Sometimes, real life is so disturbing, so awful, so problematic, that when you see it for the first time, your mind struggles to catch up.
On Sunday morning, when I first saw what appeared to be tweets from Donald Trump, telling Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib to go back to the countries they came from, countries, he said, “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” – when I saw Trump say that these four women “can’t leave fast enough” – it was one of those moments where my mind struggled to believe that what I just saw was real.
Listen, I’ve covered Trump closely for years now. I know he’s a stone cold bigot. He was a racist in 1989 when he called for 5 innocent teenage boys to be executed in New York for a crime they didn’t even commit. He was a racist when the federal government sued Trump and his racist father for housing discrimination all the way back in 1973, he was a bigot when he called for a complete ban on all Muslims entering the United States, he was a bigot when called Mexicans rapists and murderers, he was a bigot when sympathized with violent white supremacists in Charlottesville. The man has been a bigot.
Few statements have as much of a racist and white supremacist history as a white person, normally a white man, 100% of them decedents of immigrants – looking at an African American, or an immigrant, or any other person of color, a Latina, a hijabi woman, few statements have as deep and rich of a bigoted history as a white man looking at a person of color – and telling them to go back to the country they came from.
It’s interesting that Trump said it this weekend because just this past week he literally invited dozens of white supremacist Internet trolls to the White House – and this phrase – telling people to go back to the country they came from – is a favorite refrain from white supremacists online – but it’s been said by bigots in this country for at least 150 years.
But in the modern era, it’s never been said publicly by the President of the United States. It’s the type of thing that you normally see come from Neo-Nazis and the KKK. And so, when the President of the United States says this, and not even just in a general sense, but to four specific women of color in the United States Congress, in one instant, he has just normalized, what had always been seen as an extreme form of racism and bigotry and xenophobia, he has just normalized it.
What people in power do in moderation, their followers do in excess. And while Trump had already done much to normalize hate in this nation, Sunday was different. And yesterday he doubled down.
Trump’s attacks, particularly the phrase that “they can’t leave fast enough,” not only endanger all four of these courageous women, it endangers all people of color – the President of the United States has lowered the bar for what’s acceptable to say to people, he’s lowered the bar for what’s acceptable to think about people, and it’s all rooted in his racist definition of who’s a real American and who isn’t. He doesn’t have a problem with immigrants. He’s married and had kids with two of them. They each hardly spoke English when he met them. He didn’t care.
His mother was an immigrant. His own grandparents barely spoke English and lied to get to the United States. Yesterday multiple white men in Congress who weren’t born in the United States, like Jim Himes and Don Beyer, white men who’ve called Trump out over and over again, said how strange it is that they are never told to go back to the country where they were born – because for Trump – this is about white supremacy and white power. And these four women don’t fit in his little white box of who belongs here and who doesn’t.
I’ve gotta run, but it’s clear to me from several of the statements Trump made yesterday in his press conference, that he’s doubling down and standing by his bigoted words. When we was asked how he felt about the fact that white supremacists are celebrating it, he was asked if he minded, and he literally said no. Of course I didn’t expect him to apologize, but seeing him double down on one of the most racist moments of his presidency was disturbing.
It’s only a matter of time until that bigotry trickles down to everyday people somehow.