Americans Et Cetera_Jonathan Wilson-(One Wilson to Another)
James Leroy Wilson’s "Notes from the Swamp"
on Thursday, September 14 dealt with many of the thorny issues of immigration. I appreciate the risk he took in expressing his convictions that our nation’s policies toward immigration need to be re-imagined in the light of our broader international relationships. I agree with him that the immigration code is a mess which is hurting America, Americans, and immigrants, and I agree that a posture of free trade internationally may help alleviate the problem without increasing the regulatory complexity of the immigration code.
I take exception to JLW’s point of view, however, that the USA should remain a White majority nation. JLW writes:
"...I agree with the people at VDare that nation-states are more stable if there is a clear and obvious (though not rigidly-defined) "majority" population and culture so as to prevent what happened in multi-ethnic Yugoslavia in the 1990's. If Americans of Christian-European roots - white people - become a minority in fifty years, it'll be harder and harder to define and be proud of a common American history, language, and culture."
These statements are problematic for a lot of reasons. Here are my three strongest objections. First, the most significant non-White minorities in the USA are not immigrant populations: rather, they have been involuntarily subjected to majority White rule. Second, to limit a common American history and identity to White people severely limits what it means to be American. Third, the Balkans Analogy is inexact from both historical and geopolitical frameworks.
The first problem is JLW’s assertion that the complexion of America needs to remain majority White or we will lose our sense of common culture and history. The history of White rule in America is a history of: the involuntary importation of Africans, the involuntary subjection of indigenous nations, and the hostile take-over of Spanish and Mexican territories from Texas to California. To justify limiting immigration on the basis of America’s whiteness is to ignore that the largest minority populations are part of the USA precisely as a result of the kind of statist expansionism that JLW normally decries.
We might say, and many African Americans would agree, that White people should never have dragged Black people across the ocean to begin with. That in itself is the least complicated moral dilemma from history. Can we also say that White people should never have conquered the southwest from Mexico? Can we also say that White people should never have broken the treaties and squatted on native land from the beginning? What nation would exist? There would be no nation: it would be a stateless anarchy in which rulings are made by trusted tribal elders, exactly what JLW has argued for on the basis of what non-White populations have historically done and currently do in the Americas and Africa.
Yet nationhood, founded on statist principles of expansionism, is the White contribution to our civilization. Now JLW claims that majority Whiteness needs to be protected for stability. The stability of what? The state?
Common purpose and history can be shared when we realize that to be American is not about being White. Do I really want to return to my English roots to eat the food and sing the songs of the English? Blah.
This segues to my second objection, that American identity is not limited to Whiteness. In about one-tenth of a second you could list hundreds of ways that the Hispanics, African Americans and Indigenous Peoples contribute to majority (common) American culture and consciousness.
Mexican food, anyone? How about Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Daunte Culpepper, Serena Williams, Denzel Washington, Condi Rice? How about names of rivers and cities and states, like “Pontiac” or “South Dakota” or “Chicago?”
These are part of the mainstream, majority culture. When I take a break from reading the latest mystery novel starring a Navajo cop to eat a burrito while listening to Aretha Franklin appealing for R-E-S-P-E-C-T, I am eating MY food and listening to MY music as a break from MY literature. I don’t even think twice about it. “Golly, Jon-boy, it is time to stretch my experience with something diverse and multi-cultural.” Forget that! These things are what I do and who I am and how I think, because I’m American.
So is Thai and Chinese food, by the way, along with Martial Arts classes and novels by Amy Tan. Those things are just as American as having one Hindu from Bombay drive me to another Hindue to diagnose my arthritis, before a third Hindu sells me a Slurpee.
What about America’s values? What about our history and our pride?
My wife’s family emigrated from Germany before World War I. Does this make her more American than my friend’s family who emigrated from Germany after World War II? Neither my wife nor my friend are stirred the way I am by stories of the U.S. Civil War. Does one need to weep for ancestors at Appomattox to be an American?
There are other ways to appreciate values, history, and pride. The continuity is not genetic, it is learned. I would have no idea that my great great-grandfather served the Union under General Sherman unless my grandmother showed me the letters that had stayed in the family. How many families have forgotten anyway? How many American kids, White or otherwise, really know where they come from? However, when American history is learned as a conscious choice to renounce other loyalties, that new citizen, in many ways, becomes the most authentic American of all.
Those who attend citizenship classes and swear an oath to the United States, are far more likely to be literate regarding civic duty and far more eager to contribute. Perhaps citizenship class is just another form of indoctrination to American statism. While this is certainly true in intent, this is highly doubtful in effect. Immigrants to the United States are precisely the ones who are seeking the blessings of liberty and the preservations of that liberty.
The erosions of liberty are the fault of progressive White liberals who exploit the ignorance of other non-immigrant and thoroughly complacent Whites to spoon-feed them a philosophy of paternalism. Educated Whites and the ignorant Whites that revolve them through power are the biggest threat to JLW’s vision of a limited government. Immigrant entrepreneurs, it seems to me, embody the very ideals JLW has normally espoused from the Swamp.
In this way the third objection is already addressed. To be American is not to be xenophobic in loyalties. Nationalism in the USA is not a matter of genetics. The history of the Balkans followed a much different course: It was contested territory between Italian Catholics and Greek Orthodox. There were invasions by Muslim Turks. Then there was domination by Austria-Hungary, then domination by the Nazis with Croat complicity, and then Communist hegemony.
The Balkans had no democratic tradition, nor much tradition of common purpose. Xenophobia became encultured, with murderous results through the last hundred years.
The threat of xenophobia in America is not imported with immigrants from Latin America or the Far East. Xenophobia rises from within a White majority concerned for its Whiteness. Take that to the bank.
Balkanization will happen in the USA IF and ONLY IF White Americans form their little militias and cause it to happen. Personally, although more Oklahoma City-style bombings are likely (remember Timothy McVeigh?) I don't think enough White Americans are that stupid. Balkanization is just not a genuine threat in the American cultural environment.
Balkanization through peaceful political processes may occur when representatives of non-White Americans read the assertions of VDare and JLW, and conclude that these pervasive assumptions require common action in defense. I submit for JLW's consideration that the Libertarians would find a great deal of common cause with the majority of African Americans, when it is libertarianism being espoused. It is the espousing of Whiteness by these fringes that continue to drive African Americans toward collective action in their own defense. Even if collective action is a slap against Libertarian values, given White majority history, who can blame them?
Finally, illegal immigration is a thorny issue. I weep for those who die in the attempt to cross into the United States, due to the complete lack of scruples on the part of smugglers. I weep for those who are exploited to pick our fruit at low wages so that we can buy oranges on the cheap. It is a sick situation that needs redress on several fronts: everything from simplifying immigration law to tightening our borders to opening our trade. I agree with JLW on these solutions.
Still, if one were to repent of misspeaking regarding American Whiteness and laud the contributions of 7-generation Hispanics in Texas, one still must reckon with the immigrant Mexican trying to cross into the country in the overheated trailer of a semi. Often, Mexicans see the international border as an imposition of a hostile American conquest. The embarrasing problem with their assumption is that they are right.
On the other hand, it can be argued that had Arizona remained in Mexico, then Colorado would be having a terrible time policing its borders. I am in no way defending the dysfunctions of the nation of Mexico or any other country. I am talking about what is means to be an American, and sure as the curry in my Jamaican chicken, it is not about being White.
James Leroy Wilson has responded to this article with another article: I Hate the State, You Love the State