The Essential Racism of President Trump

It is over 700 miles from Puebla City to the U.S. We are not facing an immigrant invasion.

The ugly truth of the Trump administration is that it is built on prejudice of all kinds and on knowing deception.

The most recent example of how President Trump uses lies and tribalism to rally his base of support is the call to arms he has issued to protect the United States of America — a country of over 325 million people — from about 1,000 unarmed Central American refugees — mostly women and children — transiting through Mexico in search of a better life. A safe life.

It has not been disputed, in any meaningful way, that President Trump got the idea to take action against this non-threat after watching a report on Fox News that described the group as a “caravan” headed to the United States. Seeing this as an opportunity to return to one of the core themes of his campaign for the White House he immediately tried to marshall the forces of the federal government against the migrants. The imagery was perfect, even if the actual pictures show the president’s claims are wrong.

If you listen to the president you would think that the U.S. border with Mexico is swarming with refugees who are overwhelming the border patrol. In truth, the group in question is nowhere near the border and those who intend to make the full trip are days away. It is also true that for most, Mexico City is the final destination. Local officials in Texas have given multiple interviews in which they have said there is no crisis and no need for federal intervention.

At the weekend, the migrant group was headed toward the Mexican capital which is at least a day’s drive, and an even longer walk, to Brownsville, Texas the southern most entry point into the United States available to them. Though they pose no imminent threat the president at first tried to mobilize the military to “protect” our border and then had to settle on politely asking the governors of several states to deploy National Guard troops. Some are reluctantly doing so, others have made a point of saying “no.”

The president is doing his part to paint the refugees, from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala as a band of criminals intent on taking advantage of this country’s lax immigration laws. At an appearance in West Virginia, the president claimed women along the route of the migrant caravan are being “raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before. They don’t want to mention that,” he said, referring to the news media.

There is no truth to this claim. It is a sick lie meant to scare people into rallying around Trump. In the last week a number of news organizations have sent reporters and camera crews to meet up with the refugees. The migrants have been photographed and interviewed. We have learned their personal stories and the reasons they are fleeing their home countries. We have learned this large movement of people is actually part of an annual event organized to provide safety in numbers. We have learned only a fraction of the larger group intends to travel all the way to the United States and if they get here they intend to apply legally for political asylum. Even if none are telling the truth and they all intend to take advantage of our poor immigration laws there are limits to the damage that could be done to our way of life (but even considering such a counter argument plays into the president’s hands).

The facts are ignored by President Trump who considers the information fake news because it does not match up with his fear mongering. Worse still, members of the administration, like Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, are willing to put their own reputations on the line to buttress the president’s claims and use taxpayer resources to help create the illusion that the United States is under attack. Nielsen is just the latest administration official to sacrifice her own credibility to stay in the good graces of a president whose corrupt character actually matches those he claims to be protecting us from.

As President Trump proudly reminded his audience in West Virginia, he began his campaign claiming Mexican immigration was a problem and that other countries were using the United States as a dumping ground for criminals and “rapists.” His top aides believe strongly in this point of view and have used the Justice Department, Homeland Security, the courts, the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to clamp down on immigrants of all kinds.

The president has decried the immigration of poor people from countries in Africa and the Middle East. One of his first acts as president was meant to deny people access to this country based on their religion. He has asked why we cannot have more immigration from mostly white countries like Norway. He is trying to set up a merit based immigration system that would allow people in only if they have an ability to contribute intellectual capital or other skills to the greater society; like fashion modeling.

It is important to remember that the president sees everyone who is not rich, who is physically unattractive, who cannot afford a membership to one of his exclusive clubs as weak and unworthy. He has mocked the handicapped. He has bragged about sexually assaulting women. He has protected men accused of the same and in one case was disappointed when he was forced to fire an assistant accused of beating two ex-wives. The president brags about choosing top appointees based on their looks. Because he lies from morning to night he has declared the news media the “enemy of the American people,” because it is the job of the news media to point out his lies.

He began his rise in politics by waging a multi-year campaign to prove President Obama is not a U.S. citizen. That claim is the big lie from which all the rest flow. His main motivation seems to have been Obama’s race and his unusual name. His disdain for President Obama continues to this day and represents the essential racism of the Trump White House. If there is one principle of the Trump administration it is to un-do everything President Obama did. Why? It is because as a black man Obama is the ultimate symbol of “the other” for Trump’s supporters. A smart black man they were forced to accept as their leader as they faced the economic hardships of a changing world.

Make America Great Again, the Trump campaign slogan, is meant to look back to a day when black people and immigrants knew their place and it was not anywhere near Mar-a-Lago except maybe in the kitchen or pushing a lawnmower. After her daily afternoon prayers, Sarah the Baptist walks out to the White House briefing room each day and regularly refers to the previous president as “Obama” with the disdainful inflection usually reserved for a slur. This too is part of President Trump’s subtle and not so subtle effort to divide the country in any way that helps keep him in power. Obama is never referred to as “President Obama”or even diplomatically as the previous president, or the previous administration. It is always “Obama” in a tone dripping with ridicule.

Even Trump’s supporters are victims of his stereotyped view of the world. It is not an accident he returns time and again to West Virginia, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania for his campaign style rallies and ignores most of the rest of the country. In Trump’s narrow view of the world, this is where the dumb white people live. These are the suckers willing to buy what he is selling. Privately, he sees them as deplorable, but they suit his purpose. He cares about them as much as he cares about anyone: Not at all.

There is no army of Spanish speaking criminals headed to the United States, but President Trump is abusing the power of his office to make America think that is the case. It is the latest example of how he is using the presidency to enrich himself and it is the latest example of how the rest of the political leadership of our country is willing to let him do it. It appears that for now all we can do is call attention to the lies in the hope that the weight of the dishonesty will eventually end one of the darkest periods in U.S. presidential history.

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Photojournalism for Brands and Ideas.

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Dean Pagani

Dean Pagani

Photojournalism for Brands and Ideas.

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