Who are Those “Anglo-Saxons,” Anyway?

According to an English newspaper, a Mitt Romney “advisor” declared proudly that:

We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special. The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.

Romney denies it, of course. Who wouldn’t?

But I wouldn’t doubt that Romney or someone in his entourage said something like that. After all, the Republican presidential candidate has been sneaking in references to President Obama’s “foreign” background lately. I’m sure you know that in far-right dog-whistle code, “foreign” means black, and that is definitely not Anglo-Saxon.

I have to wonder whether Romney thinks he is Anglo-Saxon. I would consider him quite “foreign” because his great-grandfather fled from Texas to Mexico with his five wives. And it took a couple of generations for the Romneys to find their way back across the border.

That’s not the kind of history I associate with “an Anglo-Saxon heritage.”

Besides, I doubt very much that Romney is an Anglo-Saxon name. According to Baby Names.com, Romney is a Welsh word, meaning “across the Broad River” (how appropriate, considering the family’s migration to and from Mexico).

My first guess was that the name came from Romani, meaning gypsey. But whatever its origin, I am certain it’s not from Jutland or Germany – where Angles and Saxons originated. (There’s no record of the so-called Anglo-Saxons settling in Wales, either. The Welsh were originally Britons or – as they referred to themselves – Cymry.)

And I have to laugh when I read about America’s “Anglo-Saxon” heritage.  It’s true that the Pilgrim Fathers (illustration above, left) originally came from England (although they settled in Holland before coming to America), but the rebellious American colonists were not Anglo-Saxon. The way I learned it, the instigators were mostly Scots-Irish, those troublesome borderers who were driven out of Scotland and shipped to Ireland, where they turned out to be just as unwelcome as they were back home.

In case you didn’t get the memo, Anglo-Saxons are not from Scotland. Originally, that country was inhabited by Scots and infiltrated by Phoenicians and Celts from Ireland. There was probably a smattering of Picts and Britons from England, too. Later came the Norman invaders (from France).  True, there were those Viking marauders from Scandinavia, who left offspring all along the Scots and Irish coasts, but I don’t believe they were Angles, and I am sure they weren’t Saxons.

Indeed, I doubt there was ever really an Anglo-Saxon race. From what I’ve read, it’s a myth dreamed up by English nationalists back in Tudor times.

The early invaders of England (after the Romans left) included Angles from Jutland and Saxons from Germany, and the language that mixture produced was called Anglo-Saxon. But I imagine they were too busy killing off each other to do much interbreeding (illustration above, right). And, considering the Roman invaders included a North African contingent, I wonder whether any interbreeding that went on also included some left-over non-white soldiers.

Anyway, if there ever was such a mixed-race breed, its members have long since been assimilated by future migrations. Certainly, the English are not “Anglo-Saxon” today. According to a recent study, genetic evidence shows only 5 percent of the people in England have markers identified as Anglo-Saxon.

As for America, the world’s most magnificent melting pot, it would be hard to find many pure Anglo-Saxons among this country’s 330 million people. There are probably more Italians and Greeks, Irish and Scots, Turks and Slavs, Serbs and Scandinavians, Jews and Arabs, Flemish and Walloons, French and French Canadians, Spanish and Spanish Americans, Poles and Magyars, Asians, Africans and African-Americans, even Caribbean-Americans…

And let’s not forget the original inhabitants – once mistakenly identified as American Indians but now known as the First Nation.

Besides, America’s blood lines have become so intermingled over the years that most Americans no longer know or care what country or countries their forefathers inhabited.

And the trend is toward even more diversity. According to Wikipedia:

Hispanic and Latino Americans accounted for almost half (1.4 million) of the national population growth of 2.9 million between July 1, 2005, and July 1, 2006. Immigrants and their U.S.-born descendants are expected to provide most of the U.S. population gains in the decades ahead.

Today, in America, the term Anglo-Saxon is sometimes used as a euphemism by white supremacists. You will find any number of web sites proclaiming the “glorious” history of an imagined Anglo-Saxon people who supposedly conquered the world and brought civilization to us savages.

But I hope that even the sorry lot who surround Mitt Romney would not find that “heritage” appealing.

Click here to read a report about the Romney advisor’s remarks.

Click here to read about the creation of the Anglo-Saxon myth.

Click here for historical information about England.