Racism and the privilege to 'Make America Great Again'

FARID HAFEZ @ferithafez
Published 02.08.2019 01:00

There is hardly any doubt that U.S. President Donald Trump's recent statements regarding the four congresswomen of color that they should "go back" to "where they came from" were deeply racist. This debate is not about facts; three of the four were born in the U.S. and the fourth is a naturalized citizen who came from an African country. It is not about the fact that Trump himself has ancestors who came as poor immigrants to the United States not so long ago.

It is also not about the fact that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cites the phrase President Trump used to count as discrimination and thereby, the 45th president is. All of these are important facts, but what is at stake is much more fundamental.

By arguing and reiterating that his tweets were not racist, even after the House of Representatives voted to condemn Trump's tweets as being racist with four Republicans supporting the resolution Trump showed that he was crystal clear in doing what he did.

For Trump, the four congresswomen of color were unpatriotic, because they criticized America. But let's remember how he came to power: Trump's whole campaign of was built on the assertion that America was not great. It was a critique of the state of the United States. The campaign's slogan of "Make America Great Again" implies that the United States should regain a state of being that was lost.

More importantly Trump saw not only himself, but all of his electorate, entitled to voice and become representatives of this critique. Hence, the question has to be raised as to why some people are entitled to voice their critique toward the United States, while others are not.

Why are some critics patriotic lovers of their country, while others are not? Why do some critics become extremists and are defamed as socialists, anti-Semites and extremists, while others are the fine people that want to make America great again?

Obviously, the Trump campaign's slogan "Make America Great Again" means "Make America White Again." The president's attacks on the four congresswomen reveals that people of color, although democratically elected by Americans, are not entitled to criticize the United States, while white people are. Whites, goes the logic, are privileged to voice critiques, while people of color are not.

Indeed, looking at the history of Trump in power, let's just remind ourselves of Charlottesville. This rally, which was organized by white supremacists and white nationalists such as former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, who gave a speech during the rally, was commented upon by Trump when he said there were "some very fine people on both sides."

The rally was basically about the nationalist slogan of "taking our country back." White nationalists were chanting "Jews will not replace us" and other Nazi slogans. But while these blatantly anti-Semitic statements were simply not addressed by Trump, it is different when we come to one of the four congresswomen of color.

During a recent rally, Trump said that Ilhan Omar "says horrible things about Israel, hates Israel, hates Jews" and combined this with an allegation of being unpatriotic: "They don't love our country. They are so angry", Trump said of Omar, which was followed by a crowd that chanted "Send her back."

What this debate stands for is a cultivation of white privilege and racism by the president of the United States. By singling out the newly elected women of color from Congress, Trump not only targets a few Democrats, but the majority of people of color in the United States itself. And it reiterates the message Donald Trump stands for: White America.

* Political scientist and senior research fellow at the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University

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