“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and…from the Middle East.” Thus, Donald Trump began his campaign for the presidency of the United States.
It seems obvious to many across the political spectrum that a Trump presidency would be disastrous, even if just because of the manner in which Trump delivers his ideas. Less prevalent though, is the idea that his campaign itself is already causing its own disasters. Since that sixteenth day of June, Donald Trump’s campaign has made immigrants and people of color feel unwelcome in America, “inspired” hate crimes, and spread the notion that “political correctness,” or as I like to call it, “human decency and respect for others,” is an annoying deterrent from productive political debate. But calling Mexicans “rapists” is not without consequences. It’s naive to think Trump’s spewing of hatred to audiences of millions (Republican debates so far have averaged 20 million viewers) yields no effect.
The way you may feel with a rapist, a murderer, living next door to you? Trump is suggesting you should feel that way about Mexicans in general. And people “from all over South and Latin America, and…from the Middle East,” because the majority of them, excepting the “some” so insignificant to him he phrased them as an afterthought, are “bringing drugs…crime. They’re rapists.” The general consensus around criminals in America, and Trump’s view as well, is that they are of less value to society, not as worthy of respect or sympathy. Thus, if the American public is led to believe Trump’s portrayal of immigrants, Americans will then think that immigrants are not worthy of their humanity. Nayeli Hernandez, daughter of a Mexican immigrant and junior at El Rancho High School summed up Trump’s implications well, stating, “He is making immigrants and Mexicans seem as if they’re not even human.” She said these ideas Trump promotes about Mexicans, “make me feel like I’m less of a person for being Mexican or the child of someone born in Mexico.” With Trump’s racial profiling of Mexicans, people from South and Latin America, Blacks, and many others, immigrants and people of color are presented as being unworthy of space in the American community. “Illegal immigrants” are also undeserving of the “free stuff” our country provides, including “healthcare…drivers licenses,” and “social security,” he says.
The results of such racial profiling can also be seen in the treatment of “Hispanic-sounding” names on job applications. Jose Zamora, a man from California, submitted hundreds of online job applications with his given name, receiving no callbacks. He then submitted identical applications for the same positions under the name “Joe Zamora.” Within days, he was flooded with responses. While this specific instance occurred before Trump’s campaign announcement, this is an example of the results that occur when racist ideas like those Trump perpetuates permeate American society. Trump’s sentiments on Blacks, including his statement, “Laziness is a trait in blacks,” also perpetuate race-based job discrimination, in which job applications with “black-sounding” names receive 50% fewer responses than those with “white-sounding” names. The things Trump says to large American audiences, even without the title of President, play a role in perpetuating racism.
Donald Trump has “inspired” people to commit hate crimes. Hector Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, cited the increasing anti-immigrant political rhetoric as a significant contributing cause of the 50% increase in hate crimes against Hispanics over the last five years. Trump was more explicitly cited as an “inspiration” for the brutal assault of a Hispanic man (his name was not released) by two white men in Boston who said, “Trump was right. All these illegals need to be deported,” along with justifying their actions by saying the man was, “homeless,” “Hispanic,” and “an illegal immigrant.” As Nayeli puts it, “He’s openly causing citizens to believe they are superior to immigrants,” and in his portrayal of Hispanic people is feeding into the, “mindset of racism and hate,” pushing people to take that extra step to violence.
At a Trump rally in Dallas, Texas a Trump supporter took over the microphone to address protesters saying in Spanish, then English, “The Mexicans are the hairs of a*******. Viva Donald Trump,” then addressing a woman protester in the crowd she said, “Clean my hotel room, b****.” At another rally on October 14th a Trump supporter was recorded by a CBS News reporter on video repeatedly yelling, “F*** you,” at a progressive activist of color, ultimately spitting in his face. These are not jokes, and even when racism is presented in the format of a “joke,” it still has consequences, as Ally Carrillo, a daughter of Mexican immigrants and senior at Edison says, “With Trump gaining so many supporters…and all the jokes/digs at Mexicans I’m not proud to be of Mexican descent.”
Trump also holds a track record of accepting anti-Islam rhetoric. In his response to an audience member at a political event posing to him that, “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American. Birth certificate, man,” Trump interrupted him, not to call out his Islamophobia or lies about President Obama, but to say, “We need this question. This is the first question,” before the questioner could continue. Sadly then, it is no surprise that Trump has been held up by those who espouse Islamophobia. At an anti-Islam rally called an “[exercise of] our first-amendment [free speech] rights…all about peace and love,” by rally organizer Jon Ritzheimer, 120 participants carried rifles and placards saying “Unite against Islamic terrorists now” as they marched in front of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, Arizona. Greg Burleson, a protestor, shared his opinion about the local Muslim community, stating, “I want them the f*** out of my neighbourhood. They can practice Islam in their own country. I don’t want it shoved down my throat in my own country,” echoing Trump’s ideas that people “from the Middle East” are somehow other, not true Americans. Ritzheimer further explained their protest, “We’re educating people,” he says, gesturing to the mosque, “Take away their 501c [tax-exempt status]. Let Donald Trump build something beautiful.” Usama Shami, the president of the community center, summed up the results of Trump’s campaign on Muslims, “When you plant these seeds in the minds of people – that Muslims are going to hurt you at some point – you could have incidents.” Trump’s supporters are acting upon his presentation of immigrants and people of color as criminals unworthy of respect and humanity.
Refusal to be “politically correct” is refusal to show respect for the humanity of others. Trump flaunts his opposition to being “PC,” using dehumanizing terms for undocumented immigrants like “illegals” and “aliens” which identify a person’s legal status as more important than their existence as a person. Aliens are “other,” not recognized as a part of humanity… human beings should not be called “aliens.” It is offensive and abusive. Calling a person an “illegal” or an “illegal immigrant” criminalizes the existence of the person, rather than their act of immigration. In fact, entering the US without a visa is considered an administrative violation (similar category as a parking ticket), not a criminal violation. Additionally, government use of these terms, such as “alien,” in official capacity does not negate their harmful implications. Use of these words is abusive, regardless of who is speaking. The Supreme Court has even begun to realize this, avoiding phrases like “illegal immigrants” or “illegal aliens” when writing Court opinions, except in direct quotations of other sources. They instead use terms like undocumented workers or undocumented immigrants, the proper terms because they more accurately represent a person’s situation and respect their humanity. These words are not harmless.
“Anchor babies” is the term used for children born to undocumented immigrants in the United States. According to Trump, “What happens is they’re in Mexico, they’re [going to] have a baby, they move over here for a couple of days, they have the baby,” who is given automatic citizenship by being born in the US (just like every other American child), which then allows the child’s family to “abuse” the child’s ability to act as an immigrant sponsor once they turn 21. Ally weighed in on the dehumanizing language Trump uses, saying “The way he describes being a daughter of a Mexican immigrant makes me ashamed of being Hispanic.” Suggesting that immigrants would bring a child into the world only so that they may obtain US citizenship incorrectly portrays immigrants as conniving, selfish people, and dehumanizes the child, painting its life as insignificant, as just an “anchor,” an object, rather than a child whose parents likely came to America in search of a better life for them. This has implications at Edison too: students who choose not to use “PC” language make other students feel unwelcome, unsafe, unvalued. Another senior at Edison who came to America with her family as an infant shared, “Some kids at school agree with Trump’s ideas and it makes me feel uncomfortable.” In using such dehumanizing language we enable ourselves to see human beings as other, not fully human, and thus not deserving of humane treatment. Trump’s admonition of being politically correct is really just admonition of the humanity of immigrants and people of color.
Trump’s campaign, and especially a Trump presidency, will not “Make America Great Again.” His campaign has been showing his potential to bring us back to a time of greater acceptance of open racism, more hate crimes, and greater acceptance of those with power and privilege utilizing their position to oppress others, however, if that’s what he and his supporters consider “great.” But there are some things we can do to minimize the damage: don’t perpetuate Trump’s ideas, and if you can do so by the election (juniors and seniors, I’m looking at you), vote for one of the multiple other candidates (don’t forget candidates exist outside of the Democrat and Republican Parties)! Do work in our community to counteract the damage Trump has caused. Don’t let Trump, and what he stands for, win. His campaign has already hurt America far too much.