Prompted by the decision of a group of predominantly white, incredibly privileged men to advance a law that will dangerously intensify the militarization of the US’s southern border and require immigrants to wait 13 years to achieve citizenship, David Brooks issued that most classic cri de coeur of the aging, privileged white male who is worried that his cohort’s absolute grip on power may be weakening: the ”I DON’T RECOGNIZE MY COUNTRY ANYMORE" essay/WAAAH-fest.
Over the past few decades, American society has been transformed in a fit of absence of mind. First, we’ve gone from a low immigrant nation to a high immigrant nation. If you grew up between 1950 and 1985, you grew up at a time when only about 5 percent or 6 percent of American residents were foreign born. Today, roughly 13 percent of American residents are foreign born, and we’re possibly heading to 15 percent.
While I appreciate that David Brooks is finally admitting that he’s failed to notice immigrants and people of color for the last 51 years of his life, I object to the implication that this is a societal “absence of mind.” Some of us haven’t just recently woken up to the fact that there are immigrants in the U.S. that didn’t come from Europe. Some of us actually are those immigrants, or their children. But of course, those of us who have evaded Brooks’ razor-sharp perception for the last half-century aren’t privileged aging white men and apparently don’t have brains to start with, so we’re left out of the collective consciousness that took an old-man nap and woke up surrounded by dogs that don’t comply with Westminster Kennel Club standards.
But before we delve into the doggier parts of the problem here, let’s take a meander through American history with Mr. Brooks:
Moreover, up until now, America was primarily an outpost of European civilization. Between 1830 and 1880, 80 percent of the immigrants came from Northern and Western Europe. Over the following decades, the bulk came from Southern and Central Europe. In 1960, 75 percent of the foreign-born population came from Europe, with European ideas and European heritage.
I understand that we have to make allowances for ol’ Rip Van Winkle here, but I’m pretty sure that up until now, America has not been primarily an outpost of European civilization. In fact, I feel quite confident asserting that what we now know as America has for most of its history been a land with millions of indigenous, non-European people, and that even when Europeans showed up, they brought along with them millions of enslaved Africans. So the only way I’m going to agree with Brooks that America has been primarily an outpost of European civilization is if we stipulate that by European civilization we mean genocide, slavery, colonization, and the systematic oppression of people of color.
Soon, we will no longer be an outpost of Europe, but a nation of mutts, a nation with hundreds of fluid ethnicities from around the world, intermarrying and intermingling. Americans of European descent are already a minority among 5-year-olds. European-Americans will be a minority over all in 30 years at the latest, and probably sooner…
Because high immigration is taking place at a time of unprecedentedly low ethnic hostility, we’re seeing high rates of intermarriage. This creates large numbers of hybrid individuals, biracial or triracial people with names like Enrique Cohen-Chan…
Immigration reform or not, the nation of mutts is coming.
I admit, as a mongrel myself, I’m taking this one a bit personally. I tend to get mildly sensitive when I and my multi-racial and POC sisters and brothers are compared to inferior animals. I’m not sure why.
I take extra-special offense when the comparison to animals has the added bonus of including a suggestion of a lack of intelligence. The word “mutt" derives from "muttonhead" and was used to refer to a dumb person. The application to mixed-breed dogs came later. According to Merriam-Webster, other synonyms for mutt include:
airhead, birdbrain, blockhead, bonehead, bubblehead, chowderhead, chucklehead, clodpoll (or clodpole), clot [British], cluck, clunk, cretin, cuddy (or cuddie) [British dialect], deadhead, dim bulb [slang], dimwit, dip, dodo, dolt, donkey, doofus [slang], dope, dork [slang], dullard, dumbbell, dumbhead, dum-dum, dummkopf, dummy, dunce, dunderhead, fathead, gander, golem, goof, goon, half-wit, hammerhead, hardhead, ignoramus, imbecile, jackass, know-nothing, knucklehead, lamebrain, loggerhead [chiefly dialect], loon, lump, lunkhead, meathead, mome [archaic], moron, mug [chiefly British], idiot, natural, nimrod [slang], nincompoop, ninny, ninnyhammer, nit [chiefly British], nitwit, noddy, noodle, numskull (or numbskull), oaf, pinhead, prat [British], ratbag [chiefly Australian], saphead, schlub (also shlub) [slang], schnook [slang], simpleton, stock, stupe, stupid, thickhead, turkey, woodenhead, yahoo, yo-yo
That’s a whole lot of ways to say stupid. Funny how turns of phrase with white supremacist implications manage to sneak their way into white supremacist columns.
Because ultimately that’s what this essay is. Disguised as a meditation on the dawn of a “New America,” Brooks’ column is a fundamentally a white supremacist apologia. Every sentence drips with the smug complacency of an aging, privileged white male who deploys the pronoun ‘we’ as a weapon. We the people is really we the native-born, owning-class men of European descent. We, he cries, we! We are the real America. We are the definers of the “social fabric,” the bringers of civilization, the educated, the powerful, the New York Times columnists.
We will humor you brown people. We will feign tolerance of your “jostling” “diversity.” We will look down upon you from our lofty heights like a breeder looks down upon a litter of mutts, smile benevolently, and drown you in a horse trough one by one.
Fuck you, David Brooks, you racist piece of shit. And fuck you, Grey Lady, for continuing to publish this garbage.
Seriously, fuck you both.
— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew)