Carol Swain’s Presentation on Immigration at Kent State

Dr. Carol Swain, professor of Political Science and Law at Vanderbilt University, gave a talk this afternoon at the Kent State University library on, “Immigration, Identity Politics, and the Decline of America: A Challenge for President Obama.”  I was interested in hearing Dr. Swain speak, because I thought her ideas, which are in large part diametrically opposed to my own, might instigate some new ideas of my own regarding immigrants and their Othered status in the United States.

At the beginning of her talk, she described herself as “an accidental college professor.”  Consider some of Dr. Swain’s bits of personal information:  one of 12 children, didn’t graduate from high school (completed her GED), married by age 16, had 2 children while she was in community college, an African immigrant from Sierra Leone encouraged her to go to community college, she chose to pursue criminal justice because it had the most lax math requirement, she was told by her professors that she had a moral duty to teach in the university due to a “critical shortage of role models,” and she said that she “had come so far from where I started, I didn’t consider failure a possibility.”

She began her presentation by saying that “she doesn’t want to start trouble.”  However, she adds, “but if someone doesn’t say something, then I feel I have to.”  The trouble that she doesn’t want to start has to do with what she terms “the immigration problem.”  In her largely impromptu and very lucid presentation, she aligned a more open borders approach to immigration to an “elite” position (elite in her sense has to do with business and I think the academic left as well), and a “rank and file” position (the average American voter divorced from race).  She went on to argue that the average American citizen, especially low wage earners without a high school diploma, are hurt by legal and illegal immigration wage depression.  Furthermore, she argues that voting initiatives, such as the English-only amendment in Nashville, reveal that people are threatened by immigration and want to take action.  However, the real problem for Dr. Swain lies in the federal government’s lack of enforcement of existing laws, and the creation of new law to deal with immigrants.  

As if that weren’t provocative enough, she rounded out her presentation with a brief critique of identity politics and the decline of America.  As Dr. Swain sees it, there is growing tension between white identity, and racial and ethnic diversity.  She noted that the founding fathers lost the battle for an Anglo-America, and now there is a growing fear among whites about the expanding minority demographics.

For Dr. Swain, the solution is assimilation, which she considers a good word.  She believes that we (US citizens) should see ourselves as Americans and nothing else. Instead of separate identity groups vying for a small piece of the pie (power?), we should give up some of that identity and have a single, unified American identity.  Denouncing cultural relativism, she invoked a few anecdotal examples of immigrants breaking US laws (violently).  Sure, these things may happen among a few, but to classify all immigrants as law breaking cultural snobs is a logical fallacy.  Furthermore, her saying “they have to come up to our level” implies a cultural superiority over other peoples, which is not something that I can do except in the most extreme circumstances of crimes against the person (e.g., female circumcision).  Even in those cases, I do not consider it an American standard, but a rational argument against the harming of the minds and bodies of others.  

Her conservative provocativeness reminds me of the right wing academic Monty Kipps from Zadie Smith’s On Beauty.  However, I don’t think Kipps would have ended his presentation in the same way as Dr. Swain when she said, “And as Forrest Gump would say, ‘That’s all I have to say about that.'”

An afterthought:  As Professor Babacar M’Baye and I were talking about after class, we must talk about race without fear.  It is only through talking about race and the other things that we can move forward.  To be fair to Dr. Swain, I do heartily agree with her about the necessity and importance of talking about immigration, race, and identity in the open.  Also, it is vital that a variety of opinions be invited to share in the conversation.  Ignoring these issues and what these things mean to people will not some how make them go away.

Published by Jason W. Ellis

I am an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.

5 thoughts on “Carol Swain’s Presentation on Immigration at Kent State

  1. Having heard Dr. Swain speak in the past, and having read many of her editorials and articles on immigration, race and other issues, I feel rather insulted by your attempt to misrepresent her speech on the subject. Is it that you’re so insecure in your own views, that you feel the need to treat this highly articulate, intelligent and educated woman with disrespect to avoid having to deal with the very real issues she presented?

    Or is it that Dr. Swain knows of which she speaks, and brings a more nuanced perspective based on the plain, unvarnished truth, rather than the flakey perspective of those who have absolutely no comprehension of the realities on the ground, and prefer to preach from their ignorant and indifferent perches, the moral relativism of Marxist idelogy? Did Dr. Swain make you uncomfortable, Jason?

    Perhaps you are rather like the character.. what was his name, Belsie? From Smith’s, “On Beauty”, the vacuous, chip on the shoulder, mentally constipated, Belsie, who leapt from one dogma to another, because they are, in reality, labels he needs to define himself with, because he is incapable of real substance, of commitment to anything other than self validation. You’re jealous of Dr. Swain, aren’t you… her confidence, her depth of understanding and real human compassion for poor American citizens, her passion for the freedoms and liberties granted to citizens by the constitution. She terrifies you, because she is proof that all you espouse is a lie.

    You don’t believe in rights and freedoms, citizens having the right to self determination, threatens you, doesn’t it? Much better, from your perspective, that they accept your regressive goals for them, allow you to think and decide for them… slaves, as that is what Marxists are truly in aid of, imposing slavery on the majority, you’re not interested in civil or human rights considerations, but in being the new boss, same as the old one.

    Anyone familiar with Dr. Swain recognizes that you’re attempting to put words in her mouth, again, because you can’t engage in an honest discussion on the subject.

    The simple facts are this, rationalizing illegal aliens, open borders, amnesty, what have you, is not in aid of improving the lot in life of the poor south of the border, or anywhere else. It is in fact a rationale for the status quo that created that poverty, it’s a desire to not only keep those south of the border and elsewhere, locked in that poverty, and to actually impose that status quo here.

    You seek to exploit those people, just as the corporate and foreign elites do, again, because you do not respect or value them as human beings. Nor do you respect the civil rights and human rights considerations of American citizens who happen to be black, brown and white. You refuse to acknowledge what Swain referenced, that illegal aliens are displacing citizens in the workplace, and increasing the poverty of American citizens, and in fact they are also burdening social welfare programs to subsidize the cheaper wages they requested, so as to be given preference in a job, and what ends up happening is that citizens end up being denied access to the benefits that they are legally entitled to, as said benefits are used as a form of corporate welfare. I know your sort despise working poor American citizens, after all, they actually think for themselves, and have refused to be the blood sacrifice the far left has sought to use them as.

    What you are doing is proving that the far left never truly cared about social justice or civil rights.

    Swain has spoken out about the fact that there are no shortages of American citizen workers, from the lowest to the highest skilled, that in fact illegal aliens, and the exploitation of our visa programs has brought about one thing, the discrimination of citizens in the workplace, and an erosion of wages, workplace conditions and it’s lead to an erosion of food, drug and product safety protections, as well as an erosion of environmental protections. That’s the reason why the illegal alien lobby takes millions from the US Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable, they are serving their interests, but then again, so are you.

    Swain has reported on the displacement of citizens in meat packing jobs, throughout the south, midwest and southwestern US. Many of those citizen workers were black Americans, and those jobs paid them a decent wage, between 18 to 20 dollars per hour, the ability to provide a better life for their children, a future, enough food to eat and health care, human dignity. Those decent wages didn’t lead to expensive food prices, just as decent wages for the legal migrants who were members of the United Farmworkers Union didn’t lead to exhorbitant produce costs. Those citizens were fired, and replaced by illegal aliens, who are paid between 8 to 10 dollars per hour, and who then turn around and collect welfare to make up the difference, increasing the burden on citizens who, deprived of their jobs are struggling to keep a roof over their heads with little to no employment opportunities, yet are deprived of those same welfare benefits. On top of that, cheaper foreign labor, leads to even higher food prices.

    There are far more than a few instances of violent illegal alien crime. The Mexican mafia, and many illegal alien gangs together comprise an organized crime syndicate, they traffick drugs and human beings, forcing young girls into prostitution. I have Navajo friends, in New Mexico who have told me that illegal alien gangs attempt to kidnap the teenaged girls, and even some younger, to force into prostitution. Rape, including the rape of little girls as young as 5 years old, is part of the illegal alien violent crime, as is murder, and there have been thousands of citizens killed, by illegals this year alone. A promising high school student, with a football scholarship, shot to death by an illegal who proclaims his desire to commit ethnic cleansing by the tattoo “KB” on the back of his neck, who had just been released the day before from jail, has a long arrest record, two little girls, one 6, one 7, shot one week apart, while inside their homes, by illegal alien gang bangers, shooting directly into the houses. A 14 year old girl, shot while walking on the sidewalk. A 22 year old man, killed because he was black, and had moved into an apartment in the Highland Park neighborhood in Los Angeles, by more of those “KB” tattooed illegal alien gang members. Four young black college students in Newark, NJ, shot execution style, by illegal alien gang members, 3 died, the 4th is seriously wounded, she’d also been raped after being shot, the ring leader had been arrested and then let go, after raping a little girl for more than 10 years, since she was 5. 13 year old girl, visiting her older sister, with her grandmother, in Washington state, is raped by one illegal alien, and because she is fighting back, her windpipe is crushed, by the illegal aliens, illegal alien cousin, stepping down hard on her throat, the father and his two sons, shot to death by an illegal alien, just because he felt like it, also had an arrest record a mile long, 17 little girls in Arizona, stalked, raped and threatened by an illegal alien pedophile who had been terrorizing their community for more than a year. The never ending incidents that keep coming each week and there are lots of them, and they never get reported by the MSM, the rapes, murders, violent breaking and entering, repeat DUI’s who end up killing others, while driving drunk. It’s a lot more than just a few, and you know it. But then again, you simply do not wish to even allow legitimate concerns about American citizens are being thrown out of jobs, denied new ones, and ultimately are becoming homeless, hungry and destitute. That tells us all everything we need to know about you.

  2. BTW, only noticed after submitting my previous comment, that you claim to enjoy sci fi, and read your “review”.. ? of Ellison’s, short story.. you really don’t get it, do you?

    The short story was about the costs, of giving up freedom, for the myth of, what.. ruthless timetables and a claim of efficiency, that in reality isn’t very efficient, it’s about humans having to conform to the dictates of fascism. What is lost.. when one caves in to those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Even your pathetic little bit of hand wringing, because the female character was a, “stereotype”? The woman was the way she was because all the people living in that nightmare are required to conform, and those who live under such dictates do ultimately behave in that fashion, and they most certainly do not value the rights of others.. nor do they encourage a respect for the rights of others, those systems of governance do not provide real rights.

    Can you be so narrow in your thinking processes, that you fail to grasp what is so patently obvious? I’ve often heard that Ellison has lost his temper with some readers who happen to be terribly thick headed, I believe that he would have had a field day with you.

    The sad truth is, Jason, you’re a prime example of a nazi, and how easily it is for someone like you can become one.

  3. Hey Jenny,

    I do appreciate your comments even though you called me a “prime example of a nazi.” I have the utmost respect for Professor Swain, but I do strongly disagree with her ideas.

    Regarding your claims that I put words in Professor Swain’s mouth: I sat on the second row on the left side of the room where she presented. With pen and paper in hand, I made notes including direct quotes of the things that she said during her presentation. At no time did I make a violent action toward Professor Swain and demand that she say things as I would have her say. She handled herself and her presentation very well without any effort on my part. Following her presentation, and after a few hours work, I comprised the blog post to which you commented. I presented her ideas as best as I understood them, and I provided quotes where I had such material to work with. Of course, I provide my own commentary to the things that Professor Swain said, but I think that I have made it clear what are my ideas and what are Professor Swain’s.

    Regarding this being an “honest discussion”: Professor Swain had an opportunity to talk at Kent State, and I have the opportunity to write about her talk and my ideas on that talk on my blog that I pay for. Additionally, I allow commenting on my blog so that folks like you can say your peace without censure. But, as I commented on the BoingBoing post debacle last year, individual blogs are not the end all, be all to discussion. All of these ideas are made to circulate on and offline. Since this is my blog, I do reserve the right to stop commenting, but I choose to leave commenting open, because it does foster discussion (like the one you and I are having now). I think discussion is a good thing, and I think that it can take place directly and indirectly. In the case of my original post, the conversation was made indirectly between Professor Swain and I–between her presentation and my blog post. This is not dishonest discussion–it is my honest engagement of the things that Professor Swain presented at Kent State.

    Regarding your calling me “a prime example of a nazi”: I don’t see how my being a feminist makes me a Nazi. In that particular reading of “Repent Harlequin,” I was drawn to notice what Joanna Russ calls “the image of women” in SF. My feminist ideals do not narrowly confine me, but on the other hand, are another perspective that is one of many aspects of who I am. It would be impossible for me to give voice to all of the ideas that I have regarding texts (and all the ideas that others have about the texts that I critique) due to limitations of time and other responsibilities.

    Regarding terror: The things that Professor Swain says does not terrify me. However, you sound very afraid of the claims you make about the supposed horrors of immigration. I do not think it wise to take from the particular and anecdotal and extrapolate to the general. This one of the weaknesses of Booker T. Washington. He took from his immediate experience and espoused that any African-American could make it at the turn of the century. Washington believed in the ideal of a meritocracy. As it stands, we do not live in such a world, but the Horatio Alger myth is one that dies hard. On the other hand, W. E. B. Du Bois used hard data to call for equality despite the potential consequences of it. He took from the general and tried to deduce the particular. Of course, he was a sociologist among other things, and this provided him a greater weight to his arguments in his work The Philadelphia Negro (1899). Why am I going into the Washington-Du Bois debate? Professor Swain tried to skirt both sides of the fence during her presentation. She employed a good number of percentages, but without qualifications for what might have skewed some of the census data her percentages were based on. Also, she recounted several anecdotal immigration-related stories that illustrated her point that immigration causes problems for everyone. In your first comment above, you resort to the same tactic as Professor Swain, and I cannot hold any stock in that. Those are terrible stories, but we cannot base our decisions on the narrowness of the particular. You have no idea about my background–where I’ve lived, what I’ve seen, and how I am engaged with these issues. Even with my personal experiences, I know that these cannot be datum that overwhelm our good sense to look more broadly for solutions that enrich the lives of everyone. And, you mention exploitation–slavery is a form of capitalistic exploitation, as is lesser forms of market driven exploitations. You call me a Marxist, but the market rewards no one but the “haves.” There cannot be equality when there is market driven exploitation taking place.

    Perhaps we can continue this discussion in person if we run into one another in the future. Take care.


  4. Hey Jason,

    I referred to you being a prime example of a nazi, because you display the willingness they did, to trample the rights of others, marginalize all that do not conform to your narrow world view, so as to lessen their humanity and rights, to the point that it’s easier to justify treating them in less than humane ways, and that comment was made in response to your rant about Ellison’s short story.. but feel free to toss out that you’re a, “feminist”, if that provides you with the special force field of invincibility you need to hide behind while you, oh so cowardly refuse to address the points I made.

    Seriously, what does “feminism” mean to you? From what I’ve read, I’d lay odds that it’s just a label to you. Slap it on, and it’s just another example of self-definition, self-validation. You view that female character as just a stereotype.. why? She wasn’t this weak and feeble woman, surrounded by the big strong men. In fact, she had a central role, and the ability to take a noble, and ethical stance. She chose instead to opt for the cowards way out, not because she was a woman, but because she embraced, as you do, moral relativism.

    Rather than deal with the ethical dilemma in the story, you cook up a straw man argument to dismiss it with… I am picking up on a trend here, Jason runs into a conflict that he finds uncomfortable given, his racist, elitist, Marxist worldview, and he pulls out one of his trusty labels to deflect the discomfort away from himself.. first it’s bad old Harlan Ellison, he has to be a sexist, let’s accuse him of that by deliberately redefining him as having imposed a nasty old stereotype on a female character, despite the fact that in sci fi, male characters are commonly reflected in the same way, for good or for worse. Then, (OMG!!!) A black, female, academic, has the gall to not have submitted to the dead white male (isn’t that a term your sort likes to employ to negate western writing, thought, et al..? Karl Marx was from the cultural west, was he not?), Karl Marx’s ideology, Jason’s in a quandary (OMG!!!) hmmmmm…. ok, Jason will haul up W.E.B. DuBois, and presto chango, Dr. Swain is in conflict with him, plus Jason can pull out his handy, dandy claim of being a feminist to hide behind, in case your “race” strawman argument, via DuBois, and Professor M’Baye aren’t enough to hide Jason’s very white self (your picture is online) to hide behind..

    Let’s deal with the quotes from DuBois that you cited, referencing duality, shall we? He referenced the conflict between their being of African origins, given the racism of the time, and yet being Americans, striving for the same rights and freedoms they should be afforded as such. A Marxist, such as yourself, needs to demean what America means, so you twist it to suit your own agenda. America was based on the rule of law, laws that were intended to ensure rights and freedoms, individual liberties, the right to determine one’s own self, to think and decide for yourself, and to be able to speak your mind without persecution. A huge problem for you, apparently. Something you, Jason, share with those who were racist, and sought to marginalize, manipulate and defame anyone and everything they found inconvenient.

    Dr. Swain’s comments about assimilation, deal with a shared respect for the rule of law, for the civil rights of all American citizens, and an undivided loyalty to the United States, and it’s constitution, to preserve those freedoms and protect our free people from those who would seek to subjugate and oppress them. Respecting the civil rights of all American citizens means that one doesn’t turn a blind eye to corrupt politicians and corrupt, powerful interests that seek to violate the rule of law, erode and destroy laws intended to protect citizens from displacement and discrimination. Immigration laws weren’t implemented to be cruel, but to protect our poorest citizens from being displaced and discriminated against by corrupt employers and corrupt politicians. Citizenship means something, thus, Dr. Swain’s referencing the fact that it should not be treated cheaply.

    We do not live in a meritocracy, our form of government is a combination of a republican form of government and a participatory democracy. The government is owned by all the American citizenry, they have a say in who holds power, not some self appointed elite, nor do I find our form of government unfortunate. Frankly, I don’t care what the globalist elite think or desire, they are corrupt, and little more than a carbon copy of the monsters who terrorized and committed genocide, based on a desire for empire in the last century, and those monsters were Marxist.

    No one disputes your right to have your own opinion, the problem lies with your refusal to treat Dr. Swain’s rights with the respect you demand for yourself. You don’t get a free pass to misrepresent what she said, to make it easier for you to dismiss the content of her remarks, that’s the coward’s way out, and you know it. It’s not honest, it’s a fabrication based on your need to avoid dealing with an ethical dilemma that you find inconvenient.

    Again, it’s not feminist ideals to exploit the term, to cover your refusal to actually treat a subject honestly, and make your case for why you disagree, honestly… that requires details, which I am sure is why it’s such a problem for you to do so. Honesty, given your ideological bent, would expose you to legitimate criticism, and you can’t handle that.

    Of course what Dr. Swain said frightened you, she doesn’t conform to your expectations, she defies your needed stereotypes. You don’t see her as an individual. Her insistence on speaking truth to your presumption of power intimidates and confounds you. You’re used to everyone conforming to group think. Marxism demands that all be stereotyped by race, class, gender, and whatever it is they can do for you.. it’s the reason Marxism is a parasitical, slavery based system.

    You claim that I must be guilty of racism, because I cited actual facts of illegal alien crime? You’re pulling out that strawman argument again, Jason?

    You know very well that Dr. Swain spoke about citizens, again, black, brown and white being displaced from their jobs. The issue is jobs, but that is inconvenient for you, because you rely on “jobs” being a valid excuse for illegal aliens enter the US, and remain illegally. You would have to actually state that you don’t believe citizens have the right to jobs.. an ethical dilemma again, (OMG!!!) you don’t want citizens to have their civil rights respected, but you are too cowardly to come right out and expose yourself as hateful and hypocritical, so you pull out the strawman argument to hide behind.

    Slavery is as old as the world, and I did not attribute it to capitalism, nor would I ever. Slavery is an old world concept, based on old world values, it’s unethical and wrong, but unfortunately, people like you believe that you can wrap up slavery with bows and ribbons and call it a different name to make it more palatable, you can not, and the free people of the US say no to slavery, no to globalization, no to Marxism and it’s communism and socialism.. you can claim it’s market driven, but it’s not, it’s Marxism, from both the far right, and far left working in tandem together. The neo-cons are Marxist as well, that’s an established fact. Both political extremes work for the same corrupt ends, and please, don’t seek to hide behind a claim of a desire for equality, what you advocate for is not in the interest of equality. You can delude yourself, but not the American people.. which is the reason why you despise them so much, they aren’t willingly duped, and still think and speak for themselves.

    BTW, on the off chance you decide to employ another strawman argument, that being that only the native peoples of this land have a right to be here, so you can again try to justify those here illegally, I am one of those native peoples, indigenous to this land. My people don’t take kindly to their history being exploited, for any reason, especially by hypocrites like you.

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