Category Archives: Racial Equality

Uniquely Anglo-Saxon…

The dictionary definition of “Anglo-Saxon” is “relating to or denoting the Germanic inhabitants of England from their arrival in the 5th century up to the Norman Conquest.”

The term evidently means something rather different to White nationalist Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar. As Talking Points Memo explains their recent “policy proposal,”

A new “policy platform” document sprinkled with nativist and white supremacist language emerged Friday from a newly launched far-right caucus linked to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ). The group is, according to the document, pushing for “uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and new infrastructure that “befits the progeny of European architecture.”

The new caucus they are forming, called the “America First Caucus,” is intended “to follow in President Trump’s footsteps,” which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about it. But just in case following Trump isn’t explicit enough, the so-called “policies” advocated by the document leave little room for doubt.

It begins by describing the United States as a country “strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.” Historically, Anglo-Saxon traditions were the result of interactions between incoming Germanic tribes with indigenous British groups. Over time, the two populations melded, creating a primarily Anglo-Saxon culture and language. Use of the term Anglo-Saxon today is associated with the establishment of England and the early adoption of Christianity.

The caucus supports a “pause” in immigration and decries immigrants who– the statement says– are “imported en-masse” and then “fail to contribute positively to the country.” (Evidently, only White Christians can “contribute positively.”)

In case there is any confusion over the identity of the immigrants being targeted by this language, the platform makes its White nationalism crystal clear. It opposes birthright citizenship and claims that immigrants who came to the United States before 1965 “were more educated, earned higher wages, and did not have an expansive welfare state to fall back on when they could not make it in America and thus did not stay in the country at the expense of the native-born.”

The caucus calls for roads, bridges and buildings that uphold “the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom.”

Pardon me while I upchuck…

Tellingly, the caucus also says it will fight against an education system that “has worked to actively undermine pride in America’s great history and is actively hostile to the civic and cultural assimilation necessary for a strong nation.” In other words, they will fight to retain mythology over accuracy.

Congressional supporters of this exercise belong in Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables.” In addition to Greene and Gosar, Louis Gohmert has signed on, which should signal the intellectual integrity of this effort–as I’ve previously noted, my favorite description of Gohmert is “the dumbest animal to enter a legislative chamber since Caligula’s horse.” Another sterling character who has indicated support for the Caucus is Matt Gaetz, who  evidently took time away from defending himself against charges of  sexual and other improprieties by tweeting Friday that he was “proud” to join the caucus.

In a nod to Trump’s election conspiracies, the seven-page document also promotes false claims about election fraud, citing rigged voting machines and manipulated election results.

The caucus pointed at mail-in voting as a prime target — making clear its intentions to advance restrictive voting laws that are already underway in a number of states.

“We will work towards an end to mail-in voting, implementation of national voter ID and substantive investigations into mass voter fraud perpetrated during the 2020 election,” it says.

A report by CBS News connects the none-too-obscure dots.

The focus on “Anglo-Saxon” and European terminology could be read as a veiled analogy for “White.” The term “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant,” or WASP, has traditionally been used in American culture to denote wealthy White families, typically with British ancestries. The Anglo-Saxons were a group who inhabited England prior to the Norman invasion of 1066.

American white nationalists have also relied heavily on medieval, viking and Anglo-Saxon imagery to justify their prejudice. During the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, some marchers carried banners with Anglo-Saxon runes, iconography that was also used by the Nazis.

They don’t even try to hide what they are…..The people who voted for them must be so proud…

 

There Once Was A Party…

One of the newsletters I receive is that of Heather Cox Richardson. Richardson is a history professor, and her obviously deep knowledge of U.S. history permits her to contextualize the news of the day in ways that most of us cannot.

A recent letter is a great example. It’s also profoundly sad–at least, to those of us who once belonged to a very different Republican Party.

Richardson begins by reminding us that the GOP’s roots “lie in the immediate aftermath of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in spring 1854.” That was when it became clear that southern slaveholders effectively controlled the federal government– and were using that control to protect and spread the institution of slavery.

At first, members of the new party knew only what they stood against: an economic system that concentrated wealth upward and made it impossible for ordinary men to prosper. But in 1859, their new spokesman, Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln, articulated a new vision of government. Rather than using government power solely to protect the property of wealthy slaveholders, Lincoln argued, the government should work to make it possible for all men to get equal access to resources, including education, so they could rise to economic security.

Most of us think of Lincoln as the President who fought the civil war and emancipated the slaves. Richardson focuses on what is considerably less well-known, his policy preferences–especially his belief that government should provide a national infrastructure.

Back then, both Lincoln and the Republican Party believed in an activist government.

Richardson points out that the early Republican Party introduced the first national taxes, including the  first income tax. They used government to give “ordinary men” access to resources. In 1862, the GOP passed the Homestead Act, a measure that gave away western lands to those willing to settle on it. The party established Land-Grant Colleges, established the Department of Agriculture, and provided for construction of a railroad across the continent. They joined with Democrats to build more than 600 dams in 20 western states.

FDR is usually–and appropriately–credited with enlarging the scope of government in order to deal with the Great Depression, but as Richardson reminds us, Republicans who followed accepted the premise that government should provide for the common good–and that it has a special obligation to fund and maintain the national infrastructure.

Three years after he became president, Eisenhower backed the 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act, saying, “Our unity as a nation is sustained by free communication of thought and by easy transportation of people and goods.” The law initially provided $25 billion for the construction of 41,000 miles of road; at the time, it was the largest public works project in U.S. history.

So what happened? Why are today’s Republicans not just disinterested in governing, they are positively allergic to the notion that government should provide for the common good by building and maintaining the country’s physical and social infrastructure.

In this moment, Republican lawmakers seem weirdly out of step with their party’s history as well as with the country. They are responding to the American Jobs Plan by defining infrastructure as roads and bridges alone, cutting from the definition even the broadband that they included when Trump was president. (Trump, remember, followed his huge 2017 tax cuts with the promise of a big infrastructure bill. As he said, “Infrastructure is the easiest of all…. People want it, Republicans and Democrats.”) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warns that Biden’s plan is a “Trojan horse” that will require “massive tax increases.”

Republicans under Lincoln provided the first justifications for investing in the nation, and for taxing citizens to fund those investments.

The government had a right to “demand” 99% of a man’s property for an urgent need, said House Ways and Means Committee Chair Justin Smith Morrill (R-VT). When the nation required it, he said, “the property of the people… belongs to the [g]overnment.”

I probably wouldn’t go as far as Morrill, but it’s hard to rationalize what passes for philosophy in today’s Republican Party with the party’s history–not just the devolution into White Supremacy, but the 180 degree shift from policies supportive of the common good to policies favoring the wealthy.

Remember that old TV ad that told us “this isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile”? This isn’t your father’s (or grandfather’s) GOP, either.

Structural Racism

Over the past several years, America has debated and (to some extent) confronted the extent of our country’s racism.The willingness of White Supremicists to make their animus explicit was triggered by the election of Barack Obama and evidence of shifting demographics, but we are still far from having a candid discussion of the ways in which that racism has infected the systems and structures of our society.

Far too many people think of racism as individual behaviors–the sorts of interpersonal  nastiness that goes viral after being captured by our ubiquitous iPhone cameras. Those of us who are white and middle-class rarely recognize the ways in which people of color have been systematically disadvantaged by official acts; I was shocked to learn about the federal government’s role in redlining from The Color of Law and similar books.

The Brookings Institution recently compared the treatment of South American immigrants with earlier treatment of immigrants from European countries. It was illuminating, to say the least.

Examining immigration policy through a systemic racism lens reveals that today’s largely Latino undocumented immigrants face far harsher consequences than white Europeans of years past for the same exact offense of unauthorized entry. A system that treats immigrants differently solely to their race is essentially the textbook definition of structural racism.

“Illegal” immigration was remarkably common in past decades. Around the turn of the century many Europeans came to the US “with a tag on,” a label sewn into their clothing to allow an employer or labor contractor who’d paid for the immigrant’s passage to find the newcomer at the dock on Ellis Island. While illegal—indentured servitude having long been outlawed[ii]–the practice was so widespread that one labor union official testified in 1912 that “more than 8 in 10” of the million immigrants who’d entered that year had a job waiting from an employer that paid for the newcomer’s passage.[iii] Others came as illegal stowaways aboard ships or unlawfully crossed the border from Canada, as CBS Evening News Anchor Nora O’Donnell recently discovered her Irish grandfather had done in 1924.[iv

According to the Brookings report, these “illegal” European immigrants faced few if any repercussions. In part, that was because there was little or no immigration enforcement, but even among those who were caught, few faced deportation. Migrants who entered unlawfully before the 1940s were protected by statutes of limitations and– in the 1930s and 1940s– by grants of amnesty. And before 1976, the government was extremely unlikely to deport parents of US citizens–the “anchor baby” accusation is a recent invention.

There weren’t restrictions on the ability of immigrants to access public benefits until the 1970s, and Brookings reports that it wasn’t until 1986 that it became unlawful to hire an undocumented immigrant.

In sum, from the early 1900s through the 1960s, millions of predominantly white immigrants entered the country unlawfully, but faced virtually no threat of apprehension or deportation. Businesses lawfully employed these immigrants, who were eligible for public benefits when they fell on hard times.

Times have certainly changed. Undocumented people today, most of whom are Latino and/or other people of color—are treated very differently. They enjoy none of the privileges  that were accorded to previous generations of white immigrants as a matter of course.

The toughening of immigration laws coincided with a shift of immigration from Europe to newcomers from Latin America, Asia, and Africa,[x] often in the context of racialized debates targeted mainly at Latinos. Researchers have documented how through the 1960s, racialized views of Mexicans shaped law and bureaucratic practice.

The report goes on to describe the increasingly draconian policies that followed the change in immigrants’ skin color. I encourage you to click through and read the entire, depressing  exposition.

Watching Derek Chauvin murder George Floyd was a horrific example of official disregard for the life of someone perceived to be different and thus lesser.  As a society, we need to send a message that such behaviors by individuals cannot be tolerated. But the larger challenge we face is the pressing need to ferret out the multiple ways in which similar attitudes have infected the structures of our laws and policies, and the multiple, less-visible ways those structures continue to harm not just the people being marginalized but also the country as a whole.

 

Those Trump Loyalists

One problem with political discourse these days is the participation of many truly nice people in those discussions. They are horrified by those of us who characterize today’s GOP as a racist mob. They (quite properly) note that such characterizations are far too broad-brush, and they insist that a continued effort to engage Republicans in civil conversation will often yield results.

Unfortunately, they are far too kind.

I will grant that stereotyping entire groups of people is both dangerous and inaccurate, but I also recall Maya Angelou’s advice to believe people when they show you who they are. So I was intrigued by a report from Talking Points Memo on a series of focus groups with Trump loyalists.(Note, this is a “members only” article that may not be readable if you aren’t a “member.” A link to the study itself is here.)

Democracy Corps conducted a series of focus groups with Trump supporters and various other GOP conservatives. They evidently had considerable difficulty recruiting volunteers– it took a long time to recruit people to constitute representative groups because, as a Democracy Corp representative noted, Trump voters seemed particularly distrustful of outsiders.

Once they were in a Zoom room with all Trump voters, however, they apparently let it all hang out. Here are the “takeaways.”

The Trump loyalists and Trump-aligned were angry, but also despondent, feeling powerless and uncertain they will become more involved in politics;

Trump’s base saw Biden, as a white man, as not threatening, controlled by others, unlike Obama who represented everything Tea Party-Republicans were determined to fight;

Even Trump’s base is curious about the extent to which they benefit from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and Biden’s signature program, compared to Obamacare that they viewed as a new entitlement for Blacks and immigrants that must be stopped;

The Trump loyalists and the Trump aligned are animated about government taking away their freedom and a cancel culture that leaves no place for white Americans and the fear they’re losing “their” country to non-whites;

They were angered most of all by Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Antifa that were responsible for a full year of violence in Democratic cities that put white people on the defensive – and was ignored by the media;

The Trump loyalists and those who are aligned rooted for the anti-lockdown protestors in Michigan and saw the violence and disruption of the legislature as justified. Some pulled back when the guns threatened innocent civilians, and more when their methods seemed to be losing support for the Trump movement;

A handful of the Trump loyalists supported the January 6th insurrectionists, but most quickly concluded it was really Antifa or an inside job to make Trump supporters look bad. They normalized the insurrection, suggesting it was no different than the violence carried out by BLM and Antifa;

They worry now that it is the government that has taken the initiative on the use of force, increasing their sense of powerlessness;

It is difficult, if not impossible, to look at these findings and not see how deeply racism motivates support for Trump and his GOP. Nice people don’t want to recognize the extent to which White Nationalism affects and distorts American political life–and the extent to which bigotry and racial grievance has assumed control of one of the country’s major political parties.

I don’t want to admit it either–but some 74 million people voted for that President and that party. I don’t know how we combat hatred, but I do know that we can’t address a problem we refuse to see.

They Aren’t Even Pretending Anymore

Over the past few years, I have become increasingly convinced that a variety of seemingly unrelated political attitudes and allegiances can only be explained by a deep-seated underlying racism. That conclusion doesn’t require us to disregard the complexities that dictate individual world-views and predict their saliency; I don’t mean to imply that individual circumstances are irrelevant–but the racist element is inescapable. History teaches us that previously suppressed bigotries  emerge and find expression when people are insecure,  financially or otherwise.

We are seeing that emergence play out in today’s Republican Party.

In the 1970s and 80s, when I was active in the GOP, I encountered people who expressed racist , anti-Semitic and homophobic opinions, but they were a distinct minority. If others with whom I worked shared those prejudices, they kept them to themselves; furthermore,  a significant number of  Republicans–including then-mayor Bill Hudnut– were vocal proponents of inclusion and anti-discrimination policies.

Maybe acceptance of diversity was easier at the time because most Americans didn’t anticipate the demographic changes that are now seen to threaten continued White Christian dominance–or maybe the current crop of GOP “leaders” is genuinely representative of the Republicans who remain after the “good guys” have mostly headed for the party exits.

Whatever the reason, those who are left in the GOP no longer feel the need to be coy about their White Nationalist beliefs. The recent CPAC meeting was held on a stage modeled on a recognizable Nazi symbol, and ABC’s recent report on the CPAC meeting was titled, “GOP congressman headlines conference where organizers push White Nationalist rhetoric.”

GOP Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona was the surprise keynote speaker at a conference Friday night in Orlando, Florida, where speakers spread white nationalist rhetoric, organizers railed about the U.S. losing its “white demographic core,” and some called for further engagement like the ire that drove the Capitol attack on Jan. 6.

Gosar wasn’t the only “usual suspect” who appeared at the meeting. Others included former Iowa Representative Steve King, whose most notable “achievement” in the House was a long history of explicitly racist comments, and the equally offensive conservative commentator Michelle Malkin.

Gosar’s keynote was followed by a speech by a man named Nick Fuentes, identified as  founder of the America First PAC, who filled his talk with white grievance and anti-immigration rants. He is quoted as telling the crowd that “If [America] loses its white demographic core … then this is not America anymore.”

Fuentes went on to praise the Capitol attack, boasting about it leading to a delay in the certification of the election results.

“While I was there in D.C., outside of the building, and I saw hundreds of thousands of patriots surrounding the U.S. Capitol building and I saw the police retreating . I said to myself: ‘This is awesome,'” Fuentes said to the applause of the crowd….

“To see that Capitol under siege, to see the people of this country rise up and mobilize to D.C. with the pitchforks and the torches — we need a little bit more of that energy in the future,” he said.

The most terrifying part of that description is the sentence recording “the applause of the crowd.” The attendees applauded the perpetrators of the treasonous January 6th insurrection that left five people dead and did thirty million dollars of damage to the nation’s capitol.

The entire event revolved around fidelity to Donald Trump and acceptance of his Big Lie–from the “Golden Calf” Trump statue (which was reportedly made in Mexico…), to Trump’s willingness to make his first post-Presidency appearance at a meeting of far-right, proudly racist extremists.

I find admiration–let alone fidelity–to Donald Trump incomprehensible–but then I consider the effect of tribalism and political polarization. I still remember my long-ago discussion with a party “regular” about a Republican candidate that we all knew to be incompetent and probably corrupt. He didn’t disagree with my evaluation, but he smiled. “He may be a son-of-a-bitch,” he said, “but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.”

Trump may be the antithesis of the “family values” these good “Christians” claim to be about, but he hates and fears the same people they do. He’s their White Nationalist.