Their forefathers were John Birchers. Their grand-pappies and grandmas likely spent time at the monthly lynching tree. Some of them were members of White Citizens Councils, the "polite" racists, who stood against civil rights for black folks and upheld Jim and Jane Crow. Earlier this year, the most zealous among them booed gay soldiers, howled in glee at the prospect of a person being executed by the State, and cheered the idea of some sad soul dying because they did not have health insurance.
This is the contemporary face of the Republican Party.
When Republicans heckled Zoraida Fonalledas, the representative from Puerto Rico to their own convention with nativist chants earlier today, they reminded the American people who and what they really are...again.
When a black CNN reporter had nuts thrown at her, and was told "this is how we feed the animals," the Tea Party GOP showed up who they have always been...again.
And do not buy into the excuse-making: Chants of "U.S.A." have nothing to do with an internecine conflict between Ron Paul and establishment conservatives. Rather, this episode has everything to do with white conservative xenophobia and anti-immigrant zeal by a group of mouth-breathing Right-wing troglodytes who believe that Puerto Ricans are dangerous Spanish speaking "foreigners."
In all, the racist and xenophobic ugliness on display during Tuesday's meeting of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida should not be a surprise. The elites and opinion leaders of the Right have created this witches brew; now, they will either be saved by their monster or the beast will consume them.
My mother's people are from North Carolina. My grandmother and other elders would often talk about "good white people." The ability to distinguish between white people who would kill you, discriminate against you at will, or put you out of house and home because they could, was a practical life skill. We may no longer have The Negro Motorist Green Book, but black and brown folks still give their kids "the talk" about how to survive a routine traffic stop by the police. Cultural memory is deep and a gift. I am so very glad (and lucky) they passed on their wisdom and life skills. In turn, if so blessed, I will them down to my children as well.
It is true that white supremacy has evolved over time; but the lives of people of color are still expendable, and subject to arbitrary violence in America by White Authority (and those overly identified with it--see George Zimmerman).
For people of color in the United States, skillfully and successfully navigating the color line meant (and means) protecting your own life, as well as that of your children and family. Those of us who are not part of the in-group, or otherwise marginalized by Power, have to learn this skill set if we are to survive and do well in this society. Consequently, black and brown folks have to become expert students on the ways of white people.
I do wonder if Whiteness and White Privilege permits our white brothers and sisters to realize how much people of color know about them and their particular ways.
To point: as my parents and other elders have taught me, the "U.S.A" chanting cowboy hat wearing white populists who heckled Zoraida Fonalledas represent a particularly low class of white people. They may have money, but this group of white people has no decency. The low type of white person exemplified by the neo-John Birch base of the Tea Party GOP are also bigots. All that they have to comfort them is a weak type of nationalism which is emboldened by silly chanting, and the psychic wages of whiteness that happen to come with being arbitrarily categorized as "white" in this society.
The slogan "free, white, and twenty-one" got this class of white people through many decades of life in America. In an increasingly globalized world, with a black president, and a multicultural leadership class, such a slogan is approaching obsolescence. For many white people this is a terrifying prospect.
By comparison, Senator Priebus and Mitt Romney represent a slightly "better" class of white people. The latter is most certainly a racist. The former is likely one as well given his enabling of his party's Southern Strategy 2.0 and race-baiting against Barack Obama, the country's first black president. Together, both are "polite" racists. They have no love for what was once called "poor white trash." Elite whites such as Romney and Priebus use materially disadvantaged and racially resentful white people as a tool in order to maximize their own wealth and resources. The white reactionary populists who form the base of the Republican Party in the Age of Obama have not yet woken up to this old school con.
This brings us full circle. What of Zoraida Fonalledas? How do make sense of her awkward moment? On one hand, the better and more generous part of my soul has pity for her. It must hurt to realize that you are viewed with contempt by your own political brethren and comrades. As I suggested several here, she, and other conservatives who happen to be black, Latino, Asian, Native American, or Other, are sick with a delusion that they are "special" or "different" in the eyes of the White conservative gaze. Tuesday's happenings could perhaps be her wake up call.
The more cynical and less noble part of my soul smirks and smiles. Zoraida Fonalledas made her bed and now has to lie in it. Yes, the money and gold are substantial. Nevertheless, I struggle to understand how any self-respecting person of color could ally with the Tea Party GOP, the country's de facto White political party, and an organization whose electoral strategy increasingly consists of mining white racism and anxiety towards people of color to secure electoral victory.
I think that I will just smile. Zoraida Fonalledas experienced her own "Lisa broke Ralph's heart moment" on a national stage. The question remains: will Zoraida Fonalledas, and other non-white conservatives like her, keep coming back to the Tea Party GOP for more abuse?
I think we know the answer. They are almost to the one, sad pathetic souls.