Not a Nation of Immigrants
Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion
Debunks the pervasive and self-congratulatory myth that our country is proudly founded by and for immigrants, and urges readers to embrace a more complex and honest history of the United States
Whether in political debates or discussions about immigration around the kitchen table, many Americans, regardless of party affiliation, will say proudly that we are a nation of immigrants. In this bold new book, historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz asserts this ideology is harmful and dishonest because it serves to mask and diminish the US's history of genocide, white supremacy, slavery, and structural inequality, all of which we still grapple with today.
The author explains that the idea that we are living in a land of opportunity—founded and built by immigrants—was a convenient response by the ruling class and its brain trust to the 1960s demands for decolonialization, justice, reparations, and social equality. Moreover, Dunbar-Ortiz charges that this feel good but inaccurate story promotes a benign narrative of progress, obscuring that the country was founded in violence as a settler state, and imperialist since its inception.
While some of us are immigrants or descendants of immigrants, others are descendants of those who were here since time immemorial and others are descendants of those who were kidnapped and forced here against their will. This paradigm shifting new book from the highly acclaimed author of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States charges that we need to stop believing and perpetuating this simplistic and a historical idea and embrace the real (and often horrific) history of the United States.
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A combination of scholarly research, cultural criticism, and political commentary, this book reads like An Indigenous Peoples' History in reverse. Chapters are devoted to the successive waves of migrants and arrivants who complicate the narrative of a liberal multiculturalism that emerged in response to the Civil Rights Movement. Dunbar-Ortiz offers sharp criticism of those on the Left who have promoted a "friendly" nationalism that wallpapers over the genocidal settler colonialism at the core of Americanism. The extensive treatment of "self-indigenization," including settler claims to indigeneity and the appropriation of anti-colonial discourse in Appalachia, was particularly interesting!
- 380 pages
- Beacon Press (8/24/21)