Natalia MolinaHow Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts

University of California Press, 2014

by David-James Gonzales on September 2, 2015

Natalia Molina

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"America is a nation of immigrants." Either this common refrain, or its cousin the "melting pot" metaphor is repeated daily in conversations at various levels of U.S. society. Be it in the private or public realm, these notions promote a compelling image of national inclusivity that appears not to be limited to particular notions of race, religious affiliation, gender, or national origin. Indeed, generations of American writers–like J. Hector St. John Crevecoeur, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Israel Zangwill, Emma Lazarus, and Oscar Handlin–have embedded America's immigrant past into the collective psyche of its people and the epic telling of its history. Yet, as scholars of U.S. immigration history have asserted over the past few decades, the "nation of immigrants" narrative is blinded by both its singular focus on trans-Atlantic European migration and the presumption of immigrant assimilation and incorporation to Anglo American institutions and cultural norms. In her fascinating new study How Race is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts (University of California Press, 2014) Professor of History and Urban Studies at UC San Diego Natalia Molina advances the study of U.S. immigration history and race relations by connecting the themes of race and citizenship in the construction of American racial categories. Using archival records held by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the U.S. Congress, local governments, and immigrant rights groups, Dr. Molina examines the period of Mexican immigration to the U.S. from 1924-1965. Employing a relational lens to her study, Professor Molina advances the theory of racial scripts to describe how ideas about Mexicans and Mexican immigration have been fashioned out of preexisting racial projects that sought to exclude African Americans and Asian immigrants from acquiring the full benefits of American citizenship.

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