Trump’s reported remarks about banning immigrants into America from “sh**hole countries”– Haiti, El Salvador, and some African nations – should not surprise us by now. But they should worry us deeply.
There is a sense that we are collectively becoming numb to the barrage of hate that spews from Trump’s reptilian lips or brattish Twitter account. But make no mistake – a comment reducing foreign human beings that don’t conform to the Aryan image of Norwegians to pieces of sh*t will have destructive implications on the ground.
When hate is advocated in structures of governance, hate is politically legitimised for members in society. Following the Brexit referendum result, for instance – which was characterised by a staunchly anti-immigrant campaign – xenophobic hate crimes soared in the UK. In fact, directly after the Leave result, hate crime escalated by a terrifying 58 per cent. And during Trump’s 2016 Islamophobic presidential run, hate crimes in America spiked by a gargantuan 20 per cent. And this is before he was president of the most powerful nation on the planet, the supposed figurehead of a country with 323.1 million citizens.
For anybody arguing that his recent remark is just another of his petulant comments, do not downplay how they help to instrumentalise and motivate racists around the world.
It was only the other day that I was reading Laurence Rees’ book, The Holocaust, which gave me chills because of its eerie echoes to contemporary politics. An incident that comes to mind is a hate crime on the evening of 25 March 1934 at a bar in Gunzenhausen, Germany. It was the night that a stormtrooper named Kurt Bar publicly denounced the Jewish family that owned the pub. The sight of a government official doing so invited a crowd of hundreds – some say thousands – to partake in the public humiliation and beating. Subsequent murders and attacks on innocent Jews around the city spiked, the offenders feeling that their actions were legimitised.
Knowing the weight of history, what has been the response of Downing Street to Trump’s vitriolic racism? It has insisted that Donald Trump is “welcome” in the UK, and said it was “confident” he will visit at a later date. Theresa May’s spokesman claimed an invitation for a state visit had been extended and accepted, and that details will be confirmed “in due course.” It is devastating that the Prime Minister of the UK has once again cowered and extended our hands to his. Some may argue that it is an act of diplomacy that is needed as we forge new trade relations post-Brexit, but as Theresa May’s hands meet Trump’s a year on, she implicitly condones his white supremacist xenophobia here in the UK.
Economics and trade relations should not take priority for our government, or any government for that matter. A society where racism is politically condoned is worth nothing, even if it’s economically prosperous. It devalues everything liberal countries are supposedly founded upon. I urge the Prime Minister – and all other politicians around the world – to interrogate what it is they want their societies to value.
An invitation to Trump is a horrifying blow to immigrants like me here in the UK, who will be the victims of the violence it will inevitably encourage.
So now is the time for all Western politicians, reporters, cultural figures, celebrities alike to highlight the implicit value of immigrants to the prosperity of the West.
Without Haitian immigrants in the US, Jean Michel-Basquiat would not have changed the landscape of American art in the 1980s.
Without Salvadoran immigrants, NASA, one of America’s greatest achievements, would be without astronaut Francisco Rubio.
If African immigrants were barred in the US, it would be lacking the great minds of academics such as Rwandan mathematical genius, Augustin Banyaga, scholar at Pennsylvania University, or Sudanese obstetrician Nawal M. Nour, 2003 genius award winner, who fights tirelessly against FGM.
When Trump claims to “Make America Great Again” it is terrifying to consider what he really means. Take the USA back to what exactly? Jim Crow? The Great Depression? Slavery? His recent remarks certainly seem to indicate that this is where it’s all going. So it is the responsibility of each and every one of us, from our Prime Minster to our neighbours next door, to fight the return to a politics of hate with a society that values every human as equal, no matter where they come from.
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