Shared from the 7/16/2019 Houston Chronicle eEdition


President’s racist attack on Democratic congresswomen can’t go unchallenged.

New York Times

The elected officials President Donald Trump targeted on Twitter are all U.S. citizens and women of color.

Even for someone with Donald Trump’s track record, who began his 2016 election campaign by generalizing Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and has referred to African nations as “shithole countries,” his string of Twitter posts over the weekend targeting four American congresswomen was vile.

Let’s not mince words. They were the racist rantings of a bigot — not an American patriot who truly believes in the Constitution he swore to defend as president.

That sacred document upon which this country was founded guarantees Americans’ rights to free speech, including criticism of the government. It respects the rights of immigrants and citizens alike — and doesn’t meet their expressions of dissent with suggestions of exile. It does not regard anyone born on U.S. soil as somehow second class merely because they count their American lineage by decades rather than centuries.

Trump’s comments violate basic tenets of our inclusive, democratic society.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are acomplete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world,” Trump wrote on Twitter, “now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.”

“Why don’t they go back,” he added, in a barrage of insults that carried over into Monday morning, “and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

The duly elected officials he targeted are all U.S. citizens and all women of color. Rashida Tlaib was born in Detroit, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the Bronx. Ilhan Omar, born in Somalia, came to the U.S. as a 10-year-old refugee.

The fourth, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, is a black American with no recent immigrants in her family. If she goes back to where she came from, she’s going back to Ohio.

Bigots and xenophobes have long wielded the same foul language to degrade and oppress people of color, no matter their roots. It has been spit at black Americans who have been told to go back to Africa and at immigrants who dare to speak another language in public.

Trump’s slurs against Americans he perceives as foreign or “other” are rarely aimed at white people. Apparently, some Americans are more equal than others to the 45th president who, it should be noted, is the son of a Scottish-born mother, grandson of a man who came from Germany as an unaccompanied minor and has twice been married to immigrants.

He seems to imply that anyone who is not white can have their Americanness questioned, that they are somehow less invested in the American story, less vital to America’s success. Tell that to the enslaved people and their descendants whose labor helped build the economic foundation of this nation or the Chinese immigrants whose backbreaking toil brought us the transcontinental railroads or the thousands of noncitizens who enlist in the U.S. military every year.

Two and a half years into the Trump presidency, it is easy to become numbed by his despicable rhetoric. This is aman who began his political career by promoting the racist birther conspiracy about President Barack Obama and who once placed a full-page ad calling for the execution of the Central Park Five, five teens of color wrongfully convicted of rape. His real-estate company was sued for discriminating against blacks in the 1970s. He has said immigrants from Haiti all “have AIDS” and derided an Indiana-born judge because of his Mexican heritage.

Democrats were quick to respond, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling for support on a resolution condemning the tweets: “his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again,” she tweeted Sunday.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo also denounced the president’s tweets: “This is the most un-American statement a POTUS has made in modern times,” he tweeted.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Helotes was one of the few Republicans to offer a strong rebuke of Trump, telling CNN the tweets were “racist and xenophobic.”

Other Republicans were conspicuously quiet. Where were U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who was born in Scotland, or U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, born in Canada? More than 24 hours after Trump’s tirade began, Cruz took a swipe at Beto O’Rourke’s disclosure of slave-owner ancestors. (Ironically, Cruz noted that his father was a “penniless Cuban immigrant.”) No mention of the president’s repugnant words.

We can’t allow ourselves to start viewing this behavior as normal, as “Trump being Trump.” Whether motivated by racism, politics, mental instability or all of the above, the impact of Trump’s comments don’t expire with the next news cycle.

They gnaw at the fiber of this country. Trump uses Twitter for “official purposes.” We should be horrified that one such purpose is for demeaning the office of the president. We should condemn elected officials whose silence equals complicity.

It is their duty — and ours — to speak out against Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric, which is corrosive to America’s fragile unity and treasonous to the ideals upon which it stands.

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