Race and the Digital: Racial Formation and 21st Century Technologies


Years of history have shown that Americans have had waves of hostility toward different immigrant groups across time, from Irish to German to Chinese, and that they have had accompanying exclusionary policies for each. In their article, “An Analysis of Public Opinion Toward Undocumented Immigration”, Thomas J. Espenshade and Charles A. Calhoun suggest that these concentrated, very prevalent, hostile attitudes towards the current [largest] wave of immigrants can be, perhaps explained by the rise in neo-restrictionism during the 1970s and 1980s. This includes fears associated with economic insecurity and anxiety toward “undesirable cultural traits” of immigrants as well as the concern over “illegal” immigration (Espenshade 1993). Additionally, evidence suggests that illegal immigration [to Southern California] provokes normative reactions related to strong attachments to the use of the English language (Espenshade 1993). All of this leads me to conclude that the hostile attitudes toward immigrants (in general, and aggravated by the undocumented status) is rooted from the fear of “cultural intrusion” and economic disadvantage, which is then authenticated and spread by various media outlets in their discourse of the immigrant population. The psychological study, Can Media Create Public Opinion?, reveals that media does in fact bias people’s perception through its unrepresentative view of the world, creating social norms and giving it the power to “build bridges as well as destroy them” (Anastasio, Rose, Chapman 2011). All of this highlights the importance of the public narrative and media, which the DREAMer movement's own individuals have been utilizing to shape their own narrative. Immigration has always been condemned and welcomed according to the nations needs. In relation to Latinos, the Bracero Program of the 1940s exhibited an example of American recruitment on Mexican soil (Mexican laborers sustained the agricultural sector during World War II). Currently, however, we have presidential candidate, Donald Trump, making defamatory claims and threatening to deport all undocumented migrants if elected. However, DREAMers combat this, by telling their stories. They tell of their "American-ness", of their dreams to become college-educated and contribute to the nation that has seen them grow. 

Furthermore, Constanza-Chock also writes:

Public narrative is a key mechanism for the production of collective identity and for social movement formation. The messages and frames employed in that narrative have important implications for the kind of movement that emerges. In a certain sense, whoever controls the story controls — or at least shapes — the movement. Indeed, over the past decade, DREAM activists have struggled mightily over the public narrative that swirls around them... Today, in 2014, storytelling strategy continues to be an important component of immigrant rights organizing.

As explained in the previous section, the narrative that surrounds the DREAMers evoke images of students in graduation cap and gowns, of young children with dreams who strive to be productive white-collar workers of the U.S. Although there are many ways that the use of new media engagement has invigorated the movement, one of the most potent has been the "storytelling" strategy which humanizes the movement and through the dispersal of the individual stories creates an aura of sympathy/empathy and empowerment (examples to be provided in the digital supplement section).  

The effectiveness of this strategy can be seen in a simple google search which produces:

On the other hand, if you search undocumented immigrants, the online presence is notably less potent. Below are the first and second pages of the google search which do not have the same types of strong images. This can be seen a a demonstration of the digital divide that the adults of the immigrant rights movement face in comparison to their younger dreamer counterparts. This refers to questions of access and knowledge by certain communities (Gilbert 2010). Indeed, adult migrants face many barriers to the access of digital technologies (like the internet), like lack of resources and capital (including time, money, spaces of education, etc.)

As internet access spreads and becomes a vital part of the everyday lives of many people in the U.S., the content they consume is important as it feeds their thoughts and influences their opinions. 

This page has paths:

This page references: