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« Athletes for Social Justice | Main | Watching the First Debate »


Trump and Trickle Down Racism

By Angelo Lopez
September 9, 2016

During this election season, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made many provocative statements about illegal immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, women and other minorities. In the presidential debates in the Republican primaries, Trump dragged down the tone of the whole debates by using personal insults rather than talk about the specifics of issues. The Founding Fathers had hoped that the United States would be an enlightened republic where issues could be debated in a civil and serious manner by a well informed electorate. Trump has upended that hope. Many people worry that Trump's rhetoric would have a depressing effect on the electorate by exacerbating the divisions in our society and tearing at our social fabric.

We can see this by how Trump has sown divisions within the Republican Party. Several prominent Republicans will not vote for Trump, like George H.W. Bush, George Bush, Colin Powell, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Mitt Romney, George Will, David Brooks, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, Sally Bradshaw, Susan Collins, Brent Skowcroft, George Schultz, Paul Wolfowitz, Max Boot, and Meg Whitman. Mitt Romney voiced his concern that many Americans share that Trump would inspire trickle down racism in American society. Romney said in an interview with Wolf Blitzer:

I don't want to see trickle-down racism. I don't want to see a president of the United States saying things which change the character of the generations of Americans that are following. Presidents have an impact on the nature of our nation, and trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry, trickle-down misogyny, all these things are extraordinarily dangerous to the heart and character of America.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor history and Italian studies at New York University, wrote an article My Ugly Experience with the 'Trickle Down' Hate Romney Warns About that explains how a national leader can influence society. Ben-Ghiat wrote:

Trump's intolerance reminds us of something else: the power of a charismatic leader to exploit such sentiments for political gain.

The danger Trump poses lies with the kind of bond he has with his followers. It's an attachment based on submission to his authority, not to a party or principle. That's why he emphasizes the emotional content of his events -- feeling the love, or fending off "the haters"-- and grooms his fans' loyalty through an oath to his person.

Charismatic leaders have enormous influence over their followers, who look to them to set the tone for how they should think and behave. This becomes very dangerous when such leaders denigrate certain people, and then do nothing when their followers act on their words. Not only do they educate people to hate others, but they harness society's existing prejudices to rally supporters.

Trump has proceeded in textbook fashion. Early on, he identified suspect ethnic and racial groups (Muslims, Hispanics), declared others fair game (women, journalists, the disabled), and then shrugged when the aggression began...

...Trump's refusal to rein them in lets racists feel emboldened and even protected. Insults become the order of the day, in the street, on airplanes and the subway, and on social media, following a chain that originates with Trump's provocations.



Romney's prediction is borne out in a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center titled The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation's Schools. The report notes:

The gains made by years of anti-bullying work in schools have been rolled back in a few short months. Teachers report that students have been "emboldened' to use slurs, engage in name-calling and make inflammatory statements toward each other. When confronted, students point to the candidates and claim they are 'just saying what everyone is thinking." Kids use the names of candidates as pejoratives to taunt each other.

If marginalized students are fearful and hurting, it’s partly because other 'students seem emboldened to make bigoted and inflammatory statements about minorities, immigrants, the poor, etc.,' wrote a high school teacher in Michigan...

...Muslim students—along with the Sikh and Hindu students who are mistaken for Muslims—have endured heightened levels of abuse. According to reports from around the nation, Muslim students regularly endure being called ISIS, terrorist or bomber. These opinions are expressed boldly and often. Even in schools where such behavior isn’t tolerated, current-events discussions often become uncomfortable for teachers and Muslim students.

The harassment of students who are immigrants or children of immigrants is another particular problem, because nearly one-third of U.S. public school students have foreign-born parents. Teachers in every state reported hostile language aimed at immigrants, mainly Mexicans. A Wisconsin middle school teacher told us, "Openly racist statements towards Mexican students have increased. Mexican students are worried." A middle school teacher in Anaheim, California, reported, "Kids tell other kids that soon they will be deported." Regardless of their ethnic background or even their immigration or citizenship status, targeted students are taunted with talk of a wall or threats of forcible removal.

In this youtube video, five young Muslims talk with Scott Pelley about life in the U.S. during a time of intense rhetoric, including Donald Trump's proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country.

In this youtube video link Republican strategist and CBS News contributor Frank Lutz held a focus group of Muslim Americans to get their perspectives on the political rhetoric and their faith after Trump called for a ban of Muslims entering the United States.

In this youtube video actor and activist George Takei slammed Donald Trump on Tuesday for his Islamophobic proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., suggesting that the real estate mogul hasn't learned the tough lessons from the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Takei's family was forced into a prison camp when he was just 5 years old.

In this youtube video a Mexican American tells viewers how she reacted to Donald Trump's rhetoric on Mexican immigrants.

In this youtube video Ricardo Aca, a young undocumented immigrant who works in a Trump Hotel, decided to speak out against Trump's comments about Mexican immigrants.

In this youtube video Francesca Fiorentini tackles myths about immigration and chronicles the struggles Latinos in America are facing.

In this youtube video Asian American and Pacific Islanders community held a demonstration in January 2016 in support of the Muslim community and against Donald Trump.

In this youtube video TYT Politics reporter Eric Byler went to the prestigious North Carolina A & T State University, a Historic Black College, and asked African American students about Donald Trump.


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