The Odious Xenophobia of Donald Trump

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Earlier this year, when activist Pamela Geller engaged in her pointless trolling of Islamic terrorists by holding a ‘Draw Mohammad’ competition, Donald Trump correctly responded by saying her actions were unnecessarily provocative and put the lives of innocent Americans in danger. In deliberately provocative comments of his own, Donald Trump decided to use his platform announcing his run for the presidency of the United States to trash Mexican immigrants by suggesting they are rapists and criminals. This commentary from Trump is an ancient bigoted talking point advanced by many white supremacist writers. However, as a presidential candidate, Trump’s rhetoric deserves special scrutiny and condemnation, inasmuch as he is privileged to have a megaphone that the aforementioned writers do not have. It is especially contemptible that Trump is using his platform to engage in this kind of hate speech. His comments were specifically designed to make life difficult for Mexican immigrants who come to America to make life better for themselves—and contribute to America in meaningful ways. This irresponsible speech from Trump labeling Mexican immigrants as criminals will likely lead to actual crimes against them.

In response to Trump’s illiterate and bigoted comments, Univision executives announced that they will no longer carry the Miss USA contest on the station—a contest that Donald Trump owns. Following suit, NBC released a statement severing its professional relationship with Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the kind of narcissist who would gladly blow up the GOP for the attention that it will bring him, knowing that the Republican National Committee is run by Reince Priebus—a man who only offered a tepid, timid disagreement by saying Trump’s immigration comments are “not helpful” to the Republican cause. Without the courage to call out people like Trump with verve, the GOP will always struggle to win minority votes—particularly given they are contending with a Democratic Party that does not presently traffic in, or have politicians who are rewarded for engaging in, such plainly bigoted rhetoric. Evidently, the votes of xenophobes are of deep importance to the modern Republican Party. What Trump does not seem to have calculated, however, is that unlike the white supremacists who can simply engage in vile, bigoted rhetoric because they have built careers on selling books, radio shows, and television shows to racist rubes, Donald Trump actually has things to lose.

Although Trump is a self-professed multi-billionaire and never has to work another day in his life if he does not wish to, one would think he actually cares about the health of his media empire. Trump has built a career in the media that does not simply rely on rubes supporting him. He is not a FOX News host or a right-wing talk radio personality. Trump needs Univision for Miss USA—hence the fact that he is threatening to sue. When he was still the host, Trump needed black people to watch Celebrity Apprentice—hence his consistent use of popular black television and movie stars like Arsenio Hall, Vivica A. Fox, and Star Jones on the various seasons of the show. Yes, freedom of speech is a reality, but when your speech is deliberately designed to harm groups of people, one cannot act shocked when members of these groups begin distancing themselves from you both politically and professionally. Moreover, Trump failed to calculate that while his anti-immigrant rhetoric may titillate white supremacists, there are white people who find racism repugnant and will never support it. The ­­­­­­­bosses at NBC who dumped Trump are perfect examples of this. The idea that all white people are unbothered by Trump engaging in rhetoric borrowed from the rancid white supremacist corners of the Internet is a foolish calculation. White people who abhor bigotry and xenophobia and believe in ethnic diversity will not want to be associated with Trump. They are not the kind of white people who respond to ignorantly abusive rhetoric about Mexicans with giggles and applause.

Conducting Google and LexisNexis searches of immigrant/minority crimes and compiling these cherry-picked examples into ominously titled books and articles is the stock-in-trade of white supremacist casuists. Websites like VDARE and American Renaissance publish and link to all these materials, which are rewritten and republished by several different authors with very little variation over the years. These white supremacists accomplish their goal of appealing to unlearned jobbernowls yearning for well-packaged twaddle to justify their ferocious xenophobia. When xenophobic rhetoric is repeated by those with respected platforms, like billionaire Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, it becomes especially dangerous. The mainstreaming of hate speech and pseudo-academic nonsense about immigrant crime is not something that people can take lightly. As Dylann Roof’s terroristic assassination of black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina has demonstrated, hate speech inspires hate crime.

The notion that immigrants increase crime rates is not supported by the facts and is scoffed at by criminologists worth their salt. In a 2013 chapter published in the Oxford Handbook of Ethnicity, Crime, and Immigration, criminologists Ramiro Martinez, Jr. and Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco point out that not only is it a myth that immigrants increase violent crime, but first-generation immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born populations. Addressing the tendency of people in the chattering class to ignore criminological research in favor of unlettered compilations of anecdotes favoring the “criminal immigrant” hypothesis, the professors write: “The images of the hyper[-]violent criminal immigrant and violence-prone immigrant communities survive in many circles. They persist among many politicians, pundits, policy makers, and segments of the general population despite the existence of strong, consistent evidence that more immigrants do not mean more violent crime.” Multivariate analyses of crime rates in big cities conducted by trained criminologists are far more valuable than white supremacists’ crazed anti-immigrant fantasies.

White supremacists who endlessly promote the myth of overwhelming immigrant and minority crime are tendentiously fastidious about avoiding every positive about immigrants and minorities. After trashing Mexican immigrants, Trump said, “…and some, I assume, are good people.” Oddly, he did not elaborate on the good that Mexicans do for America, but he was very specific about the rapists and criminals. It is also curious that so much of the anti-Mexican hysteria is being hyped now when Mexican immigration is declining. According to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese and Indian immigrants are now immigrating to the United States more than Mexicans. Also, fascinatingly, according to Geoscape, Latino-owned businesses in the United States are proliferating at an impressively fast rate. Since 2007, Latino businesses have grown by 43 percent—more than double of the growth rate of businesses in the general population. This does not fit the favored nativist narrative of Hispanics in the United States being nothing more than shiftless, welfare-dependent slobs who are only in the country to mooch off the American taxpayer and commit violent crime.

Donald Trump has the legal right to engage in reprehensible bigotry, but others have the moral responsibility to condemn hate when someone like Trump uses his celebrity and political platform to attempt to make life difficult for a group of people who work hard and are simply trying to pursue the American Dream. Such hate speech leads to hate violence. Rather than addressing the deliberate odiousness of Trump’s remark, some think it demonstrates moral courage to defend Trump’s right to engage in bigotry. This is spineless moral bankruptcy masquerading as valor. Abhorring bigotry while arguing that it is unacceptable within society is not the same as silencing bigots using the brutalizing force of government. There are ways of discussing crime without maligning entire groups of immigrants. However, such discussions of crime need to be backed by serious criminological research—not sloppy compilations of news stories about crime found via search engines. NBC and Univision made the correct decision to disassociate from Trump after his cruel, unapologetic, and false invective. It is important to note that respectable organizations like NBC and Univision have the right, in a free society, to disassociate from people who spew vile hate speech. This isn’t “Orwellian,” as some ignorant conservatives like to claim. This is how a free and moral society polices itself. The fact that the Republican Party refuses to meaningfully distance itself from a toxic, politically damaging figure like Trump demonstrates why the Republican Party struggles to win the votes of minorities—and will continue struggling for political relevancy in a country dominated by the politically savvier, albeit policy-challenged, liberal Democrats.­­­