As the U.S. political spectacle to retain or take back the White House in 2020 advances, the topic of racism winds itself through all aspects of national life.
It should not be taken lightly that its use as an electoral weapon has emanated from the presidential institution itself, when in 2015-2016 it proved its efficacy when, suddenly, attacking minorities of color became the perfect formula to awaken and encourage the xenophobic and anti-immigrant attitude among certain sectors of the population, above all those with supremacist ideas and attitudes, which in large part helped today’s leader win the election.
In fact, in these little more than three years, the violent attacks on everything that appears to be related to immigrants have been rather frequent, especially attacks on the Spanish language and its speakers, through the shouting of insults like “get out of the United States!” and “go back to your country!” although the victim may be, paradoxically, U.S. Americans, but not white.
What’s more, the most recent survey from Quinnipiac reveals that 55% of Hispanic residents in the United States consider today’s president to be racist, compared to 44% who say the contrary, contrasted at the same time with the rest of the U.S. population where, reality is, some 51% consider the leader to be racist compared with 45% who believe he is not. Meanwhile, 80% of the African American segment of the population believes that the person who resides in the White House is, in effect, segregationist.
But it’s as if the country had not changed—as if the majority had not noticed that along the road toward racism, the history of this nation loses more than it has won—the strategists, advisors, and the big chief of Executive Power himself have all decided to continue down this same route, surely confident that their base alone could guarantee another four years in power.
One only has to revisit the results of the mid-term elections in 2018, where the candidates that used anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric lost handily, to realize how much of a failed and anachronistic strategy it is to attack minorities to win votes. In each case, the only thing they achieved was enough political discredit to last a lifetime.
And, so sure are they that the racial strategy will bear new fruit, they have established a type of game of mirrors in which, despite the clear references in their rhetoric, they later maintain that there is absolutely no hint of racism in their words.
“I am the least racist person in the world,” has been the phrase that summarizes this Orwellian strategy of Trump: a false-truth, or “2+2=5.”
But, for example, sending four female congresswomen “back” to their home countries, three of whom are U.S.-born Americans and the fourth a naturalized citizen, or declaring that a city like Baltimore is “rat infested” and “no human being would want to live there” —knowing full well that, according to Census data, more than 50% of its inhabitants are African American and little more than 35% are white— has been nothing more than a primitive attitude from someone who has not understood that scrutiny of public servants, like him, is not only a democratic practice but an obligation and a right held by the people and their representatives.
In that way, Omar, Tlaib, Ocasio, Pressley, and Cummings have been part of the hall of shame of this president, decidedly uncomfortable in a democracy like that of the United States.
And they are only the most recent examples of a range of reactions with racial references on the part of today’s president, who throughout his presidency has left no minority group free from attacks, in contrast to his attitude toward supremacists: “some very fine people,” he mentioned in 2017 after the incidents in Charlottesville. He was completely unmasked in that moment.
It’s certain that this will not stay there and that, in the coming weeks and months, new controversies with racial overtones will surge and feed the anti-immigrant furor of those sectors that feel comfortable with attacks on minorities and emboldened by the xenophobic presidential rhetoric.
But it is also certain that such official discourse will find not only political, but socio-cultural opposition from within a country that faces, once again, a historic litmus test in which not only is the White House in play in the short term, but the very future of a society cognizant that it simply cannot conform to the image of a country given over to racism.
In that very ambivalence the U.S. democracy is debated today, and to this moment there are serious hints towards stopping this maelstrom of racial attacks stemming from power that would undermine the historic efforts of a nation that had, in a better moment, battled for civil rights.
You can read the Spanish-language version of this article here.