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“You ain’t from around here, are you?” These words, loosely translated, were probably first uttered by Manteo and Wanchese when Walter Raleigh’s settlers first landed on our Outer Banks. What once might have been a conversation starter has now switched to abject hatred toward immigrants.
We’ve got a history of hating people different from us, beginning with the unwilling immigration of Africans enslaved to plant and harvest crops. We bought and sold them like a plow or a mule. In 1798, President John Adams, concerned about treason and treachery from foreigners, convinced Congress to give him the power to deport those “dangerous to the peace and safety” of the county with the Alien and Sedition Acts.
At one time or another we have thought “undesirable” the Chinese, Italians, Irish, Jews and now those of Hispanic origin. During World War II, North Carolina played a large role in detaining thousands of Germans at Fort Bragg, Camp Butner and 16 other concentration camps across the state.
But the anti-immigrant hatred has ramped up to levels unexperienced in our lifetimes, sometimes largely for political gain. If I repeat claims loud enough and often enough, I can convince you that these immigrants are the boogeyman, while detracting attention from other, larger problems.
The hate-ism flames are fanned with charges that immigrants are criminals, rapists and terrorists. The facts refute these assertions, but the charges are repeated and repeated. George Wallace was a demagogue who parlayed these tactics into presidential campaigns, thankfully unsuccessfully.
The anti-immigrant hatred is reinforced by claims immigrants are taking jobs that should go to native born citizens. Employers will tell you they can’t find natives to hire. Our citizens won’t work for the wages offered, which would be comical were it not so oxymoronic. Who among us wants to pay more for a car, a TV or groceries than we must? We talk out of both sides of our mouths.
Anti-immigrant haters say 51 percent of immigrants receive one or more government services, compared to only 30 percent of native households, running up government costs. These claims are not supported by facts. Kevin Johnson, immigration expert and dean of UCal’s Davis Law School says immigrants cannot be over consuming public benefits because most aren’t eligible to receive them in the first place. Those who do qualify are more likely to receive free-and-reduced school lunches, food stamps and Medicaid, along with the benefit of a public education.
It is time for honest conversation about immigration. The crisis, and it does appear to be rising to the level of a crisis, is caused by three factors. The first is horrible conditions in other countries causing large numbers of people to seek a better life in our country. The real crisis is a congress that can’t or won’t establish realistic, clearly understandable and enforceable immigration policies. Place the blame squarely on Congress, not the immigrants. But all the overheated hyperbole stands in the way of commonsense, workable solutions.
Secondly, North Carolina is getting browner by the day. The UNC Carolina Population Center reports that in 1970 whites were 76 percent of our population, with blacks consisting of 22 percent. In 2017, whites had declined to 63 percent, blacks were 21 percent and Hispanics had increased from less than 1 percent to 9.4 percent. Deaths now outnumber births among white people in our state and the Census Bureau predicts that by 2045 whites could drop below 50 percent nationwide.
Here’s the most important reality. Hate is a destructive emotion. It doesn’t feel good on the inside and doesn’t do any good on the outside. It is based on fear — the fear we might lose power, control or wealth. Hate never has and never will win. It hurts the hater more than the hated.
If we must hate, let’s hate hatred.
Tom Campbell is the former assistant North Carolina State Treasurer and is creator/host of N.C. Spin, a weekly statewide television discussion of NC issues that airs on UNC-TV main channel. Contact him at www.ncspin.com.