"Send her back"
Last night, Donald Trump had his usual Bund rally in Greenville, NC. But the atmosphere was different.
Coming on the heels of his racist tirade against four female Democratic Congress members of color, he has spent the past few days ramping up the hatred. Yesterday, before flying off for his rally, he spread the scurrilous rumor that one of them, Ilhan Omar, had been married to her brother.
Omar seems to have become the focus of his limpet gaze, as she is the only one of the four who is an immigrant.
At the rally, he mentioned Omar nine times within five minutes. And then the chant started.
“Send her back.”
As I said, this is different.
This is othering an American citizen because of her religion and her birthplace outside of the United States.
Many of those chanting “Send her back” probably have ancestors, German and Irish, who were subjected to the same taunts in their day, as nativists feared the influx of Catholic migrants from Europe. But, of course, they’ve been washed in the expanding definition of whiteness. They no longer see themselves in the migrants who come to our shores to better themselves and their families. Now they see themselves as under siege from foreign hordes.
I wrote yesterday about empathy. It’s key here. Understanding where Trump supporters are is essential to defeating them.
The fact is that the hardcore of Trump supporters are racists. There’s no getting around it. Naming the thing is not engaging in name-calling. It’s necessary for an honest, objective analysis of where we are as a country.
I read this week that what we’re going through mirrors the conditions faced by the Republic before the outbreak of the Civil War—the years between the 1820s and 1850s, as the social compact began to break down over the issue of slavery. There’s truth in that, but I’m a little bit more hopeful that the end result won’t be the same.
The vast majority of Americans are disgusted by Trump’s descent into vile racism. The swing voters who gave Democrats the House will not be won back by calls to blood and soil. They voted Democratic in reaction to those calls for race purity.
The decades before the Civil War involved an argument between white people. Slaves weren’t given agency to determine their own fates. The situation is different now. We are a rainbow nation. And people of color aren’t waiting to be invited to the discussion. They are taking the reins and making sure their voices are heard. And many times what they say is painful to hear, especially if, as a white person, you consider yourself “woke”. Even though I’m Latino, I know I have white privilege because of the color of my skin, and I take in everything, even when it’s painful.
But this is good. We are way past the days when the conversation was just among the members of the dominant group. The formerly voiceless are not keeping quiet. What’s happening now is proof that our country has changed, and irrevocably. The frightened attendees at Trump’s rallies can rail and fulminate all they want, but they will have to adjust to a new reality, where people who don’t look like them or worship like them demand their seat at the table. And they won’t be able to stop the emerging majority.
Of course, part of the fear is that people of color will take revenge for the centuries of denigration. That indicates an awareness that they and their ancestors did, in fact, oppress others. And in their fear, they can’t imagine that they, in turn, will be oppressed.
There’s such a poverty in that world view. People of color have no interest in being the new slavemasters; they merely no longer wish to be slaves. There is much promise in the times we’re going through. We’re having those conversations which we’ve avoided for the totality of our history. The dominant group is being forced to confront its sins. And more and more white people are coming to realize the necessity of social and racial justice.
We’re in perilous times. But with peril comes opportunity, opportunity to fix what is broken. Mourn that so many of our fellow-citizens want to send us all back from whence we came. But be hopeful that they’re a decreasing minority, made smaller by every utterance out of Trump’s mouth.
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