Immigration Riots in America

In the WSJ, Joel Kotkin ask why immigrants riot in France but not in America. [via Instapundit] He concludes, rightly, that better economic opportunities and more generalized social and cultural acceptance make the immigrant experience much better in America than in Europe. However, the conditions for immigrants in America have been better than Kotkin portrays.

America has had it share of immigration related rioting, but almost without exception the rioters were native-born and were attacking communities of recent immigrants because they feared or resented the economic competition that the immigrants posed. Irish-Americans used to routinely riot against African-Americans who migrated to the North. In the 1992 L.A. riots, African-Americans kept to the tradition by attacking Asian immigrants.

In American, immigrants routinely economically outperform the native born. Immigrants often represent the best of their source populations. Once they arrive they are more determined to succeed and feel more positive for receiving opportunities that the native-born take for granted. Without the active intervention of the State against them, most immigrant populations rapidly shoot up the economic ladder, bypassing many native-born people in the process. It is this very high level of success that has long generated resentment in native-born populations and led to successive waves of anti-immigration politics.

I don’t think we will ever see immigrant communities rioting like we have seen in France because most immigrants are too busy working hard so their kids can be the indolent rioters who attack the next wave of immigrants.

7 thoughts on “Immigration Riots in America”

  1. Andy B,

    America has a less of history of riots than Europe in general in part I am sure because we are all armed but that doesn’t influence who riots and why. The presence of personal weapons tends to dampen all rioting equally I would think.

  2. Well, the New York draft riots during the Civil War were partly riots by Irish immigrants. And there were other significant immigrant riots during the 19th century — sometimes against other groups of immigrants.

  3. Jim Miller,

    Yes, but the target of the riots were principally African-Americans. The Irish felt resentful they were being drafted to fight, in part, over the matter of slavery so they attacked African-Americans in their midst.

    The general pattern of rioting in American has been those near the bottom of the economic ladder attacking those on the next rung down to prevent them from climbing up. Very seldom have the targets been the symbols of the wealthy and powerful. Even unionist violence was overwhelmingly directed at non-union workers and not the captains of industry.

  4. Don’t discount the effect of the U.S having a legally (for the most part) armed populace as well.

    France is in flames. Meanwhile, in the francophone cantons of that racist hell-hole of savage capitalism called Switzerland, there is no rioting.

  5. My undertanding is that the Blacks were relatively new immigrants to NYCity – though long time in America so the Draft Riots by the immigrant Irish might be under the “exception that proves the rule” category.

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