First event for Women of Color Week addresses immigration

First event for Women of Color Week addresses immigration

The University of Wisconsin Madison held their first event for Women of Color week Monday.

A panel discussion called “Immigration, Assimilation and Integration” invited students and community members to think about immigration issues, like President Donald Trump’s travel ban, in a historical context.

UW-Madison History and Asian American Studies professor Cindy I-Fen Cheng described the historical significance of the dichotomous classification of immigrants as “good” and “bad,” rhetoric that the Trump administration has used repeatedly.

“Maybe the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ separation is a way to justify racist sentiments,” Cheng said.

Cheng explained the historical context of this oversimplified classification system, dating back to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act – the first law preventing a targeted ethnic group from entering the United States.

She said the dichotomy has continued through World War II, when America wanted to be allies with China, but hated Japan. Today, the Trump administration has employed these titles as motivation and justification for immigration restrictions.

Cheng says she refuses to be the “good” immigrant, because subscribing to this title perpetuates stereotypes. “It is the system of who dictates what is good and bad that we need to undercut,” Cheng said.

UW-Madison professor and chair of Comparative Literature and Folklore studies Mary N. Layoun discussed the problems with assimilation – that it is not an option for some people and that it does not reduce racist sentiments. She instead advocated for adaptation and said that women of color need to unite to help each other to navigate the landscape of the United States.

The event is the first of a series of events through the Wisconsin Union Directorate Global Connections Committee. Upcoming events to celebrate Women of Color Week include a discussion on media, intersectionality and social justice, as well as a visit from activist Ilyasah Shabazz, the third daughter of Malcolm X.