Robinson: Try as he might, Trump can't Make America White Again

Robinson: Try as he might, Trump can't Make America White Again

July 7th, 2018 by Eugene Robinson in Opinion Times Commentary

President Donald Trump is cheered by supporters at a rally in Great Falls, Mont., on Thursday.

Photo by GABRIELLA DEMCZUK

WASHINGTON — Racism is a feature of the Trump administration, not a bug. Like demagogues before him, President Trump and his aides consistently single out one group for scapegoating and persecution: non-white Hispanic immigrants.

Trump doesn't much seem to like non-white newcomers from anywhere, in truth — remember how he once expressed a fond wish for more immigrants from Norway? — but he displays an especially vicious antipathy toward men, women and even children from Latin America. We have not seen such overt racism from a president since Woodrow Wilson imposed Jim Crow segregation in Washington and approvingly showed "The Birth of a Nation," director D.W. Griffith's epic celebration of the Ku Klux Klan, at the White House.

Trump encourages supporters to see the nation as beset by high levels of violent crime — and to blame the "animals" of the street gang MS-13. He is lying; crime rates nationwide are far lower than two or three decades ago, and some big cities are safer than they have been in a half-century. But Trump has to paint a dystopian panorama in order to justify the need to Make America Great Again.

MS-13 is, indeed, unspeakably violent. But it is small; law enforcement officials estimate the gang's total U.S. membership at roughly 10,000, concentrated in a few metropolitan areas that have large populations of Central American immigrants — Los Angeles, New York and Washington. Trump never acknowledges that the gang was founded in the United States by immigrants from El Salvador and exported to Central America, where it took hold. He also neglects to mention that its members here, mostly teenagers, generally direct their violence at one another, not at outsiders.

Trump deliberately exaggerates the threat from MS-13 in order to justify his brutality toward Central American asylum-seekers at the border.

He uses words such as "invading" and "infest" and "breeding" to describe Central American migrants who arrive at the border lawfully seeking asylum. I'll believe this is neutral immigration policy when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents begin hunting down and locking up Norwegians who have overstayed their visas.

Said Norwegians, if anyone bothered to look for them, might well be taking jobs away from American workers or taking advantage of social-welfare programs or boosting crime rates. There is no evidence that asylum-seekers are doing any of these things.

Trump's policies flow from a worldview that he has never tried to hide. To describe Trump and aides such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and adviser Stephen Miller as "anti-immigration" tells only part of the story. They adopt the stance of racial and cultural warriors, "defending" the United States against brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking hordes "invading" from the south.

Trump has proposed not just building a wall along the border with Mexico to halt the flow of undocumented migrants, but also changing the system of legal immigration so that it no longer promotes family unification. He calls his aim a "merit-based" system, but Miller has specified that the administration wants to produce "more assimilation."

Yet there is no evidence that immigrants from Latin America fail to assimilate in any way except one: They do not come to look like Trump's mental image of "American," which is basically the same as his mental image of "Norwegian."

This is a story as old as the nation. German, Irish, Polish, Italian and other immigrant groups were once seen as irredeemably foreign and incapable of assimilating. The ethnic and racial mix of the country has changed before and is changing now.

Hispanics are by far the biggest minority group in the country, making up nearly 18 percent of the population; by 2060, the Census Bureau estimates, that share will rise to nearly 29 percent. Trump is punishing Central American mothers and babies because, try as he might, he can't Make America White Again.

Washington Post Writers Group

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com