By Jasmyne A. Cannick
It must have been sheer deliriousness over Governor Jerry Brown’s decision to sign part two of California’s DREAM Act, also known as Assembly Bill 131, guaranteeing state financial aid to illegal immigrant students that caused State Senator Gil Cedillo to say America as a whole is a nation of immigrants.
By the same token, it must have been fear of a backlash from Latino immigrant activist groups and labor unions or a misunderstanding of their own history that caused not one Black elected official to correct their colleague.
So allow me.
For the record, while America may be a nation of immigrants, slaves, and by default their descendants, are not immigrants—their owners were.
I don’t know what history book Sen. Gil Cedillo has been reading from or what dictionary he’s using to determine just exactly who an immigrant is but last I checked, an immigrant was someone who left one country to settle permanently in another.
Just so that we are clear, being kidnapped, stuffed into the bottom of a ship, forced to travel thousands of miles from your homeland all the while shackled, starved and regularly beaten, only to arrive at your final destination to be forced into a life of involuntary servitude is not the same as a person who willingly leaves his or her native country to sneak into another with the intention of staying in that country for better life opportunities.
I don’t think that Blacks today view slavery as a better life opportunity for the Africans forced to relocate here in America.
By no fault of our own, African-Americans are here in America because a group of European immigrants decided to set up a new life in what is now the United States of America and in doing so, committed mankind’s greatest atrocity for which this country has still never fully made amends for.
Add to that, the entire time Sen. Gil Cedillo and friends were pushing the DREAM Act, it was always for the benefit of Latino illegal immigrant students in California. Never once in all of the discussions with supporters of the DREAM Act was there ever public mention of the hundreds of thousands of African and West Indian immigrants living in California possibly benefiting from this piece of legislation.
Now that the bill is signed, Sen. Cedillo adds injury to insult by making blanket statements inferring that the descendants of slaves, collectively and generally referred to as African-Americans, are somehow immigrants.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being an immigrant, but I am not one and the history of African-Americans is too rich and important to not make the correction.
It’s kind of like me calling Sen. Gil Cedillo a Mexican when he was born and raised in California.
Los esclavos no eran inmigrantes, sus propietarios se.
A former press secretary in California State Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives, Jasmyne A. Cannick writes about the intersection race, sex, politics, and pop culture from an unapologetically Black point of view. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at /jasmyne.