In November 2016 – shortly after Donald Trump was elected nearly three years ago – I wrote the following article for The New Statesman about his use of racism as a political strategy in order to appeal to the grievances of white Americans who feel that their sense of identity is under threat.
As I wrote then: “Although using division for votes is nothing new for Republicans, Trump appears to be acting directly from the Southern Strategy playbook – a Nixonian strategy from the Seventies based on the exploitation of racial tensions and divisive politics aimed at increasing discord in order to maintain Republican presence.” (Isn’t it fascinating that Trump has been compared to Nixon in many other ways over these last 3 years…? Perhaps his fate will be the same…)
Trump’s racist/racial/racialized agenda has always been clear to me. Unlike others – such as George Conway, husband of Trump mouthpiece Kellyanne and Trump critic/foe, who just finally concluded this past weekend that Trump is indeed a racist and wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about his new found discovery – I have not been surprised nor in denial about the depths of his animus towards people of color. Dismayed, often. Saddened at times. But shocked? Absolutely not. I know racism when I see it. My very survival depends on that.
Trump’s racism is long and old, and it certainly has never been hard to miss. If you can’t cast your mind back to 1989 and his front page newspaper adverts calling for the death penalty to be brought back and used in the case of the so-called Central Park Five – the group of 5 young black men who were wrongfully imprisoned and later exonerated for the rape of a female jogger in Central Park – you should at least be able to remember that he actually got President Barack Obama to produce a copy of his actual birth certificate after insisting – in a bizarre conspiracy theory – that there was no way Obama was actually American. Trump has been at this game for quite some time now. And even though he been proven very wrong – as he is on most things – he is good at it.
As the country grapples with Trump’s most recent insults, this time aimed at Reps. Ayana Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, four freshmen Democratic women of color in Congress (all American, one foreign-born) who he tweeted should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” I have gone back to review this piece. Not only is it prescient, but it seems to get even more accurate the longer Trump is in office.
On a recent trip to London, my friend, the Guardian columnist and author (of the book “Brit(ish”) Afua Hirsch, and I went undercover in London’s West End to investigate racism in London’s West End club scene.
The responses we’ve received from this article have been fascinating – it’s quite clear that a number of black and brown people in London have experienced racism and discrimination in their nightlife experiences. We hope that London’s current nightlife tsar will take some time to do something about this truly unacceptable behaviour.
Below is Afua’s column for The Guardian:
Afua Hirsch (right) with her friend Lola Adesioye on Park Lane. Photograph: Joe Plimmer for the Guardian
It is midnight on a warm midsummer’s night in Mayfair, central London. Across wide lanes of traffic – ceaseless, even at this hour – I can just about make out the dark silhouette of Hyde Park’s trees. But it is a dozen plastic-wrapped parking tickets, slapped on a primary-coloured Lamborghini beside me, that I can hear flapping in the breeze.
I am at the Hilton Park Lane hotel, the super-rich heart of the super-rich centre of London. The sports cars are not only symbols of extreme wealth, but of the attitudes that accompany it, that allow the car-owners to treat parking fines as if they were an upmarket meter system.
This is exactly the clientele Drama is here to serve. The nightclub, a compact establishment carved out of the hotel’s basement, is for “those who drip irresistible confidence”, according to its website. “Expect the loud. Expect the abnoxious [sic]. Expect drama.”
“They know me. They invited me down here. And now they don’t want to let me in because of my colour,” she yells. “Don’t deny the fact that black people are poppin’. You play our music. Do I need to say any more?”
When I talk to the 24-year-old, she explains why she is so furious at being denied entry. “I’ve been standing in the line and seeing bare white people going in before me,” she says. “Personally, I think this is a colour thing. Black people are not allowed in central London, I swear to you. The way Mayfair works for me, you’ve got to look like a certain something – you have got to be white, tall, really slim.”
She describes herself as an “influencer” and says she does not want to be named because she fears the consequences to her profile. But, she continues: “I’m a party girl, I go out all the time. And as black women, we are always being disrespected – we can’t go out there and have a good time, without them reminding us about our colour.”
“We do not tolerate any form of discrimination against any individual or group,” the club said in a statement. “The standard door charge at Drama Park Lane is £20. Promotions are offered for various reasons, but never on the grounds of discrimination of race, colour or national origin.” The club is now investigating both the allegations.
But on social media, the young woman’s mother, TV producer Nadine Marsh-Edwards, said: “My daughter went to a club in the West End last night. Black girls got charged £20 entrance fee – white girls £10 … London life right now. They need to be reminded it’s London 2018 not Mississippi 1962.”
On the night I went clubbing in Mayfair I saw this flexible door policy at first hand. Drama’s £20 entry fee was quickly waved away when I made a vague excuse, leaving me the impression that it is considered small change when compared to the takings inside.
Until about a decade ago, I was no stranger to the Mayfair and central-London club scene. Devotees of hip-hop and R&B, my friends and I knew the DJ schedule at most of the clubs by heart, and would go wherever they were playing our favourite music. On a good day, we could blag our way in for free, but most of the time, we paid £10 or £20. But, as a black girl, you always felt your game had to be tight. Those of mixed race, like me, had an easier time than our friends with darker complexions who seemed to be judged more critically by doorstaff. The threat of exclusion was always lurking just under the surface.
But, descending beneath the Lamborghini-lined entrance to Drama, those days seem like a more innocent time. The first thing that struck me was the prevalence of cosmetic surgery. Next, that this was a club devoted not to dancing, but to “tables” – booths topped with grey ice buckets for super-sized, frosted bottles of spirits that cost those enjoying them up to £1,000. The dancefloor is an afterthought – a few square metres of space we had to share with a disproportionate number of security guards and a couple of women in thongs, who occassionally burst into unprovoked episodes of twerking. Champagne, the drink of choice at the bar, was an eye-watering £17 a glass.
About a quarter of the club’s floor space was shut off altogether – an unoccupied and unlit VIP area. It felt like a metaphor for the whole experience of going to a club that is always aspiring to a wealthier, more important and famous clientele.
During the period I was in the club, out of about 150 clubbers, I saw just one group of five bored-looking black boys, slumped around a table, and one black woman in a large table-less group of white friends. Among the staff, we observed just one black man.
When we moved on to nearby Scandal, a larger club closer to the heart of the West End, there were more people dancing. There were also slightly more people from minority ethnic groups and a black DJ. But with the exception of one dancer among the half-dozen or so women performing provocative moves in little cubby holes built into the walls, I could see no black women at all. The club declined to comment.
It is black women, critics say, who are the net losers in the current Mayfair club game. Fashion blogger Fisayo Longe recently described her experience at Libertine, writing that she was denied entry and was told it was: “Maybe because you’re black,” and “… probably because you’re not good looking enough”. The nightclub has denied this, saying the records from their ID scanner prove they have a varied demographic. “We can categorically state that we do not have a door policy that is based on the colour of people’s skin.”
The near absence of any ethnic group from a social space in London is unusual enough for a city with a 40% non-white population. But it is all the more surprising in nightclubs that – as Drama and many other high-end Mayfair establishments do – play almost entirely black music. Those who claim black people are being deliberately excluded are becoming harder to ignore.
In 2015, the nightclub DSTRKT refused entry to a group of black women who say they were told they were “too dark” and “overweight”. The nightclub denied this and says the club was full. The same year, Cirque le Soir rejected a group of New Orleans Saints NFL players, despite the fact that they had reservations. The players reported being told it was because they were “six big guys” (none was over 6ft) and “too urban”. The nightclub denied this, saying the men were refused entry because they were in an all-male group.
TripAdvisor reviews of the past few years report clubs including Libertine, Drama and Cirque le Soir splitting up mixed groups of friends, with only the white members allowed in. “Eww, your kind isn’t allowed in here,” one girl reports a staff member telling her and an Asian friend. Other reviews of some Mayfair clubs dating back to January 2017 include the headlines “undercover Nazis” and “Racist Club! No black people allowed!”
But in a society where British people of colour face discrimination at work, racist abuse on the streets and even deportation, do unpleasant experiences at a handful of nightclubs really matter?
Marsh-Edwards thinks so. “This is the start of a young person’s life out in the world, and these sort of micro-aggressions tell you a lot about how you are seen by society,” she says. “Some of these girls are going to end up running companies, they are going to go into that boardroom one day, probably as the only woman and highly likely the only black person. And they have already been told they are not worthy, and not on a level playing field.”
In a world where discretion is seen as a core asset, it was difficult to find anyone who works in the Mayfair club scene who would allow their name to be used for this article. One promoter, who is black, says he witnessed overt racial discrimination over more than a decade working in Mayfair and the West End. “I can go into any club with 10 hot, blond models and be given a table and a bottle,” he says. “But I can go with 10 black girls, who are beautiful, and be kept on the door.
“I used to have so many fights with club-owners about this. My own sister got turned away on her 40th birthday from a club I was working at – she came with six black women, they had booked a table two months in advance and there was nothing I could do to get them in. Well-dressed, smart-looking black people getting turned away.”
Despite his personal objection to the policy, he continued making money from it. “I was walking away with hundreds of pounds for bringing in girls. The clubs would do a ‘quality check’ – they would give you marks out of 10 for the girls that you bring. They just need to be hot. Hot, and predominantly white.
“The clubs would say it’s not about being racist, it’s business,” he adds. “Clubs will do whatever it takes to bring in these big table spenders,” while promoters were valued for being able to “guarantee [the] hot girls the table spenders want to see”.
A popular Mayfair club DJ argued that while there was undoubtedly racism, it was elitism that was the main issue. “I remember once bringing two black friends to a club where I worked, and being told: ‘You cannot bring two black people in here at the same time because it looks like a gang.’ So I’m not going to deny there is racism. Some of it comes from the way the media portrays black people. Some is similar to the racism you get in the fashion industry, with this idea that black people just don’t look good.
“But this is not so much about race as about money,” he says, describing how a pair of Nigerian clients at Drama regularly spent £30,000 each visiting the club. “Clubs want to attract the people who are going to spend the most, so they want good-looking people, people who look desirable and enticing, because that’s what brings in the people with money. That can work against black people, but I’ve seen it work in favour of black people too.”
The importance of catering to the tastes of the super-rich is a recurring theme. Another promoter, who specialises in bringing clientele from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to London’s clubs, said it was deciphering their wishes that led to some of the most problematic decision-making in some Mayfair clubs.
“The objective of these clubs is to sell alcohol, and club-owners have built up stereotypes based on spending patterns,” he explains. “So, for example, some owners will tell you that they don’t want Asians coming in because they drink before they come out. Black people don’t drink much either. The best clients are Norwegians, because they drink a lot. So there is a kind of logic behind the way they discriminate.
“Right now, it’s ‘Gulf season’. Societies like Saudi are very restrictive, but Ramadan is especially strict, so as soon as it’s finished, wealthy young people go to the other extreme. All the luxury industries in Europe try to cater to them.” Essentially, racialised stereotypes are being cited as a business model.
One DJ who was willing to speak openly about his experiences was Edward Adoo. He did not mince his words. “Things are getting worse,” he says. “Right now, the West End is a hostile environment for black people. There is no real diversity policy in these clubs. They can do what they please. The owners are not accountable. They don’t think they adhere to any conditions or rules, and that’s why they think they can behave like that.”
Yet the serious nature and sheer volume of allegations of racial discrimination have attracted the attention of the local authorities, which are now investigating. When I put the allegations to Amy Lamé, London’s first night tsar, appointed by mayor Sadiq Khan, she said she was in touch with those involved. “We take these allegations extremely seriously and are working with Westminster council and the Metropolitan police to stamp this out.”
A spokesperson from the council, which has responsibility for licensing – powers some have suggested should now be used to sanction nightclubs who practise discrimination – explained its plans to tackle the allegations: “Racism has no place in Westminster. That is why we have this week launched a task group to look into the standards of inclusion and access to the evening and night-time economy. This will include trading standards and issues such as discounted entry and promotions. If we find evidence of any racial discrimination we will take action.”
But evidence could be hard to find. One promoter I spoke to said he could see why black clubbers claimed racism was involved, but insisted: “These clubs are based on image. The reason people come here is because of the exclusivity and glamour. If we let all of them in, it would no longer be either exclusive or glamorous. So in a way, by coming here and getting upset when they get rejected, they are victims of their own fantasy.”
Is racism, even if it can be proved, actually a symptom rather than the cause of what is really going wrong in Mayfair clubs? The clubs I visited – Drama and Scandal – are unapologetic about their intentions to be elitist and discriminatory, not on grounds on race, but desirability, beauty and wealth. Scandal, for example, describes itself as “the ultimate nightlife experience for a privileged few”.
It is hard not to feel unwelcome in a club that plays black music, in a city with a visible black community, where black people are noticeable by their absence. It was uncomfortable for my friend Lola and me, doing our best to enjoy the music amid the tables, stunts and strippers. But, when you consider what it says about our society, and how we cater to the whims of the super-rich, it really means a whole lot more.
In addition to upholding this Muslim ban, this court has also a) upheld racial gerrymandering in Texas and North Carolina (where voting boundaries are re-drawn, effectively making votes of minority voters less important) and b) upheld voter purging in Ohio allowing them to remove the names of people who haven’t voted for the past 2 years which is simply a form of voter suppression which tends to affect lower income and minorities more than any other group due to people moving more. In the past, in one county in Cincinatti, 10% of eligible African American voters were purged from the voter list!
This is all designed to disenfranchise brown and black people while at the same time promoting racist theories and ideas about which people are deemed to be dangerous and unworthy (ie Muslims), not to mention essentially trying to rig forthcoming elections.
It’s really very sad to see politics and the law being used in this way, taking the country back to a place that many millions fought for a long time to move on from. This is an endorsement of prejudice. It’s a thumbs up to discrimination. This is a BIG deal.
The culture war is in full effect, the corruption is real, and I genuinely shudder to think how much this ruling will embolden Trump and his ilk. Trump thrives on stuff like this.
I don’t really have words for this today, apart from that it’s just a damn shame and I actually literally feel quite sick about it. 😬😬😬
At times it can be hard to believe there’s light at the end of this Trump tunnel. Innocent children are being ripped away from their families, placed in detention centres and cages – yes, cages – like animals. There’s no regard to their well being and even worse, we don’t know how or if they will be reunited with their families. Just how much lower can this administration go?
So how to feel about all of this? It’s disturbing for sure. Maybe I’m being naïve when I say this but I believe that this is a period America must go through in order to get to a better place. It would be nice if it could become a culturally progressive nation in a matter of years, but anyone who has tried to change their lives just on a personal level knows that not only is change is hard, but it can sometimes be painful, even temporarily destructive.
So, in the context of a nation with a deep, long, and often nasty history, change is going to take longer than we want. We’re going to have to fight harder for longer against the shadow aspects of America’s psyche.
I feel for every person and every family that has had to bear the brunt of this immoral administration thus far. I hope that every child will be reunited with their parents, with minimal psychological trauma and damage. I applaud every single person involved in doing the right thing at whatever level. I wish I could do more.
What I will keep doing is keeping the faith, while facing facts. This shouldn’t be happening — but it is. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it always will. The reality is that many things – including demographics – are not on Trump and his people’s side. If demographics are destiny, they have already lost the culture/race war they are trying to fight, and at this point are trying to inflict maximum suffering in an attempt to claw their way back to a past that’s gone. It’s very sad to see, especially when decent and innocent people are getting caught in this attempt at a power grab. They don’t want us to think that way though. They want us to be overcome with fear, to be intimidated and to give up.
That’s why we must keep the bigger picture in mind and keep on doing whatever we can towards a better, brighter, more humane future, until these mofos and their backwards views are well and truly gone.
Stay strong. The fight goes on. ✊🏾
When I was in my teens, as an avid lover of magazines, I began to consciously seek out black publications. I had grown weary of magazines which either didn’t feature people of colour at all, or which contained articles and images that depicted us in ways that I found to be inaccurate at best and racist at worst.
I was tired of seeing Africans portrayed as primitive people, shown mostly as victims of famine, poverty, disease and death. I couldn’t stomach reading any more articles about black men as absent fathers, criminals or drug dealers. I didn’t want to see another bare-breasted black lady feeding a baby.
If real change is to be made, National Geographic should encourage others to follow suit, and should stand not only for self-examination but for tangible changes to corporate culture, to staff diversity and to employing a rounded workforce of human beings who are a true reflection of the world in which we live.
Although these magazines did not openly say so, I was left to conclude that the vast majority of publications were written by white people for other white people. As a young black woman it was very clear to me even then that I was never going to get an accurate sense of myself, or the world, from reading them.
However, some of my (white) friends at my secondary school in London would ask why I felt the need to read black magazines. “You don’t see us reading ‘white magazines’ do you?”, they would say.
I would then have to explain that although most magazines did not have “whites only” stamped on them, in practice, that’s essentially what they were. I would have to point out what I saw as omissions, gaps, inaccuracies and stereotypes because while we might have been looking at the same magazines, we saw different things.
It troubled me that they thought they were being given an accurate and objective perspective of the world when I knew they weren’t.
The findings of that investigation were not pretty. In fact, “until the 1970s, National Geographic all but ignored people of colour who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond labourers or domestic workers,” writes Susan Goldberg, the current editor of the magazine and a Jewish woman. “Meanwhile it pictured ‘natives’ elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages.”
In her piece, she calls some of the magazine’s past stories “appalling”, and was left “speechless” by others, including an Australian photo of two Aboriginal people from 1916, below which is stated: “These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.”
It is commendable, however, that National Geographic has been so honest about these wrongs, is apologising for them and is now seeking to make amends and to better itself, which is more than many of the countries who were actually involved in slavery, colonialism, segregation and structural racism are willing to do.
At a time when America is facing growing racial divisiveness and when there is much troubling rhetoric in the West about race and ethnicity, it is also both literally and symbolically important for a publication to take a stand and to acknowledge how much of a role it plays in shaping how people see the world.
There are many teachable moments which could come from National Geographic’s mea culpa. Firstly, in an age where we are overwhelmed with information and saturated by media in many forms, consumers must become more media-literate and must be willing to educate themselves on what media really does in terms of shaping and reinforcing social norms, including those which may be dangerously inaccurate.
I am an advocate of media literacy in schools, and in young people being taught to think critically about what they see, read and hear. Similarly, publications must become much more aware of the impact of their output on society at large, especially when racial intolerance and divisions are on the increase and when, even despite increasing mistrust of the media, the general public still relies on it to provide it with what it believes to be accurate, objective, unfiltered and unbiased depictions of the world at large.
More publications would benefit from engaging in the kind of self-reflection and internal examination that National Geographic has done. I was impressed by its decision to engage a third party who could provide independent analysis, investigation and judgement, which the magazine actually took on (since there’s no point doing an investigation if its conclusions are ignored).
Goldberg’s decision to admit that the publication has operated with a worldview which has, falsely and harmfully, equated whiteness with superiority in its output was a bold and brave move. But, unfortunately, much of the damage has already been done. The stereotypes are out there in the world, the negativity exists, and the prejudice is ingrained.
So ultimately this confession should be a reminder of just how deeply pervasive and damaging an unexamined media authority can be.
According to the historian John Edwin Mason: “National Geographic did little to push its readers beyond the stereotypes ingrained in white American culture.”
He also found it, “wasn’t teaching as much as reinforcing messages they already received and doing so in a magazine that had tremendous authority”
This is damning. Can you imagine the degree to which the types of images and words emanating from a publication like National Geographic have contributed not only to toxic prejudices, racist and colonialist beliefs but to racist behaviours themselves?
Every time Donald Trump makes a comment about a non-white country, or a non-white person, it becomes increasingly obvious that his America-First agenda is a zero-sum game whose aim is to elevate all things white while denigrating anything and anybody else.
In Trump’s world, everything related to whiteness and white people (neo-Nazis included) is right and good, while all things non-white – whether that’s kneeling NFL players, black sports broadcasters, immigrant children, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Muslims and so on – are bad, unworthy, inferior, and deserving of his scorn. Trump’s brand of racism is of the profoundly unsophisticated kind; non-white people can be put into clear categories: sons of bitches, ‘lazy’ and ‘ungrateful’, ‘rapists’, ‘the worst’.
Unfortunately, it’s now El Salvador, Haiti and Africa’s turn to be the target of Trump’s poisonous prejudices. On Thursday it was revealed that, in a meeting to discuss a bi-partisan immigration deal with lawmakers, Trump had asked “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” (He then expressed a desire to see people from Norway come to the US, the implication being that Norweigans are inherently better people than the people of color who – by virtue of residing in those other apparently undesirable places – are, therefore, undeserving of support or protection.)
What is deeply troubling (beyond the fact that the slur isn’t actually true), however, is the extent to which Trump not only essentializes and other-izes whole groups of people, but the way in which he continues to use his racist ideas and ideologies to guide his positions on policy. The chaotic Travel Ban, thankfully taken to pieces by the justice system, has already shown us the influence of Trump’s xenophobia on his decision-making. However, despite failing to bring the travel ban into effect in the way he had wanted, Trump still tries to do more of the same.
We have to ask why Trump really wants to disrupt the lives of Haitiain men, women and children living under Temporary Protected Status since the devastating earthquake in 2010 which, to add insult to injury, occurred on January 12th exactly 8 years ago tomorrow? What will he, and his supporters, really gain from attempting to send 200,000 El Salvadorean immigrants back to a country which they may not have been back to for 15 years? Why attack Africa and Africans? Politically and practically, these moves make no sense: Haiti is a neighbour to the US, and has been an ally for many, many years. America needs Africa, with its growing middle class and huge youth demographics. And, it does the US no favours to cause instability in El Salvador. It makes no real sense to create diplomatic tensions or political rifts with any of these nations, nor to hurt them in ways which might lead to political and economic failure which might then, in turn, come back to affect the US in adverse ways.
But Donald Trump is racist and this is, from my point of view, all about the continued culture – dare I say, race – war which Trump is trying to wage in America. He desperately wants to stoke tensions, to open up divisions, to increase xenophobia and racism using the divide-and-conquer strategy that has been his game plan from the beginning.
Trump believes that places like Haiti, El Salvador and Africa – that is, places full of non-white people – are no good. And, he wants his followers to believe (if they don’t already) the same thing. Judging by what he has said and done so far during his time in office, he wants us all to believe that non-white people are, on the whole, no good. He seeks to associate the word immigration with bad non-white people, even though a large proportion of immigrants to America are – and have been – white. Trump himself, comes from an immigrant family. But that, is the essence of Trumpism, also known as Making America Great Again and putting America First.
It is likely that we will continue to see Trump’s xenophobically-driven policies get struck down by the legislative arm. However, and unfortunately for those of us in our right non-racist minds, we will hear more of his crude rhetoric (whether said in private or in public), because it suits his white nationalist agenda.
Sadly, this president is so inept and incompetent that his only path to maintaining power and control is taking the position that places which he has deemed ‘shitholes’ (and I suppose this would mean that people from those places are, by extension, shitty) are undeserving of American support, no matter their role or position in helping America and no matter what problems such an attitude may cause.
This is further reason why this president’s nefarious agenda must be resisted. There should be no room for this kind of thinking and attitude in America; to see this kind of racism at work in 2018, is a deep, deep shame.
Trump’s poorly-executed “Muslim Ban” has closed the United States to people from seven majority-Muslim countries, including refugees from Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia. But the divisive “them” and “us” rhetoric of the White House has had repercussions for other groups as well.
Jewish people have not explicitly been the focus of any kind of executive order (after complaints about his lack of action, Trump called anti-Semitism “horrible”). Nevertheless, the new administrations appears to be implicitly pandering to anti-Jewish sentiment.
Take, for example, the official White House tribute issued on Holocaust Memorial Day in January. It failed to directly mention Jewish people at all. Jewish groups, including those representing Republicans, criticised the omission. Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus defended the statement, saying: “I mean, everyone’s suffering in the Holocaust, including, obviously, all of the Jewish people.”
Superficially, one could attribute this to ignorance. But how politicians phrase their words matters. It is a common tendency of anti-Semites to play down, ignore or reject the idea that the Holocaust was targeted at Jews. It is hard to believe that no one within the White House would have been aware of the kind of dog whistle this omission sent to the extreme right.
That White House staff includes Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who was the executive chairman of Breitbart, viewed widely as the online news outlet of the “alt right”.
Timing also matters. The decision to shut US doors to Syrian and and Iraqi refugees was announced on Holocaust Memorial Day. The irony of an order singling people out for their faith wasn’t lost on Jewish groups, who know all too well how many German Jews fleeing the Nazis were turned away from other shores. Trump’s response time sent a message too. When a Hasidic Jewish reporter asked Trump about the growing anti-Semitism at his press conference on 16 February, he responded as if it was a personal attack, calling the question “very insulting” and telling him to sit down. Despite tweeting vociferously about Saturday Night Live and his daughter’s clothing line being dropped by a department store, Trump only managed to issue a statement condemning anti-Semitism on Tuesday.
David Samuels is a prominent Jewish writer living in Brooklyn, New York. He told me: “American Jews are threatened by rising anti-Semitism on both the right and left, which FBI statistics show to be more serious and more deadly than any animus directed towards Muslims or any other religious group.
“I feel sad that this is now my country, not because I am Jewish but because anti-Semitism is a degenerative thought-virus that makes people crazy by promising to explain everything that happens in the world with reference to a single prime mover – the Jews.
“Because anti-Semitism is a conspiracy theory, and not a form of social prejudice, it is fatal to rational thinking, in a way that simple racial or religious prejudice – including prejudice against Jews – is not.”
Whatever the intentions of the Trump administration, the reaction in the country at large shows it is playing with fire. Americans must hope that Trump, who has three Jewish grandchildren, will come to his senses and rid his support base of any who seek to use the presidency to infect the country with their diabolical ideology.