Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Designer Nation

These days we hear much about designer jeans, designer sunglasses, designer furniture, and so forth.

What we don’t hear about is a designer population in the US. Yet for quite a while now the concept has been part of the hidden structure of the debate over immigration. Let me explain.

For many years American immigration policy was intended specifically to exclude all Asians and peoples of color, restrict Southern and Eastern European immigration, and encourage the arrival of Western Europeans. The United States had been walled off to immigrants from Asia through a series of racial laws that included the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Asia Barred Zone Act of 1917 (which denied entry to peoples from South and Southeast Asia and the islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, with the exception of the American possessions of the Philippines and Guam), the 1924 Immigration Act (which totally excluded the Japanese and other Asians from immigration and naturalization), and the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934 (which reclassified all Filipinos as “aliens,” permitting only a 50-person annual quota).

Passed in 1952 under Cold War pressure, the McCarran-Walter Act represented a partial, somewhat grudging liberalization. Subsequent steps in immigration law made for further changes. Many hailed these as creating a level playing field. The upshot proved somewhat different.

During the 1960s and 70s some radicals decided that white people should have few if any children. Black people should continue their high birthrate until we reached parity: half black, half white. Naturally, some black nationalists applauded this idea, but so did some guilty whites (who may have practiced the precept “copulate, don’t populate” for a variety of reasons, though). The intended result was the Designer Nation, marque one.

Eventually the black birthrate leveled off, and political changes brought in more people from other parts the world, including lots of whites from Eastern Europe. Uh-oh. Fortunately this reinforcement of white demographic dominance was offset by a new cohort of immigrants from East Asia. Now we could add yellow as a significant aspect of our national polychromy.

The ultimate designer change, however, is coming in the form of unrestricted immigration from south of the border. This will produce a significant browning effect. Great! white, black, yellow, brown. Now all we have to do is adjust the proportions, and our Designer Nation will look like the world.

What is remarkable is that these changes are going on virtually underneath the radar. There has been no national debate about the Designer Nation goal: we are just supposed to accept that the vast changes in progress are for the best.

Implementation of the Designer Nation is clearly an elite affair--not democratic at all. Who is behind it, then? That is hard to say. Clinton, the “first black president,” seems to favor a general darkening of the national epidermis. Then there are senators Kennedy and McCain, sponsors of the failed immigration bill that would have legitimized the Latino/Hispanic influx--and influx that is going ahead all the same. And there is Karl Rove, who saw the Latino/Hispanic groups as socially conservative, and therefore ripe for Republican exploitation.

It seems that there are many cooks engaged in the production of this humongous ragout. Some chefs, like Rove, get discouraged, but others appear to take their place. The only constant is that a few elite figures are guiding the changes. The opinion of the American people doesn’t count. They aren’t being asked, deliberately so.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a bit over-the-top and paranoid...

5:10 AM  

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