The Complexities of Being Friends With Conservative Non-White Immigrants

Without community there is no liberation. ~ Audre Lorde

The Complexities of Being Friends With Conservative Non-White Immigrants
Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash
Without community there is no liberation. ~ Audre Lorde

disagreements, racism, terrible character flaws or bad behavior are the only things that would keep me from having a relationship with a person. I realize our upbringing and life experiences dictate what we believe in. It’s not a problem. I seek to learn why people believe what they believe.

Everyone who knows me know I love politics. And while I don’t share my views outside of a few intimate settings in-person, occasionally, I find myself in conversations with complete strangers about politics. It’s always enlightening, but sometimes scary (because I don’t know what people will say), but most times it’s fun. I feel like I walk away from most conversations having learned something I did not know.

I love that.

But occasionally, I’m left perplexed, confused, and even hurt by my chit-chats with random strangers. It’s not because they believe that they believe in. It’s because they hate what they don’t know and they have no desire to learn better. I find I have these feelings the most discussing politics with certain non-white immigrants who identify as a conservative, especially in South Florida. Because I’m Southern and I’ve been basically raised in a Black and White world (literally) with not much varying in between, I have missed out on a lot of the diversity, cultures, histories, and political thought-processes of immigrant groups. I find engaging these communities enriching. Their racism towards Afro (African, Black, Haitian) populations, not so much.

Like America’s Black population (s), I’m learning many immigrant populations are also not a voting monolith. Most don’t consider themselves Democrats or Independents. They identify as staunch, sold-out conservatives. Being conservative is not a bad thing.

It’s hitching yourself to the racism, supporting the GOP’s Southern Strategy politics without understanding its history, and aligning themselves with every hateful view spewed from conservatism is a bad thing — at least for me any.

How can people of color hate people of color — even their own non-white people? And how can you be associated with a political body who has so little regard for people who aren’t rich and who aren’t White?

Understanding the reasoning for the varied political ideologies has been refreshing and disheartening at the same time for me.

Ignoring History vs Ignorance of History

Immigrants not knowing about this nation’s history is one thing. Immigrants not caring about this nation’s history is another.

Learning that many of America’s non-White immigrants harbor racist tendencies echoing those of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) has been nerve-racking. These individuals seem to have no issue disregarding American history to be on the side of Whiteness — for they have learned that Whiteness holds the keys to everything.

Some conservative, non-White immigrant populations understand America’s racism and classism because they’ve engaged in such behavior in their native countries. Coming here to America to join in the blood-fest seems to not be an issue. Accruing money and power are the only priority to them — by any means necessary. Nothing else seems to matter except not being at the bottom of the food chain.

Learning about how they align themselves with racism and conservatism has caused me to question and re-evaluate every relationship I have with non-White immigrants. It’s not that I can’t be friends with someone who is conservative and believes there is only one America, because I absolutely can.

I’m re-evaluating these relationships because I need to understand which non-White immigrants I cannot rely on in my pursuit for equality and equity for all of humanity, not just Black people. It’s like Spanish-speaking immigrant populations (for instance, Cubans) hating and being racist towards other speaking immigrant populations (for certain Mexicans). It’s done all in the name and likeness of Whiteness when we get to the root of this tree. Many immigrants have a history of taking part in racism. They import it in the same manner they import coffee, flowers, fruit, or Cuban cigars.

I cannot fight a battle for equality and equity with someone that looks like me but who is blind to facts, ignorant to systems, ignorant about our history, and sold out to being his Master’s tool. I’m learning everyone who looks like you ain’t for you. Everyone who looks like me isn’t for liberation.

Everyone deserves to live free from unnecessary persecution, oppression, and restrictions. Sadly, not everyone believes this, including many immigrants.

The Complexities of Conservative Immigrant Voting Blocks

Cuban guy smoking a cigar in Miami. Photo by Christopher Alvarenga on Unsplash

I have had several conversations over the years with good close acquaintances who are conservative minorities. Some are immigrants from places like Cuba where racism (aka colorism) and socialism impact their political decisions here in America. I have had the blessing of having political discussions with a few older Asian restaurant owners and they trust me enough to tell me how they vote. I’m always shocked, and many times insulted.

They vote Republican all the time no matter what because they have experienced communism. It’s about freedom and opportunity, nothing more.

A first generation Cuban immigrant I dated told me an interesting story that helped me to understand his conservative Republican political ideology. He came here after Castro took over Cuba and stole his family’s business. He noted his grandmother was Afro-Cuban (my complexion with my same hair texture) and told me wonderful stories of how she made him who he was today. He also noted how his grandmother was discriminated against because she was darker skinned and did not have straight hair.

Cuba has a racism and classism problem just like we do here in the United States.

So Cubans migrating here just kept their same attitude about colorism (racism) and carried on remaking the area. Now many of South Florida’s leadership positions are held by first-generation Cubans or second generation conservative leaning immigrants.

After immigrating to America and having to start over in Miami, he took on the values and ideologies of state and local politicians (the people who possessed the most power here). If you know anything about Florida’s history, it’s been bleeding red like the rest of the South since General Lee came through.

Minus the native woman, the state flag screams rebel, right?

After fleeing Cuba and seeking asylum here, it was an easy decision for my friend to grow up and become conservative. He had tasted the opposite of capitalism (socialism in his case) and he understood what having the government-run everything meant. He chose conservatism. He also remembered the stories his family told about Castro taking businesses, homes, money, from hard-working people in favor of socialism.

My friend also believes in free markets and the American dream — something you no longer had access to if you lived in Cuba. Cuba has a planned economy dominated by state-run enterprises. The government owns and operates most industries and the state employs most of the labor force. This helped me to understand his views and helped us remain friends til this day (lol). His views had nothing to do with race, and racism in America. He was naïve to the racism here in the South and America. Even after learning about it, he didn’t give a shit (my words not his). Anything not associated with a state-run government took precedence.

His entire ideology was I guess if I had to name it — I would say it was about survival. He feared taking anything from the government because he had seen what happens when you do. Therefore, the GOP’s trickle-down, pull yourself up by your boot strapping philosophy, opportunities for everyone mantra sounded good to him and millions of Cubans here in South FL. It’s also easy for most Cubans to fit under the conservative GOP tent because many of them are indeed racist. He said it without saying it.

So learning an immigrant friend can vote against his interests and mines was quite a enlightening and disappointing, but I respected the fact and I love him, anyway. I appreciated being able to talk civilly about his political ideology with some context for his rationale. He was a good reliable person, a nice friend, and a great confidante. Those characteristics are important to me.

Other Immigrant Groups Have Complex Political Persuasions Too

Photo by Matt Wildbore on Unsplash

The same types of mindsets at attitudes apply to some Asian immigrants I meet (Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese), like my no-named friend at my favorite Sushi-Thai spot, who is politically astute. Many of these people have immigrated to the U.S. from countries where the government runs everything. Free markets appeal to them, so does the American dream. They can work and not only care for their loved ones here, but they can also send money home to care for loved ones abroad. Anything that infringes on rights to make money and live freely they vehemently oppose… hence their love of the GOP ideologies.

Again, this is an example of another immigrant ethnic group that has no issue with classism and racism because these systems of oppression are practiced in their former countries and in almost every nation on earth. Many Asian Americans (like the Chinese) also realize they are a preferred ethnic group (most are considered and treated White), so they benefit by excluding certain groups (Blacks) and engaging in classism.

Many Asians were wealthy or upper middle class before moving here, so they get in where they fit in (money, power, caste systems) and keep plugging along. They have no skin in the game (literally) for equality, human rights, and civil rights here in America. Other immigrant groups moving here learn quickly from those already here, which keeps the cycles of class, race and division alive. Brown folks helping to keep Brown folks down.

The heavy lifting has been done by African Americans and Native Americans to make their transition much sweeter, making their loads lighter, and ensuring they have an operating manual for their fights for equality. Instead of gratitude, we get more racism. These types of immigrants don’t care about who else suffers along they way, as long as they don’t.

Whatever it takes to not be at the bottom in America with us Blacks many conservative immigrant groups will do, including joining Whiteness and White Supremacy to become yet another racist tool for their Master.

What they don’t remember (or they don’t care to remember) is that every ethnic group who has ever immigrated or sought asylum in America has gone through the same thing. The lighter complexion groups, fair-skinned ethnic groups and nationalities had it better than the darker complexion, less affluent groups immigrating to the U.S. This falls in line with the pockets of White nationalism within in the conservative portion of the GOP. This explains why conservative immigrants have no issues with bashing poor people and Black people. They really have conservative values.

Again, it’s very hard to swallow, but such is life. They forget our tax dollars paid for the welcome mats they come across at the airports and ports they traipsed across to get inside of the country. Gotta love people, right?

In Closing

Navigating these relationships has been difficult for me, especially when I know the history of our political parties, have been a victim of most of America’s systems and institutions, and I belong to the most hated, undesirable class of people in the country.

While I respect my friends and acquaintances who have different political persuasions, I must admit thoughts cross my mind about whether the conservative immigrant populations are doing us more harm to us than they are good. To support conservatism and Southern Strategy politics is to disavow equality, equity, and democracy — the very things they came to the country to pursue.

How can immigrants hear all the derogatory talk about different immigrant populations and be okay with it? How can they not have empathy for other immigrants? What does it say about them they care more about class and race than they do equity, equal opportunities and equality?

I don’t really know the answer. I will have to wait until someone shows me who they are I suppose. (I’m happy for feedback below too).

At the end of the day, I don’t want to waste my time fighting for people who isn’t riding and fighting for me. I like to know my evils so I can maneuver accordingly. And knowing whether someone is conservative because they came from a Communist or Socialist country or knowing whether a person is a conservative because they are racist and have a need for societal classes/division/racism is good for my emotional well-being.

We may view many immigrant populations as People of Color, label them as People of Color and lump them in with People of Color, but that doesn’t mean they all want the label. Some prefer their default ethnicity, White. They’ve learned about White Supremacy and enjoy reaping the benefits from it.

It’s hard to be friends with someone who aligns themselves with ideologies that believe I have should have grievances with America or that the country is better off if I don’t exist.

I realize we’re all born wired differently. We’re shaped by our environments, parenting, education attainment, and genetics. I also realize some of us care about humanity’s suffering more than others. Some of us are born with zero fucks to give about anything or anyone except ourselves. But some of us have been blessed with the ability to straddle the fence, and those of us fighting for equality and equity should use this tool to our advantage.

It’s important for us to take the time to discover why we believe what we believe, why we vote the way we vote, and why we hate the way we hate.

All immigrants are not our friends or supportive of the world’s struggle. We should remember this when crafting language to speak on behalf of disenfranchised immigrant populations. Some immigrants don’t see a struggle, so they don’t want to fight. They see us as a stepping stone to them achieving a goal.

Understanding the background of conservatives (and having empathy) can make navigating relationships with them much easier. Some immigrants you just can’t respect because they are racist, but for those who are not, they simply experienced a different type of governance and prefer ours, I understand better understand how they could align themselves with some of nation’s most racist ideologies and political parties.

By Marley K, April 2019

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