What does 'Becoming American' Mean in a White Supremacist country?
Two weeks ago, Eric Kaufmann's op-ed in the New York Times ("The Democratic Coalition is at Risk”) examined trends away from the Democratic Party among LatinX & Asian voters. I believe he omitted a fundamental factor: Assimilation requires all who are “becoming American” to uphold the nation’s white supremacist power arrangement. Our history illustrates this over and over: “Becoming American” has always required “becoming white.” This was true for 19th century Irish, Italians, Poles; it was even true for 20th century Peruvians, Lebanese, Filipinos. As long as non-Black people of color “act white” they are given conditional American membership. The more people we can assimilate as “American,” i.e. white, the more our country can claim democratic principles of majority rule. Black people are rarely accorded that “white privilege.” Thus they are clearer about their status as “less-than” – minority – in this country. They remain in the Democratic Party because they are not welcome anywhere else.
Republican Party identity serves as a pass card for many, even some LatinX & Asian-Americans. What we rarely realize is that the back side of that pass card requires us to be Anti-Black. The very concept of"Anti-Blackness" was not in the white lexicon until Black Lives Matter and other Black leaders gained prominence in the mainstream press. Then we "discovered" that using the phrase "Anti-Black" was another way for white people to show we're "woke." Most of us do not take time to explore how such anti-Black bias impacts our lives and work. I believe we can begin that journey by learning how Anti-Blackness as a strategic foundation for white supremacy. That understanding must undergird our anti-racist work.