How should we decide who to let in? This may appear to be a question of immigration - but is it really? In this paper we will analyze the social concepts of Otherness, New Racism, and Critical Race Theory, in trying to answer that question. As we address immigration in this country, are we talking about immigration reform or just a newer form of racism? If it is racism, what do we do about that?
SUMMARY OF THE SOCIAL PROBLEM
First let’s answer the question, what is racism? A full definition of racism according to Merriam-Webster.com is a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race (2014). Every difference from the upper class, the ruling, class, the group that holds the money and power, is a stratifying call to lower class identification. Racism has been practiced throughout human history and is still used as a way to justify unequal treatment and enslavement of many groups of people. Racism provides the reasons for denying access to social status and cultural capital; and promotes segregation to lower classes by maintaining the idea that other people are less equal.
Secondly, how do we identify a different race? Edward Said, a post-colonial theorist, posits that the idea of Other and Otherness permeates our society and it supports a racist approach to “differences.” Those who are identified as Other by their differences from the upper classes or non-Others can be marginalized and suppressed in societies class systems (Dillon 2010). Apartheid in South Africa and slavery in the United States give us real life examples of extreme marginalization (Dillon 2010). Another way of making the distinction between Other and non-Other is equating it to “them” and “us” labels. A look at New Racism indicates a shift in thinking away from race and geography or race and color, and introduces the idea that nature and history and geopolitics are the factors that allow us to assign social class based on shared histories and worldviews (Dillon 2010). This racism concept is rooted in differences and Otherness based on beliefs, values, and shared past; but not attached to the physical characteristics that humans find very convenient to categorize and are often used to define race such as skin color, physical build, or eye color. Critical Race Theorists conceptualize race and ethnicity not as inherent qualities, but as categories that have been socially constructed (Romero 2008). This means that the upper classes define ethnicity to benefit themselves and project expectations on lower class groups setting arbitrary lines between classes based on race. The social construction of race places racism at the center of arguments involving social inequalities (Romero 2008).
A third question of interest is why apply racism theory to immigration? We can apply racism to immigrants and immigration policy because in the United States we perceive...