The question now isn't whether Trump is racist. It's which members of the Republican Party will stand up and prove that they aren't

Years of GOP gaslighting caused this situation. The history books won't be kind to those who stay silent today

Ahmed Baba
Washington DC
Monday 15 July 2019 19:19 BST
Donald Trump: 'If you're not happy here, then you can leave'

If you are a person of color or immigrant in America, you've likely heard this before: "Go back to where you came from!" I know I have. As the black son of two immigrants from Sierra Leone, with the name Ahmed Baba, I've been told to go “back to the Middle East” and have been accused of “hating America” when I dare criticize President Trump. The fact I was born in America doesn’t matter, because many among Trump's base appear to hold the false, bigoted belief that being truly American means being white, and that if you’re anti-Trump then you’re anti-America. Apparently, the current President of the United States shares this belief.

On Sunday, President Trump took to Twitter and told four freshmen congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they came from. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Ayanna Pressley (D-IL) are all citizens and were born in America — with the exception of Omar, who was born in Somalia but moved to the US and was naturalized as a child. Today, Trump doubled down on those sentiments in a press conference by demanding those freshman congresswomen apologize. He then accused them of being racist, said they hate America, and reiterated that if they're "not happy" in the US, they can leave.

"Does it concern you that many people saw that tweet as racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?" a reporter asked.

"It doesn't concern me," the president responded, "because many people agree with me."

Trump's remarks felt personal to millions of people and further defined what he and his party have become. As Republican lawmakers either defend Trump's remarks or remain silent, they continue to showcase their complicity in a presidency built on hatred and fear. His Republican enablers have upheld the infrastructure cultivating his bigotry.

There have been many articles written about Trump's latest racist tweets, but few paint the full picture. This isn't just about Trump's personal history of racism. You cannot talk about Trump's bigotry without tying this to the bigger picture: President Trump and his sycophants are solidifying the Republican Party's descent into white nationalism.

These racist attacks didn't happen in a vacuum. They come as the president orders new deportation raids and holds thousands of migrants in inhumane conditions. They come as the Trump administration moves to end the asylum process as we know it. They come amid a presidency that cuts funding for programs that combat white supremacist terrorism while fueling their hateful ideology with fear-mongering rhetoric about immigrants. Trump fundamentally misunderstands what America is and how immigrants, and people of color, strengthen our society.

How did we get here? Decades of GOP gaslighting created the perfect foundation. After the civil rights era in the 1960s, the Republican Party sought to shift its power center to the south. In what is known as the Southern Strategy, Republicans targeted poor southern whites as their primary voting base by tapping into their racial animus. Republican politicians managed to maintain their loyal support by blaming people of color and immigrants for their voters' economic plight, all while passing legislation for the top 1%. Fox News made these racial scapegoating tactics more effective and they became more blatant after Obama took office.

Enter Donald Trump, a businessman who was sued by the Justice Department for housing discrimination in the 70s; a man who took out a full-page ad in The New York Times calling for the execution of the Central Park Five in 1989 and still claimed they were guilty after their 2002 exoneration; a reality TV star who carried on a years-long lie about President Obama's place of birth. Trump was the perfect candidate for the Republican Party — they just didn't know it yet.

Immigrant and veteran congressman Ted Lieu calls Donald Trump 'racist ass' live on air

A presidential campaign built on racist fear-mongering and religious bigotry turned into a presidency built on a foundation of racist policies and divisive rhetoric. Remember James Fields Jr? He is being sentenced this week for the murder of Heather Heyer at the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on 12 August 2017. Fields was among the protesters President Trump called "very fine people." Trump has since called Haiti and African nations “shithole countries”, waged culture wars against black celebrities, and has now essentially told congresswomen of color they aren't American enough.

President Trump's defining issue is the idea that Latinx immigrants should not enter the United States. If this was about stopping illegal immigration, he wouldn't be targeting legal asylum-seekers. The Republican Party's stance on immigration, coupled with their voter suppression tactics, seeks to limit the political power of minorities. This is why white nationalists love this president and the modern Republican Party. One of their goals is "peaceful ethnic cleansing," which seeks to preserve the white majority.

Those among the Republican base and the legislative body who still reluctantly support President Trump because of his tax cut for the rich or his conservative justices need to look themselves in the mirror. There is no longer a question as to whether Donald Trump is racist. The question is who in the Republican Party will stand up and prove that they aren't. History is never kind to the intolerant.

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