In light of the recent government shutdown which ostensibly resulted from Republican hostility towards health care no longer being a reality reserved for the wealthy, I thought I’d post some of the suppositions I submitted several years ago regarding Representative Joe Wilson’s response to Obama’s attempts to challenge the class power indigenous to the aforementioned ideology and praxis:
When individuals argue that the Republican-Conservative party does not possess a proclivity for racism, making a case for the claim can be both complicated and contentious. For while members from the party like Meghan McCain have denounced the use of racialized language suggesting that Jim Crowism should be permissible and encouraged in the political sector, Republican conservatives such as Joe Wilson seemed to emphasize its xenophobic elements when he interrupted Barack Obama during a speech about health care. While many individuals maintain that Wilson’s interrupting a man of color functions as a salient form of hostility towards African-Americans who possess political power, others might argue that his outburst was motivated by rational concern for the well-being of a country engaged in a seemingly endless war regarding the issue of illegal immigration.
If one wanted to make a case for Wilson’s interruption constituting an act of racism, it wouldn’t be difficult. Many facets of his political career seem to point towards xenophobia. This fact becomes evident when one considers his voting record with respect to illegal immigration. Many individuals may argue that his voting against the use of U.S. funds to inform the Mexican government of the Minuteman Project does not constitute hostility towards illegal immigrants. These individuals may also argue that Wilson’s support for amending the Immigration and Nationality Act does not connote racism despite the fact that ending birthright citizenship makes it difficult for non-white individuals who are quite likely immersed in American culture to gain access to its resources. Yet while one may not deem his aforementioned voting record as a manifestation of racism, his views regarding the English language could indeed indicate a proclivity for prejudice against foreigners. This perhaps fact becomes evident when one considers the historical use of the English language as a tool of colonization. This linguistic colonization reared its ugly head when the English settlers precluded Native Americans from speaking languages indigenous to the culture such as Navajo and Cherokee. A similar and entirely undesirable historical reality resurfaced when African slaves brought to the islands and states were forced to speak English while abandoning the Niger-Congo languages. It is for this reason that English has rightfully earned the title “Language of the Master.” And it is quite likely for this reason that many progressives view English-only legislation as a code for colonization. In essence, when Republican conservative representatives like Wilson vote against improving access to services for persons with limited English proficiency, the suggestion seems to be that (often non-white) foreigners must assimilate into a Caucasian linguistic frame where the mastery of a language often spoken by persons of color (say, Spanish) detracts from–rather than contributes to–one’s cultural collateral and social mobility.
In addition to his highly questionable voting record with respect to illegal immigration, Wilson’s decisions regarding the display of the confederate flag seem to reveal nostalgia and/or reverence for a historical period when racism against persons of color was deemed permissible and fitting. Defending a heritage that included the slavery of black people, Wilson stated that “the Confederate heritage is very honorable.” Many individuals–including myself–find this assertion highly questionable and ultimately baseless. Yet what complicates the validity of his aforementioned argument is his subsequent statement: After the war, the South became the most patriotic region of the United States. This statement seems to convolute discourse about the confederate flag because the primary argument against its existence remains rooted in the notion that it symbolizes a pro-slavery ideology. Thus, if Wilson deems Confederate heritage (which included slavery) honorable, why does he cite post-Civil War activities and attitudes as proof for the South’s goodness/patriotism? Is he arguing that the slave or post-slave era best depicts what Confederate heritage is all about and why it warrants reverence? It all seems clear and clandestine–simultaneously.
What some political pundits seem to find more interesting than Wilson’s views on illegal immigration and the confederate flag is the fact that his decision to call Obama a liar led into discourse regarding what appears to be two lies of his own. First, in calling Obama a liar, Wilson suggested that Obama’s health care legislation somehow included provisions for illegal immigrants. Yet many trusted sources of fact verification–including Politifact–state that Wilson’s assertion is ultimately false. (Some of them cite House Bill 3200 section 246 to prove their case.) Indeed, it seems that the health care bill put forth by Obama does not afford resources for individuals who populate the U.S. illegally. Thus, Wilson’s statement regarding Obama’s ostensible lie seems to be the real manifestation of mendacity. Next, in defending–or at least attempting to explain–his behavior, Wilson stated that he was for lawful immigration and added that he had been an immigration lawyer. Yet no one seems to be able to validify this statement. The American Immigration Lawyers Association has confirmed that he was never a member. Greg Siskind, who ranks in the Top 25 immigration lawyers in the US by Chambers and Partners and has practiced law for nearly twenty years, did not recognize Wilson as an immigration attorney. Noting this in his own blog, he went on to point out that he’d called some of his friends in the Carolina immigration bar and found that none of them were aware of Wilson handling immigration issues. Moreover, TPM (which won the George Polk Award in 2008) reported South Carolina immigration lawyer George Finnan as having no recollection of Wilson working within the field. This–like Wilson’s implying that Obama’s health care legislation included provisions for illegal immigrants–seems to indicate that the veracity of his own statements are questionable.
When building a case against liberals and progressives, many conservatives argue that members of the aforementioned groups place too much primacy on the issue of race in an attempt to advance their various agendas. Yet manifestations such as this–a white male consciously interrupting a black male who perhaps has more power than him–reveals why discourse about race can and should be central to discussions about politics. As made evident by facts surrounding Wilson’s wrathful accusation, it seemed to be motivated by anxiety about and/or anger towards people of color–whether the President or illegal immigrants–who may pose a threat to the resurgence of the white power movement.