As I was reading my daily does of garbage and racist content, I was reminded of the words of President Trump earlier this year. He asked why the United States have to welcome people from "shit-hole countries." He asked why, instead, could we not have more immigrants from places like Norway.
Now, folks, I have dealt with the stuff long enough not to get fooled into conspiracy theories (though I love a good conspiracy theory!) or to start seeing Illuminati signs on the comment sections of YouTube channels. But this type of thinking, this narrative--it has a history. And not a very pleasant one.
In 1916, a man named Madison Grant (which, by a bizarre and unfortunate but thankfully unrelated coincidence, is the name of the high school I attended!) published a book called The Passing of the Great Race. Grant was a lawyer and eugenicist. Long story short: in this book, Madison Grant explains why the Nordic-race (the Anglo-Saxon race being a branch of this) is superior to all other races, and he included scientific backing. He praises the Nordic race for their ingenuity in the Middle Ages, which caused them to press forward and explore and settle:
'This same Nordic element, everywhere the type of the sailor, the soldier, the adventurer and the pioneer, was ever the type to migrate to new countries, until the ease of transportation and the desire to escape military service in the last decades reversed the immigrant tide. In consequence of this change our immigrants now largely represent lowly refugees from “persecution,” and other social discards.' (Passing of the Great Race, 74)
Lowly refugees and other social discards. i.e. shithole people from shithole countries.
He also connects the Nordic race to our pioneers:
'This was also true in the early days of our Western frontiersmen, who individually were a far finer type than the settlers who followed them. In fact, it is said that practically every one of the Forty-Niners in California was of Nordic type.' (75)
Did Trump explicitly say that people of Nordic descent were better than others? No, he did not say that. Did he imply that people of Nordic quality were preferable over other immigrants? Yes, he did imply that.
All I am saying is that it is important to know our history, and especially know the negative parts. Because even if Trump did not mean to come across this way (he did), these parts of our past cannot be ignored. If you think that the ideas found in Madison Grant's work are just some sort of wacky pieces of 20th century eugenics, just look at this excerpt of Kelly J. Baker's 2008 dissertation, The Gospel According to the Klan: The Ku Klux Klan's Vision of White Protestant America:
Those aliens were of a different racial caste, and Evans feared their influence would create a “polygot nation,” which would challenge white Protestant America.395 Assimilation might not only be the downfall of the Klan but also the death knell of the nation that Evans held dear.
In an interview for Chicago’s Daily News, Evans’s beliefs about immigration came to the forefront. Evans argued that before 1890, ninety-five percent of immigration was Nordic, and those immigrants were “kindred, desirable, easily assimilable people.” But, only twenty years later, immigrants were “utterly and eternally hopeless from the American point of view.” He continued:
What Nordic greatness has wrought in this country, if the Ku Klux Klan has anything to say and it is going to have something to say—neither shall be torn down by political madness nor shall be dragged down by disease and imbecility.396
Because the “new” immigrants were of lesser racial stock and mind, Evans and contributors to Klan print envisioned immigration as an evil to be stamped out. Assimilation was iniquity because it chipped away at the homogeneity white Protestant culture. The Klan supported the development and eventual passage of the Johnson-Hartley Act. Under the banner of “America must be kept American,” the Night-Hawk monitored the work of Representative Albert Johnson, who was the chairman of the House Committee on immigration. Moreover, the Klan organ documented the opposition to the bill by “Catholics, Jews, Italians and foreigners of all nations.”397 When President Coolidge signed the bill into law, the Night-Hawk declared that patriots reaped the rewards. Moreover, the passage of that law meant “the purification of the American citizenship” and the protection from diseased bodies and minds.398 The nation could maintain her roots.
Yet the Klan’s lament over immigration did not end because of new, more restrictive legislation. The Kourier continued the well-worn attack against immigration. In an editorial entitled “Bramble Bush Government,” the monthly reiterated the lingering fear that America was devolving into a “polygot” nation instead of reaffirming the central white Protestant voice. Moreover, the “aliens” poisoned the minds of the young with their foreign ideologies. The order continued to be on guard against the evil of immigration. To show that the Klansmen were the preferred choice as guardians, the Kourier traced the racial and religious lineage of Klan members back to the founders:
The Klan is a protest against the injection of non-American elements into our government to our hurt. Since the Klan is a movement of protest, Klansmen are, therefore, Protest- ants. Since our government sprang from Anglo-Saxon and Nordic races we are, therefore, as Klansmen, Anglo-Saxon Protest-ants. And since every signer of the Declaration of Independence was a member of the white race and since it is the ambition of the Ku Klux Klan to hold this government true to the fundamentals of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, therefore, Klansmen are of necessity, white Ango-Saxon Protest-ants.399
The Kourier wanted to prove not only what the preferred national stock was but also that the Klan was representative of America is all her white, Anglo-Saxon glory. The lament about “polygotism” reflected the Klan’s anxiety about how immigrants would change the face of its beloved nation from pristine white to a cacophony of colors. Since the Declaration signers were white, according to the K.K.K., the nation should remain so. (132-133)
You can make up your mind whether Trump's wish for Norwegian immigrants is racist or connected to these theories. But what has to be acknowledged is that these racist theories existed, and what he said sounds an awful lot like it. To ignore that this was a part of the American past is to ignore that there was or is a problem. I'm not advocating for white guilt for you numbskull crybabies. Nor am I suggesting that sensible immigration policies are inherently racist! But I am advocating for acknowledging and talking about the difficulties and obstacles and rubbish our ancestors created for others. Then we can have a discussion together on how to fix our own shithole country together.
For those that want to read: