexicans, quite explicitly, suggesting that they are bringing crime to the U.S. Well, the facts prove otherwise. Immigrants, legal or undocumented, are less likely to be criminals. But let’s stick with this for a moment. If, for the sake of argument, Trump wanted to make a case against immigrants, why does he not once mention Russians? The Russian mafia is known to be among the most dangerous criminal outfits in the U.S.A. So, if we are talking about immigrants bringing in crime, why not the Russians?
There is a very simple reason. The issue with immigrants, for people such as Trump, is not that they are immigrants but that they are immigrants of color. There is a fear among a section of the White population that the U.S. will soon cease to be a predominantly White country and that all hell will break loose. For completely opportunistic reasons they want to enlist you – African Americans – in this battle against immigrants of color.
It does not stop with immigrants of color. Trump is the person who would not let go of his “birther” allegations that President Obama was, allegedly, not born here. This was aimed at suggesting that an African American could not be a legitimate president. Trump continued this, in a pattern with which we are now familiar, irrespective of the facts. These “birther” arguments go hand-in-hand with his anti-immigrant of color stand, i.e., if you are not White, you are – at best – a guest in the U.S.
There is no question but that immigrants have an impact on the job market but what has been going on for centuries is that businesses use new and vulnerable workforces as a way of trying to divide up the larger workforce. One hundred years ago, underpaid African American workers from the South were used accordingly by businesses in the North and Midwest in an attempt to undermine White-dominated unions. Many of these White workers, instead of organizing with Black workers against the antics of the employers, turned on the Black workers as if they were the problem. Trump, et.al., are trying to do the same thing today.
Jobs are not being moved to other countries (or to rural parts of the U.S.) by undocumented workers. They are being moved by businesses that care more about the bottom line than they do the fact that you will be on the unemployment line. Donald Trump is part of that select group that has made this situation possible and thrives while the rest of us fight like crabs in a barrel.