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What Pitbull Gets Wrong When He Says ‘Immigrants Built the United States of America’

Pitbull accepts the Latin AMA Dick Clark Achievement Award on the Latin American Music Awards on the Dolby Theatre on Oct. 26, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Photographs)

It’s one factor to underscore the huge contributions immigrants have made to america of America. It’s one other to fully erase the egregious historical past of slavery whereas benefiting from it. Rapper Pitbull demonstrated such a pretend pas final week on the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

It was there that Telemundo held its 2017 Latin American Music Awards, the place “Mr. 305” himself was honored with the celebrated Dick Clark Achievement Award.

Because the viewers cheered, Pitbull quieted them till their voices simmered right into a smooth hush. After taking a theatrical pause, he belted out a speech about residing life to the fullest, and he went on to pay tribute to these devastated by the hurricanes in Florida, Houston and Puerto Rico and even “these souls in Las Vegas.”

After which, as he was wrapping up his speech, he mentioned: “I would like you to recollect one factor earlier than I go away right here, as a result of I would like this to go all around the world. Guys, don’t ever overlook that immigrants constructed america of America!”

For these of us who’re black and indigenous, that declaration snatched our narrative, our wigs and our edges—multi function foul swoop. At that second, everybody current ought to have risen up, gathered all their belongings, made a clear exit and left him to have all the seats within the constructing.

Whereas I perceive what he meant to convey, what he mentioned fully erased the struggles and contributions of enslaved and indigenous individuals. Immigrants have contributed immeasurable variety, magnificence and tradition to our nation, however that doesn’t imply they constructed it.

Listening to white individuals and immigrants at instances take credit score for the accomplishments of black individuals turns into overwhelmingly triggering. Whether or not it’s by means of cultural appropriation or the exploitation of our labor throughout “America” season 1, this nation wouldn’t be as rich as it’s with out the abuse and misuse of black our bodies. It’s as if black individuals gave America a multitrillion-dollar mortgage with no curiosity, and practically 400 years later, it hasn’t repaid us a single purple cent. We’re not even paid the respect we deserve. If something, America acts as if black and indigenous persons are indebted.

Xenophobia is violent and lethal and poses a menace to progress, and the oppression confronted by immigrants is actual. Nonetheless, simply because immigrants expertise discrimination much like black individuals’s doesn’t imply they’re entitled to take credit score for constructing America whereas dismissing the burden pressured on enslaved and indigenous individuals.

Immigrants come to america with hopes, desires and aspirations of partaking within the freedom, liberties and high quality of life that America has to supply. They need their fill of the overflowing abundance that america possesses, in distinction with different nations.

We should always remember that the prosperity immigrants are drawn to was achieved by the free labor of black slaves who had been whipped uncooked as they toiled within the fields with the shattered bones of indigenous individuals crunching beneath the balls of their toes.

Enable me to make this irrevocably clear: If black individuals hadn’t been right here to do the work that white individuals wouldn’t, there wouldn’t be an “American dream” to pursue. Pitbull has made sufficient cash with and off of black individuals to grasp why such a misattribution disrespects our ancestry. Doing so is the epitome of anti-blackness as a result of it strips us of our narrative and contributes to our displacement.

Simply because somebody is an individual of coloration doesn’t imply she or he can’t have interaction in anti-blackness. An individual additionally doesn’t essentially must be racist as a way to be an agent of anti-blackness. Their intentionality doesn’t negate the truth of an offense; nor does it mitigate the hurt. Anti-blackness is deeply embedded in our beliefs, perceptions, attitudes and interpretations of what it means to be an American.

Our Structure wasn’t written for black and indigenous individuals. We had been deemed slaves, savages and property. America remains to be a younger nation, and we’ve our work reduce out for us in eradicating its oppressive founding tradition. As we speak, being an American is about boundless potential, bravery, coronary heart and braveness. We don’t anticipate alternatives to current themselves; we take initiative and create them ourselves. I consider that immigrants have demonstrated these values greater than most individuals born within the U.S.

For that motive, I’ve and can all the time stand with them in solidarity. I’ve taken to the streets and marched with them in addition to with undocumented individuals to defend Deferred Motion for Childhood Arrivals, whereas additionally difficult the horrific Muslim ban that Donald Trump’s administration has been aggressively pursuing. Immigrants are hardworking, passionate and such an integral hyperlink inside America’s infrastructure.

That mentioned, black individuals want immigrants to face with them in solidarity and keep away from perpetrating anti-blackness whereas adopting white supremacy as a way of assimilation into American tradition. Immigrants are highly effective sufficient with out having to problem, diminish or applicable the experiences of black and indigenous individuals. Because of this the powers that be are relying on us to be divided. Divide and conquer has all the time been the secret.

Why are we licking our plates clear at an “all you possibly can eat” buffet? America’s prosperity would disappear—hell, wouldn’t even exist—with out black, brown and indigenous individuals. That was the message Pitbull didn’t succinctly articulate. Our united efforts and contributions make us an indestructible power.

It’s crucial that we unify and that we study to respect our variations. The members of my household battle, argue and drag each other till pores and skin breaks and wigs are askew; however on the finish of the day, we’re nonetheless household. Our love and respect for each other supersedes any battle or disagreement. As communities of coloration, we’d like to have the ability to ask each other for accountability with out enlisting within the oppression Olympics. The immigrant expertise has its challenges, but they’re vastly totally different from these dealing with descendants of slaves.

Pitbull’s proclamation that immigrants constructed America means that black individuals had been hauled to America like livestock; raped, crushed, tortured and enslaved, of our personal volition. Black individuals aren’t immigrants, and we fairly actually constructed America—even the White Home from which Trump devises his plots.

Pitbull was flawed for tailoring historical past as he would his flashy fits. His assertion insensitively pandered to his viewers whereas erasing the struggles of black individuals. Immigrants have made innumerable contributions to American tradition. Pitbull might have referenced these with out stealing historic truths from black individuals.

The Root goals to foster and advance conversations about points related to the black Diaspora by presenting quite a lot of opinions from all views, whether or not or not these opinions are shared by our editorial employees.


Ashlee Marie Preston is a 2017 honoree of The Root 100.

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