When it comes to the issue of immigration, Congressman Steve King (R-IA) always seems to be the headline of the story. Last week, King touched off a firestorm over a tweet supporting Dutch politician Geert Wilders, saying, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with someone else’s babies.”
The plain reading of King’s tweet is truly awful, but it won him the praises of former KKK wizard David Duke and “Alt-Right” founder Richard Spencer were very encouraged by King’s progress as a nationalist. Spencer took to Twitter saying,
“Steve King is getting at a root [of] nationalism, a nationalism in the real sense of the word, and I’m very proud of him for doing that. One thing I would tell Steve King, just don’t cuck. What you said is true. You spoke, or tweeted, from the heart. Don’t apologize.“
Though King certainly didn’t apologize, he did “cuck” (to use Spencer’s term for liberal appeasement). He told the Washington Times that his tweet wasn’t about race, but cultural assimilation.
“Any culture that doesn’t care enough about itself to reproduce itself shall become extinct,” King said. Today’s immigrants, he explained, no longer assimilate like they used to because about 25 years ago we began to “worship at the altar of multiculturalism,” which he says encourages our differences, not national unity.
On “New Day” with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, King was asked whether he saw Muslim Americans, Italian-Americans and German-Americans as equals. They were equal in the eyes of God and the law, King answered, but not equal in their productive capacities. "Certain groups of people will do more from a productive side than other groups of people will. That’s just a statistical fact,” King concluded.
Though King didn’t specify which ethnic groups were superior in their productive capacities, he has answered this question before. In a panel discussion on MSNBC, the first night of the Republican Convention, Esquire’s Charlie Pierce criticized Republicans for a convention that seemed to be mostly “old, loud, and unhappy white people.” King bristled at the accusation.
"This old ‘white people’ business, though, does get a little tired, Charlie.” King retorted. “I mean, I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?"
In short, instead of defending the Republican Party from a liberal criticism, King chose to defend the white race.
While King’s view of the ethnic pecking order seems a bit out of time, it certainly wasn’t at the turn of the 20th century. Congressman Albert Johnson, who authored the infamous Immigration Act of 1924, drafted his bill with the central aim of preserving “racial homogeneity” in the United States. Thusly, the bill banned Asian and Arab immigration; and, in an effort to decrease the admission of Jews fleeing persecution, the bill severely restricted immigration from South-Eastern Europe.
In support of his bill, Johnson claimed,
“Our capacity to maintain our cherished institutions stands diluted by a stream of alien blood with all of its inherited misconceptions respecting the relationships of the governing power to the governed.”
His coauthor in the Senate, Senator David Reed, was more candid. He argued that they needed the bill to become law to “maintain the racial preponderance of the basic strain of our people and thereby stabilize the ethnic composition of the population.”
King’s theory of superior ethnic productivity isn’t dissimilar to the worldview of Johnson and Reed. In fact, ethnic productivity forms the ideological foundation of the Johnson/Reed immigration policy of 1924.
They wanted legislation that invited the most “assimilable” or productive immigrants in the world, so they wrote a bill would let in the same percentage of nationalities already present in the United States based on the 1890 U.S. Census. They argued, just as King does now, that some groups are more assimilable or contribute more to our civilization. For this reason, their bill limited immigration to “white inhabitants.”
There will always be a debate on whether immigrants assimilate appropriately. Sociologists try to define generational assimilation with metrics like “changes in socio-economic status,” “language acquisition,” and “intermarrying rates,” but the truest test of assimilation is an American history book. It may not be the answer people are looking for, but it’s tried and true.
Patterns of assimilation generally look like this: the first generation struggles with the challenges of a new culture. The second generation adapts to the new culture while retaining many of their heritage. And the third generation forgets much of the first generation’s heritage while assimilating fully into the dominant culture.
In the 1750s, Benjamin Franklin was distressed by the apparent failure of Germans to assimilate. He wrote in his journal, “Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.“
It was a bold prediction for sure (harsh language and all), but it was disproven by the time Franklin’s children had children. Similar charges were made against the Irish.
In 1847, a massive wave of Irish immigrants, fleeing a potato famine, flooded Boston, increasing its total population by 30 percent in one year. The Irish were easily the poorest, weakest, sickliest, and most wretched immigrants to hit the shores of the United States. Their predicament was so bad that the newspaper accounts, which had graphically chronicled their plight, referred to them as “creatures.” Yet, as time has shown us, they Irish remain one of the greatest examples of successful assimilation in American history.
We should keep our history close. When we hear the statements of elected leaders that openly theorize about ethnic superiority, or suggest that immigrant babies threaten the future of our civilization, we should hold them to account for what they practice – which is bigotry.
It was someone else’s babies that formed our American colonies, fought foreign powers for our independence, and forged a Constitution like no other. The United States is the greatest nation on earth not in spite of our immigration, but because of it. As the saying goes, history may not repeat, but it certainly rhymes; and it’s up to us to learn what it means.