In case you missed it, yesterday afternoon, the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, asked during a meeting about immigration reform why our nation needed to accept immigrants from “shit-hole countries in Africa and Haiti.”
Unlike many Democrats and media members, Trump’s comments did not raise my anger to apoplectic proportions because nearly one year into his presidency, I have concluded that Trump is what my erudite mother always refers to as “common.” For those unaware of what that word means to men and women like mom who were raised in the South during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, I will give the more profane synonym that was a pet phrase of my also erudite but blunt Army officer father, who referred to men like Trump as “Typical Crackers.” (Nota Bene–in the Deep South, “Cracker” is not a racial slur, but a phrase adopted by certain whites to describe their rural lifestyle, homes and culture (see—Cracker Barrel Restaurant).
But the “common” and the “typical” variety are the ties that bind because across America, there are many of my and your real life and social media white friends who may not like the fact that the sitting president used profanity to refer to African and Haitian immigrants, but they absolutely agree with him from a policy standpoint.
You see, I do not get enraged at Trump because I know who he is and where he stands on the issue of race. I know that each time that he places “the” in front of “blacks,” or when he refers to black football players as “those sons of bitches,” or when he refers to black African nations and Haiti as “shit-holes” where immigrants “all have AIDS,” he is saying straight out that he despises black people. For the skeptics among you who say “but he tapped Dr. Ben Carson and Dr. Omarosa Manigault as Secretary of HUD and as special adviser,” do note that these two, like many other (but not all) Black Republicans, sacrificed their black identity for the purpose of self gain long ago. Indeed, these are the ones who hear the comment “You are so articulate; I really don’t see you as blaaaaaaaaack” from some common or typical white “friend” and smile as if that is validation as opposed to a deplorable diss.
But if you are black, brown or a white social justice ally who is now upset because your other social media white friends who were just screaming “Roll Tide Roll,” “Hunker Down Hairy Dogs,” or “SEC” during the college football championship game this past Monday but are not condemning Trump’s outrageous comment, do know that their silence is tacit approval of the policy aspect of cutting off the immigration of black and brown people.
What’s more–Trump’s policy positions are nothing new!
You see, when President Chester A. Arthur affixed his signature on the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, he ushered in a new era in American public policy and jurisprudence, the era of “immigration control. ” For Chinese immigrants, the Exclusion Act allowed a grace period for those who had arrived prior to its’ signing, but it sounded the death knell for any new arrivals until the middle of the 20th Century.
In 1892, Congress passed the Geary Act which required Chinese immigrants and natural born Americans of Chinese descent “to register, be photographed or face deportation.” Individuals arrested under this act were compelled to prove that they were rightfully living in the United States and were not afforded procedural due process rights like bail.
In this respect, the antipathy for black rights during this early era of Jim Crow was synonymous with the backlash against the Chinese, a fact that was prevalent in the seminal United States Supreme Court case of the era, Plessy vs. Ferguson. The Plessy decision is infamous because the majority agreed that the states could implement “separate but equal” doctrines that established de jure segregation. In his dissent, Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote: “There is a race so different from our own that we do not permit those belonging to it to become citizens of the United States. Persons belonging to it are, with few exceptions, absolutely excluded from our country. I allude to the Chinese race. But by the statute in question, a Chinaman can ride in the same passenger coach with white citizens of the United States, while citizens of the black race in Louisiana … are yet declared to be criminals, liable to imprisonment, if they ride in a public coach occupied by citizens of the white race.”
The legacy of the Exclusion and Geary Acts is that by the Roaring 20’s, a fiscally prosperous America only a few years removed from helping the Allies win World War I was soon swept up in the “Eugenics” movement, a pseudo-scientific school of thought that held that whites were physically, mentally and morally superior to all other races. The 1924 Immigration Act that was championed by Eugenicists led to the specific exclusion of ALL blacks from Sub-Sahara or “Black Africa” and the Caribbean, and limited the numbers of darker skinned Southern Europeans who had intermarried and procreated with Africans for millennia.
The Eugenics movement was supported by prominent “common” whites ranging from American presidents Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding and Cal Coolidge, to American captains of industry like Henry Ford, to American “heroes” like aviator Charles Lindbergh and Dr. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood; also among the “common” Eugenics proponents were British royals like King Edward VIII and a certain former German Army corporal who would soon become a murderous dictator, Adolf Hitler.
Knowing this history, when I hear Trump scream “build that wall” or exclaim that black and brown immigrants are criminals, terrorists and AIDS spreaders, I know that he and his followers are ideological descendants of those commoners who prefer an America that is racially homogenous, with that race being white. That is why I resist these measures politically while knowing full well that those who agree with Trump are my ideological enemies—even if they think they deceive me by calling themselves my “friend.”