Rep. Curry Todd remarked during a Fiscal Review Committee presentation this week that the idea of government-funded care for pregnant women [Mexican immigrants] who cannot prove they have United States government permission to be in this country struck him as not unlike inviting a rat infestation. The Collierville Republican made the comments after asking CoverKids program managers whether the state checks the citizenship status of care recipients. . . . [They] responded that CoverKids doesn’t provide medical coverage to pregnant women, but it does offer “unborn coverage …. ”Rep. Todd responded: “Well, they can go out there like rats and multiply, then, I guess.”
These comments have a strong resonance with aspects of old European and US white-racist framing of “undesirable” peoples seen as not white, and as vermin. There is the famous and viciously anti-Semitic film, The Eternal Jew (1940, Der ewige Jude in German), which was made under the control of Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels and directed by Fritz Hippler.
One summary of the film notes that early shots in it show
…a pack of rats emerging from a sewer, juxtaposed with a crowd of Jews in a bustling street of a Polish city. . . . The narration says that, as rats are the vermin of the animal kingdom, Jews are the vermin of the human race and similarly spread disease and corruption. Unlike rats, however, the narrator continues, Jews have the uncanny ability to change their appearance and blend into their “human hosts.”
Vicious vermin imagery has also been applied to African Americans and numerous other Americans of color. Now immigrants of color are being aggressively targeted nationally in much the same way. Have some of our white legislators kept such racist imagery and language deeply in their racist toolkits, to apply as needed to Americans of color they are hostile to when considering government aid programs? Would this legislator have said this so assertively about poor white folks in his state?