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Rising Above Racism Is Imperative for Human Societies

Posted on Mar 16, 2017

By Sonali Kolhatkar

  A man poses as right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders during a demonstration in The Hague on Thursday. (Peter Dejong / AP Photo)

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The virulently racist lawmaker Steve King, R-Iowa, is at it again, stoking the flames of white supremacy with his controversial tweet, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” implying that white babies will restore American civilization. In follow-up interviews, King doubled down on his assertion and even recommended the newly popular and wildly racist, anti-immigrant French novel written in 1973, “The Camp of the Saints,” which Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon often references.

King, who reportedly keeps a Confederate flag on his desk, has a history of making remarks that suggest white people are superior to nonwhites, such as the ones he made last year on MSNBC when he said, “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people [besides whites] contribute more to civilization?”

While some of his Republican colleagues have denounced his remarks, the fact is, King simply echoes openly what his party has tiptoed around for years through its anti-immigrant, anti-affirmative action, pro-police and tough-on-crime policies. Trump, who has arrived slightly late to the game of dog-whistle politics compared with King, has remained stubbornly silent on his fellow Republican’s chilling remarks.

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In his controversial tweet this week, King was defending his counterpart in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders. “Wilders,” he said, “understands that culture and demographics are our destiny.” Wilders is one of a growing number of Western politicians who is stoking racial hatred of whites against people of color. His right-wing populist party was poised to sweep Dutch elections but had a poor showing in the end.

Wilders’ increasing popularity is part of a disturbing trend across Europe aimed at scapegoating Muslims and nonwhite immigrants. The election of Trump in the U.S., when examined on a global scale, should not surprise us.

Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty recently warned against this trend, naming Trump among other leaders and saying, “Politicians wielding a toxic, dehumanizing ‘us vs them’ rhetoric are creating a more divided and dangerous world.”

I have thought long and hard about the reason why we see so many people putting their faith in opportunistic politicians who are engaged in the politics of fear, paranoia and bigotry. It seems counterintuitive that ordinary Americans and Europeans who are suffering economically would blame foreigners over the wealthy elites that overtly benefit from neoliberal capitalism. The favored theory (which I, too, have espoused) for why scapegoating is common and why it works is that it is easy to distract people from what is truly harming them by pointing to the obvious outsiders.

Scapegoating immigrants absolves the true culprit—neoliberal capitalism and corporate greed—from blame. But this is too simplistic. It does not explain why nearly a third of Latino and Asian voters picked Trump in last November’s election. It also doesn’t explain why so many educated and middle-class whites who were not struggling financially chose Trump over Clinton. After all, Clinton is a white woman who is a proud ally of Wall Street. In most European countries, which have a far stronger welfare state and social safety net than the U.S., it doesn’t seem sensible that whites would pick xenophobic leaders if they are—broadly speaking—able to rely on the state for basic sustenance. Would that it were so simple to end racism by merely ending capitalism and income inequality.

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