During the Republican National Convention, United States Representative for Iowa's 4th congressional district Steve King, who has served in congress since 2003, shocked Chris Hayes and April Ryan with his white nationalist statements.
"Go back through history, Charlie, and ask yourself 'where are these contributions made by these other categories of people that you are talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization,'" King asked.
Chris Hayes sought clarification, by asking, "Than white people?"
King continued, "Western civilization itself, rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States, and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world."
Chris Hayes, the witty and usually quick-on-his-feet host was stunned. The comments clearly caught him off guard. April Ryan and Chris Hayes went on Periscope after the interview to discuss what happened with Joy Reid. Chris Hayes correctly noted that the statement was "self-refuting." However, false statements, illogical arguments and invalid conclusions characterize Donald Trump's campaign best, along with racist and sexist comments that are unprecedented for a major party presidential nominee. Thus, to be surprised by the statements made by Representative Steve King is actually absurd.
It is no secret that a number of members of the Republican party, political leaders, representatives and its constituents hold these, not only Eurocentric views, but white nationalist ideologies. The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, is a manifestation, a symbol, of those very ideologies and views. His campaign is based on appeals to pathos and fear to the detriment of logic, evidence or facts. This has worked for his campaign. Yet, there is something more sinister to consider here. Set aside, the intersection of white-male privilege and class that lends Mr. Trump access to such a position. Representative Steve King is a purveyor of power as an elected official, an arm of political dominance as a member of Congress and by his own statements -- a racist.
I do not use the term racist glibly. I employ this term from the position that such Eurocentric ideologies, coupled with political power within our legislative and lawmaking body of government results in cultural domination and exploitation. In other words, it's not what Representative Steve King said that should concern us, so much as a system that substantiates such ideologies. He is a congressman. When ideologies are discriminatory and its internal structure justifies such ideologies, that society is, in fact, racist. Effectively, Representative Steve King and the symbolism of what Mr. Trump represents, looms the ever-nagging and elusive hierarchy of domination. To be clear, Eurocentrism is not tantamount to racism, except and when it intersects with political power and lodges within, across and into the systems that govern us. We know this intersection is at the heart, the foundation, of American history. Representative Steve King reminded us that it is at the heart of modern America. This statement of white cultural superiority characterizes the United States in more ways than we all would like to admit -- it is eugenics and slavery. It is the way the school system teaches Thanksgiving and Christopher Columbus. It is the absence of people of color in our history books, in our curriculum, except to talk about such people from a place of powerlessness and plunder. Yet, this is not the worse of it. If we were talking about an America that has acknowledged racism as much as it acknowledges race, we might be further ahead. Yet we try to "unite" in a self-justifying society made up of a prism of economic, political and cultural reinforcement of Representative King's statements -- see evidence here, here and here.
After hearing Representative Steve King's comments, I wondered, How can someone lack such a deep sense of historical knowledge? White supremacy, the belief that white people are superior and should dominate society, is fundamental to the very existence of this country. From this view, the answer is clear. Cultural domination allows you to move through life without considering, acknowledging or learning about anything or anyone outside of your own culture. What other group in America has that luxury?
Representative Steve King juxtaposes the significant contributions of Europeans and Americans with the spread of Christianity. This juxtaposition is indeed historically significant. A cursory review of Western civilization will reveal the re-interpretation of Biblical texts dating back to the 16th century, which equated Black or dark-skin people, for example, with inferiority. White society worked to not only justify the mistreatment of Blacks through Christianity but also to offer Black slaves hope. Curtis Bunn, in an Atlanta Black Star article states it precisely:
The most important aspect of Christianity for the enslaved was the promise of heaven -- a promise made by plantation owners. This idea preached the notion that for all the suffering that is done in the physical world, your soul will be preserved and you will experience a hardship-free spiritual life, according to Slave Resistance, A Caribbean Study. What this did for enslaved Black people was give them hope for the future. Converted enslaved people's belief in heaven allowed some to passively resist their plantation owners and focus on the afterlife. With that belief, all of the beatings and lashings meant nothing because in heaven the enslaved person would be rewarded and the master would be punished.
This hope for the future kept Black people alive, yet it is also a variation of the same manifestation of hope Black people harbor today. April Ryan suggested in her post interview on Periscope with Chris Hayes that she was in disbelief at the comments. That disbelief is indeed hope. Even as we witness, via video and live stream, the murder of Black citizens and children by police officers, the rise of Donald Trump as a symbol of white anxiety and anger that reeks of white nationalism and anti-brown sentiments, we still maintain the optimism that President Obama seems to maintain. That is hope. As Black people, we give, even GOP constituents and representatives, the benefit of not assuming what we already know but refuse to believe. We continue to hope that we are not divided, that we can move the needle forward on systemic racism and white supremacy even as we know it still permeates every fiber of our institutions, political and educational systems and an alarming number of people who make up those institutions, political and educational systems. Hope -- that is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. So we live on, hoping that white racial ideology juxtaposed with cultural domination, will cease. Hoping that the hierarchy will flatten.