30th July 2012
In the States the meaning of Anglo has evolved as various waves of people were assimilated. The term was first used to distinguish Protestant Americans of largely British (though also Dutch and German) stock from Irish Catholic immigrants, many of the former emphasising their Englishness in reaction to the newcomers. In the early twentieth century it was sometimes used by American leaders who felt a bond with Britain, such as Woodrow Wilson, especially when that country was in conflict with Germany. But later Anglo-Saxon (and Wasp) came to mean people of north-west European Protestant ancestry, as opposed to the immigrants of the 1880-1920 wave, Catholics and Jews from south and east Europe. Nowadays it can mean all “non-Hispanic whites”.
By that definition the implications of Romney’s adviser could be “we are white, Obama isn’t”. But if this was dog-whistle racism, then Obama’s 2008 campaign was a blaring Klaxon horn of race. Forget the “post-racial candidate” (© the entire mainstream US and European media), Obama was in reality the “multi-racial” candidate, one who signified the end of white demographic dominance. That’s post-racial in the sense that the majority are becoming a minority, but it would be absurd to pretend that race was not a huge factor in the election of this not-very-experienced junior senator – illustrated by the fact that 96 per cent of African-Americans voted for him.
Can you spell ‘double standard’? Of course you can … if you dare.
America’s vast contradictions and hypocrisies concerning race still rest on the idea that some groups are supposed to be post-racial, while others are encouraged to celebrate their identity, and to fight for the interests of their group. For example, lots of self-appointed Hispanic leaders want America to be more Hispanic, to have more of their countrymen. No one in the media accuses them of racism or chauvinism, and instead presents people wishing to maintain the status quo as hatemongers. Yet why is it necessarily more wrong for Anglo-Americans to want the country to be more full of people like them? Some people advancing the interests of their group are racists; some people advancing the interests of their group are anti-racists.
These days, ‘racist’ is just a synonym for ‘white’.
And why is it acceptable for every ethnicity in America to take pride in its roots, apart from the ethnic group that founded the 13 colonies, bequeathed it their language and laws, and established the political philosophy and liberal institutions? Even if actual English blood accounts for less than 10 per cent of American DNA, the Anglo political identity of America is deep. As David Hackett Fischer pointed out in Albion’s Seed, the cultural influence of the initial founders of a society can vastly outweigh their genetic input.
Yeah – but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order… what have the Romans done for us?