MCCARTHY: King’s racist tweet forgets Irish immigrant ails

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MCCARTHY: King’s racist tweet forgets Irish immigrant ails

This 1920s cartoon shows the Ku Klux Klan chasing the Catholic Church, personified as St. Patrick, from the shores of the United States.

This 1920s cartoon shows the Ku Klux Klan chasing the Catholic Church, personified as St. Patrick, from the shores of the United States.

This 1920s cartoon shows the Ku Klux Klan chasing the Catholic Church, personified as St. Patrick, from the shores of the United States.

This 1920s cartoon shows the Ku Klux Klan chasing the Catholic Church, personified as St. Patrick, from the shores of the United States.

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It seems fitting Representative Steve King’s (R-IA) racist tweet regarding immigrants came during a week when so many Irish Americans reflect on their cultural heritage.

If you’re out of the loop, King retweeted Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders’ political cartoon about Muslim refugees, adding the caption, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

Putting aside the question of what it means to restore Western civilization, or whether it indeed needs restoring, King’s statement is far from a simple denouncement of birthright citizenship. It is xenophobic and racist.

You would think as a Catholic and descendant of Irish immigrants, Rep. King would remember all too well how his relatives were treated when they immigrated to America. During the mid-19th century, the aptly named Know Nothing Party, the original home for American nativist hate and bigotry, removed Irish immigrants from state jobs and attacked Catholics on their way to the polls. In New England, they even burned a Catholic Church and tarred and feathered a Catholic priest.

Even after the Know Nothing Party receded into history, the Klu Klux Klan would take its nativist and anti-Catholic rhetoric to new heights. Now, this nativist sentiment has found a new home in the members of the Republican party like King who demonize immigrants while ignoring their own immigrant past.

I have no problem calling these people racists.

I think there is a sense from people on the right that liberals cry racism as a tactic to remove opposing points of view. Maybe that’s a legitimate complaint in some cases, but not this one. King’s statements are racist, and not because troglodytes like David Duke agree with them. It’s because they’re based in this false reality where America is a white ethno-state.

King has a history. You can’t ignore his ardent support of racial profiling, his dog-whistle comments about Obama’s middle name and the fact he keeps the confederate flag on his desk (despite Iowa siding with the union).

If you are unable to express your “tough on immigration” beliefs without resorting to racist comments, maybe rethink how you arrived at those beliefs. Are you trying to protect your country from Mexicans with “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” (Yes, King actually said that) or is that just an excuse for something more sinister?

If King had any shame, he would resign, but I suspect he’ll blame the outrage on the culture of political correctness rather than hold himself accountable for his irresponsible and reprehensible comments. Republicans like Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush are willing to condemn his statements, but the party will continue to fund his reelection. Ultimately, it’s on his constituents to decide whether to vote him out. Given that he’s been in Congress 14 years, perhaps these comments also reflect their views.

I don’t think these sentiments from descendants of Irish immigrants are isolated to Iowa. A few years ago, at a pre-St. Patrick’s Day party at a friend’s house in Maryland, an Irish American approached us, pointed at his Pakistani neighbors in the yard beside us and said something to the effect of, “Well, they’re all terrorists to me.”

Now that St. Patrick’s day is over and our thoughts turn away from our heritage again, try to reflect on your own immigrant story. Remember very few of us came over on the Mayflower and many groups of foreign immigrants and religious outcasts have faced the same prejudice some of us now perpetrate. Without them, you probably wouldn’t even be here.

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