Before you think this article is “just one liberal’s opinion,” let me briefly say I have dedicated my life to studying racism. I earned my PhD from Emory University in 1995 after spending several years doing ethnographic field studies of white supremacist groups. I have published books and articles in peer-reviewed journals on the subject and have appeared on more TV shows than I can remember discussing how hate works. In my 20 years at Portland State University, I interviewed scores of committed racists, from teenage skinheads to racist murderers and founders of Nazi prison gangs. So when I say that presidential candidate Donald Trump is a racist hate-monger it’s not just a political pejorative. He has a constitutional right to hold and express racist views, but using those views to manipulate the intellectually vulnerable and mobilize active bigots requires a coherent response. As an expert on hate, I am more than comfortable stating that either Trump is a virulent racist or that he is willing to perform racism and use racism of others to advance his political position.
Trump represents a frightening trend of convenient racism rooted a belief that America was great before ethnic and racial minorities, women, and sexual minorities wanted equal rights. (What Trump calls “political correctness.”) These people will say that “racism is wrong, but…” or “I’m not a racist, but…” and then something deeply racist follows. They’ll say that “all lives matter,” in the face of the movement to acknowledge the devaluing of black lives. They’ll say they are not homophobes, just for “religious freedom” (an argument the KKK still makes). They’ll say they’re not Islamaphobes, just against terrorism (ignoring the carnage done by domestic, often Christian, terrorists). And they’ll say that they are not bigots, just opposed to illegal immigration (of brown people). It’s a kinder, gentler form of bigotry, but it’s still bigotry. And Donald Trump is the new Father Coughlin and he wants to be free of the political correctness that would stand in the way of his bigotry. (At least he’s abandoned the GOP’s “go after the gays” mantra from the last election.)
Trump has been visiting states with troubled racial histories to sell his rallying cry that “illegal immigrants are killers and rapists.” First Arizona and then, on Friday, Alabama. He started his rally with some classic hate speech, telling the assembled 30,000 supporters and curious (I would have gone to see the Trump clown show) about the alleged rape and torture of a 66-year-old victim in California who was supposedly attacked by an “illegal immigrant.” The crowd went wild. “We have to do it. We have to do something,” he then said. The crowd roared, and some chanted, “White power!”
Two things to know about Trump’s rhetoric
Anyone knowledgeable about the horrific statistics on rape know that women are overwhelmingly victimized by somebody they know, including family members and dates. Only about 18% of rapes are committed by a stranger(and a tiny fraction of those by undocumented immigrants). So if Trump actually cared about women, it would make more sense to devote his rape obsession to step-fathers instead of Mexican immigrants. Of course, this is a man who has been challenged on the issue of marital rape of one of his ex-wives. Rape is an emotional issue. It was used to lynch innocent blacks in the South and Trump is using it the same way to go after people who are often the hardest workers in the country.
Secondly, in my research I have attended numerous Klan rallies, skinhead gatherings, and meetings of the Aryan Nations, and the rhetoric is almost exactly the same as Trump’s. I was at a Klan Rally in Covington, Georgia in 1991 in which a Klan leader told the small crowd the story of a white woman who had been raped and beaten by an “illegal Mexican.” As with Trump’s story, whether it was true or not didn’t matter. It served to whip the racists into a frenzy. And like Trump’s crowd they were out to “do something” about it. I’ve heard Trump’s rhetoric many times before. “Let’s go back in time to when America was great.” Usually the speaker had a swastika tattoo.
So it wasn’t surprising last week when a news story emerged of two brothers in Boston who brutally beat a homeless Latino man (and urinated on him), claiming they were inspired by Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” one said, in the police report. When told of the crime, instead of condemning it, Trump said, “I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.” Later, after much outcry, he backpedaled, posting that he opposed violence on his Twitter account. We still don’t know if he opposes urinating on immigrants. We also don’t know if there have been similar Trump-inspired hate crimes, but it is very likely there will be.
The most reasonable Republican candidate might be Ohio governor John Kasich (who was just endorsed by Deez Nuts!). At the first GOP/Fox News debate earlier this month, Kasich (maybe buttering up the Donald), admitted that Trump was “hitting a nerve with voters.” But it’s not all Americans. It’s a small subsection of white people who fear the reality that America is getting less white (and more brown). They see the privilege of their white authority undermined every time they walk into a Home Depot and see signs in English and (gasp!) in Spanish. These are the people who say, “I’m not a racist, but…”
The United States is a nation of immigrants, coming from all directions. Most white Americans have ancestors that only go back to no further than the 1880s, making them “less American” than descendants of African slaves. When my great grandfather, Michael Blazak, came here from Prague in the 1890s, he faced plenty of anti-Catholic hostility. His son converted to Protestantism and married the daughter of a Klansman and the cycle of immigrant hating continued. “They’re taking our country away! Let’s make America great again and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!”
Trump lies to win support
Obviously, Trump is a clown who will say anything that feeds his narcissism. When he said he was going to get Mexico to pay for a wall between our two countries, I could just hear President Peña Nieto laughing and saying, “Señor Trump, chupamela.” Trumpies (I’m coining that term) often say they love Trump because he tells it like it is. If by that they mean that billionaires buy politicians in return for political favors (as Trump admitted in the Fox debate), they are correct. But if they mean all the rest of the crazy stuff that comes out of his mouth, in reality Trump tells it like it isn’t, but it’s what “I’m not racist” racists wish it was. Politifact works overtime trying the present the actual facts to Trump’s lies, but the Trumpies prefer the lie. Something far too common on the right. (“Obama is a Muslim!” “Iraq had weapons of mass destruction!” “The Jews control the banks!”)
Where Trump’s lies are greatest are his bizarre tirades on immigration. Despite his fear mongering, the number of undocumented immigrants has been on the decline since 2009. And despite his endless mantra about “rapists and murderers,” actual data (a word the “King of Capitalism” should know) shows that crime rates in cities decline as their population of undocumented immigrants increase. Think about it. If you are living in America without papers, you aren’t even going to jaywalk. Why do anything that would risk deportation?
My wife was an illegal immigrant. Thanks to immigration reform under President Bill Clinton, and a lot of difficult hoops to jump through, she earned a permanent resident card and is hoping to become a citizen in time to vote in this election. Our daughter, Cozy, would surely be called an “anchor baby” by Trump (and Jeb Bush). Bush recently asked for a better term to use instead of “anchor baby.” I would suggest the word, “baby.” But dehumanizing immigrants (even infants) wins the “I’m not racist, but…” voters. Trump has said on his first day of his presidency he would immediately “get rid of all these people” (I assume my wife and child are included in that group). Besides the fact it’s not possible (Trump’s “looking into” changing the 14th Amendment of the Constitution), it would devastate the American economy. Who does he thinks picks the strawberries that go into his daiquiris? His latest wife is not only a lingerie model but an immigrant! Maybe he should ask her. (The new First Lady?)
It’s ironic that Trump laid this line out in Sweet Home Alabama. Alabama Republicans passed a law in 2011 (HB 56, the Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act) to crack down on “illegals.” Residents soon saw produce rotting in fields, disappearing from grocery shelves and restaurants closing. The federal government weighed in (with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center) on the Constitutionality of the law and it is now a fond memory of the intersection between racist politics and reality.
Trump, of course, caters to the convenient racists. At the Alabama rally he was joined on stage by Jeff Sessions, one of the most extreme anti-immigration politicians in the country who has been linked to white supremacist groups. Trump is now using this avowed racist as a “consultant” on his immigration policy. It should be pointed out that when Trumpies blather about “illegal immigrants,” they are not concerned about undocumented Russians, Ukrainians, Irish, Canadians or even Chinese. It’s all about brown people. Trump telling the story of an undocumented Irishman committing a heinous crime wouldn’t get the same roar of approval as a similar story about an “illegal Mexican.”
And now that Trump is trying to woo Conservative Christians, he’s added Islamophobia into his stump speeches, including making up stories about Christian refugees from Syria not being allowed into the U.S., when Muslim refugees are. It’s another lie, but the “I’m not racist” Trumpies send the lie around in chain emails and Facebook stories. (It even got posted by a Trumpie on my page.) Can you imagine what Jesus would say about Donald?
I sincerely doubt Trump really wants to be president of the country and submit himself to the art of the compromise that is politics in the real world. He just wants to win to feed his massive ego. But who knows how many hate crimes he will inspire in the process. It should be noted that Trump is widely popular on the racist Stormfront discussion board. Stormfront is the primary place white supremacists and Neo-Nazis meet and registered members have been linked to almost 100 murders.
I know this blog is supposed to be about being a feminist father and the challenges of raising my daughter in a patriarchal world and not about politics. But there is no better example of the failed model of racist, sexist masculinity than Donald J. Trump. He is an artifact of the past and he wants to drag the country back to it. The man’s rhetoric directly affects the security of my family. The thought of someone hating my wife and child (or attacking them) because they want to “make America great again,” is frightening. When was Trump’s America great? In 2008, when the Great Recession started? In 1954, before the passage of Brown vs. the Board of Education? In 1860, before the start of the Civil War? America is better than Donald Trump, but I fight against him for the safety of my family.
Trumpmania has infected everything, including my parenting blog. My piece comparing Trump’s rhetoric to the white supremacists I’ve studied for almost 30 years went viral, pushing Watching the Wheels way over 100,000 views. As it spread, I started doing interviews, including with Spanish languages radio stations and a newspaper in Spain. On Wednesday, I will be appearing on Al Jazeera’s The Stream to talk Trump. The blog got reposted on Countrpunchand my comment section has taken on a life of its own.
If you are one of the few folks who hasn’t clicked on that post, here it is:
I promise to get back to writing about my daughter later this week. She’s doing amazing things. But I wanted to further clarify my argument about the GOP front-runner and reality show star. First, let me be clear, I don’t think all of Trump’s supporters are racists, even though people at his rallies have been chanting “White power!” and talking about killing immigrants and at least two of his followers have been arrested for committing a hate crime against a Latino man in Boston. To borrow from Mr. Trump, some of his followers, I assume, are good people.
It’s clear from Trump’s followers that America’s favorite billionaire can do no wrong. This includes lie. Trump “tells it like it is.” To allude to Bill Clinton at his worst, it depends on what your definition of “is” is. Trump makes up “facts” that are completely untrue but the followers follow unquestioningly. There’s an f word for that; fascism.
Trump is a demagogue in the truest sense of the word. He could come out in favor of eating immigrant babies and his Trumpies would cheer, “What a brilliant idea!” A study found that when you give a Trumpie a classic liberal issue but say that Trump supports it, they suddenly support it. Another survey found that 66% of his supporters think Obama is a Kenyan Muslim. These are followers in the truest sense and they remind me of the white supremacist followers I’ve spent my life studying. They want a black and white world and an easy solution, like build a wall.
But what I really wanted to write about was the techniques Trump borrows from Klansman, neo-Nazis, Patriot Militia members and other extremists on the far right. This is how you create a movement based on hate and fear.
Anecdotes – Trump is the master of using one crime story to “prove” that Mexican immigrants are rapists and killers. He’ll drag a few headlines out from cases that are far from resolved. (You’re innocent until proven guilty in America, unless have brown skin and can be used by Trump.) He denies two very important facts. People are overwhelming raped and killed by people they know. (Sorry, white people. Most crime is intra-racial, not inter-racial.) And repeated studies show that immigrants have lower crime rates than non-immigrants.
I’ve seen more than one Nazi skinhead and Klansman point to story in the news about a black criminal to prove their racism, ignoring ALL the stories about crime committed by whites. It’s called selective perception. They are still talking about OJ! Proof black people are BAD.
Conspiracy theories – We can all enjoy a good conspiracy theory. Who killed JFK? The illegal aliens from Roswell! You know who really loved conspiracy theories? Adolf Hitler. The Jews run the banks! Get ‘em! This funny little theory is still popular with neo-Nazis, Islamic extremists and Lyndon Larouche. I like to ask my Jewish friends when the next cabal meeting is and they just look confused. Those sneaky Jews.
Donald Trump has his own conspiracy theory. The Mexican government is sending its worst people across the border. His only evidence of this is that he’s “talked to people” on the border who know. Right. My wife came to America from Mexico by walking across a border, so I asked her who sent her to the USA. She said her mother. Oh, those clever Mexicans.
Conspiracy theories give simple people a simple view of how the world works and allow them to sidestep the complexities of reality. Illegal immigration is a complex issue. “Ow! That makes my brain hurt! Donald says it’s the clever Mexican government pulling one over on our stupid leaders in Washington!” Um, most of those leaders are Congressional Republicans that you voted for. “Ow! My brain!”
Us vs. them – White supremacists love to see themselves as a defined tribe that is under siege by external enemies. Jews, homosexuals, African-Americans. Basically 3/4 of the cast of The View. They see themselves as the “real” Americans, or as the 1920s Klan said, “100% American.” The homosexuals are destroying traditional (arranged?) marriage! Muslims are destroying our (WASP) religious monopoly!
Trump sees America under attack, by Mexican immigrants, Chinese businessmen (“They’re killing us,” he keeps saying) and mad nuclear scientists in Iran. He has no time for our internal problems unless he can simply blame it on “stupid leaders.” You know, because he has such a clear solution to childhood poverty, failing schools and America’s obesity epidemic. “I’ll hire the best people,” he keeps saying. Um, the President of the United States doesn’t hire anybody, Donnie.
The bullet points Trump uses were lifted right from Dylan Roof, the young man who killed nine people in a black church in Charleston this spring. Roof said, as his massacre of the black parishioners was under way, “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.” Trump says that at every stop.
Apocalyptic visions – White supremacists see the end coming very soon. They think that Obama is going to suspend democracy and herd whites into camps. Or that Black Lives Matters activists are going to just declare open season on white people. Christian extremists like the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations folks see a biblical confrontation looming. They call it “Rahowa,” short for Racial Holy War. So if “we don’t do something,” America as we know it will be ripped from our (white) hands.
Trump does the exact same thing. Walking on stage to REM’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” (unironically) only made the point that much more clear. Does he feel fine about it? You betcha, because all this end times talk lifts his numbers in the polls. It’s a classic technique used by Nazis, gun dealers, and used car salesman. “Things are about to change so buy this Uzi/Pinto/Trump vote right now or you’ll regret it!” Trump has his followers believing that if they don’t vote for him, America will become a 4th World nation in a matter of days.
The thing that makes Trump a fascist is that all this is built on a cult of personality. He’s hard not to watch. I feel addicted to him at times. But listen to him talk. It’s all about him. How popular he is and how rich he is and how good looking he is. Just look at that face! There is no discussion about real Americans and the real issues they are struggling with or finding success with. Much has written about Trump’s narcissism but I would just like a word count of the number of times he uses the word “I.”
So why do so many Americans follow this buffoon? There are two very simple reasons. The first is he speaks in simple terms. Health care is a complex issue. Just say it’s “illegal aliens” having “anchor babies” on your tax dollar. It’s us verses them and them has a big conspiracy running out of Mexico City and Bejing. What 5-year-old couldn’t understand that? Keep it simple. America was better in the past (when, he hasn’t said) so let’s make America great again. Say it over and over. It’s the new “White power!” mantra.
The second reason is that he’s got a convenient scapegoat. If this was 1980, he’d blame Japan and Iran and he’d have lots of followers. In 1988, white America was ready to blame all it’s problem on black criminals and Bush Sr. rode into the White House on the back of Willie Horton. Now the “I’m not racist, but…” Americans are ready to lay the blame on a familiar target. It’s not on the corporate elites, many of whom are stealing money right out of the accounts of Trump’s followers. Instead, let’s go after the folks on the bottom who are working in fields and meat packing plants and cannot defend themselves like Trump’s friends on Wall Street can. It’s a brilliant strategy and it’s working because it plays right into the racism that flows under the surface of polite American discourse. And Trump Bonus, black people can hate brown people now! You guys aren’t the rapists this time!
At the start of the summer, I thought Trump’s candidacy was a joke. In 2000, I thought bumbling coke head George W. Bush could never be elected and look what happened to the country when he did. Trump is a fascist demagogue. The hate mail I got after my last Trump post put me in fear because I dared to say the emperors clothes were white robes and red armbands. For may Latina daughter, I’m not going to assume that Trump and his rabid, fact-hating minions are going away. I think we are in for a big fight for the brain of America.
September 25, 2015
Since the traffic to my blog this week has increased by 8321.6% (true), I feel obligated to lob another brain grenade at America’s favorite gameshow host and his intellectually challenged followers. Hundreds of thousands of folks have been kind enough to read and share the previous Trump essays, “Donald Trump is the new face of white supremacy” and “Trump Part 2 – This is what fascism looks like,” so I thought I’d tackle another issue related to Trump and my family. And I figure I shouldn’t wait because it seems like the Trump bubble is starting to deflate. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking by myself and pathological liar Carly Fiorina.
I’m not going to go after his great lack any specific policies. All we know is that, whatever the issue, he has people (Can we meet them?) looking into it and that he’s going to hire (Does he mean appoint, subject to Congressional confirmation?) amazing people and that he’s going to fix the problem so fast your head is gonna spin. It reminds me of when I ran for President of Student Council in seventh grade. I had no platform, just the slogan, “Randy B. for presidency! Make Woodridge Elementary great again!”
And this post is not about his pseudo-fascist claim that he is going to round up 11 million undocumented people on his first day in office. He hasn’t explained how he’s going to do this but I have a suspicion he’s been watchingSchindler’s List for ideas. Welcome to the Trump police state. Any man, woman and child who looks “illegal” gets tossed over the Texas fence. (Don’t worry illegal Russians, you’re safe.) He also hasn’t said who is going to do all the work those 11 million undocumented folks do, whether it’s working in strawberry fields or in his hotels. (The answer is his plan would destroy the American economy and it just ain’t gonna happen as much as Trumpie racists wish it would.)
This post is about Trump’s obsession with anchor babies. And not his bizarre belief that he can magically change the Constitution to rewrite the 14th Amendment. (He claims he has “many scholars” that agree with him. Wrong.) It’s about this repeated refrain that people come to America just to have babies and then “we have to spend the next 80 years taking care of them.” It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, but his sub-moronic hat-wearing base loves it. (Hey, those hats are only $23.95 and may or may not be made in China or Mexico.)
I’ll start with a story. I was in a Jiffy Lube in Metairie, Louisiana a few years ago, on my way to Atlanta. The Prius needed an oil change and I was stuck in the waiting area with a couple of good ol’ boys (AKA white gentlemen). Since I was white, they started in on the racist crap, complaining about how Obama was letting in all these “illegals.” I pointed out that illegal immigration has actually decreased under Obama and deportations have increased. I got a look like, who is this fact-talking stranger? Then their fallback position was, “Well, they live here and don’t pay no taxes.” To which I said, “You’ve got sales tax in this state, right?” They nodded. “Then every time they buy something, they pay taxes. You’ve got property tax in this state, right?” They nodded. “Then every time they pay rent, they pay taxes.” The good old boys then started talking about the weather. You gotta shut this bullshit down every time.
The truth is that undocumented immigrants pay all sorts of taxes, including income tax. If you are working on a fake Social Security number, you are paying into a fund you will never be able to withdraw from. These funds go to what the Social Security Administration calls the “suspense file,” and you old white Conservatives should thank those “illegals,” because they are helping to keep SSI afloat. A study released this year by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that undocumented immigrants paid more than $11.8 billion in state and local taxes last year. And that doesn’t even include fees and federal taxes. But the “I’m not a racist but…” crowd that rallies around Trump can’t be bothered with facts and figures. Brown people are ripping them off! Off with their heads!
What Trump and his rabid flock deny is that every immigrant, undocumented and otherwise, has a personal story to tell. I’ve written about the families that come to America to provide for their children, not traffic drugs. Some, like my wife, walked across the border in the middle of the night. Even more arrived on airplanes with visas and stayed after their visa expired. (Trump’s fantasy wall won’t help there.) The Donald’s racist comments about them have brought these people to the front of the American story. (And if you don’t understand how racist those comments are, you are also racist. But there’s help for you, I promise.) These “killers and rapists” have started to tell their stories. And their children have started to tell their stories. They are not a burden on you “legal” Americans. They are making this country strong and profitable. Most are doing the work you whiners won’t do, for pay and in conditions you never would accept. They are working twice as hard as you and getting less for it. Sometimes nothing at all. (Just Google: Wage theft.) There are millions of stories, like the one 28-year-old Adriana Almanza went on YouTube to tell. Here’s your anchor baby and you and your demographic don’t have to “take care of” her. She will take care of you.
My wife and child are on Trump’s hit list but they are not a drain on your pocketbook. Trump’s corporate welfare friends in the finance industry are, but I promise you my Mexican family is not. My “illegal” wife worked hard to earn a green card and through her I have met many other hard working people who do not yet have papers and live in fear of deportation by Obama’s ICE. Trump would deport them all on “Day 1,” but they are more important to the health of this great country than he is. Our daughter, who Trump might call an “anchor baby,” is an American citizen because she was born here. I am willing to wager that Trump’s children got more unearned handouts than she ever will.
The reality is that Republicans (including many of my family and Facebook friends) are scared shitless that America is changing in a way that looks less like them and more like my bi-racial daughter. They want to scapegoat an easy target the way that desperate dominant groups have always done when they feel their dominance slipping a tiny bit. The want to “restore” America to an imagined time when straight white males were the unchallenged authority. Sorry, old white guys, you can ride that sinking ship to the bottom of the ocean or join us at the fiesta. The stories of our immigrant friends prove the American dream is alive and well, pero el futuro es cafe.
And just to be clear, I am not writing this as a PhD in sociology who has studied racism for over 25 years. This is not a policy blog. I am a father and husband who is angry and sad that his family has been devalued and dehumanized by a loud minority of Americans (not a “silent majority”) who are too ignorant and/or fearful to understand that this is a nation of immigrants and that’s what makes us great. We don’t need Donald Trump or his xenophobic mob to drag us into the past.
And if you are a Trump fan, just watch this music video to see the human side that Trump’s ignorant rhetoric covers up. Maybe it will reach your corazon.