William C. Anderson: Black migration beyond states and borders

The contradictions of Black citizenship are intricately linked to movement and migration, despite common perceptions that exclude Black people from migrant struggles today.

Roar Magazine, October 7, 2021

Migration is a central part of The Nation on No MapSpending time organizing in the immigrant rights movement shaped my thinking around citizenship, Blackness and movement. For years, I observed the fact that Black people were doubly erased within the spaces I frequented. I cannot stress enough that there are two key insights that I hope people will take away from this text. One is that Black people are not regarded as true citizens of the United States, the other is that we are also not recognized as non-citizens (undocumented) in immigrant rights spaces. We experience a unique statelessness that is not restricted to Black people within the confines of US borders.

For those like me, who were born in the US and are descended from enslaved Africans, I think it is of the utmost importance that we connect ourselves to global migration struggles. Although we hear about the multiple Great Migrations forced on Black America, this history is treated as disconnected from the current migrations of the larger African diaspora. Recent events at the southern US border and beyond show why it is necessary to challenge this.

At a time when Black nativist elements and liberal Black patriotism projects are gaining significant ground, we have seen record deportations and detainment inflicted by the state. The first Black president broke previous records for deportations which happen to disproportionately target Black migrants, immigrants and refugees. So it is not exactly surprising to see images of Haitians being whipped and brutalized by Border Patrol. Deadly violence and racism is their standard. However, those disturbing images, which for many invoked references to slavery and overseers, should help us understand the intricacies of migration throughout the African diaspora. Black people in the Americas have been forced to relocate through slave trading, domestic migrations and now through gentrification and displacement.

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