mouth piece adviser's suggestion that President Obama is incapable of understanding the "special" Anglo-American relationship because he is not of the "right" "racial stock" is prefaced upon a narrow understanding of who is an American and who is not. Among the general public, it is assumed that to be American is to be white. This is a repeated finding from public opinion surveys and other research.
By proxy, these racially driven attacks on Barack Obama are really an assault on Black Americans. We are positioned in the White Conservative political imagination as perennial outsiders and second class citizens. As the late Joel Olson smartly observed, in the American political tradition, and in a country founded as a herrenvolk society, to be black means to be an "anti-citizen."
Romney and the Tea Party GOP's efforts to use racially coded speech, dog whistles, and naked racism to mobilize white voters against Barack Obama work only to the degree that the target audience can locate the president relative to the African American community. Thus, hostility to black folks, stereotypes about them, and other negative sentiment, is transferred on to Barack Obama.
In all, the real America/American exceptionalism talk (both are intimates) that Romney and other Right-wing populists have deployed is a exclusionary one.
"American exceptionalism" is code for white American exceptionalism.
"Real America" is code for white America.
Of course, this ignores the presence of black Americans and other people of color in a multicultural, pluralist democracy. It also quite literally white washes away our unique contributions to America's civic, cultural, social, and political life. Nevertheless, it is a comforting lie and fiction for the White Right. To those loyal to the Tea Party GOP, a noble white America is a necessary lie upon which their particular brand of reactionary white conservatism is dependent for life and fuel.
Their historical and political worldview precludes black and brown folks from being part of the "unique" Anglo-American relationship which President Obama is apparently incapable of understanding: it ignores the long and shared history between black Americans and the United Kingdom.
The relationship between Black Americans and the British is complex, deep, and rich.
1. The United Kingdom was one of the foremost traffickers of human cargo during the Transatlantic slave trade or Maafa. Southerners (and others) looked to the British plantation system in the Caribbean as a model for their own profitable experiment in the Black Holocaust. In fact, the slave codes that were put in place across the Southern slaveocracy were inspired by those of Barbados--which were written by none other than the legendary political philosopher John Locke. The British were the world's preeminent military and economic power, and kept tens of millions of black and brown folks under the boot of empire.
History is full of contradictions. For military and political reasons the British Navy made a marginal (and largely symbolic) effort to end the Transatlantic slave trade. The Abolitionist movement was a political powerhouse in the United Kingdom and worked in parallel with their compatriots in the United States. The United Kingdom banned slavery in the home islands in the early part of the 19th century, but permitted it abroad. As is well known, runaway slaves would also follow the North Star to freedom in Canada.
2. Despite all of the lofty rhetoric about freedom and democracy during the Revolutionary War, the colonies (and later the United States) were slave societies. While many black Americans took the promise of American freedom and democracy in the Declaration and the Constitution and used it to rationalize their joining the Colonial militia, more black Americans fought for the British than the colonists.
For example, one of my favorite historical figures, Colonel Tye was a cavalry scout and commando who rained hell down on white colonials throughout the Northeast.
The British promised manumission and freedom. Rational actors would most certainly prefer that condition over the most certain chains of slavery, death, rape, and bondage in America's fledgling "democracy." The ability of the British to follow through on this promise was uneven, with some blacks being returned to slavery during and after the war. Nevertheless, after the war many thousand black Americans and former slaves would be evacuated to Nova Scotia and others parts of the British Empire.
3. Black Americans fought valiantly in defense of Britain (and western Europe's security) during World War One and World War Two. African American volunteers also served with the famed Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. Blacks from the Caribbean and Africa also flew combat missions with the RAF. As happened with France during World War One, many black soldiers would find Britain a far more welcoming place than Jim and Jane Crow America (with its rampant white supremacy). African American GI's were very popular with the British people. In response, the United States military made a concerted effort to teach white Brits the American way of anti-black racism. Black soldiers were also quite liked by white British women...in some cases much more so than white GI's.
4. There are many famous (and widely influential) Black Americans who can trace their family lineage back to the English-speaking Caribbean. These notables include Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Colin Powell, Stokley Carmichael, James Weldon Johnson, and Shirley Chisholm.
Even as offered by this basic list, the facts are quite plain: Black Americans have a deeper, more recent, and more "special" history with the British than Mitt Romney and his clan. As I have written elsewhere, Mitt Romney is a "White" candidate who is the presidential nominee for the United States' de facto White political party. Therefore, any allusion to the United States' racial complexity is inconvenient for an American identity which considers all white folks to be quintessentially "apple pie" and "Uncle Sam," while people of color are viewed as contingent citizens, perpetual alien Others.
As with other matters, the facts are not kind to Mitt Romney and the Tea Party GOP's version of American history and life. Black and brown folks are central to the American story--and that includes any references to "special" or "unique" relationships across the pond.