We are all immigrants. I don’t mean all Americans, I mean all humans. All of our ancestors left one land and moved to another. It’s theoretically possible that someone’s family has been squatting on the same parcel of African savannah their great grandparents evolved on, but it’s most likely they left at some point and then came back.
But let’s look at what the meme at left says.
1. It erases Native people. Natives still exist, are still here, have been here.
Native Americans mirgated to the New World from the Old, of course, and what is more, they came in waves. There must have been a group that came first, and maybe someday we’ll figure out who it was; but we can’t really assume that one Native American group was the first one because it is convenient for us. Remember that humans tend to find a place and try to push whoever was there before them out. This is how the proto-Sanskrit speakers drove the Dravidians to the south of India; this is how the Bantu speakers spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa; almost certainly each wave group to cross the Bering Strait drove previous groups on ahead, in a domino effect. Subsequently, of course, people throughout the Americas moved around from land to land, based on the currents of power and environmental concerns, inevitably over the course of twenty millennia or so, migrating freely.
(The idea, rarely articulated but often tacitly assumed, that once across the Bering Strait peoples peacefully agreed to parcel out the southern land according to need based on a desire to “share,” would be an unprecedented and Ockham-busting reversal of human nature.)
You may object that calling the events of twenty-thousand years ago “immigration,” and of course this is not what we usually mean when we say “immigration.” But neither are conquistadors and the Virginia Company what we think of when we say “immigrants”; the whole point of saying “We are all immigrants” is to stretch the meaning from immigrant archetypes (such as Mexicans and nineteenth-century Irishmen) to include everyone: DARs and Mayflower descendants and, yes, Native Americans.
You can disagree with the meaning of the word, but that’s different from assuming your opponent is “erasing” people.
2. The majority of people you label “illegal” are actually Native and have more right to be here than the actual descendants of invaders trying to keep them out with their European borders.
There’s enough truth in this statement that you can see what the meme is getting at, but it relies on some arbitrary distinctions. All land “ownership” goes back to some initial assumptions. The meme seems to be asserting “sovereign nations have no right to establish borders; borders are determined by the distribution of peoples on a given date I will decide on.”
Peoples and countries tend to assume their “natural borders” are whatever the largest extent of these borders is. Naturally, this leads to overlapping claims, which is one reason there is always war in the Balkans. Or check out how big Poland and Lithuania used to be! When we wrangle about the date, Poland and Lithuania will be voting for 1619; Macedonia will vote for 323 B.C.; Mongolia would choose 1260 or so. You may say some of these are empires, and do not count, but good luck getting people to agree on what counts. Meanwhile, the Basque, as the last bastion of pre-Indo-European invasion natives, will lay claim to all of Europe. In the Alsace-Lorraine, everyone is getting nervous.
My suspicion is that no one really thinks that all borders should be dissolved or redrawn (although many people think some borders should be dissolved or redrawn). There is no statement of policy being made here; the word “right” is not being used to mean anything actually asserted to be a right.
In a word, there is no ideology here, just demographic signaling.
3. Lastly, Black people did not migrate here. They were brought here by the people who stole/colonized this land.
I don’t know if “migration” implies choice (certainly many people immigrate as children, or even babies), but let’s leave that be for now. Instead, look at this a different way.
The majority of African-Americans are partially of European heritage; in fact, the majority are at least 1/8 white. I’m not in charge of people’s racial identities, so I’m not saying that anyone’s identity is anything other than 100% black, nor am I trying to erase the antebellum rape that led to a lot of this race mixing; I’m just talking about people’s ancestors, and whether they were immigrants.
Furthermore, the majority of African-Americans who are not part European are more recent (and “more recent” is not very recent; it’s been over 200 years since the practice of importing slaves ended) and therefore unambiguous immigrants.
That means that aside from a very small number of people who were descended from slaves that never mixed with either 1. whites or 2. black immigrants, American blacks are at least in part descended from immigrants.
I don’t think this meme makes good sense, but I also don’t think it’s supposed to make sense. Similarly, saying something like “we are all immigrants” isn’t supposed to make sense, either; it’s just supposed to signal.
Saying “we are all immigrants” ostensibly signals “I am a member of an open minded and conciliatory demographic.” As Justin Timberlake learned, signaling that you’re part of a conciliatory demographic is hardly conciliatory to all demographics. Sharing this meme is a good way to signal that your demographic rejects, or sees through, or (more precisely) distinguishes itself from this demographic. “Actually, we are not the same, because you are different,” is about as explicit as we can get in asserting our demographic independence.
As far as memes go, I would say that is one is less aggressively incorrect than usual, but only because it asserts fewer facts, preferring to make vague quibbles about the definition of “immigrant.”
Perhaps we should start saying: “Depending on how you define your terms, we are all immigrants to varying degrees of precision.”