George Graham

“Ugly Americans” Bare Their Fangs at Home

You might be old enough to remember a book (and movie) titled “The Ugly American.” The tale portrayed Americans who behave offensively in a fictional Asian country.

In the story, a “native” journalist remarks:

For some reason, the [American] people I meet in my country are not the same as the ones I knew in the United States. A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They’re loud and ostentatious.

The “reason,” I believe, is that Americans – white Americans – have an inbred sense of superiority. Most of them, anyway. It is true that there is an enlightened minority, but you seldom hear from them today.

Now, the “ugly Americans” don’t have to be in a foreign country to show their offensive nature. The “foreign country” has come to them, and they are displaying their worst traits here at home.

I am referring specifically to the blatantly racist Arizona law requiring state police to stop “suspicious looking” people and demand proof of legal U.S. residence (photo above, right).

A federal judge has slapped down key elements of the law, and granted the Obama administration a temporary injunction  against its implementation, which was scheduled for today.

You would think the ruling would elicit nationwide applause. After all this is America, the Land of the Free. You wouldn’t expect legalized racial profiling and police harassment to be welcome here… Or would you?

The ugly truth is that most Americans support the law. And several American states are in the process of enacting similar legislation.

Indeed, media commentators are saying the Democratic Party will “pay a political price” for Obama’s challenge to the law.

Here’s how the UK Guardian sees it:

The legal ruling risks a potential white backlash as opinion polls have shown consistently high support for the law across the United States…

Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that supports tighter immigration controls, said a hardening of positions was likely in the wake of the ruling. “This will add fuel to the frustrations of states over the lack of federal government action in enforcing the immigration laws.”

I find it revealing that the latest CNN poll shows 55 percent of Americans like the Arizona law. (Some polls put the approval rate even higher.) If you consider that about 75 percent of the U.S. population is white, you might come to the conclusion that more than 70 percent of the white population supports the racist law. (I can’t see a significant number of  Hispanics or African Americans telling the pollsters they’re in favor of it. Can you?)

It’s just one of the many manifestations of white racism that have been in the news recently. The “far right” has been on a racist rampage, triggered no doubt by the election of America’s first black president. But they’re not alone.

More troubling is evidence of a deep and wide current of white resentment in mainstream America. The only mitigating factor I can find is that the vast majority of racists are quite old. Younger Americans tend to be far more tolerant.

So I am comforted by the promise that time will “cure all ills,” as the sages tell us it does.

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com