Fear of the Foreign: The Paradox of Xenophobia in a Nation of Nations

Mar 19th 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Kellogg Center, Big 10 Room B - 219 S. Harrison Rd

The LeFrak Forum and Symposium on Science, Reason, & Modern Democracy in association with the Reason Foundation present Alan M. Kraut, University Professor and Professor of History at American University in Washington D.C., who will deliver a lecture titled “Fear of the Foreign: The Paradox of Xenophobia in a Nation of Nations” on March 19, 2018, 7:00 pm, Kellogg Center, Big Ten B.

In a stanza of her 1883 poem, “The New Colossus,” Emma Lazarus linked the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the French people celebrating Franco-American friendship and the end of black slavery in the United States, with the immigrant experience. Lifting her lamp, Lady Liberty welcomes the old world’s “tempest tost” and “wretched refuse” to America’s shores to join those “huddled masses” that had already arrived. However, an aphorism then popular among the foreign-born suggests a more complicated relationship, “America Beckons, But Americans Repel.”

Congressional debates over the Dreamers’ fate and comprehensive immigration policy reform have engendered fresh discussion over the role of xenophobia, especially nativism, in the American past.  Throughout its history the United States has been characterized by some as a “distant magnet” while others have dubbed it a “deportation nation” committed to policies of exclusion. An historical perspective on the peopling of America by migration suggests that this country has been both and, most often, simultaneously.

Xenophobic rants of nativist authors, anti-immigrant riots, laws designed to exclude particular groups, and inspection procedures intended to reject foreign bodies that American officials deemed unfit to be self- sufficient, or to make a contribution to United States’ economic progress, open a window on Americans’ fear of the foreign. Such fears perennially co-existed with the freedom and opportunity that attracted those of other lands to America’s shores throughout its history.