On the Backs of Blacks

“We are a nation of immigrants!”

What does that phrase mean? Ask Toni Morrison:

Fresh from Ellis Island, Stavros gets a job shining shoes at Grand Central Terminal. It is the last scene of Elia Kazan’s film America, America, the story of a young Greek’s fierce determination to immigrate to America. Quickly, but as casually as an afterthought, a young black man, also a shoe shiner, enters and tries to solicit a customer. He is run off the screen — “Get out of here! We’re doing business here!” — and silently disappears.

This interloper into Stavros’ workplace is crucial in the mix of signs that make up the movie’s happy-ending immigrant story: a job, a straw hat, an infectious smile — and a scorned black. It is the act of racial contempt that transforms this charming Greek into an entitled white. Without it, Stavros’ future as an American is not at all assured.

We immigrants have “made it” in this country in two ways, by taking land from the Indians and by taking jobs from Blacks. That’s our dirty little secret.

When my Irish ancestors came here we were not “white”. My great-great grandfather had a sign he had taken that said, “We hire Blacks but no Irish need apply.” But within a generation we had become white, and in doing so we were now able to make it by taking jobs away from Blacks. And so has every group of immigrants in turn. When jobs are plentiful and workers are scarce, Blacks make inroads. Then another set of immigrants comes and takes the jobs away. We make it by climbing on their backs and jumping up above them onto the ladder to success, and we leave them on the bottom rung. Because that’s what racism is all about.

And who are those immigrants getting their slice of the American Pie by taking it from those who were holding it? Why, us, the nation of immigrants. Those immigrant groups that voted Democratic alongside of Blacks when we were both down, and who feel ever so kindly toward Blacks as we make it at their expense and as we then help other ethnic groups to make it in their turn at the expense of Blacks.

We are what, when I was a politically correct New Leftist, was called a “White Liberal”. We always hated that label, because we could never understand how all our good intentions toward Blacks could be so misunderstood. After all, some of the best Blacks were allowed to be our friends. So why did they still think we were racists? What more could they want from us besides good intentions?

We Liberals–White Liberals–have to disguise our racism. We can’t use the N-word, we can’t call them “uppity” or even “lazy and shiftless”…or can we? So how can white liberals be racist in a manner subtle enough to get away with it? By following the lead of the Neo-Con Republicans. Don’t call Black people “lazy and shiftless”, just call the people who are taking their jobs away from them “hardworking and industrious”. Don’t call Blacks “uppity” when they ask for a living wage, for medical and pension benefits, or for union representation, nope, just call the folks you are giving their jobs to “easy to work with”. Just as the obvious white racists have learned to use code language to express racism, like having their presidential candidates make the necessary pilgrimage to the southern, um, “meccas”, those right-wing Christian schools that until recently forbade blacks from dating whites in their schools, so to we white liberals have our own code language that permit us to stay smugly pious as we dump our black nannies and landscapers and agricultural workers and construction workers and all of those other “jobs that Americans just won’t do” (at least not after we fire them) to replace them with those who are lighter, and like us before them, well along the road to becoming white.

And as we muscle then aside yet again, we ask Blacks to once again “silently disappear”. And if they don’t, then we will look away as the newcomers take their place on a higher rung on the ladder to success by force.

It will be extremely enlightening to watch our supposedly Liberal Democratic politicians as they deal with the next wave of immigrants who will want power in exchange for votes. Where will their slice of the political pie come from? Will the White Liberals give up some of theirs? Or will yet another wave of immigrants take their power by climbing up on the backs of Blacks?

7 Responses to On the Backs of Blacks

  1. Clark says:

    Helping immigrants and African Americans – it’s not an either/or decision. At least, it shouldn’t be.

  2. baalderdash says:

    Immigrants and Blacks joined in unity. Every immigrant group wants that. Until they don’t need to any longer. Until they can show that they “made it” by being able to attack Blacks.

    Maybe it shouldn’t be an either/or, but it always has been, and it is right now too.

  3. […] “Why I Hate Blacks” by Kenneth Eng Last week I posted “On the Backs of Blacks” where I said that immigration has been a cycle of immigrant groups making alliance with Blacks until the group could gain acceptance, and that gaining acceptance was defined by the ability of the new immigrant group to join in racial discrimination against Blacks. […]

  4. js says:

    This is about the elite class that, while having huge expectations for their selves with regards to employment compensation, supports the mass immigration of people from poor countries who will have lesser expectations in the workplace than lower-class Americans, whose expectation are nowhere near those of the elites. And yes, a good portion of those elites are liberal elites. The lower-class American racial group most affected are blacks. Unfortunately too many blacks still support black leaders who are themselves part of this mass-immigration, liberal elite class. While it is common within the non-elite black community to recognize the impact of immigration on their economic prospects, they seem unwilling the part ways with the anointed black leaders and their liberal coalition politics. That’s unfortunate because for most Americans, including them, markets are powerful shapers of economic fates. Employers will choose immigrants over them for the most part because the benefits of doing so are real. Americans just aren’t likely to hold the same attitude and expectations as someone who has just entered a country where the employment opportunities will rightly be seen as fantastic relative to what as left behind. We are all shaped by the world we grow up in.

  5. Betty says:

    I think a lot of what your saying is true.
    Its no wonder that any blacks would want to fight and die for a country that favors illegal immigrants and legal ones over them or even want to represent the U.S. in the Summer Olympics.

    No country is perfect when it comes to treating their minoritie citizens with dignity and respect. especially as we witness the bruality and genicide that has taken place over the years in Europe and other countries.

    • Otis Houston Jr says:

      They use Everybodyy from everywhere else agaist one of us(Native born Black) that don’t know to keep us down so WE must be a BAD MOTHERFUCKER
      Tha Puerto Rican darker then me – I ain’t Black I’m Puerto Rican
      The Dominicana darker then me -I ain’t Black I’m Dominican
      The Cuban darker then me – I ain’n Black I’m Cuban
      The Panamanian darker then me -I ain’t Black I’m Panamanian
      The Brazilian darker then me -I ain’t Black I’m Brazilian
      Tha Haitian darker then me -I ain’t Black I’m Haitian
      The AFRICAN can’t be nothing but Black -I ain’t Black I’m AFRICAN
      Yes like I say this Black Man must be a BAD MOTHERFUCKER

      The hardest job in America is being a Black Man don’t nobody believe in you but you



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