Do not let any people who currently pass as white tell you that “Blacks and them were fighting for the same jobs at the bottom”. This is a lie.
As much as those people were hated, Black people were hated worse. People who had lived here for generations where actually kicked from the jobs they held when immigrants began to come here in spades, kicked to give the immigrants jobs.
Those people, the Italians, the Irish people, the Polish people, and many others, they were at ODDS with Black people because they did to Black people what these very same people claim Mexicans are doing to them today; they were taking jobs from Black people.
Only in this case, that is actually what was happening, not some perceived delusion. Now that there was more labor available and Black people did not NEED to be hired to fill out work forces, Black people were losing jobs at an alarming rate to incoming immigrants.
This led Black people to form their own communities, places like Seneca Village and Black Wall Street, where they could run their own businesses, own their own property.
Seneca Village, a large community in what’s now known as Central Park made up exclusively of ex-slaves and their descendants, was eliminated based on a law we still carry around today, a law that says that people can be moved from an area at extreme cost to them if it’s “for the better of the community”. That entire place was uprooted and destroyed, even though there were cemetaries full of Black people there, because Central Park was more “deserving” of the space and “better” for the community.
Black Wall Street? Was burned to the ground in a wild blaze.
Do not speak of “fighting with Black people for jobs at the bottom”. It wasn’t a fight. It was a massacre and these immigrants won it by far. Meanwhile, Black people still can’t get a loan from the bank to start their business and rebuild even ONE of the communities destroyed for the purpose of “white betterment”.
This also happened on the West Coast during the Great Depression. The waves of immigrants imported from Mexico, Japan, The Philippines, and China, not to mention African American migrant workers, were exploited for generations, subjected to unbelievable violence, and then abandoned, had their homes burned down, and/or were deported. This is detailed in Their Blood is Strong (John Steinbeck). During the depression, a huge number of displaced white farmers from the Midwest flooded California looking for jobs as agricultural migrant workers.
And the “horror” of the entire document basically is this: “oh, no! we’re treating WHITE people this way! That’s just inhuman and we need to help the poor “Okies”!
And they did. And the descendent of those Okies carry on their illustrious traditions in the “Heart” of California to this very day:
According to Ed Woodruff, a black cab driver, Oildale also is a town of occasional Ku Klux Klan rallies and at least one cross-burning on the bridge from Bakersfield. To Woodruff, the message to blacks was clear: Stay out. In the last year, three Oildale residents were convicted of hate crimes against blacks.
And on the West Coast, too, this is how those “poor, oppressed Okies” became White.
There was no “Fight” for jobs.This is what happened:
Farm labor in California will be white labor, it will be American labor, and it will insist on a standard of living much higher than that which was accorded the foreign “cheap labor”.
Some of the more enlightened of the large growers argue for white labor on the around “that it will not go on relief as quickly as the Mexican labor has.”
These enthusiasts do not realize that the some pride and self-respect that deters white migrant labor from accepting charity and relief, if there is an alternative, will also cause the white American labor to refuse to accept the role of field peon, with its attendant terrorism, squalor and starvation.
Foreign labor is on the wane in California, and the future farm workers will be white and American. This fact must be recognized and a rearrangement of the attitude towards and treatment of migrant labor must be achieved.
-John Steinbeck, Their Blood is Strong, 1938.
It is important to note that most of the POC “foreign” workers in California has actually been there for a generation or more, but were deported or just outright murdered anyways because their immigration papers were ignored or destroyed by white supremacist police forces, armed posses, and Okie vigilantes. The Okies struggled for less than a decade before labor reform for Whites happened, and then as soon as the “Okies” moved into the middle class as a result of relief, reform, and education, were once again replaced with “foreign” migrant workers being denied basic human rights-workers, including children, who are STILL enduring the same conditions right now.
My point is, this is ubiquitous from coast to coast of the United States. The systematic disenfranchisement of people of color and the degree to which anti-blackness and antiblack racism is at the very heart of creating whiteness is irrefutable.
The article regarding HOW the Okies “assimilated” into California white society via specifically antiblack racism illuminates and follows the same pattern as every sector of temporarily oppressed white immigrant and/or migrants.
Neil Foley’s book “The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture,” illustrates the same cycle in Texas. Black & Latin@ laborers cycled in and out of favor, while white laborers rose above them in social capital even if they were also tenant farmers.