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We are Untermenschen to Them: The Tea Party Cheers a Hispanic Child Whose Father is Being Deported


What happened to compassionate conservatism? Did it ever really exist?

In a meeting last week, Josie Molina, an 11 year-old Hispanic child whose father is being deported, asked Tennessee Republican representative Scott Desjarlais if anything could be done to help her family in this time of crisis. He said "no". The crowd of Tea Party members enthusiastically endorsed his answer with clapping and screams of support. Josie Molina looked deflated, wilted, and heartbroken.

The Republican Party faithful have cheered for the idea of using electric fences to kill "illegal" immigrants. The Republican Party faithful have booed gay soldiers on live television. The Republican Party faithful have cheered on someone dying because the latter did not have insurance.

The Tea Party GOP are a death cult. They are also, for all intent and purposes,  a White Identity organization, one that is willing to betray all norms of good governance and consensus in order to advance a narrow set of interests which are sold to their public through the politics of white racial resentment and white grievance mongering.

When we survey the various grotesqueries of human history, there is a fundamental question that must be asked: how can human beings treat each other so badly?

To enslave people by the millions, commit genocide and mass rape, steal and destroy the land, territory, and property of others, murder defenseless children and others by bombing them, using the machete, the gas chamber, the machine gun, or by hand, would seem to require some extraordinary act of human will.

Modernity would suggest that such acts are all too easy and common to commit. They are legitimated by the very processes at work when Scott Desjarlais and his supporters cheered the suffering of a little girl: you destroy the shared sense of belonging which grounds human empathy, and thus you create a class of people now marked as some type of "Other".

Josie Molina is an alien outsider to the White Right and the Tea Party GOP. Because she is racialized as being "different", her father is a type of perpetual stranger. For the Authoritarian, especially those in the Tea Party who have now internalized the idea of "white politics" and "white group interests" as being synonymous with "real America", those who are not white--or overly identified with Whiteness through a type of "honorary" status (see George Zimmerman or Clarence Thomas)--are not worthy of dignity or respect.

Once more, the word  "herrenvolk" is a perfect descriptor for the Tea Party GOP. The lack of empathy towards a non-white child is a means of reinforcing how the fruits of democracy and liberty are demarcated and limited for conservatives by the color line, and through a sense of "us" and "them", in post civil rights America. Ultimately, if the Tea Party GOP are the herrenvolk, Josie Molina, her father, and people of color, more broadly, are the untermenschen.

Beyond conjecture or mere observation, research in social psychology reveals the power of racial difference to influence how white people perceive and respond to the suffering of non-whites.

For example, The Journal of Experimental Psychology reports that:

“Previous research shows people are less likely to feel connected to people outside their own ethnic groups, and we wanted to know why,” says Gutsell. “What we found is that there is a basic difference in the way peoples’ brains react to those from other ethnic backgrounds. Observing someone of a different race produced significantly less motor-cortex activity than observing a person of one’s own race. In other words, people were less likely to mentally simulate the actions of other-race than same-race people”. The trend was even more pronounced for participants who scored high on a test measuring subtle racism, says Gutsell.

“The so-called mirror-neuron-system is thought to be an important building block for empathy by allowing people to ‘mirror’ other people’s actions and emotions; our research indicates that this basic building block is less reactive to people who belong to a different race than you,” says Inzlicht.