Amid the racist dumpster fire that is the president’s Twitter feed, it’s easy to miss the more subtle forms of bigotry often lurking there.
Such is the case with his recent “go back to where you came from” tirade launched against four congresswomen of color: Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley.
Yes, as I explained previously, it is transparently racist to tell a black woman to “go back to Africa,” as he was saying by definition to Omar, with his invitation for her to leave the U.S. and return whence she came.
But in addition, when he doubled down after being challenged, claiming these congresswomen “hate our country,” he was also performing racism. After all, to accuse them of hating “our country” implies it is not also theirs, at least not to the same extent. It suggests America is a white nation and that when people of color critique it, they do so as outsiders and only because of a fundamental hatred of the country itself.
They do not critique because they seek to improve it, and surely not because they have any legitimate grievances, but because they are bitter and above all, ungrateful.
And to the racist mind, black and brown folks are supposed to exude gratitude without ceasing for being allowed to reside here among the rest of us. Or something like that.
All of which is why racists get angry at folks like Colin Kaepernick. Not only is he a black man criticizing racism (imagine!), but he’s a rich one at that, who should be forever willing to prostrate himself before the flag for merely having the good fortune to live in a country that affords him such status.
Of course, white, rich people can complain, and do all the time.
They complain about their taxes being too high.
They complain about government regulations.
Donald Trump is rich — though how rich we can’t be sure, of course — and he rode to power complaining about everything.
He complained about America being a disaster, a nation no longer great, and a place that couldn’t do anything right anymore, from trade to infrastructure to health care policy.
But there is a difference between Trump and Kaepernick, and between white complainants more broadly, and their black or brown counterparts. And the difference is that white people are allowed to criticize the nation while retaining their presumptions of patriotism.
Well, at least if they do so from the right.
Indeed, few people have been more critical of America lately than white conservatives and reactionaries.
These are the folks who comprised a disproportionate share of the Tea Party demonstrators, who took to the streets to complain about the passage of the Affordable Care Act . . .
. . . or, ya know, to remind us of President Obama’s real plans for the nation. To wit:
They are the folks who gathered in Charlottesville to “unite the right” against the forces of multiculturalism they feel have taken over the nation, and who, in doing so, managed to display the flags of two nations that actually went to war against America…
But they were not admonished to leave if they didn’t like the way things were going in this country.
No indeed, the president even praised them, claiming that somewhere among them were good people, merely defending the statues of Confederate generals. Yes, these generals made war on America, and yes, they killed United States soldiers, but no matter, their defense can still be deemed the hallmark of true patriots. Because words have no meaning, and thus, treason can be loyalty in MAGA-world.
It is white conservatives and self-proclaimed Christians who regularly complain about the country’s drift to secularism and “Godlessness.” They rail against marriage equality and suggest that America is such a morally rotten place that the Lord himself will surely “remove his hand of protection” from it as payback for abortion or gay rights or some other travesty.
Yet they are never told to leave. They are never lectured about how their criticisms indicate their “hatred” for America.
Hell, just yesterday, Alabama’s Secretary of State and current GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate, John Merrill, slammed America for moving away from family values in its television programming. As Merrill complained:
The foundational principles with which we have grown up as a nation are no more . . .
And why? Because according to Merrill,
There’s no more TV shows like ‘Gunsmoke’ or ‘Bonanza’ or ‘The Virginian’ or ‘I Love Lucy’ or ‘Andy Griffith . . .’ people are too interested in homosexual activities. They’re too interested in the wife swap TV shows and the shows that are not morally uplifting. That’s the problem.
Apparently for conservative white Christians to bash America’s moral core and to long for a nostalgic return to the way things once were is acceptable.
That kind of criticism is allowed.
That kind of criticism will not result in offers to send you back to whatever Dickensian hellhole from which your ancestors came.
Invitations to emigrate are reserved for the black and brown or those who are something other than Christian, or those who are progressive and dare suggest we haven’t fulfilled the nation’s promise of liberty and justice for all.
If you say we must “Make America Great Again,” you do so because of your profound love of the country.
But if you dare suggest that perhaps we should, instead, focus on making it great for all, for the first time, you are deemed a fanatic who should self-deport.
Because in America, patriotism is only something that people of color and religious minorities are required to demonstrate. The dominant groups are always presumed sufficiently American. It’s the rest of us who have to prove our belonging. But we have been here from the start: Black and brown and Jewish and Muslim and undoubtedly progressive.
Indeed every advance towards human liberty in the nation’s history was won thanks to the efforts of those who were unsatisfied with the existing scope of freedom. People who were far from the “conservatives” of their day.
Which is to say, progressives — especially those of color, and those who were either not Christian or at the very least were dissident in the face of conservative denominational hierarchies — are due credit for every step forward in this country on the road to a more perfect union.
So here’s my advice to white conservatives: You can thank us now, or, if you insist on continuing to complain, you can get the fuck out.
And don’t let the door hit you on the way back to whatever European slum your ancestors once called home.