Georgetown Prof: Before They Get Here, Immigrants Have Already Internalized America’s Racist ‘Poison’

By Alissa Tabirian | July 30, 2013 | 10:28 AM EDT

( – A Georgetown University professor says that when non-white immigrants come to the U.S., they already have negative “notions of blackness” due to the racist “poison that’s been spewed from America” and the “seductive character of whiteness.”

“When certain immigrants come here they have notions of blackness, regardless of where they’re from, so that they’re very negative, because they’ve imbibed and internalized unconsciously the poison that’s been spewed from America,” Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University, said on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry show Sunday.

“And then, you know, there’s a huge difference between being a white Cuban from say, Miami, and a black Dominican from New York. So we know that internecine squabbles among Latino communities, all of which experience hierarchies of color as well. If Elian Gonzalez had been from Santiago de Cuba [the second largest city in Cuba] as opposed to Havana, he would have been sent back with a Snickers bar saying, ‘have a good time.’”

“But the contestation over whiteness operates within the context of, I think, Latino identity as well, and what you’re pointing to is the seductive character of whiteness that increases its capital by saying ‘join with us’ as opposed to joining with the black dimensions of Puerto Rico that we saw in that [Zimmerman] jury.”

The panel also discussed the state of race in light of Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) comments about the number of drug mules crossing the border.

"We need a new way to reimagine what immigration could be,” said Jonathan Rosa, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “What would it look like to have a citizenship of the Americas . . . what if we had new categories, new discourses, new ways of thinking about rights?”