Just when I think that I have said enough or said it all as it relates to my views on race, I get a sign. This time it was a billboard sign created by Rick Tyler of Tennessee who is running for Congress. Clearly, a play on the Trump campaign, Tyler hopes to “Make American White Again.” Deep sigh. And we wonder why African Americans continue to ask for more conversations on race.
When asked about the sign, Tyler said that it wasn’t meant to be racist. You can read the full story here while I give you a little back story on the history of whiteness, which has its roots in the origins of what is now the United States of America. Whiteness is a socially constructed difference, a manufactured, capitalistically- driven identity for sale and consumption in America. It is given to some groups and sold to others in the form of skin bleaching creams, Westernization surgeries, hair relaxers and the like. The symbol of purity, goodness, perfection, beauty, morality, righteousness, chosen-ness, whiteness takes all the good and the rest take on all that is unclean, bad, wrong, ugly, evil, indecent and rejected.
Making American white again suggests that it began as such. America was never white as there were persons indigenous to the land that were all but wiped out in an attempt to give the settlers a clean slate. Making America white has called for the annihilation of countless people, their cultures and languages. So, Tyler’s attempt would be a first since America has never been white. It seems that Tyler believed the lies his teacher told him.
To be sure, America was not first America and it was never white. Pre- Columbian contact, it was Olmec, Teotihuacan, Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Huastec, Purepecha, Toltec and many others. But, such is the case with whiteness and its memory, when it begins, all other people groups end.
Making America white has always meant the devaluing of bodies not socially colored white. Compared to animals and small children, who needed the supervision of a slave- holding nation, specifically for the African American, whiteness is defined by the objectification and brutalization of other human beings. The making of whiteness is costly and other cultures pay the price.
Making America white calls for the building of walls and “tougher immigration laws.” Because whiteness is to be protected. And if you are in country legally but there is an attack or if we are at war with your homeland, well then, we will need to relocate you– from the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942 to the religious profiling of Muslims in 2016.
These are the options for whiteness: fight or flight. Stay and protect it, that is raise the cost of living in order to create a mass exodus to keep others out or move into another community and call it redevelopment. When the neighborhood begins to change, go and create another in order to make the neighborhood white and thus, right, again.
Tyler’s slogan assumes that things are better when people are white, which smacks of Nazism and eugenics. It sounds as if Tyler is hoping to be elected in order to create more race- based policies for the American people, which would only create more social, interpersonal and emotional upheaval. His slogan also lends itself to another set of assumptions, all of them wrong, prejudicial, self- serving. White is not right and the possibility of it being so is unreal. The fact that he does not understood the outright racist nature of his choice of words should cause him to reconsider his election bid.