Immigration and skin color

The World

This Brazilian immigrant in Boston could easily be mistaken for Italian or European, but he’s not considered white and he discovered last year during a leadership retreat for non-profit organizers. He became incensed at the thought that the descendants of European immigrants may be those who pass legislation against new arrivals like himself. This woman came to the US with her parents after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. She says she’s used whiteness to her advantage. She says she could see with her son who was thriving to become a white American because it’s easier. And although the 2000 census describes Iranians as white, 9/11 seemed to change how people saw her. That was the case for this man as well, who lived peacefully in Boston until 9/11 when his house was defaced. At this mosque in Malaysia, this man explains why he no longer wants to travel to the US: the color of his skin. A newspaper in his town last year published a report claiming that the US was doing secret profiling of immigrants based on their nationality. Malaysia, a Muslim country, was reportedly on that list. This woman, a non-Muslim Malaysian immigrant, is not surprised. She lives in Singapore and wants to move to the US, but lately has been less excited. The incident she says reflects American ignorance and insensitivity to race. But American immigration is far more complicated: Chinese are the second largest immigrant group, but more and more Muslims are emigrating to the US. back in Boston, the Brazilian man says the advantage to whiteness is not getting into the country, but how you’re accepted in the US once you are here. A Vanderbilt University study last year found that lighter skinned immigrants make more money than darker skinned ones, suggesting the factors that make whiteness so desirable are still relevant.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.