Over the past couple of weeks, President Trump has articulated numerous racist attacks towards rightful citizens of the United States. The vicious spiral of hate begun on 14 July on Twitter, as Trump first attacked four Democratic congresswomen – all women of colour – by demanding that they “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Trump declared the women could not “leave fast enough” and that “Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
Trump stated on Twitter that the congresswomen “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world.” In reality, the four women – Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and Ayanna Pressley, also known as “The Squad” – are all rightful American citizens, with Ilhan Omar being the only of the four born outside of the United States. Ironically, U.S. reports highlighted that Omar has been a U.S. citizen longer than the first lady Melania Trump.
Trump furthered the course of xenophobic abuse on 15 July, tweeting “IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE, YOU CAN LEAVE! It is your choice, and your choice alone. This is about love for America. Certain people HATE our Country.” Calling the Squad “a bunch of communists,” Trump made claims of “foul language and racist hatred spewed from the mouths and actions of these very unpopular and unrepresentative Congresswomen.” The level of hypocrisy in the President’s abuse is beyond infuriating. Trump’s violent rhetoric is not only explicitly racist, but also exposes his fear in the progressive politics that the Squad represent and embody. Unlike the President, who has proven solely to promote the interests of white men, the Squad are in touch with the troubles facing those living in American society. Notorious for their popularity on social media and ability to engage with people’s everyday concerns, the Squad pose a serious threat to the ideological foundations of the Trump presidency. As vile as it may be, Trump is using racism as his weapon of defence.
On 16 July, the President claimed “Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!” going on to claim that “The Democrat Congresswomen have been spewing some of the most vile, hateful and disgusting things ever said by a politician in the House or Senate.” In response, AOC contended, “You’re right, Mr. President – you don’t have a racist bone in your body. You have a racist mind in your head, and a racist heart in your chest.”
Racist abuse towards the congresswomen escalated further at a 2020 presidential campaign rally on Wednesday 17 July in Greenville, North Carolina. Trump used the rally to attack the Squad, calling them “hate-filled extremists,” and claiming that “Omar has a history of launching vicious, anti-Semitic screeds.” The crowd being addressed by Trump began to chant “send her back! send her back!” referring to congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
Countless commentators have expressed their disgust with Trump’s verbal attacks on the congresswomen, including a call for impeachment from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Implying Trump’s tweets would fuel racial hatred in America further, Bernie Sanders accused Trump of “stoking the most despicable and disturbing currents in our society,” noting him as the “most dangerous president in the history of our country.” Sanders’ words resonate deeply. Openly defying Trump’s remarks, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York expressed that “our diversity is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of immigrants. Some voluntary, others involuntary.” Likewise, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia stated that “we need to go forward. And not backward”, clearly referring to Trump’s request that the congresswomen “go back” to where they came from.
Despite the Squad’s daily battle for a more inclusive and equitable American society, Trump has demonised them as evil and racist traitors. Overlooking their empathetic and progressive policies, Trump has branded these four women as America’s enemy. In the President’s eyes, the American population should fear them. This type of demonisation positions diversity as a problem for America, presenting a view which may be easily adopted by the disillusioned or marginalised. Yet the U.S. desperately needs to continue celebrating difference by supporting the innovative congresswomen in their fight for a brighter future, as their policies are derived from a genuine concern in the livelihood of the U.S. population, and beyond.
The problem for Trump, after his incessant racism, is that the Squad offer an alternative to Trump’s vision of America: an equitable, just and habitable society for all. Their policies, such as Green New Deal, Medicare for all, student debt cancellation, and AOC’s 70% tax-rate for the rich, are all extremely popular. We can therefore expect racist, hateful rhetoric to once again provide the foundations of Trump’s presidential campaign. Predictably, the 2020 campaign will aim to fuel racial hatred towards those perceived as ‘others’ or ‘non-Americans’ in the eyes of the President. Starting with those confined at the southern border, and those that defend them in government, Trump has already begun his war. The attacks on the congresswomen are the first verbal articulation of his racist strategy for the 2020 presidential election. Aiming to instill fear in the minds of the American population by publicly attacking these four congresswomen, Trump has wrongly presented racism as tolerable in America, and American politics.
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