Is Xenophobia Really This Normative?

Is Xenophobia Really This Normative? March 28, 2017

Check out this tweet, from earlier this month:

SteveKingIA-tweet

Text of tweet by @SteveKingIA: Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies. 

How is it now publicly acceptable for a U.S. Congressman to tweet something like this? The nativism, xenophobia, and racism incumbent in such a statement is startling. This isn’t marginal figure. This is a U.S. Congressmen from Iowa.

Who are “our” babies? Because last I checked, children born in the U.S. are U.S. citizens regardless of where their parents are from—they are Americans. This is how it has been for centuries.

The children of Irish immigrants weren’t someone else’s babies, they were Americans. The children of Italian immigrants weren’t someone else’s babies, they were Americans. The children of Jewish immigrants weren’t someone else’s babies, they were Americans.

None of this comes without a fight. Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants, too, faced nativism and xenophobia. The children of Japanese immigrants weren’t someone else’s babies, they were Americans, but they were still imprisoned in camps during WWII. The children of Chinese immigrants weren’t someone else’s babies, they were Americans, but they faced horrific discrimination nonetheless. But today, Irish and Italian immigrants are not distinguished from others of European descent, Jewish Americans are (mostly) accepted as part of the fabric of our country, and Asian Americans thrive.

In the same way today, the children of Muslim immigrants aren’t someone else’s babies, they are Americans.

In some sense, I suppose, the history of the U.S. is one of twinned immigration and xenophobia. Things can and do sometimes go backwards, such as after the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924, passed during the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan. We face just such a crisis today. Which direction will we go—backwards, closed to future immigration, or forward, with an understanding that we are a nation of immigrants?

I live in a city. My daughter attends school with immigrants and the children of immigrants. When I last canvased for a political candidate, I went with the knowledge that many of those living here are recent immigrants, and that not every home held an eligible voter. I can scarcely go out in public without hearing other languages, or English spoken with accents. But this is how it has always been—we are not and never have been a nation formed by any one culture or demography.

Perhaps someday Rep. King will learn that we are not a nation united by a common past or a common race, but rather by common values.

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