Identifying the roots of Trump’s racist rhetoric


It is an oral history. History has shown that tension from racist rhetoric has been growing for many years, and President Donald Trump’s language has only exacerbated an existing danger. Not many people are aware that racist rhetoric does not end with the words that people speak. It has a significant and tangible impact on people’s lives. People need to be educated, critical, and aware of what is going on. In the coming years, it will be imperative to call out racist rhetoric due to its potential for devastating impact.

 As Jamestown celebrated its four hundredth year anniversary as a representative assembly, President Donald Trump visited the iconic Virginia town. The theme of the celebration did not center on honoring the first democratic government of the country, but on the controversies regarding racist overtones that have followed the Trump administration since 2016. Before the visit, the President took to Twitter to attack five congresswomen of color. In response to claims that he had targeted minorities with his criticism, the President simply replied that he was attacking his political opponents, regardless of race, but it appears to be another instance of Trump making comments charged with racist connotations.

Just because he attacked political opponents of color doesn’t make him a racist. However, Trump called Representative Elijah Cummings a “brutal bully” and described his hometown, Baltimore, where he worked for decades, as a “disgusting, rat- and rodent-infested mess,” and suggested that “no human being would want to live there.”

The US has always been a pluralistic country. First were the Native Americans, then came the African-descendants, then Spanish, then French, the English, Irish, Chinese, Japanese and many more. Looking back in history, this is not the first time the US has dealt with racism. Examples such as the Indian Removal Act, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the Japanese internment camps also included racist rhetoric and policies.

“It becomes a danger when not just a powerful leader, but the President of the USA, supports and speaks racist rhetoric as if it’s normal.” said Michael Silber, social studies teacher. Since his inauguration, Trump had never been afraid to present his controversial opinions about open regulations and policies on immigrants. The administration has passed many policies that reflect the president’s racist rhetoric which have affected people domestically and internationally. A few examples include banning citizens of eight Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, reducing refugee admissions to the lowest levels, and canceling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which currently provides work and relief to approximately 690,000 unauthorized immigrants brought as children. Furthermore, a new proposed Trump administration rule would allow the US to indefinitely detain families who cross the border illegally, abolishing the previous 20-day limit.

What is more alarming is that Trump’s campaign events and incidents have led to prejudicial violence. From the Guardian, FBI data shows that since Trump’s inauguration, there has been an escalation in hate crimes especially concentrated where Trump won by bigger margins. The numbers recorded were the second-largest in the 25 since data has been collected, second to only the escalation after September 11, 2001. The new, higher rate of hate crimes that reached its zenith in the fourth quarter of 2016 (October-December) continued throughout 2017. Other research by the Anti-Defamation League indicated that areas that hosted a Trump campaign rally in 2016 had hate crime rates that were double the number of counties that did not host a rally.

Many people question why Trump is still supported by millions of people despite his comments, public actions, and racist policies. This can partially be attributed to the fact that many Americans are afraid of losing the white America that existed sixty years ago. On an economic level, Trump claims that he is making progress by promoting protectionism which will possibly result in more jobs, bring manufacturing back, and help the coal industry to flourish again. Furthermore, it is much easier to say ‘Make America Great Again,” than to let the people choose based on all the complex policies like healthcare, military spending, and international relations.

Trump didn’t invent racism. It is a complex bundle of issues including the fragile democracy, the responsibility of media, and the rise of populism. As much as it is dangerous to think that democracy guarantees all rights, it becomes a significant worry if a populist becomes elected to satisfy whatever the majority’s desires are, regardless of right or wrong. How present-day media, such as tabloid journalism, 24-hour news reports, and sensational articles, portray Trump plays a part in pushing racist rhetoric to an extreme.

Mr. Silber stated that it always becomes a concern when leaders use racist rhetoric. It is wrong to say that Trump is popular everywhere, but for sure he has popular bases in many areas. Mr. Silber further added that democracies are fragile, and racist rhetoric can become policies at any given time. Furthermore, it is very wrong to take democracy for granted, and that it protects people against any of the extreme possibilities. However, the truth is that democracy is always in danger if people who are in charge, and elected, do not do what is right. Although Mr. Silber was careful in comparing Trump to the extreme, he noted that the Nazis started with racist rhetoric that developed into policies. What happens if the racist rhetoric expands to policies that affect people in many discriminatory ways? What happens if racist rhetoric becomes normalized? These are all the dangers that need to be considered.

The reformed and new policies of the Trump administration have affected many immigrants and marginalized groups in a colossal manner, including Korean-Americans. It has become harder to obtain a green card than it was with the Obama administration, and immigrating or even just getting a working visa to work after college has become more uncertain.

The dignity of the White House and the President should be above “racist.” Racism is a sensitive issue, and it should stay as a topic that should not be talked as easy as “What should we eat for lunch.” However, the fact that the President of the US is being a hypocrite, easily tweeting racist rhetoric towards the marginalized, and advocating policies that blame the immigrants, given his base justification to be comfortable saying and doing things that would have been a huge public shame ten years ago.