Was Donald Trump's Tweet Racist?
Racism won’t go away when Trump does.
This is about the long game.
‘The Squad’ has Said some Terrible Things
As you probably know, last Sunday, as millions of people gathered in their churches to hear the parable of the Good Samaritan and the virtue of loving our neighbors as ourselves, Trump took to Twitter.
His target was four freshman Democratic women of color in the House of Representatives who have become conservatives’ object of scorn and shorthand for everything they believe is wrong with the Democratic Party.
and Ayanna Pressley
These congresswomen have become known as “The Squad.” And some of them have made public comments that are troubling, offensive, anti-Semitic, and unbecoming for the office they hold.
On election night in 2018 after she won her seat in the House, Rashida Tlaib told a rowdy crowd of her supporters, “We’re gonna impeach the motherf****r!”
Her comment was just as troubling as the time Mitch McConnell vowed to make President Obama a one-term president. When your agenda is to oppose and overthrow the other party’s leader, it limits your ability to govern well, to discern what’s good from the other side of the aisle, and to consider that millions of Americans support the president and his policies.
The most well-known remarks, though, came from Ilhan Omar after she made light of 9-11 by saying, “Some people did some things.” Then she said of Jewish-American policy, “It’s all about the Benjamin’s baby.”
Almost immediately after her comments became public, Speaker Pelosi and Democrats in the House responded by condemning her words, and then drafted legislation to ban congressional leaders from using hate speech about anyone.
It’s easy to see why conservatives would roll their eyes at this and see it as a weak response. In the grand scheme, these things don’t change someone’s heart.
It’s hard to trust an elected official if you believe she harbors anti-Semitism in her heart, especially when it’s her job to make laws. It’s understandably troublesome that someone in Congress might advocate for policies that harm Jewish people or somehow endorse extreme terrorism.
And that’s the whole point about Donald Trump too.
You may think his racism and other deplorable behaviors are forgivable. But how can we in good faith ask people of color in our country to trust a man who so consistently attacks, marginalizes, dehumanizes, and delegitimizes them?
All the President’s Racism
Back to the tweet.
Regarding “The Squad,” Trump tweeted:
“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
This is racist.
Whether you support Trump or not, the implicit and explicit racism is blatant and not even subtly masked. Here are just a few ways:
“Originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe…”
Three of the four women are from the United States, and Representative Omar is from Somalia. Her family claimed asylum in the US when she was 10. Trump’s tweet assumes that because they are not white, they must be from somewhere else, not from the place where we are all from.
“…loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States…how our government is to be run.”
To paraphrase the show Arrested Development, who is the “our” in that sentence? Again, the congresswomen are American citizens. The US government is their government. But Trump places them in the category of “Other” because of the color of their skin and perhaps the sound of their names.
“Why don’t they go back…and help the places…from which they came?”
“Go back to where you came from” is Racism 101. It intimidates and sends a clear signal to people that they are outsiders because of the color of their skin, the language they speak, or some other external factor. It makes a value judgment about someone based solely on their appearance and determines that they do not belong with “us.“ By definition, it places “us“ in a position of superiority over “them.“
It’s not the first time Trump has done this.
His political career basically started the day he publicly accused President Obama of being Kenyan. What evidence did he have? None, obviously, other than the fact that President Obama has dark skin and a strange sounding name.
Racism tends to repeat itself.
Racists Celebrated Trump’s Tweet
But don’t just take my word for it. Racists cheered the president’s tweet.
As was reported, the social media site 8Chan - known as a platform for racism and white supremacy - blew up with discussions celebrating what the president said. Here’s a paragraph from an article about one commenter in particular who lays it all out well:
“The commenter wrote it would be a big step forward to normalize an idea that ‘it is ok for him not to want to be swamped by brown scum that clearly despise him, that these invaders have stepped well out of line making demands of us, and that if they don't like the way we run things they can go the hell back,’ the poster wrote. ‘These are the ideological seeds from which actual revolutions begin. When someone with perceived authority like Trump comes along and says them, it carries weight with many people. The jewish media is right to be terrified of these ideas becoming normalized.’”
If racists are excited about what Trump wrote, there’s a good chance it’s racist.
Republicans Said it’s “Inappropriate”
Also, Democrats are not the only people who have condemned what Trump wrote.
Republican Senators John Cornyn, Mitt Romney, Roy Blunt, Tim Scott, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Pat Toomey, and Rob Portman, along with Republican Representatives Will Hurd, Pete Olson, Fred Upton, Paul Mitchell, Susan Brooks, Peter King, John Katko, Mike Turner, Elise Stefanik, and Tom Cole all at the very least said his tweet was inappropriate, though some showed a bit more courage.
Geraldo Rivera even tweeted that he was disappointed in Trump’s remarks.
By the end of this week the negative response to his tweets will be placed solely on Democrats and passed off as opportunistic politics masked as fake outrage. So it’s important to note that plenty of Republicans also found the tweet troublesome and said so, even if in the safest way possible.
When Does it End?
Every time I think Donald Trump has done something for which there is no justification, and surely Christians will not stand for his behavior, I’m proven wrong again.
When he mocked a reporter with a disability while campaigning for president, I thought there was no way followers of Jesus would let it slide.
His approval rating among Christians climbs by the day despite the fact that he told the Family Leadership Summit that he has never asked forgiveness because he has never done anything that requires seeking it in the first place. MAGA believers shrugged off his heresy and supported him anyway.
There's the infamous Access Hollywood tape that would have destroyed anyone else.
He slept with and then paid hush money to at least two porn stars, one while his wife was pregnant.
There’s Charlottesville, VA and his statement that there were good people on both sides of the protests.
He consistently sides with Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un who oppress, torture, and kill people of the Christian faith in their respective countries.
And now it’s a blatantly racist tweet that we are somehow debating as to whether it’s racist or not.
Trump once said that he could stand on 5th Avenue, shoot somebody, and not lose a single supporter. I see little reason to believe he's wrong.
We Cannot Normalize Racism Again
The reason I have built a case, so to speak, about the racism in Trump’s tweet is not to prove that the tweet itself is racist. It’s because when Trump does something appalling, he doubles down and justifies his behavior, making it seem normal and harmless.
When the Access Hollywood tape was released which, again, would have been the end of anyone else’s campaign and probably political career, Trump just doubled down. He held a press conference not to apologize or do anything decent. Instead he defended his words and said it was just “locker room talk.” His supporters and key Republican leaders bought this storyline, and a few weeks later he was elected president.
And now, after an outcry of racism over his Sunday tweets, he has doubled down again. He said nothing in his tweet was racist. He said he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body and that “The Squad” should apologize to the American people.
He’s normalizing racism.
As we enter another election season, he’s making it okay to say horrible things about those he dislikes. If he can say things like this about “The Squad” and get away with it, what can he say about Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren or Cory Booker if they’re the Democratic nominee? He’s giving a green light to himself and to anyone who thinks people of color need to stand down, stay quiet, and go back to where they came from.
We are entering a time now in which people of color face a very real threat to their freedoms and possibly their lives. Credible threats have been made on the lives of all four members of “The Squad.” Hate crimes are at their highest numbers since the classification was created. White supremacist and Nationalist organizations are on the rise and emerging from the shadows, emboldened by Trump.
As the father of five children of color, I refuse to sit back and say nothing. I realize writing a blog is pretty toothless when it comes to taking action, but it’s a start. I will not accept a society that regresses back to Jim Crow or worse. I will name racism when I see it. I will advocate for a just and generous society. I will challenge my own implicit racism, bias, and privilege and push others to do the same. I will vote for people who advocate for those on the margins. I will fight for my children - all of them - so that one day they’ll fight for justice too.
But racism won’t go away when Trump does. This fight is about the long game. So let’s keep going.