Most of us have heard by now that the President of the United States has gone FULL RACIST this weekend. To the absolute delight of white supremacists everywhere, Donald Trump suggested that U.S Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — all Women Of Color, and all U.S citizens — “GO BACK” to the countries they came from. Just in case you haven’t seen it yet, here you go:
In case you don’t already know, THREE of these four women were born in the United States, while Ilhan Omar was born in Somalia, moved here when she was 10, and became a U.S. citizen when she was 17 years old… Which, by the way, makes her a U.S. citizen a full six years longer than Melania Trump has been a citizen. The occupant of the White House has since doubled & tripled down on his racist comments. Meanwhile, the accomplices in the GOP have circled the wagons… When Kellyanne Conway was asked about Trump’s remarks, she demanded to know the ethnicity of the reporter asking the question (he was Jewish). And when Mitch McConnell was asked if it would be racist for someone to tell his foreign-born & naturalized wife to “Go back to where she came from,” he responded with his usual obfuscating cowardice (seen in the video below).
There is a LONG HISTORY of “Go back to where you came from” in this nation. This sort of sentiment is rooted and based in a deep sense of “If you don’t like OUR country, GO BACK TO THE SHITHOLE YOU CAME FROM.” The question we need to ask is obviously “Who is the ‘OUR’ in that sentence?” And the answer is just as obvious: It’s white people.
They’ll tell you it comes from a place of “America — Love it or leave it.” There have been MANY times in my life — while I was being critical of America — that someone has suggested to me that “If you hate it so much, maybe you should just leave.” The difference is that NEVER has it been suggested that I go *BACK* somewhere. And that’s because I’m white… I obviously “belong” here. Imagine hearing someone say to me “Go back to the Netherlands.” It just wouldn’t happen. And this sentiment is directly related to Trump’s previous “shithole” comments, when he referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” in an Oval Office meeting on Immigration… followed by him openly longing for more immigrants from Norway. But that’s his brand, right? He hasn’t tried to keep it a secret. The “back” in “Go BACK to where you came from” contains a full measure of the insidious hatred & white supremacy infused into the “again” in the slogan “Make America Great AGAIN.”
Which reminds me… That is just some next-level hypocrisy to run an entire campaign on the idea that America isn’t “great” anymore, and that we need to make it “great again” — and THEN, with a straight face, call people “un-American” for criticizing America and thinking we need to make some changes. For the Republican Party to not acknowledge this CLEAR HYPOCRISY is either an acknowledgment of their stupidity or an acknowledgement of their dishonesty. Or both… I suppose they could be both stupid AND dishonest. But I’m pretty sure it’s primarily dishonesty.
And now people (like Kamala Harris, in the first tweet I shared) are reacting to his open racism by calling his comments “Un-American.” Well, I beg to differ. Racism is UN-AMERICAN?!? America was literally BUILT on racism. Call his comments hateful… Characterize them as morally repugnant… Feel free to compare his words to those of past world leaders who openly supported genocide… Tell the truth and call the things he said objectively racist… But don’t call the things he said “Un-American.” America has a rich history of “othering” people, and then telling those others to “go back where they came from.”
The definition of who we mean when we say “WE” is either expanding or contracting. The beginnings of the holocaust and genocide that took place in Germany started with demonizing immigrants. Then it CONTRACTED the idea of who gets to be part of the “WE” of Germany… All the way down to a very specific idea of whiteness or “purity.” And yes, in America there have been periods of time when we have done the hard work of EXPANDING the idea of who gets to be included in the “WE” of this nation. It has taken a Civil War and Constitutional Amendments and marches and funerals, and there have been heroes who have forced those steps toward equality and justice and an American ideal of welcoming all. But opposition to expanding who gets to be “IN” has always been spearheaded by Trump’s group: Wealthy, white men.
It’s nativism. It’s white nationalism. It’s xenophobia. It’s othering. And it’s an American tradition. The “othering” of people groups can be for any number of differences: Accent, language, religion, ethnicity, color, etc… But some of those differences are easier to hide than others. People can learn a new language or drop their accents, but the color of their skin is always with them. An Irish accent can disappear with kids who grow up here, but brown skin will identify someone as “other” for generations. It’s not that skin color is that much scarier than a different religion or a different accent… It’s just that it’s a difference that is easier to identify from a distance.
And once again, the truly disgusting part of this is the way that the Republican Party rallies around his racist comments, while bending over backwards to excuse them. We have known that Donald Trump is a profoundly broken person for a very long time. This is not surprising behavior from the same person who recently blocked anyone from the U.S. from participating in the “United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.” Americans who are black and brown are already being told to “GO BACK” on a regular basis. Please spend some time reading the responses to this tweet by Gabe Ortíz…
If you can read those responses without feeling your heart break, I don’t know what to tell you. People of Color already regularly hear the words “Go back to where you came from” in this country — Most of them started hearing it while they were just children. But the real tragedy is this: How much MORE are these kids, these mothers & fathers, these families going to feel the hateful sting of “GO BACK” now that people see the President of the United States doing it? All while the entire GOP excuses and even justifies it (Please read this terrific article by Neema Avashia titled “I Am From Here.”) For me, as a white man, I can be disgusted at this whole thing, and then move on to be grossed out by the next horrible thing he says… But for many people who don’t look like me, these things have real consequences. They will be dealing with emboldened racists and xenophobes for YEARS to come…
What will it take for the Republican Party to stop supporting and defending this awful man?
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