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Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America (2020)

av Laila Lalami

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
2278120,192 (4.17)8
"The acclaimed, award-winning novelist--author of The Moor's Account and The Other Americans--now gives us a bracingly personal work of nonfiction that is concerned with the experiences of "conditional citizens." What does it mean to be American? In this starkly illuminating and impassioned book, Pulitzer Prize Finalist Laila Lalami recounts her unlikely journey from Moroccan immigrant to U.S. citizen, using it as a starting point for her exploration of the rights, liberties, and protections that are traditionally associated with American citizenship. Tapping into history, politics, and literature, she elucidates how accidents of birth--such as national origin, race, or gender--that once determined the boundaries of Americanness still cast their shadows today. Throughout the book, she poignantly illustrates how white supremacy survives through adaptation and legislation, with the result that a caste system is maintained, keeping the modern equivalent of white male landowners at the top of the social hierarchy. Conditional citizens, she argues, are all the people whom America embraces with one arm, and pushes away with the other. Brilliantly argued and deeply personal, Conditional Citizens weaves together the author's own experiences with explorations of the place of nonwhites in the broader American culture"--… (mer)
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» Se även 8 omnämnanden

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she manages to speak about so much in such a few number of words and pages, and to to it so well. not comprehensively, obviously, but with depth and nuance. it's impressive. her writing is excellent, the topics are interesting, and it's all handled deftly. this is really well done.

"Naturalization would only become available to nonwhite immigrants, regardless of national origin, after the Immigration Act of 1965."

"The settlers [of the United States] didn't assimilate to indigenous tribes, learn their languages, and adapt to their cultural customs. It was the Natives who were assimilated, coercively and violently, into the settler's culture."

"If there was any instruction, it was restricted to religion and circumscribed in ways that did not threaten the existing social and political order. A special edition of the Bible, printed in 1807 for use by plantation owners to preach to their slaves, omitted mention of the Israelites' flight from slavery in Egypt as well as other references to freedom. The book - Parts of the Holy Bible, Selected for the Use of Negro Slaves in the British West India Islands - had only 232 verses, compared with 1,189 for a standard Protestant Bible. Assimilation of the races was never the objective of a system that was designed to maintain one race in absolute and hereditary servitude to another."

"White is a category that has afforded them an evasion from race, rather than an opportunity to confront it. To talk about white historical figures critically in schools - figures such as Christopher Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, or Andrew Jackson - is to saddle white children with the knowledge that their ancestors did not merely participate in the exploration, establishment, and expansion of the United States, but also in the genocide, enslavement, and subjugation of tens of millions of people, a process that accrued social, political, and economic benefits for the white majority. This knowledge is considered too heavy a burden. Instead, during the month of February, American children are taught inspirational stories about black historical figures - Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, or Martin Luther King, Jr. - who triumphed over injustice. The perpetrators and beneficiaries of that injustice remain largely unnamed. Whiteness is therefore perceived, experienced, and passed down as silence."

"But white privilege doesn't mean that white people have easy lives - it simply means that whiteness does not make their lives harder."

"...part of what makes the conversations on racial identity uncomfortable for so many people is the fact that transparency leads to accountability."

"...in 1898 the Supreme Court ruled...any person born in the United States was a citizen, regardless of the ethnic origin or legal status of the parents. However, indigenous people were still members of sovereign nations and remained ineligible for citizenship. Natives who were taxed, served in the military, or married white people could apply for citizenship, but this was only granted on an individual basis. It was not until 1924, through an act of Congress, that Native citizenship in the United States was established."

"But despair is never without consequence. It is a gift to the status quo." ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Feb 1, 2024 |
This book was so damn good, I borrowed it from the library but I plan on buying a print and passing it along. Really eye opening on a lot of things I wasn't aware of as a daughter of an immigrant. ( )
  Bandit_ | Jan 15, 2022 |
Lalami, a Pulitzer-prize nominated journalist and novelist, emigrated with her parents to the US from Morocco. In this book, she ponders the persistence of "otherness" in our society. As an immigrant, a brown-skinned woman, and a Muslim, she is uniquely situated to consider the nation's history of prejudice and the situation we find ourselves enmeshed in in the 21st century. She covers current topics like the rise of white supremacy, racial disparity in the justice system, the oppression of women, religious intolerance, and more. Using personal examples and stories from the news, she demonstrates how adaptation and legislation persist in keeping down particular groups of citizens. The final chapter, on Bret Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, is both maddening and devastating. Lalami's analysis most certainly will convince the open minded reader that America has not come nearly as far in the last 245 years as we would like to believe.

I listened to this book on audio; the author was the reader; it felt like a personal conversation. Despite her criticisms, Lalami claims that she still believes in this country's ideals and still has hope for our future. ( )
1 rösta Cariola | Sep 25, 2021 |
An ultra-current take on living in America as a brown immigrant that is officially naturalized but spends much of her time taking on emotional labor and unrealistic expectations that other American citizens don't encounter. I say "ultra" current because there is coverage of topics like 1) "interior" border checkpoints, where you aren't crossing a border or even close to one but CBP nonetheless has the authority to detain you, search your vehicle/belongings and won't hesitate to do so; and 2) how official definitions of race are woefully outdated (which box does she check on a government form as a Moroccan American? Good question). As such, I found it to be a fresh take on living and being an immigrant in the 2020s. ( )
  jonerthon | Jul 2, 2021 |
This series of essays explores what it means to be a citizen of the United States, or a "conditional citizen": "people whose rights the state finds expendable in the pursuit of white supremacy" (p. 23). The author, who was born in Morocco, is a multilingual Muslim who has always lived in the in-between: between languages, cultures, religions.

Quotes/notes

"specific bias...of Arabs and Muslims as lesser people: their religions, languages, cultures, customs, and modes of dress are marked not only as different but also inferior." (Allegiance, 7)

The complexity of a multitude of private experiences is erased and replaced by a single public story, which grows more convincing with each repetition. (8)

Surely, true allegiance meant speaking up when something wasn't right. (17)

Over the past twenty years, I have come to understand that there is nothing more American than forgetting the past. (re: Japanese concentration camps in the U.S. during WWII, p. 28)

Coexistence...should be the active practice of becoming familiar, whether through exposure to works of imagination or through personal interaction, with people who are different. In a multicultural nation, where citizens belong to distinct religious faiths, or no faith, that practice becomes an imperative. (46)

Location becomes character... (Borders, 55)

The pendulum continues to swing between hope and fear. Year after year, multiculturalists hail immigration as the life-blood of this nation, while nativists portray immigrants as the gravest threat to it. (Assimilation, 75)

Assimilation is primarily about power. [e.g. French people in Morocco continued to speak French and did not learn Arabic; white settlers in the U.S. did not assimilate to indigenous tribes] (p. 78)

Integration was different from assimilation, in that it envisioned Americans of all backgrounds interacting with one another as equals while retaining their cultural specificity. (80)

Each new group of immigrants [English, Dutch, Swedish, Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Jewish, Middle Eastern, South Asian] was viewed with suspicion and blamed for a variety of problems. (81)

The language that is used to talk about immigration reflects the power dynamic that underlies the demand for assimilation [e.g. migrants vs expats]. (82)

While immigrants nurse this immense loss [of extended family, collective memory], they are told that they must adjust and belong by giving up even more of their culture. (86)

...white privilege doesn't mean that white people have easy lives - it simply means that whiteness does not make their lives harder. (Tribe, 100)

These policies...have blurred the lines between the welfare system and the criminal justice system. Welfare applicants are treated as potential criminals, and their lives are under a form of social control that resembles the social control of parolees. (Caste, 121)

The electoral system works against the interests of the poor in many other ways [besides Citizens United]. (125)

The disempowerment of the poor is both historical fact and current reality....Even as empirical data consistently prove otherwise, class is taken to be the exclusive outcome of personal choices. It's for this reason that the rich are admired, while the poor are blamed. This attitude is peculiarly American... (126)

What I want is freedom, not better conditions of subjugation. (Inheritance, 159)

[Despair] is a gift to the status quo. (Do Not Despair of This Country, 165) ( )
  JennyArch | May 29, 2021 |
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"The acclaimed, award-winning novelist--author of The Moor's Account and The Other Americans--now gives us a bracingly personal work of nonfiction that is concerned with the experiences of "conditional citizens." What does it mean to be American? In this starkly illuminating and impassioned book, Pulitzer Prize Finalist Laila Lalami recounts her unlikely journey from Moroccan immigrant to U.S. citizen, using it as a starting point for her exploration of the rights, liberties, and protections that are traditionally associated with American citizenship. Tapping into history, politics, and literature, she elucidates how accidents of birth--such as national origin, race, or gender--that once determined the boundaries of Americanness still cast their shadows today. Throughout the book, she poignantly illustrates how white supremacy survives through adaptation and legislation, with the result that a caste system is maintained, keeping the modern equivalent of white male landowners at the top of the social hierarchy. Conditional citizens, she argues, are all the people whom America embraces with one arm, and pushes away with the other. Brilliantly argued and deeply personal, Conditional Citizens weaves together the author's own experiences with explorations of the place of nonwhites in the broader American culture"--

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