The rich, Black attack on migrants is a mean-spirited attempt at deflection

Rich, Black celebs who push conservative, anti-immigrant talking points seem to be shaping up as a disturbing trend in the Black pop culture space ahead of this year’s elections. Specifically, talking points that portray migrants as grifters who suck up tax dollars that might otherwise go to poor Americans. 

Comedian Katt Williams — who, you may remember, made a half-hearted apology for telling an audience member to “go back to Mexico” in 2011 — is just the most recent example. On a recent episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast, Williams asked, “How are we allowed to have a foreign policy when we are violating the policies here?” He added, “What do you mean the immigrants are getting a check and we’re putting them up in places?”

Rapper 50 Cent expressed dismay that New York City was supplying immigrants with debit cards to help them buy food. And ESPN host Stephen A. Smith, who is a frequent guest on Fox News, has also criticized the city’s humanitarian efforts.

Here’s the thing: No matter how many times the claim gets undermined by the facts, scapegoating migrants for receiving resources that might otherwise be used to benefit poor people — particularly less-wealthy Black people and other minority communities — is a well-known tactic used by conservatives to engender xenophobia among those groups.

As today’s Republican Party looks to fuel anti-immigrant sentiment ahead of this year’s elections, the conservative movement seems elated that Black celebs are adopting anti-immigrant talking points for their audiences (note the praise from Fox News for 50 Cent’s rhetoric.)

But it’s not even that hard to see how dubious the “immigrant vs. American poor” argument is — and it’s even easier when it’s rich folks who are pushing it. Consider that each of the wealthy Black dudes who is railing against government aid for migrants is somebody who likely benefited from the Trump-era tax cuts. If those tax cuts are extended next year, that’s projected to cost the U.S. roughly $3.8 trillion in tax revenue over the next decade — revenue that could go toward programs to assist the working-class people these guys purport to care about.

Did any of these men mentioned above protest Trump’s tax cuts? In 50’s case, he literally encouraged people to vote for Trump in 2020 because he opposed Biden’s plan to increase taxes on the wealthy. Ironically, the immigrants these men are maligning are, collectively, projected to add $7 trillion dollars to the U.S. economy over the next decade. 

I’ve been critical of efforts that seem to target Black people with hatred of migrants ahead of the 2024 elections. I also reject the false choice between investing in America’s working class or America’s migrant community (which includes many working-class people). If Williams, 50 and Smith want to look at a true waste of taxpayer dollars, they shouldn’t point fingers at migrants; they should gather a bunch of their rich friends who benefited from the Trump tax cuts and stand in front of the biggest mirror they can find. 

Evidence suggests putting money in migrants’ hands is a far better investment than giving it to millionaires and billionaires. And no amount of finger-pointing and fearmongering will change that.

Ja’han Jones

Ja’han Jones is The ReidOut Blog writer. He’s a futurist and multimedia producer focused on culture and politics. His previous projects include “Black Hair Defined” and the “Black Obituary Project.”

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