By Monique I. Liston
Co-founder, All Black Everything
Our focus on comprehensive immigration reform is an opportunity for some true “Black and Brown” unity. I think that immigration reform should be more important to African Americans as we continue to critically discuss the realities of economics, education, and work in this society. People often forget (or intentionally neglect to discuss) that, during the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, you had many cultures – those labeled black, brown, yellow, and red – finding solidarity in the struggle while maintaining authenticity in their own fights.
Data presented by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights found that over two-thirds of African American voters (66%, versus 16%) support immigration reform that includes a roadmap to citizenship. Despite evidence of a positive shift, there is a disconnect between African Americans and the need to understand and support comprehensive immigration reform. I think this disconnect, while extremely problematic, is not entirely the fault of Black America, but a symptom of how deep this concept of race and ethnicity really is in the United States.
I believe that African Americans are not socialized to connect culturally or historically to citizens who did not originate from the United States. Lack of socialization then becomes the root of how African Americans isolate and categorize “other” immigrants, despite the fact that many African Americans are not original descendants of American-born enslaved Africans but from those from Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America, to name a few.
If African Americans had a greater connection to global systems, perhaps we would not be doing our new immigrant brothers and sisters such a disservice by not supporting or bringing attention to the need for this reform. In fact, immigration reform is often pigeonholed as an issue that is only for Latino populations, and that results in Black immigrants from various countries being left out of the immigration discussion and without “internal” support for their cause.
African Americans with a deeper understanding of global oppression and Black and Brown unity can begin to be at the forefront of envisioning a new society that is not only inclusive and productive but empowering and revolutionary. We can create new ways of learning, schooling and doing practically everything! In fact, this may be an opportunity for Black America to actually turn the United States into the “land of the free and home of the brave” that it so ardently protests that it is!
The benefits are endless, but I think that Black America (not as a monolith, but as a whole) is just disconnected from not only seeing these benefits, but creating them.
Monique Liston is pursuing her doctoral studies in Urban Education and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). Originally from Milwaukee, she is a proud alumna of Howard University and has experience working with community activism in Delaware, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and her hometown Milwaukee. Monique is an active community member and is co-founder of ALL BLACK EVERYTHING, an organization that is unapologetic about the reclamation and preservation of black power and culture.
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