By Earnest Harris
This has been one of the most interesting weeks I have seen in the world of politics and culture in all my life. And I am not particularly young, so I have been through a lot of Presidents and periods. I know this is a magazine devoted to the entertainment business, so writing about Trump or politics is a bit out of our focus. But there are times and situations that are so important that we have to step outside of our boxes. This is one of them. Besides, its a time and situation about who we are as a country and as people. So it’s beyond politics or entertainment.
By now you’ve surely heard about what Trump said last week about the four duly-elected Congresspeople, often referred to as “The Squad” (I don’t use the title President when referring to him not because I am denying he is our elected President, but because I think that title is also an honor and I don’t think he is deserving of honor).
Essentially, he said they, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib, (four women of color, all of whom are American citizens, three of whom were born and raised in the US, should “go back” to the crime-infested countries from which they came. Since saying that he has triple-downed on those words calling them anti-American and even anti-Semitic, because they have dared say America is not perfect and that we have a lot of work to do to live up to our ideals.
I have always known Trump to be a racist, after all he was elected while doing a similar thing to President Obama, questioning his American citizenship and loyalty to this country, and he singled out Mexicans and Muslims as dangerous people to be feared and blamed for all our ills.
But more important to me, it is not what Trump has said or done, it is the response of support, or in many cases, the silence that equals support, of the many on the Right and in the Republican Party. It is that silence and support that is far more important than any one man.
One of the scariest sights ever was the one from Trump’s campaign rally yesterday where the crowd broke out in chants of “Send Her Back” referring to Representative Ilhan Omar. The level of hatred, ignorance and I have to say, stupidity, it takes to muster that kind of xenophobic chant is just simply amazing. And Trump is loving it. This is how he got elected and this is how he expects to win again. He’s not going to win because of the economy or his foreign policy (essentially his love for dictators) but rather he knows the path to a second term is a divided country where color and the idea of the danger of the foreign immigrant is what unites his base and feeds them. Just look at video from his campaign rally yesterday.
The worst part about his words, and the support of silence he got and gets when he says these things, is that he is essentially feeding into the idea that if you are brown your loyalty to this country, hell, even your American-ness, is questionable.
Ultimately that is the root of this kind of bigotry, it is based on the idea that being brown means your loyalty, your status as being truly American, is always in question. Especially if you dare say things are not perfect in America. Those that pretend not to understand that this is the root of why his words were so harmful, dangerous and insulting, are either pretending not to understand or they are straight up supporters of his words and philosophy.
Make no mistake this is a defining time for our country. Again, not because of who sits in the White House, but because the cultural battle is so out in the open, that we are either going to deal with the always-there-even-if-low-level biases we have in this country against brown-skinned people, or we are going to just blow the doors wide open and just stop pretending that America is a country for all people, no matter the color of their skin and no matter if they criticize it as a way to challenge us to be better. But this is certainly not a time for silence.