In the aftermath of last week’s massacre in South Carolina, the nation is having an important conversation about the roots, assumptions, and effects of white supremacy.
A key aspect of this discussion is the role that incendiary rhetoric, racist stereotypes and efforts to mainstream that which is or borders on hate speech has in demonizing and dehumanizing entire groups of people. We who advocate with and for immigrants have long battled with opponents who stoke fears and traffic in distortions regarding those seeking a new life in America. And it comes as no surprise to us that the ideology and groups that influenced Dylann Roof include Latinos and Jews along with African-Americans as their targets. For example, the Council of Conservative Citizens, the group Roof cited as a source for his views on race and white supremacy, regularly rails against Latino immigrants. As Todd Blodgett, who spent two years attending white supremacist meetings across the country, says about such groups, “they genetically believe blacks are a failure, Jewish people are evil and greedy, Hispanics are lazy and stupid and the white race deserves to be the only race that inhabits America.”
Below, we highlight several recent commentaries that address these issues:
A new column by leading journalist Jorge Ramos blasts Donald Trump’s racist comments and the refusal of his fellow Republicans to condemn Trump’s statements:
“When he announced that he was officially entering the 2016 presidential race, Donald Trump won a different contest altogether by becoming the Hispanic community’s most hated man. He dethroned the likes of Joe Arpaio – the staunchly anti-immigrant Arizona sheriff who has been accused of racial profiling – and even conservative author Ann Coulter, who recently declared that Mexican immigrants are as dangerous as Islamic State jihadis.
‘When Mexico sends its people [to the U.S.],’ Trump said at his campaign announcement last week in New York, ‘they’re not sending their best … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.’
…I have visited Trump’s National Doral Miami Hotel and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York in recent months. Many of the wonderful workers who took care of me at these establishments were, indeed, from Mexico. So why does Trump speak so hatefully about them?
Those familiar with Trump’s popular TV show ‘The Apprentice’ know that he likes to send contestants on challenges, then ‘fire’ the ones who fail. I’d like to propose one for him: Trump should go a single day without Mexican employees. I have no doubt that his business interests would grind to a halt and his empire would be paralyzed.
…Sadly, Trump is unaware of how much his words matter. When a presidential candidate uses such a public platform to spout hatred against an ethnic group, other people may follow his lead or, worse, be moved to violence. Even more worrisome is the fact that other presidential hopefuls have, for the most part, kept silent about Trump’s venomous and ignorant comments. The silence was as painful as his words.”
Bloomberg View’s Frank Wilkinson writes of the changing demographics in America, in part due to effects of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, and how they threaten those clinging to white supremacy:
“[W]hile the country isn’t getting much blacker, it’s definitely, inexorably, getting browner. Around the middle of this century, the nation is expected to have its first nonwhite majority. To run-of-the-mill white supremacists and racial conservatives eager to ‘take back America’ that must seem pretty frightening. And unfair. No one voted (or thought they had) to transform the hue of the country. No president ever campaigned on changing the U.S. from white to brown. No Congress explicitly authorized it.
How did it happen?
The year 1965 is a good place to begin. The U.S. had maintained highly restrictive immigration policies since the early 1920s. A quota system restricted immigrants from Africa, Asia, and Eastern and Southern Europe. Meanwhile, paradoxically, migration from the Western Hemisphere was unrestricted; Mexicans moved easily back and forth across the border on temporary work visas.
In 1965, Congress moved to overhaul immigration law. The timing was significant. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act had just been adopted. Reformers wanted the nation’s immigration system to better reflect its new embrace of racial justice — no more excluding Africans and Asians. And the Western Hemisphere would come under immigration restrictions just like the Eastern Hemisphere.
…Altogether, the browning of America, as it’s been called, owes a heavy debt to unintended consequences. For cultural conservatives harboring a strong dose of racial anxiety, it’s unlikely that “unintended consequences” is a satisfying answer for how the white America that they idolize is being supplanted by a brown America that they fear. Although the demographic wave is too big to ignore, and too entrenched to be reversed, its origins are so muddled and distant that it’s hard to know whom to blame for it.
Unless you’re a racist, of course, in which case you know exactly whom to blame.”
And Kica Matos of the Center for Community Change ties together the Trump comments and South Carolina shootings in a new op-ed published in The Hill titled, “The Politics of Hate:”
“The fact that both of these hate-filled fanatics invoked ‘rape’ and the fear of national domination by a non-white group reflects a nation that still uses fear-mongering and violent imagery to justify bigotry. It invokes an old racist tradition that seeks to demonize and dehumanize people of color as a way to incite racial and ethnic hatred and violence. This type of language bastardizes patriotism with terrorism.
But that is not all. The outrageousness of Donald Trump’s recent remarks isn’t just in the shock of his incendiary and racist language as part of his presidential announcement. The outrage also lies in the fact that the right wing has created an environment in the GOP — and increasingly in our society — where racism and hate speech are somehow chic and accepted as legitimate within mainstream politics. The consequences of this are far reaching, creating a fertile ground for more extreme forms of hatred and violence – much like what we witnessed in South Carolina.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the number of hate groups in the country has risen by 30 percent since 2000. The number of Patriot groups, including armed militias, increased by 813 percent following the election of President Obama– from 149 groups in 2008 to a record breaking 1,360 in 2012.
What is the explanation for this rise in hate groups? Not surprisingly, SPLC’s analysis reveals that politicians are partly to blame, especially those who use the political stage to ‘legitimize false propaganda about immigrants and other minorities and spread the kind of paranoid conspiracy theories on which militia groups thrive.’”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Sadly, there is a network of hate at work in America. At times, as in Charleston, it shows up in ways that are violently and painfully obvious. At other times, it shows up as ugly rhetoric that demeans the humanity of ‘the other.’ During this troubling time, people of good will must stand up to common roots of both if we are to move our nation forward, away from ugly bigotry and towards the acceptance of our common humanity.”