Donald Trump is a Racist, and We Should Say It
Obviously there will be a thousand pieces written on Donald Trump’s latest episode of racist vitriol, and I don’t have anything especially groundbreaking to add to the conversation. I do, however, want to make it very clear that what appears to be the instant reaction to his tweets is some variation of “joke’s on you, Donald — three of the Congresswomen were actually born in the US!” Upon first glance, this is a fair point to make. Trump can’t actually tell Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, or Ayanna Pressley to go “back to their countries” because they are, in fact, in their country. But take the case of Ilhan Omar, the fourth Congresswoman attacked in the tweets. She came to the US when she was ten years old, after spending years in a refugee camp in Kenya and fleeing from conflict in her home country of Somalia. The fact that she wasn’t born in the US doesn’t make Omar any less of an American citizen. In fact, it possibly makes her more of one than the rest of us; all we had to do to become American was get “lucky” by being born in the US. Omar had to actually work for her citizenship. She is the best example of the American dream — that a person can come to the US, fleeing horrible conditions in their homeland, and make a life for themselves and for their family. She is the epitome of hard work, and is more of an American than I could ever claim to be.
Another argument I’d like our discourse to move away from is the notion that the “Squad” is handing the election to Trump in 2020 by standing up to him. This argument is in the same vein as the one in which impeaching Trump all but ensures his reelection. First of all, it’s far too early to insinuate that anything happening now will determine what happens to Trump in 2020. With a news cycle like the one we’re currently in, it’s hard to believe that anything that happens even this time next year will affect Trump’s prospects. Remember the 35-day government shutdown? That was this year. Everyone talked about that as if it were the end of Trump in 2020 — just an example of how our attention span increasingly shrinks. It’s far, far too early to allow one situation to decide the outcome of the election.
However, if it were actually July 2020 instead of July 2019, I would want to see these Congresswomen doing exactly what they’re doing now, regardless of whether an election is happening or not. I don’t want to look back at this time in American history, where a racist is president and we separate children from their parents and put them in cages, and say that I supported politicians who did what was politically safe rather than resoundingly moral. Impeachment is a dangerous road to be sure, but there’s no alternative at this point: we either stand up to racism and xenophobia when we see it, or we allow it to become part of our national fabric. I worry we’ve come dangerously close to accepting it as the norm if people like David Frum of the Atlantic can argue that we’re giving Trump exactly what he wants. The Congresswomen aren’t taking the bait - they’re standing up for themselves, for morality, and for anyone who isn’t a white, Christian male. That’s the kind of person I want representing me.
Lauren Olmeda holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international relations. She is an editor based in Dublin, Ireland and is Editor-at-Large of the Attic on Eighth.