It is difficult to find two identities in American history as reviled as the Mormon and the Irish Catholic. But both groups managed to sneak into the backdoor of legitimacy by proving their commitment to whiteness by dousing hatred on blackness.
The first group by writing institutional contempt of blacks into its scriptures, and the second by turning its back on its labor brothers in arms when the privileges of whiteness were offered to them in exchange for support of slavery and access to the institutions of whiteness.
So it is with rich irony that the “party of whites” has chosen Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to be their standard bearers in this election where the vestiges of whiteness have lost its old glory. And when Mitt Romney sat before Spanish media to answer questions, it was noted with curiosity that he had colored his skin a darker hue of brown.
Perhaps it was a gesture of solidarity, this clumsy attempt to be the forty-seven percent. As I wrote earlier this week, it is clear who the forty-seven percent is in Romney’s mind and in the mind of his constituents. That those on Social Security or on corporate welfare of one form or another would take no offense to his accusations of being freeloaders looking for handouts, even as the media pretends to be taken aghast by his ungraceful inclusion of so many of his own supporters into this reviled class.
The forty-seven percent is, quite literally, the minority. And when stooping down to speak to minorities one must be as a minority. One must be darker.
By showing up in brownface he was speaking the language of whiteness, unaware that Hispanics too speak the same language as he. By coloring his skin he became the darkest Latino, having been born of white-Mexican parents as he says, on a stage with white Latinos. What a mess.
What a Shakespearean twist of tragedy that the Republican Cleopatra, that sultry gypsy of a banker that Romney is, sat there as a swarthy man dressed as a white man dressed as a swarthy man. Whiteness, transforming before us, lured by the lustful promise of treasures. And meanwhile, the court jester Ron Paul, traipses across the country with gold coins in his hand and a merry band of followers yearning for alternative routes to the past without its historical baggage.
It would be an awfully contemptuous metaphor to paint people in such a way, but alas, it is no metaphor.
It went largely unnoticed that Mitt Romney is the first Republican candidate in modern political history to win the nomination without winning a single Southern state until the game had already been won. While the brotherhood of whiteness has dissipated somewhat in the North with the inclusion of Italians, Poles, and other ethnicities, Southern whiteness still holds strongly to its delusions of grandeur.
Centuries of acculturation into the meaning of whiteness has been bred into the South, and it would be much harder for them to vote for an imposter such as Romney than for the Italian Santorum who at least acknowledged his foreignness to them.
But it is Romney they have chosen and as the party of whiteness adjusts to the changing face of America, we will continue to face the awkwardness on display at Univision.
Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.