Nota Bene: I do not like to and will not usually discuss things in terms of race on this blog. I often think class analysis is far more instructive as is probably the case here. I can't back this up statistically, but I would bet my Playstation 4 that the biggest factor in America-skepticism is post-secondary education. As black and brown Americans have only recently been admitted in significant number to America's intellectual and cultural elite, they are underrepresented, but this could normalize over time. The only reason this analysis will focus on race is because all of our conversations about the validity of critiques of America, from Colin Kaepernick to The Squad, are characterized in racial terms.
In the row over the president's incredibly rude tweets aimed at "The Squad" some observers noted the unfortunate tradition of telling people of different races to return to their land of origin. This analysis also mentioned that three of the women in question were born in America, and further surmised that perhaps the president's wily strategy was to compel mainstream Democrats to defend fringe members who do not poll particularly well with likely Dem voters in swing districts. I call the president's comments rude rather than racist not because they aren't racist, but because I see his defining characteristic as solipsism. For someone to be racist, he/she must believe that other people exist and matter. This is a prerequisite to sorting them into groups of disparate worth. There is little evidence the president believes in people other than himself and maybe Ivanka. Call him a solipsfiliaist.
Many conservatives, while acknowledging that the president's remarks were horrid, have insisted on pointing out that the women in question do seem to hate America. Rep. Omar in particular, who was granted refugee status in the United States, is characterized as ungrateful for the safe haven she was given. I think to say these women hate America is slightly unfair. I don't particularly admire the critical rhetoric of any members of The Squad, but I don't think it suggests hatred of America. Rather, I think it insists on an aspirational view of the country where the present and past must constantly be exposed and criticized. But participating in politics with aspiration in and of itself acknowledges that America is a place where change can be made through existing institutions. In my view, true hatred of one's country would lead to a more radical strategy than running for Congress. Plenty of people on the left and right explicitly acknowledge this.
Still, I often find The Squads' critiques mostly shallow or misguided. What is most damaging about the president's tweet, however, was that it followed in a tradition of identifying and singling out minorities who offer critical takes on America. I think it's fine to acknowledge or respond to the criticisms themselves, but I think it's also important to recognize that almost all the critiques championed by The Squad emerged from the academic left, a traditionally white, affluent space.
This origin comports with my own anecdotal experience of appreciation of America's promise. In the rich, liberal town where I grew up, even the quarterback could be relied upon to offer an analysis like "America is bullshit." For reasons that remain unclear to me, possibly a vestige of the Protestant tendency to self-flagellate in public, America's most successful communities are often the one's where contempt for the country runs deepest. The Linguist John McWhorter said it was this tendency within the white, cultural elite to religiously self-punish that accounted for the meteoric rise of Ta Nehisi Coates.
At college too, white liberal contempt for America seemingly had fewer adherents of color. In my first class at UC Santa Barbara, Anthropology 101, the ridiculous caricature of a professor (who had written a book on the custom of older American women collecting dolls) started his first lecture by stating, "you will find studying other cultures preferable to bombing them." A bunch of white heads nodded and smirked with approval.
The worst thing about the conspiracy of elevating anti-American voices of color is that both political sides participate in the distortion. White liberals who run the media tap Charles Blow and Michael Eric Dyson to speak for black America, and whatever their gifts, these two men either represent no one at all or over-educated, multiracial communities in New York and Washington DC. I also note that while our president singled out women of color for their critiques of America, our 116th Congress has a stunning number of veterans of color including several female veterans. Some on the left insist that minority participation in America's armed forces is the result of a desire to escape the working class or targeting by recruiters. These theories can't account for the fact that nearly 50% of our military is Latino or non-white while whites represent about 60% of the working class.
There are a number of historical issues that have been perverted by this bipartisan perversion as well. The participation of black political and civic leadership in harsh, anti-drug measures has mostly been forgotten, the crucial role of Christianity in America's civil rights movement is erased with the movement now mostly described in secular, anti-imperial terms and the black church has been similarly removed from a number of historical policy debates. Ironically, it is correct to understand black and white history before 1964 as a sort of Manichean struggle between good and evil, but to view history since that time as entirely written by whites at the expense of blacks is to erase the agency of black Americans and other minority groups along with them.
I will present some actual data below regarding the political diversity of communities of color, but first I want to share some more anecdotes. Living in urban-elite America, the only people I encounter who vocally love America are black or brown. Most white people I know are either indifferent to the country or explicitly critical. Particularly in my exposure to American Muslim communities, I have consistently found people under forty who speak about the US with excitement and pride. I suspect my Muslim friends were raised on stories from their parents about the arduous hurdles of doing something as simple as opening a business or studying medicine in corrupt, inept states. If any of my white friends have expressed gratitude for being born in America, it was of the ironic variety: "we have it good because we plundered the world."
I believe my observation is born out by a number of interesting incidents and the resultant polling. When Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam was exposed for having dressed in blackface in college, a poll revealed that less black Virginia democrats than white dems wanted Northam to resign. Some pundits tied themselves in knots trying to theorize that this outcome was the result of black resignation to universal white racism, or their political pragmatism born of long suffering in America. I think the answer is much simpler. Black democrats are more moderate than white democrats. This reality largely accounts for Hillary's defeat of Bernie in 2016 and Uncle Joe's strong numbers this time around.
I would even generalize further. I think non-white democrats are both more moderate and more patriotic than their white counterparts. This moderation could have a number of sources including higher rates of business ownership among immigrants (which leads to support of lower taxes), greater participation in religious institutions, and an understanding of political and social realities in other parts of the world. But more than anything, I think it is the entitlement and complacency of white intellectual elites that lead them to such inane political conclusions. Cleverly, and because they have power, largely white institutions select representatives of color to shop their ideas. I do not think Ta Nahesi Coates is representative of young black men, I think he's representative of a mostly white intellectual class. I do not think AOC is representative of Puerto Ricans from Queens, but millennial college graduates (mostly white) who were taught to hate America in college (by mostly white professors).
Finally this brings me to what I consider the unfortunate position of religious and social conservatives vis-à-vis immigration. I acknowledge that mass immigration may create downward wage pressure on low-skill Americans, and I am open to Eric Weinstein's theory that H1-B visas are a scam perpetrated by the government and STEM companies to avoid paying American STEM workers market wages. However, it seems obvious to me that if Pat Buchanan longs for the America of 1950, he should move to Mexico and bus Catholics across the border into America. Black and brown people did not change America's culture for the worse, white people did. White people are the atheists, white people are the ones who don't call their mothers on mother's day and white people are the one's with contempt for their own society. If we look to Europe, we find only more evidence that the trajectory of post-Christian, post-Industrial societies is nihilism and complacency. In this context, further immigration, including the low-skilled variety, seems essential to reconstitute an America with any pride in itself or interest in morality.
There is a bipartisan conspiracy to source America-skepticism to communities of color, and like all great global conspiracies, white people are behind it.
(the last clause is sort of a joke).