Throughout the United States' short history, it’s stood as a global symbol of freedom while simultaneously fighting internal battles with racism and xenophobia.
Last night on Hannity, Newt Gingrich served as yet another example of our nation's intolerance in a discussion that began with the recent London terror attack and shifted to a broader conversation on refugees and immigrants.
Sean Hannity brought up the Orlando shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Chattanooga shootings, and the Fort Hood shootings as examples of “consequences” of America’s rich and complex history of immigration and what he views as a flawed vetting process. Congressman Gingrich expanded on that, saying that another part of the issue was how immigrants were being assimilated, or lack thereof, into American culture:
“Part of it is when people come here, we need to go back to teaching people how to be American — to assimilating them into an American civilization. We absorb lots of people from lots of places. We can do it again, but part of that requires that we defeat this left-wing mythology that you can be multicultural and still be a single country. I think we can have many peoples came to America, but they need to learn to be American if they’re going to live here.”
This begs the question: What does it mean, “to be American?”
In 2015, the U.S. immigrant population was at 43.3 million people, about 13.5 percent of the total population, according to the American Community Survey. In 2016, the Current Population Survey estimated that first- and second-generation immigrants number around 84.3 million, 27 percent of the U.S. population.
Combined with the inherent diversity of population that occurs when you have an entire country built on the backs of slaves, immigrants, and indigenous peoples, this makes the idea of what it means to be American multifaceted and ever-evolving. It makes Gingrich’s statement vague at best, white supremacist in tone at worst.
The source of much of the strife between races and cultural populations in the U.S. is the mythology that to be white is to be superior. White supremacy in America erases the unique cultures and histories of populations of people of color while simultaneously merging the distinct cultures of its European immigrants into a monster named Whiteness.
In Gingrich’s eyes and too many others, this is synonymous with being American. We need only look through a history book to see the violent ramifications of a homogenous belief system to see the devastating consequences it has on the people living in America — consequences that Hannity failed to include in his list.
America has yet to come to terms with the bigoted aspects of its past, so these realities continue, marginalizing huge swaths of people and placing individuals like Gingrich into politics and power. This denial, or ignorance, allows for the mythology of white supremacy to continue to infiltrate mainstream television and be presented as the American truth.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Benjamin Myers