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When Fredrick Douglass spoke in defence of Chinese Immigrants

Given Trump’s recent statement of admiration for Fredrick Douglass, the Muslim ban, and the ICE raids this piece feels particularly relevant.

Some relevant quotes:

Douglass declared that the people of the United States were not racially, ethnically, or religiously homogeneous. Americans, he argued, are a “composite nation,” a people made up from many peoples. In recognition of this fact, he declared, “we should welcome to our ample continent all nations, …tongues and peoples; and as fast as they learn our language and comprehend the duties of citizenship, we should incorporate them into the American body politic. The outspread wings of the American eagle are broad enough to shelter all who are likely to come.”



“To those white Americans who feared that American culture and democracy would be overwhelmed by Chinese immigrants who would try to impose their ways upon the Americans, Douglass answered that the fear “does not seem entitled to much respect. Though they come as the waves come, we shall be stronger if we receive them as friends and give them a reason for loving our country and our institutions. They will find here a deeply rooted, indigenous, growing civilization, augmented by an ever increasing stream of immigration” from around the world.”


“There are such things in the world as human rights,” the vibrant civil rights advocate insisted, “[they] rest upon no conventional foundation, but are external, universal, and indestructible.” Among the human rights of all “is the right of locomotion; the right of migration; the right which belongs to no particular race, but belongs alike to all and to all alike.” He reminded complacent Americans that “It is the right you assert by staying here, and your fathers asserted by coming here.” The right to move, he said, is the “great right that I assert for the Chinese and Japanese, and for all other varieties of men equally with yourselves, now and forever. I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity, and when there is a supposed conflict between human and national rights, it is safe to go to the side of humanity.”



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