Editor’s Note: Scott Lucas is professor of international politics at the UK’s University of Birmingham, founder/editor of EA WorldView and a member of The Trump Project. The opinions in this article belong to the author.
Donald Trump is a racist.
This should be said without excuses, without evasions, without caveats.
Trump’s angry complaint Thursday about “all these people from shithole countries” – language that after a night’s sleep he only denied using on Friday morning – is the latest example of his dislike of entire groups of people based on their place of origin or religion.
During the 2016 election campaign, we heard him imply that all Mexicans were drug dealers and rapists. Last year, he retweeted Islamophobic videos by a far-right British group. The New York Times reported that Trump said all Haitians “have AIDS” and that Nigerians don’t want to go back to their “huts.”
But this is not only about racism. It is about power – Trump’s power and that of his administration in kicking the helpless, the deprived, the desperate.
Context is essential here. This is an administration that has tried to bar entry to all people from certain, mainly Muslim, countries because they are presumed to be dangerous. It has sharply reduced the number of immigrants allowed into the United States. It has all but closed America’s doors to refugees, including those from the Syrian civil war. It is removing temporary protected status for hundreds of thousands who have fled the devastation of earthquakes: from Nicaragua, Haiti, El Salvador and probably Honduras.
Trump’s racism is not directed at the Chinese, for Beijing represents a large economy and an influential power – and China’s leaders gave him a lavish welcome last year. It is not directed at Saudis, for Riyadh has oil and a key regional position – and Saudi leaders laid on the gold and the flattery for his trip in May.
Trump’s denigration is reserved for those whom he believes cannot offer him anything. No power, no profit, no adulation. Fleeing their “huts” and carrying AIDS, they are only a burden upon him.
That is why Trump invoked Norwegians as “good” immigrants Thursday, in contrast to the Haitians and Africans. More than 80% of Norwegians are white, but they are also from a “developed” European country with – in Trump’s eyes – the manners and attributes to be worthy. And, of course, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg was at the White House on Wednesday, giving Trump the photo opportunity of playing leader that he always relishes.
While Trump grabs the “shithole” headlines, there are those behind him who are almost as important – specifically Stephen Miller, the 32-year-old hard-right adviser who has been given license to rip apart immigration policies.
As a high school student, he derided Latino classmates because they supposedly “lacked basic English skills” and were not in his honors’ classes. He later wrote of “citizens (who) would rather spend time sewing blankets to cover women’s faces than improving the quality of life.” According to a classmate, he objected to “someone from El Salvador celebrating their homeland, or someone from Vietnam bringing in food from their country of origin.” And, all the while he insisted that racism is “endangered” and can end if everyone embraces “Americanism.”
You see, Trump and Miller can’t be racist because they are Americans. But at the same time, they can cast aspersions upon – and now bring the weight of the government down on – those who aren’t “American.”
Those from Central America who try to escape disaster and rebuild lives but have nothing immediate to offer the reality TV star and his adviser. Those from Syria who have endured almost eight years of a war, which has displaced half the country’s population, but cannot bring the money and goods to be worthy. Those from Nigeria or Somalia or Sudan who may have faced turmoil but will never be on the level of “us.”
The White House says instead that we should be talking about “security.” But the President’s remarks and his policies are not about security, at least the type that really matters. The security of having a home, a school, a hospital, a community, a way of life.
No, the only “security” for Trump and Miller is their personal security that they are better than those whom they will bar from the United States.
Better – even if, in the end, they can’t deport them – than the undocumented immigrants who will never be “American.” Better than the riffraff, the ne’er-do-wells and the dangerous.
Donald Trump is a racist.