Civil rights are civil rights

Interesting article over at the New York Times, Growing Unease for Some Blacks on Immigration. (The article also reports on black civil rights leaders who support the immigrant efforts.)

Some blacks bristle at the comparison between the civil rights movement and the immigrant demonstrations, pointing out that black protesters in the 1960’s were American citizens and had endured centuries of enslavement, rapes, lynchings and discrimination before they started marching.

Funny, that’s the same sort of thing some blacks say about gay rights or gay marriage.

As an editor, I consider “civil rights movement” standard usage for the specific efforts beginning in the 1950s to eliminate segregation and Jim Crow, to gain voting rights for African Americans, and generally to make a course correction in American race relations. However, I reject the notions that the civil rights movement was/is the only movement for civil rights or that its unique characteristics make it impossible for any other civil rights struggle to be compared to it.

Some of the concern seems to be self‐interest:

But nearly twice as many blacks as whites said that they or a family member had lost a job, or not gotten a job, because an employer hired an immigrant worker. Blacks were also more likely than whites to feel that immigrants take jobs away from American citizens.

This disparity represents part of the unfinished work of the civil rights movement. But I don’t believe that civil rights will be won one at a time. I think they’re connected. (And the article reports on some of those connections.) Sentiments like this make it clear how immigrant activists must continue the civil rights movement even as they build upon it.

The article also quotes statistics that “In 2004, 72 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20’s were jobless, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts.” I don’t doubt these numbers per se, nor that they represent dire problems. But having grown up in Southern California, where racism was defined as white and brown, I wonder why Hispanic dropouts are more likely to be hired than whites or blacks. And having lived in Philadelphia, where I began to become more aware of African American concerns, I wonder to what extent incarceration affects the numbers.

Warehousing young black men in prison is an outrage. Why does the Times obscure the problem as one of unemployment?

One Reply to “Civil rights are civil rights”

  1. I find the criticism of some blacks about the use of the term “civil rights” interesting since they tend to use it with glbt, Asians, and Latinos/as, but rarely with women civil rights issues.

    I am skeptical about the NYT claims as well: recently the podcast “Interfaith Podcast” had an expert on that stated that undocumented immigrants tend to work in cities where jobs are flourishing not in areas where there are few jobs. Likewise, recently a conservative thinktank released data about blacks being angry about immigrants in the U.S. (read: undocumented latino/a). I wonder if the NYT was referencing this.

    The issue of unemployment amongst AA youth is a complex one. It is true that latino/a youth have less unemployment than AA youth. But, the reasons include long histories of discrimination, poverty, classism, changes in the economy, etc. I’m sure that some conservatives like to highlight the tensions between groups to their advantage.

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