In the wake of electing the first black President there has been a constant barrage of pointing out that this President is very different from Presidents past. Whether questioning his education, his place of birth, or his very belief in the concept and ideals of America, the Republican Party has been obsessed with putting Barack Obama in the “other” box and keeping him there by any means necessary.
But what do I mean by “other?”
America’s dirty-little-highly-known secret is that “American”=”White.” It doesn’t need to be stated or highlighted because it’s assumed. With whites being the majority in this country and everyone else being initially disenfranchised, the very idea of being an American has been tied to whiteness in ways that are still being fought against today.
But America isn’t all white. Whites are losing their “market share” of the population day by day. In many major cities across the country white citizens are a minority, and this fact is disconcerting for many.
But the magic part of “America” is that this definition, this supposed default image of the physical representation of our country folk can be challenged, argued against, and, above all else, changed. America was built—in theory—to be welcoming and to represent all kinds. That sort of rhetoric opened the door to direct assaults on this default image. And as Americans of all races, creeds and colors create families and rise through the layers of class and careers, what being an American means is being redefined in a way that many who felt disconnected from the history and heritage of this country are finally feeling a part of—even proud of—what being American is.
But too many Americans still believe “American”=”White.”
But not just white. A special type of white. A type of white for which many who are “white” now didn’t qualify just a hundred years ago, when Jews, Italians, and the Irish — who all now enjoy the magic of white privilege — were actually seen as being of different and lesser races. Luckily these special whites just got their special back, courtesy of Mitt Romney:
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr. Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”. – Romney Advisor via The Telegraph
On the heels of previous comments by Mitt Romney about the NAACP (and, by proxy, the black community) wanting “free stuff,” Romney’s new statement is just awe inducing. Do I believe that the Romney campaign actively tried to alienate large swaths of Americans in order to appeal to others via a loving shoutout to an Anglo-Saxon heritage? I don’t. What I do believe is that this comment was made without any clue of the optics around it. The statement was made from a position of privilege that sees nothing odd with “American” being equated with “Anglo-Saxon.” The blatant ignorance shown by Romney is yet another point in the larger diagram charting the tone-deafness of the Romney Campaign and the Republican Party as a whole when it comes to the ever-changing and evolving face of America.
The day after Romney’s comment hit the Web the Romney campaign responded
“It’s not true. If anyone said that, they weren’t reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign,”- Andrea Saul via CBS NEWS
Are we supposed to believe that this was just some random statement—completely not based in the previously demonstrated thought process or established view of the campaign? A simple misspoken set of words? Or is it more likely that because of the “anonymous” nature of the initial statement that this is simply another moment when instead of acknowledging a mistake, they claim it never happened and aren’t responsible for the racially ignorant viewpoint. The campaign says “WE KNOW WE CAN’T SAY THAT” all while saying things equally insulting and ignorant but framed in a more palatable way. A shoutout to America’s “Anglo-Saxon heritage” is a tad different than implying black folks want more free stuff.
The Romney Campaign can deny it and the media will simply let it ride. To push a deeper questioning and understanding of such blatantly ridiculous statements would be looked upon by conservatives as the liberal media being “all liberal and bias-y.” Now those Americans who are soothed by such statements silently nod and move forward knowing they have the right candidate. The Romney Campaign can yell “withdrawn” as much as they want, but people have already heard it.
The Romney campaign were accused of “dog whistle” racism. But with the commentary being this blatant and this clumsy I’d argue this was more like a full-throated “Here, boy!”
Elon James White is the host of the award winning This Week in Blackness & TWiB RADIO which can be listened to Monday – Thursday at 1:3opm EST at TWIB.FM and subscribed to on iTunes. Follow Elon on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Google+
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