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The GOP’s Tired, Poor Huddled Masses

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    by Sikivu Hutchinson

    Having based much of American exceptionalist mythology on the cult of white immigrant “values” – and the matching slander that African Americans are values-poor – the Right will increasingly “ratchet up classic divide and conquer narratives tied to bootstrapping and a racialized mythos of hard work.” That suits many Latinos just fine. “Despite being of mixed black, Asian, Indian and European ancestry the majority of Latinos in the U.S. identify racially as white.” Plus, “Latino parishioners are fueling a resurgence of Pentecostalism in the U.S. and filling in the gaps of an aging white demographic in decline.”


    The GOP’s Tired, Poor Huddled Masses

    by Sikivu Hutchinson

    Some evangelicals are bug-eyed over the prospect of fresh meat from the ‘barrio.’”

    With the final countdown to the election the GOP and the Religious Right are desperately trying to get their compassionate conservatism on. After months of spewing white supremacist Minuteman rhetoric about dangerous illegals, Mitt Romney has come, hat in hand, to Latinos with a “kinder gentler” message. As this era’s biggest deporter, President Obama’s granting of work permits and temporary freedom from deportation to undocumented youth upped the ante for Romney. Speaking recently before the National Association of Latino Elected Officials Romney didn’t dare reiterate his infamous demand that undocumented Latinos “self-deport.” Instead, he trotted out bromides about keeping “strong families” together in a blizzard of limp paternalism.

    Recently the New York Times reported that some evangelicals are (shockingly) advocating a softer stance toward undocumented immigrants. Like those freshly-scrubbed Mormon missionary boys who descend ritualistically onto the third world/inner city, some evangelicals are bug-eyed over the prospect of fresh meat from the “barrio.” The smartest among them have read the tea leaves and checked the collection plates. Latinos are the fastest growing segment of the evangelical population. Latino parishioners are fueling a resurgence of Pentecostalism in the U.S. and filling in the gaps of an aging white demographic in decline. Taking a hard line white supremacist stance on immigration is political suicide for the GOP and the Religious Right. As they continue to do a tortured 180 on immigration policy the Right will ratchet up classic divide and conquer narratives tied to bootstrapping and a racialized mythos of hard work. These messages ultimately pivot on an implicit contrast between immigrant Latinos and African Americans.

    Latinos are the fastest growing segment of the evangelical population.”

    In her book Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, Toni Morrison argues, “The rights of man…an organizing principle on which this nation was founded…was inevitably yoked to Africanism…the concept of freedom did not emerge in a vacuum. Nothing highlighted freedom—if it did not in fact create it—like slavery. Black slavery enriched the country’s creative possibilities. For in that construction of blackness and enslavement could be found not only the not-free…but the not-me…It is no accident and no mistake that immigrant populations (and much immigrant literature) understood their ‘Americanness’ as an opposition to the resident black population.”

    This contrast between the immigrant trajectory of seized opportunity (and earned citizenship) versus the resident black population’s essential otherness, is a subtext of the GOP’s anti-government platform. Every school age child of color has been indoctrinated into Statue of Liberty shtick declaring that somewhere back in the mists of time white people were poor backward immigrants clawing tooth and nail to make it on America’s gold-paved streets. Every child of color is supposed to know that whites who work every day achieve upward mobility against great personal odds. That’s why they don’t see white people living in their neighborhoods or going to their schools. That’s why some of my students associate white masculinity with Donald Trump caricatures of wealth and privilege. The white immigrant narrative is privileged as the most authentic version of personal ingenuity and achievement. Exposed to textbook stories of heroic white historical figures that triumphed against adversity students of color are taught to believe that all white work is hard work. Dirt poor whites whose ancestors grew up in log cabins, escaped pogroms in Eastern Europe, potato famine in Ireland, and Bubonic plague in England made America the proud beacon of democracy and free enterprise that it is today. In the late twentieth century Asian and (legal) Latino immigrants picked up the torch. The blaring message to blacks is, if “those tired, poor, huddled masses did it, why can’t you people?”

    The white immigrant narrative is privileged as the most authentic version of personal ingenuity and achievement.”

    As nativist and xenophobic as the GOP’s opposition to the Dream Act is it is still mediated by the perception that immigrant workers are hardworking. Much of GOP presidential primary messaging about work – from Newt Gingrich’s racist slurs about blacks waiting for food stamps, to Rick Santorum’s “I don’t want to make black people’s live better by giving them other people’s money” comment – evoked the myth of black welfare dependency and white industriousness. Thus, even though immigrants of color will always be perpetual outsiders their citizenship is viewed as hard fought, hard won, and richly deserved. For example, golden boy Republican senator Marco Rubio has become the right’s Hispanic du jour because his autobiography seems to fit neatly into the narrative of American exceptionalism and immigrant enterprise. This narrative dovetails with Latinos’ intermediary racial status. Despite being of mixed black, Asian, Indian and European ancestry the majority of Latinos in the U.S. identify racially as white. Clearly the ambiguity of Latino racial identity was a significant factor in Middle American solidarity with George Zimmerman. Jewish Peruvian-American “white Hispanic” Zimmerman’s $200k defense fund was bankrolled by white fears of the criminal black welfare leeching other. Had Martin been “white Hispanic” and Zimmerman black not only would there have been no defense fund but Zimmerman would have been arrested, charged, and tried in due course.

    A few weeks ago an Arkansas Tea Party official got knee-slapping laughs after telling the following widely publicized joke at a gathering:

    A Black son asks his mother what democracy means. Her response was, "Well, son, that be when white folks work every day so us po' folks can get all our benefits.”

    But mama, don't the white folk get mad about that?”

    They sho do, son. They sho do. And that's called racism."

    So while undocumented Latinos “steal” American jobs, blacks wait for handouts and white people toil for the American dream. Blacks believe living on the dole is “their” birthright; whites and bootstrapping family values minorities fester under the yoke of a welfare state that wants to kill free enterprise with taxes and enslaving regulation. The kinder gentler GOP will exploit this racist propaganda in an explicit appeal to Latino voters’ provisional model minority status. And it will be the soundtrack of 2016.

    Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars and the forthcoming Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels.

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    Poor Huddled Masses

    Ms. Hutchinson's article explores the myths around immigration that are always used to put Black America in a bad light.  It is not a mistake that Obama marketed himself as an exotic negro, not an African American.  He himself has said that the blood of African slaves does not flow through his veins in his speech on race in Philly in which he threw his long time pastor under the bus.

    While immigrants are praised for hard work and familiy values its rarely mentioned in Black media that immigrants also receive   welfare.  During the early 1990's NYC welfare centers in Brooklyn had days for refugees only.   I have seen whole families from eastern Europe applying for and getting welfare. Yes, Mom Dad and the kids together in the welfare office. Hasidic Jews in NYC also receive welfare. Mayor Guliani made sure that a Hasidic women recived her benefits after she compalined abou it in the press.  People coming in from Russia also recieve welfare. Blacks who worked in the welfare centers in Brooklyn at that time can attest to these facts.

    Bottom line mass immigartion does not accrue in the interest of the African American community.  When people of color immigrant groups are here in small numbers they will work with African Americans.  When people of color immigrant groups numbers grow large they cease to work with African Americans, and in fact will shun us.  Some of this is human nature to gather with ones own group.   Some of this is the will to power that is also part of human nature.  So these large people of color immigrant groups go for power for their own group only; meanwhile our 'leaders and preachres' are always telling us to be inclusive. 

    The murder of Cheryl Greene in L.A. by a Mexican drug gang that vows to clean Blacks out of LA. Read the L.A. Wave. The Nation of Islam had to intervene at one point prior to the Greene murder. The murder of Black college students in a school yard in Newark N.J. by illegal immigrans from Central America.  Some Carribean people in NYC make it a point they are Carribean and not Black.  Some Carribean persons have even said that they don't want anyone to mistake them for an African Amercan.  When I stayed on Ryer Ave. in the Bronx NYC I was stopped at the door when I tried to shop at stores owned by Ghanians.   When I did a wire transfer in a Ghanian owned store on 57the Ave. in Queens across the street from Lefrak I received hostile stares from customers and store workers alike.  I recount these incidents and locations because the African Americans who live in these locations can attest to what I am saying.

    Bottom line the African American community should address immigration or any issue in terms of how it affects us,our kids and grand kids.  The needs of political parties or ideologies do not matter.  Work with those you can work with. For get those you can't work with.