Stephen Steinberg "Immigration, African Americans, and Race Discourse"
New Politics, Vol. X, No. 3
IN 1971, THE Amsterdam News, New York City's oldest African-American newspaper, published a cartoon by Melvin Tapley that gave vent to a uniquely black ambivalence toward immigration. The cartoon portrayed a downtrodden black figure crouched on the ground, labeled "US Folks," a double entendre for "us folks" and "U.S. folks." A chain of other figures, representing Spanish Americans and the foreign born, climb on the back of the crouched black figure, to pluck fruit off the tree of opportunity. Tapley had no illusions about the struggles of these immigrant minorities. Although he portrays them as getting ahead on the backs of blacks, immigrants too must climb over the wall of prejudice, and they reach only the lowest branches on the tree of opportunity.
The accompanying editorial read as follows:
News from the Census Bureau that Spanish-speaking Americans are now able to earn higher incomes than Blacks will not come as a surprise to many of us.
Since our arrival here in 1619 as slaves, Black Americans have watched millions of European immigrants arrive and within a short time hold jobs and reach levels of incomes Blacks were not allowed to attain.
In fact, during the early part of the century the hordes of Irish, Italian, Jewish, Polish, German, Scottish, Greek, Spanish, and other European immigrants frequently replaced Blacks as longshoremen, street-car motormen, construction workers, jockeys, blacksmiths, and able-bodied seamen. Outright, rank racism, and discrimination were the tools by which Blacks have been deprived of work over the decades. read more