Cross posted from Pursuing Holiness
[Thanks to Brian Bonner, The Uncooperative Blogger, for the heads-up on this quote that led me to the Snopes page with the whole speech.]
People like myself, who are in favor of stopping as much illegal immigration as possible, are often charged with racism and being isolationist.
Was Teddy Roosevelt racist? Compared to today, certainly, but less so than most people of his time.
Although Roosevelt did some work improving race relations, he, like most leaders of the Progressive Era, lacked initiative on most racial issues. Booker T. Washington, the most important black leader of the day, was the first African American to be invited to dinner, on October 16, 1901, at the White House, where he discussed politics and racism with Roosevelt. News of the dinner reached the press two days later. The white public outcry following the dinner was so strong, especially from the Southern states, that Roosevelt never repeated the experiment.
Publicly, Roosevelt spoke out against racism and discrimination, and appointed many blacks to lower-level Federal offices, and wrote fondly of the “Buffalo Soldiers,” led by “Black Jack” Pershing, who had fought beside his Rough Riders at the Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba in July 1898. Roosevelt opposed school segregation, having ended the practice as Governor of New York. T.R. also did not subscribe to anti-Semitism—he was the first to appoint a Jew, Oscar S. Straus, to the Presidential Cabinet.
Like most intellectuals of the era, Roosevelt believed in evolution. He saw the different races as having reached different levels of civilization (with whites at the top and blacks at the bottom). Every race, and every individual, was capable of unlimited improvement, Roosevelt felt. Furthermore, a new “race” (in the cultural sense, not biological) had emerged on the American frontier, the “American race,” and it was quite distinct from other ethnic groups, such as the Anglo-Saxons. Roosevelt thought himself as Dutch, not Anglo-Saxon. After criticism of Washington’s invitation to the White House, Roosevelt seemed to wilt publicly on the cause of racial equality. In 1906, he approved the dishonorable discharges of three companies of black soldiers who refused his order to testify regarding a riot in Brownsville, Texas, known as the Brownsville Raid.
Was he isolationist? Emphatically, NO.
Theodore Roosevelt Presidential achievements are impressive. In foreign affairs he led us into the arena of international power politics, thrusting aside the American tradition of isolationism, while on the domestic scene, he reversed the traditional federal policy of laissez-faire, and sought to bring order, social justice, and fair dealings to American industry and commerce.
“Let us say to the immigrant not that we hope he will learn English, but that he has got to learn it. Let the immigrant who does not learn it go back. He has got to consider the interest of the United States or he should not stay here. He must be made to see that his opportunities in this country depend upon his knowing English and observing American standards. The employer cannot be permitted to regard him only as an industrial asset.
“We must in every way possible encourage the immigrant to rise, help him up, give him a chance to help himself. If we try to carry him he may well prove not well worth carrying. We must in turn insist upon his showing the same standard of fealty to this country and to join with us in raising the level of our common American citizenship.
“If I could I would have the kind of restriction which would not allow any immigrant to come here unless I was content that his grandchildren would be fellow-citizens of my grandchildren. They will not be so if he lives in a boarding house at $2.50 per month with ten other boarders and contracts tuberculosis and contributes to the next generation a body of citizens inferior not only morally and spiritually but also physically.”
He also said, “This is a nation — not a polyglot boarding house. There is not room in the country for any 50-50 American, nor can there be but one loyalty — to the Stars and Stripes.”
As with every other politician in our history, I may not agree wholeheartedly with everything Roosevelt did and stood for – but on this topic, he could not have been more right.
**This was a production of The Coalition Against Illegal Immigration (CAII). If you would like to participate, please go to the above link to learn more. Afterwards, email the coalition and let me know at what level you would like to participate.
Other recent CAII posts:
Documents Reveal Mexican Government Incursions into U.S., Illegal Immigration: So Much Happening Everywhere, Except In The Senate , Latino Congress Meets in Los Angeles to Tackle Immigration Reform, Sponsored by Hugo Chavez, Corporate Sponsorship of Shamnesty