Steve King didn’t just come out as Latino — what he said was far more insulting

Earlier today, apparently trolling Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, Steve King appeared to come out as Latino:

That’s right: Steve “Cantaloupe Calves” King, notorious for saying some of the most horrifically offensive things about Latinos out of all of America’s current elected officials, claimed that he is “as Hispanic and Latino” as one of our government’s most high-profile Latinos.


Steve King

But while the quick assumption was that King had, idiotically, claimed that he, too, has Latino heritage, I’m pretty sure he was saying the opposite: he was saying that Castro, by dint of his American citizenship, isn’t Latino at all.

This is a budding meme that anti-immigration hawks have started to circulate to a broader audience: that “Latinos” in America are, by definition, undocumented immigrants, and that all citizens are unhyphenated Americans who have dropped all claim to cultural or ethnic identity. Put another way, once you’re an American, you can’t identify as anything else.

And if that’s your baseline assumption, it makes perfect sense for you to whitesplain to those who embrace their ethnic identities that those identities don’t actually exist for them, as we saw earlier this week when a conservative commentator told a Latina Republican strategist — to her face — that “I don’t think you’re a Latino. I think you’re an American, just like me:”

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Making a concerted effort to blur the lines between nationality, culture and heritage in this way is far more offensive than simple trolling on Twitter. However, if they aren’t called out for it, immigration hardliners are going to turn this budding meme into a talking point. They’re going to use this blurred distinction to assert that they aren’t racists — they don’t hate Latinos, they just want them to go back to their own country. This will make sense to them — and they’ll argue that it should make sense to us, too — because there aren’t any Latinos here legally. To them, all of the legal ex-Latinos should be calling themselves Americans, perhaps to make it easier to identify who we should deport.

Keep in mind that Steve King has no problem telling people with whom he shares no heritage what their heritage should mean to them. It wasn’t too long ago that he goysplained to me, and other Jews like me, that we weren’t real Jews if we didn’t think that everything the Israeli government does is good and just and righteous.

These insulting constraints on who people are and what they should believe don’t necessarily stem from a lack of understanding of identity. On the contrary, they stem from a completely different conception and willful negation of identity.

No matter how tightly you wrap that message up in (white) nationalism, it’s always going to be transparently racist.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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19 Responses to “Steve King didn’t just come out as Latino — what he said was far more insulting”

  1. red-diaper-baby 1942 says:

    I love “goysplained”!

  2. andy.lotiya says:

    The current market is nothing but debt fueled smoke.;;;
    Jobs and job growth. Very funny, that was a good one. You know there are actually people out there who don’t know what is happening and believe that. Good one!!..
    Next Page

  3. The_Fixer says:

    Oh yes, expect them to do considerable damage on the way out. After all, they’re convinced that they have God on their side, therefore, they feel justified in anything that they do.

    In the end, though, they are dying off and the younger voters are taking over.

  4. Zorba says:

    Yes, the demographics are changing, and King and his ilk are terrified of this.
    But this is also what is making them more right-wing than ever, more desperate, and, at least until they are totally marginalized, it makes them more potentially dangerous.
    A cornered wild animal is always more dangerous.

  5. The_Fixer says:

    This whole discussion, aside from being an assault on logic, is really a cynical and nationalistic attack on “the others.” Strategically, it assumes that everyone has gone along for this anti-intellectual ride, or will.

    But as usual, it’s the hard-core Republicans at whom they are aiming their rhetoric – the vast majority of the electorate, more of the “middle”, will not go for this. It will serve to be divisive, and they won’t win this one. Because they’ve already lost. Demographically, this country is changing. They know it, and they’re grasping at straws with this nonsensical argument.

    Just wait for that day when this demographic trend catches up to Iowa. King will be walking the beat looking for a job, and will be resigned to writing for some right-wing extremist blog where he will find sympathy, but not much credibility.

    In the meantime, he’ll be twittering us with his ruminations. I can hardly wait for the next one.

  6. Bributly says:

    Super Media Jobs 589$ / day


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  7. Demosthenes says:

    According to later news reports, Rep. Steve King (R-Idiot) admitted: “I’m not only a Latino, but the inspiration for the glorious future world portrayed in the movie “Idiocracy”.”

  8. RepubAnon says:

    Perhaps Steve King is just doing an homage to an old Firesign Theater album – Mr. King’s working title is: “Everything Steve King Knows Is Wrong!”

  9. 2patricius2 says:

    Reminds me of the people who say that “homosexuals” don’t exist – there are just people who have “same sex attractions.” And those who say that married lesbian and gay people are not really married because their god says that marriage is between one man and one woman.

  10. olandp says:

    It is also the definition of bigotry.

  11. olandp says:

    Steve King doesn’t believe in hyphenated Americans? But, but, but he is an asshole-American.

  12. Buford2k11 says:

    When did the War on Hyphens start? I musta missed that memo or was it written in Spanglish?

  13. MoonDragon says:

    Has he mentioned this to all the people who celebrate Columbus Day and St. Patrick’s day?

  14. Hue-Man says:

    There are Latinos in the USA legally who are NOT U.S. citizens; Green Card holders, visitors, and temporary residents under the alphabet-soup of visa classifications. I know the TeaParty/GOP position is ZERO immigration forever but even if you “Americanize” all the minorities, there will still be Latinos in the US. (Confession: I changed it to Americanize after typing another word I associate more with Steve King that starts with A and ends in -ize.)

  15. majii says:

    King asks, “What does Julian Castro know?” Well, I’ll tell you, Steve, and I’ll keep it short. Julian knows that the GOP/TP is no friend to Latinos/Hispanics, LGBTQ Americans, Black Americans, Muslim Americans, Asian Americans, atheists, Wiccans, and anyone else who doesn’t agree with its policies.

  16. BeccaM says:

    Denying a group of people the right to have their own cultural identity, coupled with the notion of forced homogenization, historically has been the nascent malignant seed of eventual ethnic cleansing, incarceration, expulsions, and sometimes even genocide.

    This kind of language from privileged men like Rep. Steve King, the rhetoric of xenophobia, never ends well.

  17. Indigo says:

    OMG! It’s 1954 all over again.

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