Monday, July 15, 2019

Our Racist in Chief

Not since Woodrow Wilson showed ‘Birth of a Nation’ in the White House has an American president been so flagrant in his racial messaging as this one.”  Chris Matthews

As if we needed a series of tweets that summed up the worst of America.  Leave it to our President to give us one.   A tweet displaying the racism, misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia, nativism, and fear mongering that has been unleashed to the nth degree in our current political climate.

For context, Trump is referring Democratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Presley of Massachusetts.  All are women of color.  All are rising Representatives and all are on the more extreme side of the Democratic party. 

However, despite Trump’s indication, only Ilan Omar is an immigrant, whose family entered the United States in 1992 as refugees, fleeing the civil war in Somalia.  Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx.  Rashida Tlaib was born in Detroit.  And Ayanna Presley was born in Chicago.  So their original countries "whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world?"  That's us, the good old United States.

Let's even give Trump the benefit of the doubt.  If we prescribe the best of intentions to Trump, does he really not know where these now prominent newsworthy representatives are from.  Is it really better if this is just from his ignorance?  Shouldn't we expect more of the president.

This goes beyond even dog whistle politics. Dog whistle refers to the practice of using code words and phrases to mean one thing to the general population, but to have an additional, different, more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup.  In particular, it has been used to refer to coded, racist language.  As explained by former Republican Party strategist Lee Atwater regarding the Southern Strategy, “You start out in 1954 by saying ‘Ni**er, ni**er, ni**er.’  By 1968, you can’t say ‘ni**er’ - that hurts you.  Backfires.  So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff.  You’re getting so abstract by now, you’re talking about cutting taxes.  And all these things that you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites.  And subconsciously maybe that is part of it.  I’m not saying that.  But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other.  You follow me - because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ’Ni**er, ni**er.’" 

Trump's been accused of dog-whistle language before.  "There are good people on both sides."  Yeah, those Neo-Nazis are real good people.  

But here, we've blown way past that.  We've gone from the abstract to the blunt.  We've gone from the dog whistle to a megaphone. 

This is out and out blatant racism.  "Go back where you came from?"  Really?!?  That's a slur that has been used for decades against people who look different.  People of color.  People of different religions.  

This should offend and anger every American citizen.  Regardless of how you feel about the politics of Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib, and Presley, they are all American citizens, and duly elected representatives of their districts.  Our President should be treating them accordingly.  With the respect their offices afford.  And every Senator and Representative, Republican and Democrat alike, should be calling out Trump for this tweet.

The Republican party has instead had several members circle the wagons.  Marc Short, Vice President Pence’s Chief of Staff said Mr. Trump was “not racist” because Mr. Trump as an “Asian woman of color in his cabinet.”  Ah, the old “I have a black friend” response.

Lindsey Graham at least did suggest the president should aim higher, but had to inject that Omar and her allies are “anti-American” politicians who “hate our country.”  “We all know that [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and this crowd are a bunch of communists, they’re anti-Semitic…we don’t need to know anything about them personally, just talk their policies.

Representative Andy Harris went as a far as to say the president’s comments were clearly not racist.  “They’re obviously not racist.  When anyone disagrees with anyone now the default is to call them a racist and this is no exception.”  He tried to even further explain “He could have meant go back to the district they came from - to the neighborhood they came from."

Trump for his part has doubled down on his comments, just now suggesting that the four should just leave America.
I know I shouldn't be surprised anymore, but I continually find myself here.  Where is the bottom anymore?  How far down can we keep digging?

I'm not up for another five years of this.  I pray for wiser heads to finally prevail.

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