How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts

How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts

How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts

How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts

Synopsis

How Race Is Made in America examines Mexican Americans--from 1924, when American law drastically reduced immigration into the United States, to 1965, when many quotas were abolished--to understand how broad themes of race and citizenship are constructed. These years shaped the emergence of what Natalia Molina describes as an immigration regime , which defined the racial categories that continue to influence perceptions in the United States about Mexican Americans, race, and ethnicity.

Molina demonstrates that despite the multiplicity of influences that help shape our concept of race, common themes prevail. Examining legal, political, social, and cultural sources related to immigration, she advances the theory that our understanding of race is socially constructed in relational ways--that is, in correspondence to other groups. Molina introduces and explains her central theory, racial scripts , which highlights the ways in which the lives of racialized groups are linked across time and space and thereby affect one another. How Race Is Made in America also shows that these racial scripts are easily adopted and adapted t o apply to different racial groups.

Excerpt

How Race Is Made in America examines Mexican immigration from 1924 to 1965 in order to understand how race and citizenship were constructed during this crucial period. I demonstrate that what was unique about these years was the emergence of what I call an immigration regime that remade racial categories that still shape the way we think about race, and specifically Mexicans. Through an examination of a diverse array of legal, political, social, and cultural sources related to the immigration regime, I offer historical answers as to why Mexican Americans are still not deemed fully American and are largely equated with illegality.

The period between 1924 and 1965 is fascinating for anyone interested in the evolution of racial identities in the United States. From 1917 to 1924 a series of legislative acts reduced immigration to the United States by 85 percent. The year 1924 marks the passage of the capstone immigration act, the Johnson- Reed Immigration Act, which limited the number of immigrants permitted entry from specific countries, thereby drastically reducing the entry of southern and eastern Europeans (mostly Jews), who were deemed inferior “breeds.” The Act also prohibited groups deemed ineligible for naturalization, specifically Chinese, Japanese, and other Asians, who were already facing severe immigration restrictions. The 1924 Immigration Act was the nation’s first comprehensive restriction law. It remapped the nation in terms of new ethnic and racial identities, specifically transforming denigrated European ethnics into “whites” while simultaneously criminalizing Mexicans as illegal workers who crossed into the United States without authorization. In the . . .

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