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Comments by YACCS
Monday, April 10, 2006

The GOP : fighting for America's racial past



In the post below, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez mentions polling that about 13 percent of Americans think that immigration is the source of our economic problems. But that's not really the issue here.

What surprised me is the way the GOP played the race card without the crime card. Tancredo is such a racist and the right so willing to scream about brown people, that they didn't mention crime. They thought that you could just define all immigrants as criminals.

I mean, I'd have had MS-13, sex slave traffickers and coyotes starring in my anti-immigration discussion. Hulking gangs of muderous Salvadorans running wild in the suburbs.

Instead, it's the average immigrant family which is being vilified, along with the churches which help them.

How is this a winning combination?

Ken Mehlman has an impossible job, expanding the GOP while keeping the base happy and it isn't happening.

Bush's gross failure during Katrina killed any chance of shifting black support. Killed it dead. Why? You see your relatives stranded like they live in the Congo, and no one seems to be doing anything to help them. You've seen airdrops around the world, but not when your people need it.

Now, you have millions of Americans saying you have slandered and insult them. Described as job stealing criminals, when you had no idea Americans wanted to do day labor and open taquieras. Hispanics now see the GOP as their mortal enemies.

Well, Katrina could be explained as a failure, but this was on purpose. Why would you let Tom Tancredo do anything? Now, you have pissed off a large voting bloc and are unlikely to get any bill passed.

In New York, you have unions organizing the protests, Democratic leaning unions. Why? Because newly legalized immigrants are the best source possible for new members. Nothing likje scut work to make you a union member.

The thing Melhman saw and people like Tancredo miss is the fact that the GOP will stagnate and die if it is defined as the white man's party. He knows deomographics means the GOP will become a minority party. But to Tancredo and Peter King, they want to ship 'em back, regardless of the effect on legal residents.

The one thing they missed was that people do not immigrate in a vacuum, they join their families and that applies for the Irish as well as the Mexicans and Central Americans. So when you threaten their entire social network, you get millions in the street. And it's always been like this.

We have this image of nice docile immigrants just becoming Americans with no problem.

St. Patrick's Day was organized rioting up until about 1900. The Orangemen and Catholics would turn the bowery into a bloody mess every March 17th, and until the Irish Protestants dispersed, June 12th. The two sides would battle it out, carrying the old greivances in the streets of New York.

Thomas Nast mocking the Irish

Anti-immgrant feeling was nothing new or special. While America has talked about welcoming immgrants, people like the Tancredos and Kings, who now pretend it was merely hard work which got them along in America, the reality was far different

Racism towards Irish Catholic Immigrants did not end with job discrimination, book boycotts, and school bills. The Victorian age was on a continuing downward spiral and its destruction encouraged groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan had been around for a long time but, with the exception of the original one after the Civil war, their numbers were never impressive and their rallying cries usually died out quickly. However, the fall of the Victorian age gave the Ku Klux Klan the perfect propaganda, “…The Klan would be rabidly pro-America, which to them meant rabidly anti black, anti-Jewish and most importantly anti-Catholic”(

Upon the founding of the new Klan, the leader, Simmons, was recorded as having stabbed a table with his dagger, throwing all his guns down onto it, and saying, “Now let the [blacks], Catholics, Jews, and all others who disdain my imperial wizardry, come out ”( If it was still in question at that point whether the Klan would be violent, the answer was soon given “…in a rampage of whippings, tar-and-feathers raids, and the…use of acid to burn the letters KKK on the foreheads of…[all] they considered anti-Ameican” ( The violence of the Klan was even more gruesomely revealed under the next leader, Evans, “…a wave of…lynching[s], shootings, and [more] whippings swept over the nation… the victims were usually blacks, Jews, Catholics, and Mexicans…”(

What may have been worse than the actual treatment received by theses people, was the lack of action taken by the government to curve the Klan’s movement. In-fact, membership fees to the Ku Klux Klan were “…tax free since the Klan was a benevolent society” (

President John F. Kennedy once said that “there were probably as many reasons for coming to America as there were people who came” (, and although the encounters the Irish Immigrants had with the Klan were distressing, they were not enough to curb their wants to be in the, supposed, land of opportunity. With the Victorian age still in great peril groups such as the KKK and other assemblages fought even more belligerently to do away with the source, of the destruction of their morals and values, this source being Irish Catholic Immigrants. These groups managed to get people elected who they felt would be sympathetic to the “American Cause.” An instance of this is President Calvin Coolidge, who the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, “Evans [,] boasted of having helped [to] re-elect” ( In their urgency to get rid of Catholicism, Anglo- Saxon Protestant groups stumbled upon information regarding Eugenics. Francis Galton first discovered eugenics in 1883 and said this about it “…the essence of eugenics is the replacement of natural selection by conscious, premeditated, or artificial selection in the hope of speeding up evolution of desirable characteristics and the elimination of undesirable ones”(

Anti-Catholic organizations used this info to find a new way to kill Catholicism in the U.S. Since they considered Catholicism as an “undesirable characteristic” groups such as the KKK believed they could help speed up natural selection by simply not allowing Catholics into the nation through immigration restrictions, and completely Americanizing the ones that were already here. They used the election of Calvin Coolidge and the information on eugenics to “…secure passage of strict anti-immigration laws and…checked the ambitions of Catholics intent on perverting the nation”( Because of these restrictions the number of Irish Catholics coming into the U.S. went from 220,591 in the 1920’s to 13,167 by 1930.

And the Italians, who are still the least likely whites to graduate high school, were subjected to ramapant discrimination as well.

Organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan became much more prevalent during the 1920s, growing as large as 10 million members across the country. These groups exploited racist and xenophobic tendencies in Americans to induce people to join. They used such phrases in their propaganda like “America for Americans” that caught on quickly with a vast number of people (Byrne). Racism was one of the main causes of animosity towards Italians in America during the 1920s. Italians typically had darker skin that “old stock” Americans such as the English, German, and Dutch, so they were subject to much of the same discrimination faced in African-American, Asian- American, and Latino-American communities (Levinson 475).

Anti-Catholic sentiment was another basis for hostility towards Italian immigrants. Julia Byrne, in her article “Roman Catholics and the American Mainstream in the Twentieth Century” noted:
Anti-Catholic prejudice was alive and even rejuvenated in some quarters in the twentieth century. Protestant "fundamentalists" and other new Christian denominations revived anti-Catholicism as part of an insistence on "original," pre-Rome Christianity.

Americans, goaded on by hate groups, feared that Catholics would pay allegiance to their “foreign King” (the Pope) rather than their new country (Pencak, 110). Although there was a strong argument for this, as much of the Italian immigrant population consisted of devout Catholics, there never was any sound basis for this judgement.

Immigrants were also linked to several problems in big cities, where most of them settled. Over fifty percent of Italian immigrants settled in large cities such as New York, San Francisco, Detroit, and Chicago (Veloci, 11). Members of the temperance movement and supporters of Prohibition were strongly against immigrants, including Italians, because they linked them to excessive drinking. Immigrants were very good targets for temperance causes, because the leaders could play off the initial fears of Americans towards them, and manipulate the feelings into further endorsement for their purposes. As Italian immigrants began forming and joining labor unions, and began demanding workers rights, employers who had once hired them because they worked for low wages began to reconsider their once liberal stance on immigration.
And if anyone thinks the Tancredo bill is some new argument on immigration, they need to think again.

Immigration Act of 1924

The United States Immigration Act of 1924, also known as the National Origins Act, Johnson-Reed Act, or the Immigration Quota Act of 1924, limited the number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States in 1890 according to the census of 1890. This law severely restricted immigration by establishing a system of national quotas that blatantly discriminated against immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and virtually excluded Asians. The policy stayed in effect until the 1960s. It superseded the 1921 Emergency Quota Act. The law was aimed at reducing the influx of Southern and Eastern Europeans who had begun to enter the country in large numbers beginning in the 1890s, as well as East Asians and Asian Indians, who were prohibited from immigrating entirely. It set no limits on immigration from Latin America.

It passed with strong congressional support (only 6 dissenting votes in the Senate). Some of its strongest supporters were influenced by Madison Grant and his 1916 book, The Passing of the Great Race. Grant was a eugenicist and advocate of the racial hygiene theory. His data, which is now considered by the vast majority of scientists to be flawed, purported to show the superiority of the founding Northern European races.

Floor debates

On the house floor the most common argument made by those favoring the legislation, and the one reflected in the majority report, is the argument that in the interests of fairness to all ethnic groups, the quotas should reflect the relative ethnic composition of the entire country. Restrictionists noted that the census of 1890 was chosen because the percentages of the foreign born of different ethnic groups in that year approximated the general ethnic composition of the entire country in 1920. Senator Reed of Pennsylvania and Representative Rogers of Massachusetts proposed to achieve the same result by directly basing the quotas on the national origins of all people in the country as of the 1920 census, and this was eventually incorporated into the law. Representative Rogers argued that 'Gentlemen, you can not dissent from this principle because it is fair. It does not discriminate for anybody and it does not discriminate against anybody' (Cong. Rec. April 8, 1924; p. 5847). In the words of the House Majority Report:

  • “The use of the 1890 census is…an effort to preserve as nearly as possible, the racial status quo of the United States. It is hoped to guarantee as best we can at this late date, racial homogeneity in the United States. The use of a later census would discriminate against those who founded the Nation and perpetuated its institutions.”

Senator Reed noted:

  • "The purpose, I think, of most of us in changing the quota basis is to cease from discriminating against the native born here and against the group of our citizens who come from northern and western Europe. I think the present system discriminates in favor of southeastern Europe." (Cong. Rec., April. 16, 1924; p. 6457) (i.e., because 46% of the quotas under the 1921 act went to Eastern and Southern Europe when they constituted less than 12% of the population).
  • "Let me emphasize here that the restrictionists of Congress do not claim that the 'Nordic' race, or even the Anglo-Saxon race, is the best race in the world. Let us concede, in all fairness that the Czech is a more sturdy laborer, with a very low percentage of crime and insanity, that the Jew is the best businessman in the world, and that the Italian has a spiritual grasp and an artistic sense which have greatly enriched the world and which have, indeed, enriched us, a spiritual exaltation and an artistic creative sense which the Nordic rarely attains. Nordics need not be vain about their own qualifications. It well behooves them to be humble. What we do claim is that the northern European, and particularly Anglo-Saxons made this country. Oh, yes; the others helped. But that is the full statement of the case. They came to this country because it was already made as an Anglo-Saxon commonwealth. They added to it, they often enriched, but they did not make it, and they have not yet greatly changed it. We are determined that they shall not. It is a good country. It suits us. And what we assert is that we are not going to surrender it to somebody else or allow other people, no matter what their merits, to make it something different. If there is any changing to be done, we will do it ourselves." (Cong. Rec. April 8, 1924; p. 5922).

While Representative Scott Leavitt stated quite bluntly that Jewish representatives should respect the desire of other Americans to retain the ethnic status quo:

  • “The instinct for national and race preservation is not one to be condemned, as has been intimated here. No one should be better able to understand the desire of Americans to keep America American than the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Sabath], who is leading the attack on this measure, or the gentlemen from New York, Mr. Dickstein, Mr. Jacobstein, Mr. Celler, and Mr. Perlman. They are of the one great historic people who have maintained the identity of their race throughout the centuries because they believe sincerely that they are a chosen people, with certain ideals to maintain, and knowing that the loss of racial identity means a change of ideals. That fact should make it easy for them and the majority of the most active opponents of this measure in the spoken debate to recognize and sympathize with our viewpoint, which is not so extreme as that of their own race, but only demands that the admixture of other peoples shall be only of such kind and proportions and in such quantities as will not alter racial characteristics more rapidly than there can be assimilation as to ideas of government as well as of blood. [Congressional Record, April 12 1924, 6265-6266]

See: Samuel Dickstein, Meyer Jacobstein, Emanuel Celler

So what people, especially liberals tempted to fall for the anti-immigrant-"pro worker" line should understand that the GOP is pulling the oldest trick from the playbook. It is anti-immigrant and it is sad that children of immigrants like Tancredo and King are using the same arguments used to vilify their ancestors 100 years ago.

When Tancredo talks about America being overrun, he's just repeating the eugenicist arguments made in 1924.

In the end, it is a fear-based argument which plays on race. The racist right and their allies are playing up fears of a "flood", which is code word for brown people living here. You cannot say it is an economic argument, because in the end it just isn't. We aren't talking about worker protections and wages, but a flood of people "stealing" our jobs. Remember, this is a country which outsources jobs to India and calls it a good thing. If job protection was really an issue, people would talk about large companies relying on illegal labor. Does Microsoft hire union cleaners? I doubt it, but Microsoft is cleaned every night.

But instead it's about the unsightliness of day labor, the complaints about people coming here to have their kids born and wanting to strip citizenship from them, deporting families with minor American citizens and a wall along the borders. How is this sound immigration policy? It isn't. It's a thinly disguised racial control policy.

And because it IS that, it forces the GOP to fight for a racial past which does not exist. Remember, this was about race in 1884, 1924 and now. It was never about opportunity or employment, but controlling who became an American.

posted by Steve @ 3:32:00 PM

3:32:00 PM

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