How and why Trump uses racism as a political tool – and why he will become even more aggressively racist in the run-up to 2020

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Leah Millis / Reuters

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.

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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.

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Anna Moneymaker/ The New York Times

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Supreme Court Upholds Trump travel ban – A bad news day

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(c)Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

This is bad, bad, bad news for America.

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. 😬😬😬

Welcome To America – Time Magazine

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America 2018.

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. ✊🏾

Trump’s “shithole” comments about Africa, Haiti and El Salvador reveal the deep-rooted racism at the heart of Trumpism

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.)
Although I find Trump’s choice of words offensive, I can’t say that I’m particularly shocked by them. This is a man who speaks in sweeping stereotypes, whose prejudice is worn on his sleeve as a badge of honor, who gets off on offending people at home and abroad and who continuously panders to the lowest instincts of his ‘base’. These comments are simply more of the same small-mindedness and ignorance that we have become used to hearing from him. It’s also, by the way, not the first time he spoken so disparagingly: a few weeks ago, he was reported to have said that Nigerians would “never go back to their huts” once they had visited the US and that Haitians “all have AIDS”. Yes, those really are the words of the president of America, speaking in the 21st century.
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.