The Unbearable Whiteness of Patriotism

Rudy Giuliani - AP Photo

Source: AP

So, perennial racist fave Rudy Giuliani finally found a loophole he can exploit to safely accuse President Obama of anti-Americanism: his white mama. Apparently, since Obama learned everything he knows from white people–white mama, white grandfather, white schools–any criticism of his political views is actually a criticism of some other white person’s political views, and is completely unrelated to the fact that Barack Obama is a black man in a political office that racist white Republicans feel should never be occupied by someone who looks like him.

Yeah, okay.

Let’s entertain this line of thinking for a bit, shall we? Say Giuliani was around during the time Obama’s white mama was loving up on a Kenyan dude: America, 1961. We’ll assume Giuilani’s political views remain consistent during the trip back in time–I mean, they’re already circa 1950. The main beef white men like Giuliani had with white women in interracial relationships was not over “anti-colonialist” or “socialist” politics. Their problem was completely centered on race. I mean, the fact that the term “interracial relationships” was the descriptor for these pairings, and not, say, “interpolitical relationships”, kind of sums it up. Obama’s mama’s house would have been spray painted with slurs like “nigger lover”, not “anti-colonialist viewpoint-haver”. Don’t front, Rudy.

There were plenty of white women in relationships with black men back in the 60s whose own politics were relatively conservative. My mother, for example, was a “good Christian woman”, whose family always voted Republican, and whose own mother was appropriately outraged that her daughter would think marrying a black man was an okay thing to do at the time. My grandmother’s reaction was not just rooted in racism, but also reflected her fear of the social consequences that come with violating cultural norms. Not to mention the fact that interracial relationships were still very much illegal in way too many places.

Being that my mother had a religious, conservative upbringing, the politics my mother taught me were not anti-colonialist or socialist. They were also not racist. Conservatism and racism are not inevitable bedfellows. But an America without racism is not the America Giuliani knows and loves–and that’s the crux of the issue. The face of America, embodied in a black head of state, is changing from the ruddy white that Republicans are comfortable with. Instead of owning that, they’re trying to reframe their racism as patriotism, which means that non-white folks automatically fall into the anti-American category. When Giuliani says he wants a leader that is “Obama’s opposite”, that’s code for “white male”. Statements like “He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country” are thinly veiled racist attacks–and he knows this. “You and I” is code for “us vs. them”. People of color are the enemy; this is an undeclared race war.

Alienation is not an effective strategy for winning the hearts and minds of what will eventually be the majority of the U.S. population. Republicans equate all-American values with embracing the rightness of whiteness, and in doing so they push more and more non-white folks into the arms of their perceived political enemies. The reality is, “us” is looking more like “them” every day. Republicans either need to get with it, or follow the suggestion they love to offer non-white folks who criticize the white American status quo–get out.

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