Common themes influence experiences of different immigrant groups, professor says

Hannah Daniel

Natalia Molina explained the influence of racial scripts on the experiences of various immigrant groups during a talk titled, “How Race is Made in America” for the Mexican American and Latina/o Studies Lecture Series.

The associate dean of the Division of Arts and Humanities and history professor from the University of California, San Diego opened her talk by explaining a concept she created that provides a theoretical framework in which the perceptions of immigrant groups in America can
be understood.

“I coined the term ‘racial script’ to highlight the ways in which the lives of racialized groups are linked across time and space, and thereby affect one another even when they … do not directly cross paths,” Molina said.

Molina said racial scripts affect how racial groups are categorized and perceived, thus determining their experience. Racial scripts are enduring, both as cultural representations and as institutional structures, Molina said.

“Once these attitudes, practices, customs, policies and laws are directed at one group, they’re also more readily available and, hence, easily applied to other groups,” Molina said. “In the arc of history, no matter how discredited racial scripts become in any era, they are always readily available for us to use in new rounds of dehumanization and demonization in the next debate, or even the next generation.”

Madeline Hsu, an associate professor in history and Asian American studies who attended the lecture, said looking at the racialization of communities in relation to one another is important to understanding inequality in America.

“Strategies for keeping certain people marginalized or excluded or non-integrated can be applied to different groups at different points in time, so it’s really important not to just look at communities separately,” Hsu said.

Molina said racial groups can create their own counter-scripts that provide alternatives or directly challenge mainstream racial scripts. This can create alliances between racial groups when they recognize resemblances between their experiences of racialization. Graduate student Lario Albarran said he sees this phenomenon in his own life.

“Most of my friends are people who intersect with my class and my status as somebody who’s not white,” Albarran said. “Sometimes, just the fact that we’re put in these categories alone makes
us unite.”

Given the diversity of American society today, Molina said understanding racial scripts can promote cooperation.

“People need to be able to recognize in their experience some kind of shared history, shared future, shared experiences, in order for them to make collective action,” Molina said.