African American- Immigrant Relations in a Global Era


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  • In order to study African American Immigrant Relations we need to understand on the one hand the global context and U.S. policies that affect immigration. On the other hand, we need to focus on the Structural and demographic context in the U.S. which affects both groups
  • This research has been in progress since last fall. We recently tapped into Kirwan’s extensive network of racial justice organizations, as well as a list of immigrant rights organizations, in order to try to gather recommendations / leads. Since there seem to be so few of these alliances (or at least so few that have any staying power), we spent a fair amount of time just trying to identify those that exist. We ultimately came up with around 25 that we could identify.
  • Relationship-building First Strategy: Relationship-building looks to reshape identities and interests; broaden worldview to include and understand the situation of the other group Includes teaching groups about the other group’s history; bringing groups together to address and overcome stereotypes To be meaningful and effective, relationship-building must be deliberate, thoughtful and central Without the trust and understanding born of effective relationship racial and nativistic tensions will surface. Alliances built without trust and mutual understanding will not endure Issues-First Strategy: Inter-group relationship challenges provide uncertain motivation for partnering Most people are highly motivated to act on “bread and butter” concerns The best way to unify efforts across lines of race/ethnicity /nativity through appeals to their shared tangible interests Trust and solidarity are earned and consolidated as a function of struggle for a common purpose It is useful bring immigrants and African Americans together deliberately to serve that shared purpose. “Issues-first” alliances are typically multi-organizational Organic Strategy: The best way to unify efforts across groups is through appeals to their shared tangible interests (same logic as “issues-first” approach) Whereas issue-first alliances draw on people with different organizational affiliations, “organic” partnerships are based on where people work, study, worship, etc. Whereas issue-first alliances use racial justice analyses or are otherwise race-conscious, “organic” alliances provide “color-blind” analyses Whereas issue-first alliances treat racial, ethnic, and immigrant identities as salient, “organic” alliances elevate associational identities (e.g. we’re all workers). The primacy of associational ties minimizes racial tensions.
  • AAs lack knowledge of globalization and the macro-level forces that would make someone want to immigrate; Immigs generally do not know about the history of AAs in America (slavery, discrimination, civil rights mvmt, etc.) – see AAs as incorporated into U.S. society (at least moreso than they are), as opposed to seeing the history of AAs marginalization and the ramifications of that Curricula – “Crossing Borders” by the Center for Community Change (Dushaw Hackett) & “BRIDGE” by the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) 3) May have interest in this work, but lack the time / personnel, etc. to actually carry it out Include Asian communities, and Native Americans were mentioned multiple times by respondents The media tends to focus on the bad news – conflict & challenges makes for “better”/more interesting news than unity and solidarity. Some studies have looked specifically into the role of the media and its effect on these relationships Hiram showed us some articles recently that asked about the groups relations with less of a focus on the media
  • We’ve completed approximately 30 interviews We’ve spoken to multiple individuals at a few of these organizations Nearly all have been phone interviews Last approximately one hour Have list of open-ended interview questions that address our research questions, but we also try to follow the flow of the respondent’s thoughts and be flexible so that the interview flows like a conversation
  • African American- Immigrant Relations in a Global Era

    1. 1. African American- Immigrant Relations in a Global Era Andrew Grant-Thomas, Deputy Director Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity
    2. 2. Why study African American-Immigrant Interactions <ul><li>Both immigrants and African Americans face serious structural constraints and challenges that must be addressed proactively </li></ul><ul><li>Demographic, economic and political trends point to increasing interactions between the groups </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding the dynamics of inter-cultural, inter-racial relations is critical first step for creating an inclusive multi-racial democracy in the U.S. </li></ul><ul><li>Both groups are seen as natural partners in the progressive movement </li></ul><ul><li>Successful joint efforts would be a testament against the anti-immigrant movement, which a) uses racist frames, b) tries to draw a wedge between the two communities </li></ul>
    3. 3. Context: Globalization, U.S. Policies, and Immigration <ul><li>Free movement of capital leads to international movement of labor: immigration </li></ul><ul><li>NAFTA and CAFTA: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>create a race to the bottom in labor standards </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>harms agriculture in Latin America, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>increase the number of people immigrating to the U.S. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>U.S Bracero (guest-worker) program, drew more than 5 million agricultural workers from Mexico in 1942-1964. Its effects continue today </li></ul><ul><li>Armed conflicts lead to displacement of people and creation of refugees. U.S. supplies almost half of world’s all arms sales. </li></ul>
    4. 4. Context: Structural, Demographic, and Cultural Trends within the U.S. <ul><li>Demographic changes within the U.S. (i.e African Americans’ movement to the South) bring Latino immigrants and African Americans into frequent contact in gateway cities, which lack sufficient infrastructure </li></ul><ul><li>Despite living side by side, in many places black Americans and immigrants are fairly segregated from each other – spatially, socially and institutionally </li></ul><ul><li>Both communities are most impacted by economic duress and structural racism </li></ul><ul><li>Media insistence on an African American/ immigrant (and “Black/Latino”) conflict and competition storyline </li></ul>
    5. 5. Kirwan’s Project: Research Questions <ul><li>What challenges and opportunities mark efforts to build effective alliances between immigrants and African Americans? </li></ul><ul><li>What principal strategies inform alliance building between these groups? </li></ul><ul><li>What can be learned from the successful joint efforts? </li></ul><ul><li>What can be done to strengthen the field? </li></ul>
    6. 6. Kirwan’s Project: Research Process <ul><li>Social activist organizations are selected in consultation with PIP. Interviews were conducted with 46 people, representing 32 organization. </li></ul><ul><li>A recruitment letter was circulated to more than 1,250 immigrant rights and racial social justice organizations in order to locate alliances and select case studies. </li></ul><ul><li>For the final report, 5 case studies were conducted on alliances between different organizations that work on policy advocacy and seek legislative change. </li></ul><ul><li>The case studies reflect how and why the alliances are forged, what frames/strategies are used, what challenges are faced, and what success/non-successes are. </li></ul>
    7. 7. Kirwan’s Project: Research Gaps <ul><li>Despite extensive outreach only five inter-organizational alliances could be located. </li></ul><ul><li>Despite extensive search no alliance containing Asian immigrants was located. </li></ul><ul><li>Social activists lack information about each others’ work and achievements. A “field” needs to be built as far as alliance work is concerned. </li></ul>
    8. 8. Findings: Challenges <ul><li>Ignorance of historical/contemporary conditions affecting the social outcomes of both groups </li></ul><ul><li>Belief that groups’ fates not linked. Perception of zero-sum competition in political and economic arenas </li></ul><ul><li>Media insistence on an African American/ immigrant (and “Black/Latino”) conflict and competition storyline </li></ul>
    9. 9. Findings: Challenges <ul><li>Insufficient organizational and financial capacity to do work </li></ul><ul><li>Political, economic, social conflicts of interest between groups </li></ul><ul><li>Relative lack of proven, publicized institutional models of cooperation between these groups </li></ul>
    10. 10. Findings: Opportunities <ul><li>Wealth of common concerns </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Subprime/foreclosure crisis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Health care crisis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Racial profiling, police harassment, hate crimes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Economic justice (jobs, wages, training, safety) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Education reform (funding, resource equity) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Many people urging a broad structural analysis of group challenges </li></ul>
    11. 11. Findings: Opportunities <ul><li>Whole categories of potential bridge-builders emerging </li></ul><ul><ul><li>African immigrants, “Black” Latino immigrants, and the children of immigrants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Young people, especially students </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Increasing number of promising institutional sites </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Workers centers, unions, schools, multiracial churches </li></ul></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Findings: Different Strategies <ul><li>Relationship building-first Strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Issues-first Strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Organic Strategy </li></ul>
    13. 13. Case Studies <ul><li>United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO), Chicago IL </li></ul><ul><li>The Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative (IMRI), New York City, NY </li></ul><ul><li>Gamaliel of Metro Chicago, Chicago, IL </li></ul><ul><li>CASA de Maryland – NAACP, MD </li></ul><ul><li>Mississippi Immigrants' Rights Alliance (MIRA)- Mississippi Workers' Center, MS </li></ul>
    14. 14. CASA de Maryland NAACP: Background <ul><li>CASA is the largest Latino and immigrant organization in Maryland. Offices in Baltimore City, Prince George’s, and Montgomery counties. 72 employees and 5 workers’ centers. </li></ul><ul><li>The organization offers several programs to immigrants; lobbies against anti-immigrant legislation; and focuses on worker rights. </li></ul>
    15. 15. CASA de Maryland NAACP: Background <ul><li>NAACP chapter in Maryland work on diverse issues such as racial biases in housing, police brutality and racial profiling, living wage, workplace discrimination, school funding, and school desegregation. </li></ul><ul><li>All volunteer members </li></ul><ul><li>NAACP chapters in Prince George’s County, Frederick County, and Montgomery County all have different joint works with CASA </li></ul>
    16. 16. Initiation of the Alliance <ul><li>At the end of 1990s, the executive director of CASA, Mr. Gustavo Torres, contacted NAACP leaders to unite for common causes. </li></ul><ul><li>According to Torres, until then the relations between African Americans and immigrants in Maryland were tense: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>an inability to relate because of culture/ language differences; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>mutual stereotypes/biases towards each other; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>strained economic resources; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>struggles regarding power and recognition; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the issue of race </li></ul></ul>
    17. 17. Initiation of the Alliance <ul><li>“ [When I approached the NAACP], I said we need to come together. We don’t have a choice if we want to make a difference in that society. We have been fighting each other and other people are very happy because we are doing that. And they were in agreement, in total agreement. They said you know we were waiting for this call. We found tremendous reception in the African American community, in NAACP , and in African American churches” </li></ul>
    18. 18. Initiation of the Alliance <ul><li>When asked why CASA took the first initiative in starting the partnership, Torres responded: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ It is a lack of resources. They are a voluntary organization. They are doing a tremendous job, but they have other full-time jobs. It is very difficult for them to do what I am doing. This is my full-time job, it is my passion, it is my commitment. I believe, since we have in this particular case more resources, I believe we also have the responsibility to take the initiative.” </li></ul></ul>
    19. 19. Alliance Structure <ul><li>Unlike other cases (i.e. UCCRO, IMRI), this partnership has no formal alliance structure or channel of communication. The two organizations respect an “open door policy” in terms of dialogue. </li></ul><ul><li>CASA is in the process of employing a staff member who will be solely responsible from the workings of the CASA-NAACP partnership. </li></ul>
    20. 20. Joint Work and Policy Successes <ul><li>The Montgomery Chapter of the NAACP and CASA jointly conducted voter registration drives, held joint candidate debates, and multicultural door-to-door outreach. </li></ul><ul><li>As a result of these efforts, Montgomery County voters elected their first African American leader. </li></ul>
    21. 21. Joint Work and Policy Successes <ul><li>CASA and the Montgomery Chapter of NAACP also worked together in the workings of Thornton Commission. </li></ul><ul><li>In 2002, the Maryland General Assembly enacted “The Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act” according to Thornton Commission’s recommendations. This legislation specifically helped disadvantaged Latino and African American children. </li></ul>
    22. 22. Joint Work and Policy Successes <ul><li>Fredrick Chapter of the NAACP and CASA worked together against the implementation of 287(g) that leads to the targeting and the racial profiling of Latinos. </li></ul><ul><li>In the same county, both organizations also work side-by-side in their opposition of anti-immigrant bills proposed by Republican politicians. </li></ul>
    23. 23. Relationship Building <ul><li>Translation equipment was used in events (i.e. joint candidate forums) in order to overcome language barriers. </li></ul><ul><li>CASA co-authored &quot;Crossing Borders, ” an anti-racism curriculum that seeks to engage African American and immigrant grassroots leaders in confronting the supposed differences that have challenged their ability to build greater joint power. </li></ul><ul><li>An Open Society Institute fellow in CASA’s Baltimore office works on implementing the curriculum in Baltimore. </li></ul><ul><li>An educator in CASA’s Prince George’s office will implement the curriculum in three core constituencies - policy makers, youth, and day laborers from African American and Latino communities. </li></ul>
    24. 24. Relationship Building <ul><li>“ We started that relationship and got deep in that relationship in understanding each other. And most importantly we started to develop activities and tasks, and struggle together. So we started to identify that we have a lot of things in common; that we have been discriminated for many many years. And the history of the African Americans is as extreme as, or even worst than the Latino community’s experiences. So we have been learning all of this through purpose and you know the relationship has improved tremendously.” </li></ul><ul><li>Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA de Maryland </li></ul>
    25. 25. Lessons Learned from CASA-NAACP Alliance <ul><li>Complementary organizational resources: Resources come in different forms i.e. material (i.e staff), or nonmaterial (experience, political connections). It is important that the combined resources are complementary so that </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>the organizations’ weaknesses may be counterbalanced </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>the organizations find incentives to partner </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Organizational and financial power of CASA far exceeded that of NAACP chapters, which depended on volunteers. On the other hand, NAACP commanded significant political power within Maryland due to the size of the African American population and due to their connection to politicians. </li></ul></ul>
    26. 26. Lessons Learned <ul><li>Acknowledge the importance of relationship building: Learning experiences that increase understanding of the other group’s culture and worldview can be extremely helpful to alliance operations. The curriculum prepared and implemented by CASA was an important means to build inter-communal trust . Similarly, translation equipments were used to overcome language barriers. These kind of relationship-building efforts are key for long-term movement building. </li></ul>
    27. 27. Lessons Learned <ul><li>Devote resources to alliance functions: Employment of individuals who will dedicate all their time to alliance work would strengthen partnership. CASA is in the process of employing a staff member who will be solely responsible from the workings of the partnership. </li></ul><ul><li>Presence of supportive elements within the local/appropriate power structure: The existence of a progressive White community in Maryland helped the alliance to get support from third parties for its joint projects </li></ul>
    28. 28. What can be done to improve the field? <ul><li>Provide education regarding past and current conditions affecting each community and their relationships </li></ul><ul><li>Identify, commission, and disseminate existing educational and relationship-building curricular materials and develop new materials adaptable to regional and local contexts. </li></ul><ul><li>Build organizational capacities to do the work </li></ul>
    29. 29. What can be done to improve the field? <ul><li>For the leadership of the alliance recruit within all communities of color </li></ul><ul><li>Do a comprehensive mapping of alliance-building efforts across the country </li></ul><ul><li>Create an inventory of policy categories regarding immigration in order to understand what drives anti-immigrant vs. pro-immigrant policies </li></ul>
    30. 30. What can be done to improve the field? <ul><li>Through workshops, conferences or other meetings bring together social activists, academicians and policy-makers, who work on alliance building between African Americans and immigrants. </li></ul><ul><li>Disseminate positive findings from public opinion surveys about African American-immigrant relations. </li></ul><ul><li>Develop fact-based media messages and frames for local, state and federal policymakers that go beyond mere “myth-busting.” </li></ul>
    31. 31. <ul><li>Thank You </li></ul>
    32. 32. Curriculums specifically designed for African American immigrant alliance building: <ul><li>BRIDGE: Building a Race and Immigration Dialogue in the Global Economy: http:// </li></ul><ul><li>Crossing Borders: Building Relationships across Lines of Difference Toolkit: </li></ul>
    33. 33. Completed Interviews <ul><li>Atlanta Jobs with Justice </li></ul><ul><li>Beloved Community Center </li></ul><ul><li>Black Alliance for Just Immigration </li></ul><ul><li>Brown Power Base Project </li></ul><ul><li>Center for Community Change </li></ul><ul><li>Center for a New Community </li></ul><ul><li>Center for Intercultural Organizing </li></ul><ul><li>Colorado Progressive Coalition </li></ul><ul><li>Highlander Research and Education Center </li></ul><ul><li>Human Rights Network </li></ul><ul><li>Jobs with Justice (National) </li></ul><ul><li>Latino Network </li></ul><ul><li>Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength </li></ul><ul><li>Miami Workers Center </li></ul><ul><li>Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance </li></ul><ul><li>Northwest Constitutional Rights Center </li></ul><ul><li>Oregon Action </li></ul><ul><li>Pilsen Neighbors Community Council </li></ul><ul><li>Priority Africa Network </li></ul><ul><li>Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York </li></ul><ul><li>Rights for All People </li></ul><ul><li>Right to the City Alliance </li></ul><ul><li>South Florida Jobs with Justice </li></ul><ul><li>South Suburban Action Conference </li></ul><ul><li>Southern Echo </li></ul><ul><li>Southeast Regional Economic Justice Network </li></ul><ul><li>Western States Center </li></ul>