Assignment: Beyond Black and White
Racial Status and Immigration: Beyond Black and White
As previously noted, many questions about racial status in the United States have traditionally revolved around the axis of the black-white color line. Reflecting this is the tendency for pundits and scholars to speak of one color line: “the color line.” But today the country has moved far beyond this nexus,
Immigration and the Color Line in America 11
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at least partly as a result of contemporary immigration (see Foner and Fredrickson 2004). As we have noted, the arrival of large numbers of new immigrants who have been classified in the U.S. racial-categorization scheme as nonwhite raises several questions, two of which are initially important: Where do such persons fall in regard to the black-white color line? Do such persons fall on neither the black nor the white side of the traditional color line, but somewhere different altogether?
The flood of new immigrants to the United States became possible with the passage, in 1965, of the Hart-Celler Act, which eliminated national-origin quotas. Unlike earlier immigrants, the recent waves of immigrants originated from non-European countries. During the 1980s and 1990s, over 80 percent of immigrants came from Latin America, Asia, or the Caribbean, and only about 14 percent hailed from Europe or Canada (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service 2002). The shift in national origins of immigrants to the United States from Europe to Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean is the single most dis- tinctive aspect of the “new immigration” in the United States (Bean and Bell- Rose 1999; Waldinger and Lee 2001; Zhou and Lee 2007). Today’s immigrant newcomers have since made an indelible imprint on the nation’s racial-ethnic landscape, transforming it from a largely black-white society at the end of World War II to one now consisting of multiple, new nonwhite ethnic groups (Alba and Nee 2003; Bean and Stevens 2003; Sears et al. 2003).
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