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ABSTRACT. This essay explores the intersection of racism, racial embodiment theory and the recent hostility aimed at immigrants and foreigners in the United States, especially the targeting of people of Latin American descent and Latino/as. Anti-immigrant and anti-foreigner sentiment is racist. It is the embodiment of racial privilege for those who wield it and the materiality of racial difference for those it is used against. This manifestation of racial privilege and difference rests upon a redrawing of the color line that is meant towards preserving exclusive categories of political membership. The charge of racism, however, is elided by the fact that this hostility takes the form of a specious embracement of law and lawfulness. “Illegal” in this sense not only captures the actions of those who enter the United States through clandestine or informal means, but, in light of the history of immigration and citizen- ship law, the term operates as a racial trope that designates non-white status, thus marginalizing and alienating certain immigrants from ongoing nation-formation processes. I explain the source for anti-immigrant hostility in the United States, which I take to be connected to the longevity of white normativity as the basis for American identity. I then critically assess how the idea of national belonging is crucial to the perpetuation of white-ways-of-being, especially when citizenship has historically been a venue for the embodiment of racial and even colonial privilege. I conclude by posing several questions about the nature of racial identities and racism that suggest new avenues for further research on racial embodiment in a “postracial” era. pp. 65–90

Keywords: racism; illegality; white normativity; immigration and xenophobia; national belonging; racial embodiment

GRANT J. SILVA
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Marquette University

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