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The color of her skin

Kathleen Parker

By Kathleen Parker

 

Going out on a limb here: Donald Trump is a racist. And a sexist. And a xenophobic nationalist. Among other things.

Not to name call or anything.

And all of those observable facts seem to sit quite well with his base of supporters, most Republicans of Congress and, apparently, with the evangelical Christian community whose members have ceded the floor to crickets.

Not even the chilling moment at Trump’s Wednesday rally in North Carolina when the crowd chanted “send her back” can apparently budge them from their repose. The chanters were referring, of course, to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), one of the four women of color known as “the Squad.” And the crowd’s clarion Trumpeter was the president himself, who, though he didn’t start the chant, certainly seemed to enjoy it.

His expression during the 13 seconds that he allowed the chant to reach its desired pitch was most chilling of all. His jutting jaw, his down-the-nose gaze, his seeming serenity in the eye of a storm — all spoke louder than the metronomic mass surrounding him.

The king was pleased.

That moment encapsulated Trump’s reelection strategy and reminded everyone of three years ago when retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn led the 2016 Republican Convention in a similar chant aimed at Hillary Clinton: “Lock her up!” (We’ll resist the temptation to remark on the three-syllable limit when Republicans think aloud.)

In the language of “Criminal Minds,” Trump is escalating. Lock her up. Send her back. What’s next? One shudders to wonder.

This recent episode can be dissected in several ways. First, the four women comprising the Squad are “of color.” They are minority women, in other words, by virtue of race or ethnicity but also by religion (two are Muslim). Women aren’t a voting minority, or even a numerical minority, but they retain minority status in most measurable ways, from income to political power.

Thus, the Trumpeter was able to offend pretty much everyone group-wise — other than, of course, white males. There the GOP goes again.

Discussions the past few days about Trump’s strategy or purpose have been clarifying if not precisely revelatory. Some have said it isn’t necessarily racist to call out people who just happen to be of color. Others say, no, no, no, Trump was merely saying that these women, who, indeed, have said outrageous and offensive things (to some), ought to either get right with America (meaning white people) or skeedaddle.

How did he put it: “If they don’t love it, tell ’em to leave it.”

This was Trump’s attempt at clarifying the tweets that started this whole saga, basically that the four representatives should go back to their horrible, filthy, corrupt countries, by which, one presumes, he meant some of those “shithole” countries he identified in 2018. Of course, the only woman not born in the U.S. is Omar, who came here over 20 years ago as a refugee from Somalia.

To many Trump supporters, his “shithole” comment, which Trump denied saying though he admitted to using “tough” language, was likely viewed as an off-the-cuff remark not intended for public consumption. That’s fine to a point. We all say things privately that we wouldn’t dare utter elsewhere. However, what comes out of one’s mouth in private is what is inside one’s head, no matter who doesn’t hear it.

This is who Trump is. This, and I quote, is what he thinks: Nigerians will never “go back to their huts” after setting foot in America; Africa sends its “worst of the worst” to the U.S.; Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS.”

These cruel remarks are easily disproved. Nigerian-Americans can boast a median income that exceeds the American average. Forty-three percent of immigrants from “shithole” African countries have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to only 33 percent of all Americans.

The larger point, however, is that Trump obviously feels comfortable dismissing people of color as primitive, diseased and worse. Attributing stereotypical, denigrating characteristics to a group of people belonging to a particular race is the definition of racism. That the four women just happen to also be of color is more than a blip precisely because of Trump’s consistent, default bigotry.

Republicans and evangelical Christians who fail to condemn this president’s use of the pulpit to preach down (not up), to employ and incite abusive language, to essentially put a target on a duly elected congresswoman’s back — can be presumed to concur and, therefore, to be complicit in whatever further degradation or violence follows.

That’s the plain and awful truth.

 

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group