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Not a Nation of Immigrants: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion

de Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

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1563176,096 (3.67)3
History. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:Debunks the pervasive and self-congratulatory myth that our country is proudly founded by and for immigrants, and urges readers to embrace a more complex and honest history of the United States

Whether in political debates or discussions about immigration around the kitchen table, many Americans, regardless of party affiliation, will say proudly that we are a nation of immigrants. In this bold new book, historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz asserts this ideology is harmful and dishonest because it serves to mask and diminish the US??s history of settler colonialism, genocide, white supremacy, slavery, and structural inequality, all of which we still grapple with today.

She explains that the idea that we are living in a land of opportunity??founded and built by immigrants??was a convenient response by the ruling class and its brain trust to the 1960s demands for decolonialization, justice, reparations, and social equality. Moreover, Dunbar-Ortiz charges that this feel good??but inaccurate??story promotes a benign narrative of progress, obscuring that the country was founded in violence as a settler state, and imperialist since its inception.

While some of us are immigrants or descendants of immigrants, others are descendants of white settlers who arrived as colonizers to displace those who were here since time immemorial, and still others are descendants of those who were kidnapped and forced here against their will. This paradigm shifting new book from the highly acclaimed author of An Indigenous Peoples?? History of the United States charges that we need to stop believing and perpetuating this simplistic and a historical idea and embrace the real (and often horrific) history of
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Exibindo 2 de 2
4.5 stars rounded up to 5 (minor issue in the library copy, where footnotes in chapter 4 got misnumbered by 10 and it took me a second to square up sources). Dunbar-Ortiz makes a persuasive argument that "nation of immigrants" is a misnomer that overlooks the genocide of indigenous populations and how in actuality, the United States is a settler-colonial state, with various populations either adhering to the settler state in the name of assimilation (Irish and Italian Catholics) and self-indigenizing (New Mexican Hispanos, Appalachian Scots Irish) or being considered a Perpetual Foreigner and not permitted to settle (Asian laborers and refugees).

There's also a strong lambasting of how Hamilton: The Musical falsely portrays some founding fathers as abolitionists when above all else they were capitalists (Alexander Hamilton himself in particular), creating a fiscal-military state to perpetuate war on indigenous populations and then copy those war efforts to imperialist efforts both on the continent with the annexation of Mexican territory and meddling in overseas governments.

Unfortunately, the people whom I think need this most aren't partial to reading academically focused books (and I'd consider this an approachable, popular audience survey on settler colonialism)- thinking in particular of an Irish American work colleague in Knights of Columbus who very much wraps himself up in Catholicism & patriotism even though he has far more in common with the "illegals" he rails against with facebook memes. Very much worth a read, though, to challenge the framework in which you view the United States. For me, it's recognizing the discomfort from belatedly realizing the depth of indigenous erasure when discussing "Americanness" (for I can speak from experience about Perpetual Foreigner, but how am I perpetuating systemic genocidal frameworks in doing so?)

From the conclusion:
“This book is a call for all those who have gone through the immigrant or refugee experience or are descendants of immigrants to acknowledge settler colonialism and the Americanization process that sucks them into complicity with white supremacy and erasure of the Indigenous peoples. It’s a call too for descendants of original settlers to understand and reject settler colonialism and the romanticizing of original white settlers who were instrumentalized to reproduce white supremacy and white nationalism.” ( )
  Daumari | Dec 28, 2023 |
parts of this were 5 stars and parts 1 star, honestly. it was so up and down for me, but there is definitely enough here to really make this worth reading.

i've never felt particularly patriotic, and now i just feel disgusted. at every turn we choose wrong, we choose harm, we choose to make things worse.

i haven't seen the musical hamilton but i find her focus on it really odd. and i feel like she's missing the point of what the show was supposed to be about. i'm interested if anyone in my book group will have seen it and what they think about this. because i thought the point was to emphasize how black and brown people were left out of the decisions and practices and how different things would have been if they were recognized as people. so an unfortunate way, for me, for this book to open, but it covers so much more and so widely, that there are other aspects that also don't resonate, but so much that does, and so much that makes me think more deeply about things.

"White supremacy and settler-colonial violence are permanently embedded in US topography. The United States has a foundational problem of white nationalism that wasn't new with Nixon or Reagan or Trump."

"Not only were they used as forced and unpaid labor, but their very bodies were legally private property to be bought and sold, soon creating a thriving, legal domestic slave market, which by 1840 was of greater monetary value than all other property combined, including all the gold in circulation, all bank reserves, and all real estate."

"As Mahmood Mamdani observes, 'The thrust of American struggles has been to deracialize but not to decolonize. A deracialized America still remains a settler society and a seller state.'"

"Furthermore, Mamdani argues, regarding the conflation of immigration and settlement: immigrants join existing polities whereas settlers create new ones. 'If Europeans in the United States were immigrants, they would have joined the existing societies in the New World. Instead they destroyed those societies and built a new one that was reinforced by later waves of settlement.'"

"At the eve of the Civil War, almost a third of Southern families were slavers, and in Mississippi and South Carolina 50 percent were. In the 1950s, only 2 percent of US Families owned corporation stocks equal in value to the 1860 value of a single slave. On a typical plantation (more than twenty slaves) the capital value of the slaves was greater than the capital value of the land and implements."

i can't believe that this never occurred to me, or that i've let it escape my memory if it had; that after slavery was outlawed, that actually some semblance of protections for black people were gone: "The Klan burned the homes of Black families, confiscated their guns, and inflicted punishment similar to sale patrols' beatings, but they also had far more freedom to torture and murder their victims, since the Black body no longer carried monetary value that the murderer would have to compensate the slaver for."

"Now and then, a Klansman would be put on trial by the occupying US Army, but no one would ever be convicted for Klan violence, even murder. Occasionally, the US Army would declare martial law, but as one army commander said 1871, 'The entire United States Army would be insufficient to give protection throughout the South to everyone in possible danger from the Klan.' The Klan was effectively the reconstituted Confederate Army."

"The US republic was from its birth the engine of capitalist accumulation in expropriating Native land to sell to land speculators, slavers, and later the railroads and white settlers, under the Homestead Act, thereby financing the government and its military, which carried out the expulsions and crushed enslaved people's resistance."

"For oppressed people to take history into their own hands, they have to know that history."

she claims that the american dream was a concept that was invented in 1931, which is an interesting spin on the depression.

"This idea of the gift-giving Indian helping to establish and enrich the development of the United States is a screen that obscures the fact that the very existence of the country is a result of the looting of an entire continent and its resources, reducing the Indigenous population, and forcibly relocating and incarcerating them in reservations." ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Apr 17, 2023 |
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History. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:Debunks the pervasive and self-congratulatory myth that our country is proudly founded by and for immigrants, and urges readers to embrace a more complex and honest history of the United States

Whether in political debates or discussions about immigration around the kitchen table, many Americans, regardless of party affiliation, will say proudly that we are a nation of immigrants. In this bold new book, historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz asserts this ideology is harmful and dishonest because it serves to mask and diminish the US??s history of settler colonialism, genocide, white supremacy, slavery, and structural inequality, all of which we still grapple with today.

She explains that the idea that we are living in a land of opportunity??founded and built by immigrants??was a convenient response by the ruling class and its brain trust to the 1960s demands for decolonialization, justice, reparations, and social equality. Moreover, Dunbar-Ortiz charges that this feel good??but inaccurate??story promotes a benign narrative of progress, obscuring that the country was founded in violence as a settler state, and imperialist since its inception.

While some of us are immigrants or descendants of immigrants, others are descendants of white settlers who arrived as colonizers to displace those who were here since time immemorial, and still others are descendants of those who were kidnapped and forced here against their will. This paradigm shifting new book from the highly acclaimed author of An Indigenous Peoples?? History of the United States charges that we need to stop believing and perpetuating this simplistic and a historical idea and embrace the real (and often horrific) history of

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