This latest move is part of the Trump administration’s effort to make the United States a white-dominated nation again
Less than a year into his presidency, the evidence is undeniable. Donald Trump is an equal opportunity bigot. In addition to everything else he’s done, he is now dismantling the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program. Doing so will kick out nearly 800,000 immigrants, who came to the United States as children and were promised amnesty and the ability to work and go to school.
Although his racism was easily visible on the campaign trail, many chose to write it off as some kind of political gimmick and convinced themselves that Trump’s core attribute was his business acumen. They were wrong.
While Trump has proved feckless, distracted, and bored with the intricacies of most policies, he has demonstrated a relentless focus on obliterating the political, legal, and cultural spaces required for an increasingly diverse America. His message is clear: in the United States, few are welcome and even fewer are equal.
Within the span of several months, Trump has laid out a policy and rhetorical agenda that 56% of Americans now recognize could tear the United States apart. In addition to White House efforts to roll back reproductive rights, equal pay for women, the citizenship rights of transgender Americans, and the voting rights of minorities and the poor, Trump has served up a steady stream of racial and ethnic bigotry to his hardcore supporters, further polarizing the nation.
When many recoiled at the spectacle of torch-bearing white nationalists screaming antisemitic epithets, Trump, to his constituency’s delight, saw “very fine people” marching with neo-Nazis and Klansmen in Charlottesville, Virginia.
While the nation reeled from a string of fatal shootings of black Americans by police, including that of pregnant Charleena Lyles, who was gunned down by the Seattle police department in front of her children, Trump actually encouraged law enforcement to engage in further acts of brutality and quit being “too nice” to suspects.
He followed up with an edict to funnel military-grade weaponry into local police departments, which would inevitably, as Amnesty International noted, transform cops into occupying armies in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
For decades, the sheriff targeted and arrested Latinos as if every last one of them were violent criminals illegally in the United States. Even when faced with a court order to cease and desist, Arpaio flaunted his disdain for the legal system, went after the trial judge like he was a “political enemy”, and continued to racially profile and jail Latinos at will.
Finally, in July 2017, the sheriff was convicted of contempt. But just as with the white supremacists in Charlottesville, Trump didn’t see a criminal. He saw a kindred spirit, who was a “great American patriot” who had “done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration”. Trump therefore relished pardoning the disgraced sheriff and timed it just as Hurricane Harvey slammed into Houston, Texas, to get better ratings.
The message was obvious: nationwide racial profiling had now been blessed from on high, and Latinos, in echoes of the infamous Dred Scott decision, had no rights that a white man was bound to respect. Carlos Garcia, director of Puente, an immigrant rights group, said: “Now, he’s just spitting in their face, disregarding their pain and how they suffered in the hands of Arpaio.”
Even in the midst of a record-breaking hurricane that dropped 50in of rain on the fourth-largest city in the US, one of Trump’s first thoughts was not to deal with the collapsing infrastructure that exacerbated the disaster, nor to comfort the thousands who lost their homes and possessions, but, rather, to raise the specter of a horde of Mexican immigrants crossing the US border.
His morning tweet that day was all about “Mexican criminals” and building “the wall”. This unhinged fixation had already led Trump to threaten to shut down the federal government if he couldn’t get funding to erect his 2,000-mile prophylactic barrier along the US-Mexico border.
But it’s not just about the insanity of keeping immigrants from entering “a nation of immigrants”. Under the shroud of expelling so-called dangerous criminals,
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has gone on a deportation tear that has ripped parents away from their children, yanked hard-working productive members of society out of their communities, and terrorized many from accessing desperately needed services – including being able to flee a deadly hurricane.
And now there’s Trump’s latest decision to remove the protections and promises of Daca and push immigrants, who have lived in the United States since they were children, out of the country.
Trump’s torrent of policies and executive orders has come as fast and as brutal as the firehoses in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963 that slammed black protesters up against brick walls. At that time, Eugene “Bull” Connor, the city’s commissioner of public safety, thought the force of the water and the cold, calculated way in which it was delivered would be more than enough to silence the cries for citizenship and equality. He was wrong then. Just as Donald Trump is wrong now.
Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler professor of African American studies at Emory University and the author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide
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