Steve King is having a hard time pretending he's not a white supremacist

Steve King is having a hard time pretending he's not a white supremacist
Source: AP
Source: AP
opinion
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Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) made headlines Sunday for xenophobic comments he shared on Twitter.

"[Dutch prime minister candidate Geert] Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny," King tweeted, linking to a post about Wilders — a noted Islamophobe — being "right" to fear Muslim migration into Europe. 

"We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies," King said.

After widespread outcry, where critics likened King's comments to white nationalism, the Iowa congressman elaborated in an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo Monday.

"I'd like to see an America that's just so homogenous that we look a lot the same," King said, citing rising rates of intermarriage in the U.S. "I think there's been far too much focus on race, especially in the last eight years, and I want to see that put behind us."

Chris Cuomo went on to suggest that implying "somebody else's babies" shouldn't be welcomed in the United States hinted at white American nationalism, or the idea that the U.S. should maintain a white national identity. King pushed back.

"Chris, I have never said that," the congressman said. "I've been characterized as saying that, I've had the blogs out there say I said that."

Yet although King may not have said so verbatim, the white supremacist subtext in his comments is undeniable. In case after case, the Iowa congressman has trumpeted the unique virtues of whiteness and white cultural superiority over people of color. Monday was just business as usual.

King has a habit of making headlines for being racist. Most recently, at the Republican National Convention in July 2016, the Iowa congressman famously challenged MSNBC host Chris Hayes to "go back through history" and name one "sub-group of people" that had contributed more to civilization than whites.

"Than white people?" Hayes asked.

"Than Western civilization itself," King explained. "It's rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That's all of Western civilization."


Source: YouTube

On Monday, King referred to these comments again in his CNN interview with Chris Cuomo.

"When I said 'Western civilization' [last summer], that launched people that are opposed to Western civilization," King said. "That's a big problem. If we have an element of Americans here ... that reject Western civilization, then what have we?"

But as King explained his vision of what Western civilization is, it became clear that he was not talking about diverse liberal democracy, or any other idealized notion of what it might be. He was talking about white supremacy.

"Our English language is a big part of it. It's a carrier of freedom. Wherever the English language has gone, globally, freedom went with it," he said.

The idea that freedom accompanies English everywhere is demonstrably false, as former subjects of the British Empire can attest. In fact, a bulk of modern history was shaped by the cultural and military violence and slavery that followed the English language as it traversed the globe — from brutal British colonial rule in Africa and Asia, to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, to slavery in the U.S. and the massacre and forced assimilation of Native Americans.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in 2014.
Source: Charlie Neibergall/AP

Yet King insists that Europe — especially Anglophone Europe — has birthed a uniquely liberated global culture, in contrast to the nonwhite civilizations that have contributed far less to society.

"[There] are civilizations that produce very little, if any," King added. "This Western civilization is a superior civilization. And we want to share it with everybody."

The only way King can justify his claim about Western civilization and freedom is by deifying white culture — itself a hallmark of white supremacy — and ignoring the negative impact said civilization has had on people of color. The number of nonwhite people who've been enslaved or killed to make the U.S. what it is today should undercut any claims that the west has a unique monopoly on freedom. 

Plus, this system's profits are wildly overstated. Even today, the capacity for social mobility that defined the American Dream is largely a myth. Meritocracy is a sham. Higher education has become an elite luxury. Wealth gaps have widened dramatically, producing a governing system that is more oligarchy than democracy. And all are shaped by severe racial and gender equity gaps at nearly every level of society.

But at the end of the day, white supremacy is an ideology that idealizes whiteness. Even if King supports a U.S. where intermarriage homogenizes the country, he does so in a context that maximizes white cultural impact and forms a bulwark against immigration and nonwhite influence. He believes that different kinds of Americans — Muslims, Irish, Mexicans — contribute "differently" to Western society depending on their ethnic origins.

Despite claims King might make to the contrary, this is white supremacy, by definition. The rest is smoke and mirrors. And it's becoming more obvious each time he speaks.