If Trump is our Hitler, then Central American immigrants are his Jews. From his very first campaign speech he targeted them with racist slurs, ginning up dangerous white terror at their expense.
At the core of Trump’s “America First” narrative was a mythical brown wave of criminal migrants. His Administration targeted Latin American immigrants for the most horrifying US government campaign of our lifetimes, deliberately kidnapping the children of Hispanic asylum-seekers and dropping them in concentration camps to discourage legal, non-white immigration. Without deep-seated white fear of black and brown-skinned people, there would be no Trump Administration.
Why then would a Honduran mega church pastor in Miami with a mass Honduran following host a worshipful visit from Donald Trump? Why did Hispanic voters in Texas and Florida in 2018 provide Republicans with a buffer against the blue wave? Why are Hispanics in Florida, Arizona and Texas providing Trump with his last remaining hope for holding power?
Democrats expected to check the rise of an unapologetic American Fascism with a coalition of educated whites and “people of color.” Hispanics, as a large portion of that coalition, were expected to deliver overwhelming Democratic support. Democrats have been puzzled to see that support eroding. They shouldn’t be.
Democrats’ POC coalition was premised on the notion that these targets of white racism would recognize their common interests and unite in resistance. Thing is, many don’t want to risk sharing the fate of Blacks in America. Educated whites and more affluent immigrants generally feel safe from being treated like Blacks, but less affluent newcomers on the margins of whiteness don’t. Rather than joining forces with this coalition, many immigrants see an alternative path to safety – becoming white.
Democrats can’t bank on Hispanics as a long-term base of support because just like so many of the Irish, Italians, Chinese and Vietnamese before them, large blocs of these ethnic groups will find ways to become white. From the earliest years of the colonial experience in North America, the most vital gateway to whiteness has been performative racism. Before you can even begin to be treated like white people, you better prove you’re not black. Displays of racism are step one in that journey. Today, becoming a Republican is a key step in the path to whiteness.
This whole subject can be confusing for people who think race has some empirical quality, that it is immutable. Race is a social construct, a concept invented to serve an economic need. It may only be a social construct, but it’s still real. Similarly, “coolness” or “popularity” are social constructs, ephemeral, poorly defined, hard to measure, but every kid in the school yard knows who has it. More importantly they all understand that “who has it” is defined by who doesn’t. Becoming white begins by demonstrating you’re not black.
Nick Fuentes is a child of Hispanic immigrants who’s built a massive online following as a neo-Nazi. He’s enjoyed powerful career support from Michelle Maglalang Malkin, a daughter of Fillipino immigrants, who built a career promoting white nationalists and vilifying immigrants. Andy Ngo is the gay son of Vietnamese boat people, who were vilified by racists and barely allowed into the country in the 70’s. He makes a living now as provocateur “journalist” manufacturing glowing stories about the neo-Nazi Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, and other groups.
It might seem odd for Honduran immigrants to embrace Trump, or for Andy Ngo to attach himself to Nazis, but Democrats should take notice. This is the real American Dream, embraced by centuries of immigrants: If I work hard and experience success, one day my grandchildren can blindly persecute people just like me.
Complicating Democrats’ anti-racist coalition is the comic absurdity of “Hispanic,” or “Latino,” or the even more clueless “Latinx.” These labels are applied to people with almost nothing in common beyond the reaction they inspire in white Americans. The term “Hispanic” is a term manufactured by the US government in the 1970’s to a provide a convenient catch-all category for a group of people with little in common beyond white perceptions. Joe Biden was pilloried back in August for pointing out that the people we label “Hispanic” have relatively little in common politically compared to Black Americans. His comments were politically unwelcome and 100% accurate.
Yes, there is great diversity of thought and interest within the Black community, but a 400-year heritage of white exploitation burned away the distinctions between Wolof, Akan or Fulani among the descendants of those forced immigrants. Just like today’s immigrants, when Africans staggered off the slave ships, they had no reason to know what “black” or “white” would mean in a political context, or any reason to imagine they shared an identity with others on that boat. America would stamp a “Black” identity on them for reasons that only made sense to Americans.
Black Americans vote for Democrats at near-unanimous levels because that solidarity is their key to survival. This solid bloc of Black Democratic solidarity is often commented on without addressing its twin. White voters in the slave states of the Deep South vote Republican with comparable unanimity. In fact, in rural areas of the South and parts of the Midwest white voters support Republicans at rates higher than Black support for Democrats.
Black voters might like to express a wider diversity of political opinion, but the white commitment identity politics robs them of this privilege. Blackness may be a social construct, but the people who invented that social construct remain committed enough to its continuation that it creates a real, tangible, inescapable confluence of interests among its targets.
Similarly, almost no one arrives at our southern border thinking of themselves as “Latinx.” It’s a shorthand to explain the biases Americans apply to anyone with dark skin, particularly if they come from ‘The Mexican Countries.’ When someone arrives here from a Honduran city, they don’t likely perceive what they have in common with someone from Puerto Rico, Columbia or even another Honduran from an indigenous village. And why should they have any concern at all for the people America singled out exploitation and abuse as “Black.” If anything, they want to distance themselves from that marker and all its associations as quickly as possible, by any means necessary.
We manufacture “Hispanic” or “Latinx” voters out of the machinery of racism that we apply to those people. As with class awareness, it takes time and education for people to recognize that shared experience. It doesn’t always stick. Miami’s anti-Castro Cubans remain determined to be white people. People will always try to become white first rather than go through the painful realization of what America really intends to do with them. Andy Ngo and Nick Fuentes are working hard to make themselves white. What Democrats need to understand is it’s working for them and many others.
As long as you don’t bear the visible physical traits Americans regard as “Black,” America is willing to make a path for you to whiteness. The more visibly distant one’s appearance from Northern Europeans, the more hurdles one must overcome, but the barriers aren’t impermeable. After all, like “Black” or “Hispanic,” whiteness is itself a fluid social construct. Once upon a time, the Irish were visibly non-white. So were Italians and Poles and others. Demonstrate whiteness as a performance for long enough, while proving your loathing of Blacks, and whiteness might grow to include you.
Drop the vowel from the end of your name and simplify your foods. Lose the accent marks and the fourteen silent consonants your name carried across the water. Celebrate Christmas on December 25. Have a hamburger. Adopt clothing, music, manners and entertainment habits that look more like white people than black people. Learn how to use the n-word. From the “Lace-Curtain Irish” to today’s aspiring assimilators, learning to build an identity on the white side of our lethal color line is the true gateway to freedom in America.
Many immigrants have embraced the great pathway to whiteness paved by the Irish – becoming a cop. This year, no one will publish a single poll measuring the Irish vote, which not long ago was a critical, definable “ethnic” bloc. Thousands of Hispanics today join the Border Patrol, avoid speaking Spanish in public, vote Republican, and rise incrementally along the ladder to whiteness.
There’s perhaps no faster conveyer belt to whiteness than embracing evangelical religion and Hispanics are flocking to it, especially in Florida and Texas where the pressure to become white is perhaps highest. White evangelicalism has been crucial to preserving and transmitting white racist ideology for centuries. It remains the strongest predictor of Republican identity. Almost to a person, prominent Hispanic Republicans attend wild, Pentecostal churches or the big round cult of personality churches. Ditching Catholicism and embracing American consumer religion is a powerful gateway to becoming white.
These rituals of performative whiteness are sometimes grotesque. Last year Trump treated a roomful of Jewish Republicans to a mocking depiction of asylum seekers, smearing them all as dangerous criminals. Family trees of those Jewish attendees are haunted by thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of ghosts of uncles, grandparents and distant cousins slaughtered by a man just like Trump. Many of them perished because our paranoid suspicion of refugees blocked them from reaching the US. Nevertheless, these lucky survivors laughed at Trump’s jokes and wrote him a check.
Vietnamese Trump supporters in Clearwater, Florida held an “Ao Dai for Trump” event on the beach in September, their emblematic dresses decked out in stars and stripes and waving Trump flags. A group calling themselves The Vietnamese Soul Choir recorded a treacly pro-Trump jingle making the rounds on white nationalist websites.
Trump would have demonized their parents and blocked them entering the country. We know this because he’s deporting Vietnamese war refugees right now. Trump’s Klan supporters assaulted and harassed Vietnamese immigrants when they arrived. Now, here are their children, buying their place in the racial hierarchy, just one or two vital notches above Black.
Most disturbing of all is what happens to immigrants from places like Jamaica, Haiti or Nigeria as they puzzle over the breakdowns along their road to assimilation. If you’re ever in a room full of Black Republicans, a significant number will be affluent immigrants from African or Caribbean countries or their children. They’re hustling to shed the burden of their skin, often failing to understand that burden at all as they bang on the locked door to whiteness. As former Trump advisor Omarosa Manigault can attest, in America, black is black no matter how much money you have or what debasement you’re willing to absorb to escape it. No matter how well you might be treated by racists when performing a key service, they won’t forget your place in this mythological hierarchy, even if you do.
Herman Cain went so far as to risk his life for Trump at a maskless rally in Tulsa and died for it. Not a single Administration official attended his funeral. When his usefulness has passed, Donald Trump won’t be able to pick Ben Carson out of a lineup with Tim Scott, Kanye West, Candace Adams, or any of the random Black inmates Trump pardoned to buy votes. The conveyor belt to whiteness doesn’t work for everyone. There is no such thing as white people unless there are black people.
Whatever plans Democrats may have for an anti-racist coalition, they should temper their expectations for the Hispanic vote. Don’t count on immigrants from Latin America to join forces with Blacks when so many could instead become white. Yes, it would be better for the country as a whole to leave behind our cancerous cultural vestige of racism, but asking new immigrants to bear the brunt of that campaign is unreasonable. Democrats shouldn’t make Hispanics the keystone of this effort.