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Town Hall Seattle: Civics Series

Town Hall’s Civics series highlights everything from local policies to world politics. These events offer perspectives on a range of topics as diverse as Seattle itself—a bustling forum for activism, discovery, and thought-provoking discussion.

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Dec 31, 2019

The United States is known as a nation of immigrants—but it is also a nation of xenophobia. Author Erika Lee took the stage at Town Hall with an unblinking look at the irrational fear, hatred, and hostility toward immigrants which have been defining features of our nation from the colonial era to the Trump era. Drawing on perspectives from her book America for Americans, Lee offered numerous examples chronicling our nation’s entrenched and staunchly negative treatment of immigrants. Benjamin Franklin ridiculed Germans for their “strange and foreign ways.” Americans’ anxiety over Irish Catholics turned xenophobia into a national political movement. Chinese immigrants have been excluded, Japanese incarcerated, and Mexicans deported—and today many Americans fear Muslims, Latinos, and the so-called browning of America. Lee invited us to confront our nation’s history and break down how xenophobia works, why it has endured, and how it threatens America.

Erika Lee is a Regents Professor, the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History, director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota, and Andrew Carnegie Fellow. She is the author of The Making of Asian America and other award-winning books.

Presented by Town Hall Seattle. Recorded live in The Forum on December 10, 2019.