SAN DIEGO — It's a holiday miracle! In 2020, some Republicans have gone from racist to post-racial.
Certainly, not every Republican is racist. Yet too many of them tolerate racism, pander to racists, and downplay the racial antics of others.
Now some in the GOP have found religion. Who knew that the party whose bread-and-butter voter is a disgruntled White male who feels victimized by everything from globalization to diversity training could fall so hard for the vision conveyed almost 60 years ago by a black preacher?
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," said the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous address during the 1963 March on Washington.
If I hear one more white male conservative radio host appropriate King's words to attack racial and ethnic diversity in everything from corporate boards to presidential appointments, I'm going to scream.
From 1980 to 2020, many in the GOP didn't judge people "by the content of their character." Colorblind, they were not.
In the 1980's, Republican President Ronald Reagan unleashed the Justice Department to dismantle affirmative action, minority scholarships and other programs intended to expand opportunities for people of color because, the argument went, these initiatives promoted reverse discrimination against White people.
In the 1990's, Republican Gov. Pete Wilson of California pushed two racially charged initiatives: Proposition 187, which sought to deny services to illegal immigrants and their children (most of whom, the campaign reminded us, are Latino); and Proposition 209, which eliminated racial and ethnic preferences in state-run education, hiring and contracting.
In the 2000's, Republicans competed to see who was toughest on illegal immigration (most of which comes from Mexico and Latin America). This happened, most notably, during the 2008 GOP presidential primary. Meanwhile, in Congress, Republicans opposed a hate crimes bill and legislation that made it easier for plaintiffs to sue for discrimination.
In the 2010s, Republicans in Arizona and a handful of other states passed legislation that empowered local and state police to use ethnic profiling in enforcing federal immigration laws, while New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump ran for president in 2016 on a promise to crack down on "bad hombres" bringing crime and drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Now, here we are in 2020. And white Republicans want us to forget all that history and sing "Kumbaya."
This year, when I write about race or immigration, I've been hearing a lot from White men who support Trump and identify themselves as conservatives. They want me to know that they see Hispanics as "White" and U.S. citizens who are just one or two generations away from their immigrant roots as full-fledged Americans.
What a momentous if somewhat confusing development this must be for my parent's tribe, the so-called Silent Generation, who are now in their late 70s and early 80s and includes President-elect Joe Biden. That generation of Hispanics — which suffered overt discrimination — if full of desperate souls who spent much of their lives either trying to be White or be accepted as Americans. Now, they've arrived. Apparently.
This new way of thinking by White conservatives seems to have been triggered by a few things.
There is the 2020 U.S. Census, which is expected to record that the United States continues its march to becoming a country where — as early as 2045 — Whites will represent a statistical minority.
Also, in May, there was the killing of George Floyd by a White police officer in Minneapolis, which sparked protests and riots. It started a national conversation about race and policing.
Next came the 2020 election, with headlines about the complexity of the "Latino vote" and stories about how African Americans saved Biden's presidential bid in South Carolina.
Finally, let's remember that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is a Black woman as the daughter of immigrants. For White men who feel displaced or marginalized, that's a triple trigger.
Color me skeptical. But I don't trust this conversion. This new spirit of inclusion appears fueled by the same thing that fueled decades of intolerance: fear. Only now, instead of worrying about crime or demographics or invasions, White people are afraid of being replaced.
That fear is ridiculous. Just like all the others.
Ruben Navarrette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2020 Washington Post.