Professor Ron Hayduk (pictured right, of Queens College, City University of New York) prepared a paper for the Boston Seminar in Immigration and Urban History and shared it with us lucky folks in attendance at the Massachusetts Historical Society back in November of 2012.
And if that wasn't treat enough, we got to hear comments from Professor Alexander Keyssar (pictured left, of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government) himself.
I got an opportunity to chat with Professor Keyssar after the presentation. After filling up my plate with the vegetarian options and steeling myself to ask this very cool man a question, I asked him what he would do if he was the supreme ruler of the United States.
He told me that he'd reinstate the draft, irrespective of gender. He went on to tell me a bit about his family's migration story to the United States.
I love picking people's brains like this. It says so much about their ideology and ways of being in the world. As I'm sure you know from other blog posts, I'm a descendant of full human beings that happened to have been sharecroppers and slaves - my experience and ways of understanding my citizenship in the United States is shaped by my cultural inheritance. I grew up with a language for ownership and accomplishment as linchpins for freedom and personhood.
In a land where full humanity needs to be proven, accomplishment is the only way to fully participate without question. In a country and culture where worth is narrowly defined by what one possesses, ownership is queen regnant. My family owns land in Mississippi, Illinois and Michigan to this day. I started picking that apart a couple months ago.
I was at a panel discussion for the book American History Now at Harvard's DuBois center when I heard Professor Ned Blackhawk (Yale) speak. I soon began to renegotiate the veracity and legitimacy of a personhood / citizenship couched in ownership of stolen land.
All in all, the current ideas about (documented and undocumented) immigrant status say much about who we are as a nation, how we handle our history, and our chances of survival.
Who were we? Can we continue to afford to operate with disdain for others the way we have? How does our collective US identity buckle when faced with the realities of immigration? Are xenophobia and a crippled economy interest we can afford to pay on a principal centuries in the making?
Is there more at stake? My very convoluted question is posed at 38:28. I was hopped up on painkillers.