Cruelty as Citizenship

How Migrant Suffering Sustains White Democracy

2020

Cristina Beltrán

Cruelty as Citizenship

Why are immigrants from Mexico and Latin America such an affectively charged population for political conservatives?

Situating the contemporary debate on immigration within America’s history of indigenous dispossession, chattel slavery, the Mexican-American War, and Jim Crow, Cristina Beltrán reveals white supremacy to be white democracy—a participatory practice of racial violence, domination, and exclusion that gave white citizens the right to both wield and exceed the law.

More than a decade before the election of Donald Trump, vitriolic and dehumanizing rhetoric against migrants was already part of the national conversation. Situating the contemporary debate on immigration within America’s history of indigenous dispossession, chattel slavery, the Mexican-American War, and Jim Crow, Cristina Beltrán reveals white supremacy to be white democracy—a participatory practice of racial violence, domination, and exclusion that gave white citizens the right to both wield and exceed the law. Still, Beltrán sees cause for hope in growing movements for migrant and racial justice.

Cruelty as Citizenship

Cristina Beltrán is associate professor in New York University’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis. She is author of The Trouble with Unity: Latino Politics and the Creation of Identity.

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