Donald Trump is telling members of Congress to go back to the countries they came from— countries that, for most of them, happen to be … the United States. Racism is a common theme in the political career of this president, a president who is all the while the husband and son of immigrants.
On Sunday, July 14, Donald Trump added to the cesspit that is his Twitter feed with a remark that demonstrated an open and uninhibited racism and that targeted four members of the House of Representatives:
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how....”
The women that Trump is targeting are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Presley and Ilhan Omar. They are known as “The Squad.” They were elected to Congress for the first time last November, unseating establishment Democrats in the primaries. They are particularly vocal and left-leaning. With the exception of Ilhan Omar, born in Mogadishu and naturalized—like Trump’s wife—none of them comes from elsewhere. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx, Rashida Tlaib in Detroit, and Ayanna Presley in Cincinnati. The country they come from is called the United States.
Let us take Ayanna Presley as an example. She is not an immigrant, not the daughter of immigrants, not the granddaughter of immigrants … She is simply black. Where does Donald Trump want to send her? And then there is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the most media-friendly of the four. She was born in the Bronx, New York, 20 minutes from the Queens hospital where Trump was born. Her mother was born in Puerto Rico, an American territory. Her father was born in the Bronx. Trump’s family is more of an immigrant family than hers. Trump’s mother was born in Scotland, and his father was born to German immigrants. But Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has brown skin and a name that sounds Latino …
The Case of the “Central Park Five”
Donald Trump does not restrict himself to being megalomaniacal, narcissistic, manipulative and brutal. Unlike his Republican predecessors, he is openly racist. Worse yet: he has built his political career on racism.
It began with an ad that he placed in several New York newspapers in 1989. A woman had been raped and beaten to death in Central Park. Five black teenagers had been arrested; a recent miniseries, “When They See Us,” tells their story on Netflix. At the time, Donald Trump, then a real estate magnate, had spent $85,000 in order to call for the revival of the death penalty, notably in The New York Times. The “Central Park Five” were then sentenced to jail.
A long time later, another man admitted that he was the sole perpetrator of the crime, a fact that DNA confirmed. The “Five” were cleared and indemnified. But last June, Donald Trump refused to apologize, sending the message that he does not believe that these wrongfully incarcerated men were innocent. No question of disavowing his first political act, evil though it was.
The “Birther” Campaign
Donald Trump’s second major political act, the one that launched him into the electoral arena, is hardly any more honorable. Under Barack Obama, Trump participated in the “birther” campaign, which questioned the president’s legitimacy on the pretext that he was supposedly not born in the United States. Which was, once again, entirely false; Obama was born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father.
In the beginning, nobody took the matter seriously. But, by dint of being repeated, the lie became an issue. Worn down, Obama ended up releasing his birth certificate. But it was too late—the poison was already there. When Obama was getting ready to leave office, half of Republican voters still believed the lie. And it was with this lie propelling him that Trump jumped into the race for the White House, using “Make America Great Again” as his slogan.
Yes, racism is one of the forces behind Trump's politics. Never does he take the risk of disappointing his xenophobic or anti-black base. He makes frequent nods to this base. When he must condemn racism, he says “all types of racism” (sub-text: that includes anti-white racism). And at the time of the confrontations that pitted white supremacists against militant anti-racists in Charlottesville, in 2017, he refused to take a side: “You had very fine people on both sides.”