Editor’s Note: Anushay Hossain is a writer and political commentator based in Washington. For more, visit AnushaysPoint.com. The views expressed in this article are her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday referred to former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman as a “dog.”
“When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!” Trump tweeted.
Manigault Newman, an African-American woman, is currently on a massive publicity tour for her explosive book.
Now, Trump insulting and name-calling anyone – from former staffers to opponents alike – is nothing new. Whether he is shaming “Sloppy Steve” or “loser” Michael Wolff or using one of his most famous nicknames, “Crooked Hillary,” Trump applies classic bully tactics to degrade and destroy the credibility of his so-called enemies, or really anyone who doesn’t drink the Trump Kool-Aid.
It’s different when he attacks people of color – because to say that the president has a rocky history with race is putting it lightly at best. And as the country is reeling from explosive racial tensions from police brutality to alt-right rallies to the anniversary of Charlottesville, Trump still has not come out and boldly denounced white supremacy or racism. And in July, a Quinnipiac poll found that while 49% of Americans say they think Trump is racist, 47% do not.
But to call a woman of color a “dog,” especially a former staff member of Trump’s own White House, is so blatantly sexist and racist, that the entire question of whether Trump is either of those things needs to be concluded once and for all.
Those who study the history and science of human behavior have identified repeatedly the link between animal language and the tearing away of people’s basic human rights. From pro-slavery propaganda comparing African Americans to monkeys to Nazi films portraying Jews as rats to Hutus calling Tutsis “cockroaches” during the Rwandan genocide, there is a documented connection between the use of animal terms and imagery and the dehumanizing of a racialized other.
And this isn’t Trump’s first time doing it, either. On the same day he called Manigault Newman a “dog,” he also tweeted that the suspect in a London terrorist attack was an “animal.” Recall as well his tweet warning that immigrants would “infest” the United States, as if they were vermin and not people.
Calling an African-American woman an animal is, as CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi aptly put it, “at best a sharp departure from the language typically employed by presidents and at worst a reference that traffics in sexual and racial imagery.” Although Trump has also called both Mitt Romney and Steve Bannon dogs before, it is no secret that nothing quite sets Trump off like being clapped back at by a person of color. Remember when he referred to Rep. Maxine Waters as “low IQ” and called CNN’s Don Lemon “dumb”?
Donald Trump has no shortage of insults for anyone, but for black people and women, Trump has a one-track mind. It is clear that when it comes to black athletes, black journalists and black members of Congress, it is their intelligence, and by extension their humanity, that Trump attacks.
So why are some of us still in denial about Trump’s racism? Is this not the man who found “very fine people” on the side of neo-Nazis and who was sued in the 1970s for refusing to rent to black tenants? Why are we still in denial about Trump’s sexism? Is this not the man who called women “pigs” and bragged about grabbing women by their genitalia?
It is insulting enough to have to hear and read Trump’s blatantly racist and sexist comments. The very least we can do is stop pondering if we are really hearing and seeing what we are all witnessing: Trump is not racist or sexist. He is both. So to the 47% of Americans, mostly die-hard Trump supporters who say our president isn’t racist, it’s time to end that debate once and for all.