‘Blatantly racist’: Democrats hit back at Trump

The squad: (From left to right) Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Is Donald Trump a racist? The US president sparked disbelief when he told four minority-ethnic Democrats to “go home” to their “crime infested” countries. But some still shy away from the word.

Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — nicknamed “the squad” — are part of a new generation of Democrat politicians: ethnically diverse, female and progressive. They have also been targets of a vicious social media attack from President Donald Trump.

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” the US president tweeted on Sunday. The attack prompted horror and condemnation around the world, including from the UK’s PM Theresa May. Many observed that telling a person of colour to “go home” is a common racist trope.

Of the four, only Omar was not born in the USA. She came from Somalia as a 12-year-old refugee, before becoming a US citizen five years later.

At the press conference at the Capitol, Omar described the attack as “blatantly racist”. The four women accused the president of following the “agenda of white nationalists”.

But the media is split on how to respond to Trump’s comments.

CNN called out Trump’s “racist rant”, while the LA Times ran the headline: “Trump is Truly America’s Bigot-in-Chief”.

Others shied away from labelling the president a racist, instead describing his comments as “racially loaded”, “racially tinged” or even “racist-adjacent”.

Despite Trump’s claim yesterday that he “doesn’t have a racist bone in [his] body”, the case against him is building.

In the 1970s, Trump and his father were investigated by the Department of Justice for blocking people of colour from living in their New York buildings.

And, according to an ex-employee at one of Trump’s casinos in the 80s, quoted in The New Yorker: “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor.”

Trump entered politics as a vocal supporter of the so-called birther conspiracy theory, which claimed Barack Obama (the first African-American president) was not born in the USA. And, since becoming president, he has repeatedly branded Mexican immigrants “rapists”.

“Sadly, this is not the first nor will it be the last time we hear disgusting, bigoted language from the president,” said Tlaib on Monday. “We know this is who he is.”

Bluster and bigotry

Is Donald Trump a racist? Trump’s defenders say he was calling out the Democrats’ anti-semitic and anti-American views — a claim widely derided. If he isn’t racist, is Trump using divisive language as a political tool to fire up his supporters? Is that any justification?

But at some point, isn’t it time to call out a pattern of racist behaviour for what it is? As Charles M Blow writes in The New York Times: “In truth, it is more likely that [Trump’s] truest nature is simply being revealed, again and again, and he is using his own racism to appeal to the racism in the people who support him.”

You Decide

  1. Is racism getting worse?
  2. Can a person say racist things without being a racist?

Activities

  1. Write a definition of modern-day racism.
  2. Research one member of “the squad”. Make a profile of them, with a picture, that includes information about their life and achievements.

Some People Say...

“I want to tell children across this country […] that no matter what the president says, this country belongs to you.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
One of Trump’s first priorities when he entered office in 2016 was to introduce a ban on immigration from several Muslim-majority countries. That law, however, was challenged on discrimination grounds, and nicknamed the “Muslim ban” by his opponents. In 2019, the US government is keeping almost 20,000 migrants in detention camps on the Mexico border. Many of the children there have been forcibly separated from their parents.
What do we not know?
Whether the row will have any impact on Trump’s support. He seems to think not. Many see his recent amping up of anti-immigrant and divisive language as campaign tactics ahead of next year’s presidential election. In recent weeks, Trump has announced ICE raids to catch and deport undocumented migrants in the US.

Word Watch

Trope
A recurring theme; used repeatedly.
Capitol
The building in Washington where the US Congress is based.
White nationalists
People who believe that white people are a separate and superior race to others. Some commentators believe social media and the internet have boosted white nationalism by allowing racists to share their ideas.
Investigated
The case was settled out of court.
Conspiracy theory
When people claim that an event was, in fact, the result of a secret plot. One major conspiracy theory is that the Moon landing was faked.
Rapists
He also said there were “fine people” at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017 — comments which sparked a huge backlash.

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