Saturday, July 19, 2008

Nativism in America: Yesterday and Today

By Mark R. Day, La Prensa (San Diego)
May 30, 2008

When the struggle over illegal immigration from Mexico began to heat up two years ago, a San Diego television reporter asked a middle-aged woman at a protest rally for her comments. "When these illegals come here it's like they won the lottery," she said angrily. "They drop babies all over the place. Then they go back and bring in another bunch. They murder, they rape, they steal. They hurt us."

These harsh comments, laden with racial stereotypes, evoke the term nativism, a peculiarly American phenomenon with a long, sordid history. "Nativism as a habit of mind illuminates darkly some of the large contours of the American past," wrote historian John Higham. "It has mirrored our anxieties and marked out the boundaries of our tolerance." [...]

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