By David Leopold. Crossposted from Medium. Available in Spanish here.
Last week, Donald Trump’s Cinco de Mayo tweet topped the headlines. This tweet is the latest in a longstanding series of insulting, offensive, andderogatory tweets from the GOP presidential front runner. What makes Trump’s Twitter conduct so utterly disturbing, and fascinating for the media, is that he routinely manages to colorfully display his arrogance, bigotry, and unabashed disrespect for minorities, women, and others in 140 character tweets. While some might try to laugh off Donald Trump’s latest offensive tweet as a foolish attempt to reach out to Mexican Americans, his shameless use of stereotype — Mexicans (ignorantly viewed by Trump as synonymous with all Hispanics) love tacos, I love tacos, and, therefore, “I love Hispanics” — is no laughing matter. As Tania Lombrozo, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, observed,
But there’s a deeper reason the tweet might tweak a nerve, and it has to do with the subtle inferences we draw from people’s use of language — in this case, the statement: “I love Hispanics!” It’s positive on the surface — but the implications aren’t all rosy, especially given the context of Trump’s positions regarding Hispanic immigrants. In particular, the claim presupposes that it’s meaningful and informative to classify people as “Hispanics” when making generalizations about whether they’re lovable. And that’s a potentially strange (and offensive) view to hold — is there really something that Hispanics all have in common by virtue of which they are (or aren’t) lovable?
Nor is it the first time Trump has used ethnic or religious stereotypes in an attempt to endear himself to a group. On December 5, 2015, when addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition, Trump employed the age old derogatory stereotypes of Jews as clever deal makers — “I’m a negotiator like you folks..Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken”; Money changers and lenders — “I don’t want any of your money…Stupidly, you want to give money…Trump doesn’t want money — You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money…I would love your support but I don’t want your money”; and Culturally insular — “You Just Like Me Because My Daughter Happens To Be Jewish.”
Trump’s racism predates his current focus on getting into the White House. According to a post on American Bridge 21st Century, John O’Donnell, a former associate of Trump, wrote in his book, Donald Trump: A Biography Of The Mogul Turned Presidential Candidate, that the presumptive GOP nominee tolerated antisemitic gestures and made racist remarks. O’Donnell said Trump would often describe black people as being lazy and stupid; he would bemoan the ‘black guys counting my money,’ preferring the ‘short guys that wear yarmulkes.” More recently, when asked if he would disavow David Duke and white supremacists Trump responded “I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists.”
Nothing about Trump or his presidential campaign has been funny. Ever.
Historically, racist demagogues — some of whom went on to commit unspeakable crimes against humanity over the past century — used ugly stereotypes to reduce minorities to sub-human caricatures to try to to achieve their political goals. Whether it’s a cartoon depicting a minority as lazy or vilifying a religious group as greedy, use of stereotypes to build public opinion about a race, religion, or nationality is, unfortunately, a tried and tested tool of racists. From 1925–1945, for example, Julius Streicher, an early follower of Adolf Hitler, published the infamous Der Stuermer which produced brutally antisemitic caricatures depicting Jews as diabolical creatures intent on world domination. The Nazi propaganda machine was aimed at defining Jews as subhuman.
Donald Trump’s cynical use of racist stereotypes and imagery during the Republican primary is similarly vile. He built his campaign on the denigration of Mexicans as drug dealers and rapists; the construction of an imposing wall–an actual and symbolic barrier — to keep Mexicans (and all Latinos) out of the U.S.; the mass deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants and their U.S. citizen children; and the banning of all Muslims from the U.S.
Trump has supplemented his racist policy proposals with a heavy diet of bigotry, misogyny, and other forms of hatred. He’s viciously lampooned the handicapped, expressed profound disrespect and hatred for women, effectively encouraged his supporters to engage in violence and hate crimes, and denigrated war heroes.
Trump’s presumptive nomination as the GOP’s candidate for President of the United States makes this election about much more than partisan politics. It’s now about protecting our nation from the likes of a man whose very presence in the Oval Office would threaten America’s core values and, perhaps, the strength of our democracy. Trump must not be passed off as merely politically incorrect, controversial, or the product of untapped voter anger.
Donald Trump is a racist, misogynist, nativist demagogue. Period.