“I am the least racist person you’ve ever met,” Trump has said in the past, on more than a few occasions. It appears the President of the US does not understand the term at all.
On Monday, he called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a ‘racist’, when she came out the previous day to condemn his tweet on Sunday, where he told four House members Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib to “go back” to where they came from. An idiotic instruction, considering Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez and Tliaib were all born in America.
Trump continues to use the ammunition of the basic xenophobic straight white male to attack ‘the other’ for their most obvious ‘otherness’. For Hillary Clinton, it was her gender. For ‘the squad’ – Pressley, Omar, Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib, it’s their skin colour.
As Ocasio-Cortez said in her tweet on Monday, ‘telling four American Congresswomen of color to “go back to your own country,” is hallmark language of white supremacists.”
Massachusetts member Pressley said, “This is simply a disruption and a distraction from the callous, chaotic, and corrupt culture of this administration.”
What troubles me about these latest tweets is what has always troubled me about Trump: the fact that the most powerful man in the world is saying this gives others permission to do the same – worse, he is normalising this behaviour.
Nancy Pelosi is the only woman to have served as speaker and is currently the highest ranking woman elected in U.S history. This did not stop Trump from attacking her. Pelosi announced that the House would move to take up resolutions to reject Trump’s tweets.
“Our Republican colleagues must join us in condemning the president’s xenophobic tweets,” she wrote in a letter to lawmakers. She also said that his slogan, “ ‘Make America Great Again,’ has always been about making America white again.” In a speech Trump made at the annual ‘Made in America’ celebrations at The White House, he responded, ‘That’s very racist —I’m surprised she said that.’
The resolution is yet to be drafted, though word has come out that it will reference Ronald Regan’s final speech as President in 1989, where he said “If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.”
Last month, the four female lawmakers were among 95 Democrats who opposed a $4.6 billion aid package for the border, which they believed would support Trump’s immigration policy. “The Senate bill is not a humanitarian bill by any stretch of the imagination,” Ocasio-Cortez said to reporters.
Trump’s online rhetoric deepens the groove of binary division in a country driven towards sensationalist political overdrive and nefarious partisan agendas.
His Twitter presence has made it okay for anyone who is not white, straight, able-bodied and male to feel like they don’t deserve to be in a country built on immigration.
As Masha Gessen states in The New Yorker, important political decisions are ‘rigged in favor of the white, the highly educated, and the privileged—those who reproduce the class, race, and style of their predecessors.”
The vitriol and contempt Trump lashes out on a daily basis encourages an insidious ideology, where people are encouraged to not ‘conceive of an America that includes’ immigrants or people of colour. ‘You rely on a frightened America for your plunder,’ Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet, addressing the President.
For me, as a woman of colour intending to emigrate to America in 2020, Trump engineers a cultural norm that will lead to a frightening future. His tweets are a catnip strategy to divide people, inspire rage and cruelty, and fortify exclusionary behaviour.
Omar escaped war from Somalia, spending four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before arriving in the U.S at the age of 10. Tlaib’s parents are from Palestine. Ocasio-Cortez’s parents are Puerto-Rican. Pressley is black. I was born in Taiwan and immigrated when I was four. A country like the U.S, and Australia, is made up of women of colour.
Usually, it’s tiresome and obsolete to engage in Trump’s shibboleths, but as Michael Luo writes: ‘They were too dangerous to go unchallenged, the path from words to action too well trodden.’ And these four women are at the forefront of this battle to challenge this man.