The catchphrase “go back to where you came from” has been used by racists for decades. Trump’s July 14 tweets evoked dark periods of our history and revealed his inherently racist worldview.
Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States, is racist. Are you shocked? It is okay if you are, as the constant chaos surrounding him tends to take attention away from this serious character flaw.
But yes, he looks at others with different skin colors and makes immediate, biased judgments based on it. His racism is a fact that many either choose to ignore out of admiration or exasperation. People have probably thought “sure, he is a racist, but look at what he is doing to the economy!”
Every once in a while, however, Trump says something so blatantly biased that you cannot ignore it. A series of tweets July 14 directed at “the squad” is what prompted this latest condemnation of his Twitter hate.
Trump versus “the Squad”
The tweets were aimed at four Democratic congresswomen. All freshmen, all liberal and all women of color, they have banded together to become “the squad.” The group consists of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
It is not surprising that Trump went after them. His tweets focus on whatever subject the news happens to be covering whenever he turns it on. The squad’s feud with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), as well as their high-profile testimonies on the border crisis were probably the topic on Fox News that morning.
Similarly, it is not shocking how he went after them. In his now-infamous tweets, Trump said, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”
This taunt is not unique. It is not new. History illustrates how deep it’s roots run in America. It is the desperate slur shouted, both in 1959 and 2019, of ignorant and vengeful people.
“Go Back To Africa”
Just about the only unique part of Trump’s tweet was the fact that it was not only directed at African Americans. Ocasio-Cortez was born in New York to a Puerto Rican family. Pressley is from Ohio and Tlaib was born to Palestinian immigrants in Michigan.
Only Omar is not originally from the United States. Born in Somalia, she immigrated when she was ten and became a U.S. citizen eight years later. Omar is a citizen not by birth, but by choice. Her story is, in that sense, similar to the First Lady’s.
The taunt, “go back to where you came from” has been a fixture in America for decades. It has, essentially, been around for longer than the nation.
In the 1600s, the insult was directed at those of a different religion. At this period in American immigration history, people came because of religious persecution. It was yelled at Irish immigrants in the 1840s and the Chinese in the 1880s.
The slur is most notable, however, for being used in anti-integration efforts in the 1950s and 1960s. Signs carried by white Americans told African-Americans, people, whose families had been here for generations, that they were unworthy. They did not belong and should return to their home continent.
It is often forgotten that many of their families did not come here by choice. They did not even come for survival, like the Irish during the Great Famine. They were brought here in chains. We, the European-Americans, enslaved them, forcing them away from their homes.
The taunt is designed to inflict hurt. It reminds people that some of their fellow Americans, whom they grew up with, feel like their European ethnicity makes them more worthy to be here.
Beyond Tweets: Trump’s History of Racism
The phrase is not something you toss around in a casual disagreement. It is not something an adult would think is okay to say. Trump knew the words would sting, that they would bring up past resentments. He knew because he is xenophobic.
This is not his first brush with racism. Trump’s major entrance to politics came with his prominence in the birther movement. If you are unsure what that was, let me remind you.
When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, there were some pretty mad racists. A conspiracy theory was born: that Obama was an illegitimate president by birth.
If, like the idea suggested, Obama was actually born in Kenya, then he could not be president. The Constitution says the commander-in-chief must be a citizen by birth. Conservatives, conspiracy theorists and racists began to demand the president release his birth certificate. Trump would quickly join them.
During the election, no one asked for John McCain’s birth certificate. Technically, he, being born in Panama on a Navy base, had a weaker claim than Obama. Proving your citizenship by birth was never a campaign requirement, only becoming one for Obama.
Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” also has a racist element. I will not go deeper into the subject right now. It is a topic that demands its own discussion. But it shows Trump’s natural, but not necessarily conscious, appeal to the portion of our country that still clings to racist ideals.
The difference this time is that his words were so grievous, they require swift condemnation. Everyone in government, truly every American, should be offended that such a man represents us on the world stage. It is inappropriate and disgusting that our president would think that slur would not warrant punishment.