Xenophobia has always been a huge issue in America, but the increase of AAPI hate and ICE deportations and abuse sheds light on the built-up hatred towards immigrants despite everything they’ve brought to this country.
by Aashna Chudgar
Immigrant minorities are commonly known for the job opportunities and vibrant cultures they bring to America, but they also provide an essential service that is not commonly talked about: the buffer between White and Black neighborhoods. Systematic anti-Blackness and White privilege have led to the segregation of Black and White neighborhoods existing to this day. There are stark differences in the economic conditions of these neighborhoods, and a large contributor to this is ancestral inheritance and racial stereotypes. Prosperity of White communities has come at a great cost to Black neighborhoods in the past.
But as time went on, immigrants were able to heal that pain and inspire change. Asian and Latino immigrants in particular have played a huge role in destabilizing racial roles in the United States. Asian immigrants who settle near White populated areas help to redistribute wealth, and Latino immigrants who settle near Black populated areas have provided essential labor for years to regenerate working opportunities and create a transition between racially segregated areas. Not to mention, the cultures both immigrant groups bring to America create fusion areas that mix ethnic cultures with American settlement, bringing diversity and beauty.
This brings us to our trilemma: which aspect of immigrant benefits is best to focus on in order to omit xenophobia? The buffers and jobs they bring to communities, the cultures, or another neutral approach to recognize immigrants as humans? Let’s find out.
The Economic Perspective
Thanks to some awesome graphics from Urban Institute, I’ll be explaining how geography and economic opportunity relate to segregation. As you can see here, in areas with extreme amounts of racism pre-civil rights movement, segregation still persists because of how it’s almost impossible to fully revert a system that’s based on limiting the growth of minorities. While the lowest socioeconomic status areas are mainly Black people, the highest socioeconomic area is mainly White people. It’s hard to change a system that was built on economic status when socioeconomics is already fairly skewed, to begin within America and determine almost everything related to your well-being. This is where immigrants play in. Although there does tend to be a large economic gap between Hispanic and Asian immigrants because of several different factors, immigrants typically don’t settle into extremely White or Black dominated areas, but in the middle SES (socioeconomic status). This creates a transitional buffer which heals a lot of the damage within the racial economics of America. As you can see in the graphic to the left, technology cities tend to have a lot of Asian immigrants in the higher SES that redistribute wealth near White regions. Latin American immigrants settle into the lower SES because of the labor they produce that is the backbone of our economy. A large factor that also plays into where immigrants settle has to do with the racism that they will experience from races that have already been in America for a long time. This motivates immigrants to settle into the middle SES areas, and create a transition of wealth and opportunity in the middle areas that help reduce the effects of racism as a whole while allowing America to progress forward both economically and socially. Thankfully, these effects are already showing up in fast-growing cities. The graph on the right shows how concentrations of immigrants, Black, and White people have changed in rapidly, economically changing areas. Foreign-born on this graph refers to Mexican and Latin American-born immigrants. As you can see, the transition that Asian and Latino immigrants provide (make sure to note that Asian immigration is fairly new and Asians don’t make up much of the population yet) is much larger than that of traditionally segregated areas. Latin Americans have a fairly consistent downwards transition while Asians have an upward-facing but slightly bell-curved transition. This brings us new hope for everyone, which is why it’s so painful to see people discriminating against immigrants.
The Cultural Perspective
As a first-gen Indian-American, I can very much advocate for fusion neighborhoods and cultures within America. Fusion neighborhoods are essentially just ethnic neighborhoods, but I personally like calling them fusion neighborhoods to reinforce the American identity within immigrants. Chances are if you’re an immigrant or a generational immigrant-born person, you probably grew up around other immigrants rather than Black or White people. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but for many Asian and Hispanic people, this tends to be the case because of the work opportunities provided to immigrants being highly concentrated in specific areas that become immigrant-dominated. As a result of this, you grow up with people of the same race, and this creates amazing fusion neighborhoods that encompass beautiful cultures. As you can see in this map, ethnic concentrations in New York vary greatly, and this creates many different fusion neighborhoods. The great thing about fusion areas is that they provide an experience like no other. If you’d like to see an example of fusion neighborhoods in the media, I would highly recommend checking out “One Day at a Time” on Netflix. It’s an amazing story about a second-gen Cuban family that lives in a Hispanic neighborhood within a Black and White transition. A great example of a South and East Asian fusion area is the city of San Jose. Fusion neighborhoods, on top of creating amazing cultural neighborhoods both in real life and in the media, have a great effect on children’s shows. Chances are as a kid you watched a Spanish-speaking show, like Diego, Dora, Maya and Miguel, Agent Oso, and so much more. The bilingual capabilities of immigrants allow for more diversity in linguistics to occur in America, which allows for us to have better relations with other countries. Another reason why immigrant cultures are beautiful and deserve to be preserved and not bashed.
The Neutral Perspective
Although I have been focusing on Asian and Latino immigrants, there are many other forms of immigration in America. African and European immigrants can and have settled in many different regions in America. But the reason they aren’t identified as major immigrants here despite being ethnic is because it’s very hard to distinguish Black and White immigrants from Black and White Americans. At the end of the day, you can’t tell who’s from where by their immigrant status, but by how they look. Asians and Latinos don’t have as much of a systematic place, although Latino immigrants do have a longer history in America, within America and are known for being immigrants who came to this country. It has nothing to do with whether or not you’re an immigrant or whether or not you’re stealing jobs from American-born citizens, it boils down to racism and hatred. There’s almost no valid criticism for Asian and Latino immigrants that doesn’t stem from racism, and that applies to ANYBODY that isn’t Asian or Latino.
If someone were to see a Black or White person, they would automatically assure they were from America without considering the possibility that they could be an African or European immigrant. At the end of the day, you can’t tell who’s an immigrant and who isn’t. What you can tell is someone’s features, and identify whether or not they “belong here” by looking at their race. And guess what it’s called when you discriminate against someone’s race? Racism.
So what do you think? How can we make America more accepting towards immigrants?