Mitt Romney is hoping to become America’s next White president.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, a Romney foreign policy adviser claimed that President Obama does not appreciate the shared “Anglo-Saxon heritage” between Britain and the U.S.
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said. Obama “is very comfortable with American decline and the traditional alliances don’t mean as much to him.”
The Obama campaign addressed the statements which were intended to use racial subtext as a way to place President Obama outside the mainstream. It follows the GOP’s strategy – bolstered by the Fox News propaganda machine – to make Obama’s African heritage a disqualifying factor. The entire Birther movement, from which Romney has failed to distant himself, is based on the premise that Obama neither deserves nor is qualified for the presidency.
Another curious statement by Romney’s camp went even further. As one example of a step Romney would take to improve U.S./UK relations, the adviser said the candidate would restore a bust of Winston Churchill that was displayed in the Oval Office by George W. Bush, but which President Obama returned to British diplomats and replaced with a bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This all comes just as Romney embarked on a week long tour of England, Poland and Israel. The purpose of the trip is to counter Romney’s lack of foreign policy experience by arranging photo-ops with international leaders – in an attempt to make him appear presidential.
After widespread criticism for what many see as racially offensive remarks, Romney dismissed the adviser’s comments in an interview with NBC News, saying “I don’t agree with whoever that adviser might be, but do agree that we have a very common bond between ourselves and Great Britain.”
The fact is there is little tension between America and Britain, and that is largely due to President Obama. Relations between Prime Minister David Cameron and Obama seemed almost brotherly during a recent state visit. And the president enjoys high favorability among British citizens, who welcomed his ascendancy. In fact, many Brits disliked what they perceived to be the arrogance of American military strength under Bush.
But Romney’s back-track only serves to highlight his horrible record on the issue of race. His recent appearance at the NAACP convention and the flip-flop he delivered after by declaring if Blacks want “more free stuff,” they can “vote for the other guy” demonstrates Romney’s lack of interest in African-American voters. The former governor stayed true to the GOP Southern strategy by appealing to disgruntled White conservatives in the South and Midwest. Despite Romney trying to distance himself, the adviser in question – who remains on the campaign staff – likely spoke the words Romney would have uttered himself if he could.
“White Anglo-Saxon Protestant,” or “WASP,” is a loaded term that was used in American social parlance to distinguish between people of Northern European descent (Brits, Germans, Scandavanians) and Southern Europeans (Italians, Spaniards, Greeks, etc). Though on its face this may seem irrelevant and “much ado about Whiteness,” the distinction is key as it reflects pre-20th Century ideas of who was considered ‘White’. It largely excluded the darker-skinned Southern and Eastern Europeans and most certainly did not include Jews.
That distinction was evident in American culture, as undesirable immigrants like the Irish – who were poor and Catholic – experienced discrimination and social exclusion. Signs advertising for jobs or apartments often read: “No Blacks, No Jews, No Irish, No Dogs.” Italian-Americans also experienced challenges, as darker-skin complexion and coarse hair texture became analogous with African heritage.
Modern-day racism has its roots in this era of culture change brought on by mass immigration through Ellis Island. As the descendants of African-American slaves met competition for low-wage jobs with the immigrants, a sub-culture of racial categorization emerged that excluded Blacks and rewarded Whiteness.
That is the America into which Mitt Romney was born. His Mormon faith – being the only true “American religion” – was conceived, in part, out of White supremacist ideology. Indeed, the concept of a “cursed black race” is central to the Book of Mormon, and exclusion of Blacks to the priesthood was only repudiated in 1978, when Mitt Romney was in his early 30s. To that end, it would be of no surprise he believed in an “Anglo-Saxon” supremacy.
The Republican primary campaign has been partly focused on Romney’s secrecy: his refusal to discuss Mormonism, his failure to release tax returns and lack of transparency about business dealings at Bain Capital. So when it comes to who Romney really is, too many questions remain.
But for a man seeking to represent an increasingly diverse nation – no pass can be given for bigotry.
Edward Wyckoff Williams is contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on MSNBC, Al-Jazeera, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.