Tough Being a Bigot These Days


Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about our current atmosphere of normalizing bigots from the White House on down.  I am speaking here philosophically, what can your modern bigot really believe in?

Even a modicum of science shows that there are no “races” among human beings, but only one “race,” human.  Once again, don’t misunderstand, I know that bigots are really big on the Black vs White thing, but once you get beyond that, bigots must be confused these days.

You really have to wonder how many of those Neo-Nazis and Neo-KKKers in Charlottesville and elsewhere even know the history of their bigotry.

Steve Bannon must know that it was not that long ago that Irish Catholics were not considered  were not considered “white.”  At the same time, Catholics were considered “UnAmerican” because of their religion.  The idea was that because their loyalty was directed toward the Pope that they were incapable of participating in a liberal democracy.  Sound familiar?

And don’t even get me started on whatever the hell “Aryan” might be.

After the Irish, during the early part of the 20th Century, southern and eastern Europeans were not considered “white.”  These two paragraphs sum up the situation pretty well:

Between 1880 and 1910, almost fifteen million immigrants entered the United States, a number which dwarfed immigration figures for previous periods. Unlike earlier nineteenth century immigration, which consisted primarily of immigrants from Northern Europe, the bulk of the new arrivals hailed mainly from Southern and Eastern Europe. These included more than two and half million Italians and approximately two million Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as many Poles, Hungarians, Austrians, Greeks, and others.

The new immigrants’ ethnic, cultural, and religious differences from both earlier immigrants and the native-born population led to widespread assertions that they were unfit for either labor or American citizenship. A growing chorus of voices sought legislative restrictions on immigration. Often the most vocal proponents of such restrictions were labor groups (many of whose members were descended from previous generations of Irish and German immigrants), who feared competition from so-called “pauper labor.”

To add fuel to the fire, new developed “intelligence” tests were widely used to test soldiers for the armed forces in World War I.  The main developer of the test, Lewis Terman, believed (early in his career) that…

The tests have told the truth. These boys are ineducable beyond the merest rudiments of training. No amount of school instruction will ever make them intelligent voters or capable citizens. . . . They represent the level of intelligence, which is very, very common among Spanish-Indian and Mexican families of the Southwest and also among Negroes. Their dullness seems to be racial, or at least inherent in the family stocks from which they come.

 Again, sound familiar?  In my own cultural upbringing we were still telling Italian and Polish jokes in the 1960s that reflected Terman’s view that such people were culturally and genetically doomed to idiocy.    But now, racist Richard Spencer’s wife is (apparently) of Eastern European descent, not to mention Trump’s (latest) wife as well.
Again and again, racists have taken up the cudgel that says that some group or another can’t ever be smart enough, dedicated enough or whatever enough to be as good as the “leading” group.  Humans, being infinitely adaptable prove this trope wrong over and over again.
Which leaves racists in trouble again and again.  Does “white” include Asians, who just happen to out perform many “whites” academically?  Are Greeks and Italians now “white?”  What the heck “race” are Jews and/or Israelis?  Are the people who come from the modern Caucacsus  region “white” (that is to say, Caucasian)?  Even if they are Muslim?
Seems like it is pretty damned hard to know who to be racist against thse days.
Some racist types try to get around this by not referring to race specifically, but rather “culture” or “heritage.”  So they will refer the superiority of say, “European Judeo-Christian” culture.  And yet, this idea of such a “culture” doesn’t extend to Mexico, even though “For three centuries Mexico was part of the Spanish Empire, whose legacy is a country with a Spanish-speaking, Catholic and largely Western culture.”
Which leads me to wonder if the problem in Mexico is that the Spanish were not quite as thorough in their extermination of the native peoples, like the “superior” Europeans were north of the border.
And again, for some racists, those of “Judeo-Christian” heritage doesn’t actually include Jewish people.  For other racists, coming from “Western Civilization” doesn’t actually include modern Italian and Greeks — WTF??
The “cultural” idea also breaks down because “culture” is obviously behavioral to a large extent.  People can adopt new cultures or ignore old one.  Richard Spencer says he is an atheist, but also claims to be a “cultural Christian.”  WTF does that even mean?  So, he can reject large chunks of his “culture” but still claim membership in it?  But other people can’t adopt that culture and have actual membership in it?
Confused?  I know I am!
Near as I can tell the racist types decide who is in what camp on a case by case basis, which is, of course antithetical to the idea of racism.  Which is not to say that racists are somehow admirable in modern society, only that they don’t seem bright enough to even figure out what they are really about.
Other than just hating other people, of course.

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