There’s a lot of discussion surrounding the conspiracies involving the 2020 election. However, there’s something much more sinister happening in the background. The rhetoric of Trump’s sycophants has been offensive if not blatantly racist. We don’t have to look too far back to see Marjorie Taylor Grene’s anti-Semitism, Matt Gaetz’s ”colossal shit fit” over Critical Race Theory, or Paul Gosar “palling around” with bigots and racists — among so many other cases. The level of racial animosity in politics is alive and well due to America’s collective shoulder shrugging.
While many of these cases have been brought up in the media and half-assed addressed by the party that supports them, the connections between what “America First” Republicans are saying aren’t covered at all. Trump’s speech in Wellington, Ohio on June 26, 2021, however, summed up the Republican Party’s collective message of phylogenetic animus better than anyone else can. He showed us how their messaging is more unified than what is being discussed in media.
So let’s explore how hate speech does actual harm using Trump as an example.
First, let’s go back to Gilroy California on July 29, 2019, when Santino Legan killed three people and wounded 17 others at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. His targets that day were Latin American “mestizos” according to his manifesto. Five days later, on August 3, 2019, Patrick Crusius drove nearly 600 miles across Texas and murdered 23 El Pasoans. His motivations were the same as Legan’s. In his manifesto, he declared that he wanted to stop the “Hispanic invasion of Texas”. An idea born of hateful language not just from hate groups and extremists, but by the man occupying the highest office in the United States.
It became a doctrine for extremists that resulted in thousands of physical and verbal attacks against Latinos in addition to the massacres on those ruinous days in El Paso, Texas, and Gilroy, California. Did the massacres stop Trump? Of course not. Did he tone it down? No. Does the Republican Party denounce the language? Nope. Did they stop using it? Nah. Why would they? It wins elections by appealing to the party’s white supremacist base.
Trump’s “invasion” rhetoric was born of benign language decades ago that increasingly grew more extreme over time. His fear-mongering over non-white immigrants at the Southern Border became more intense as people cheered him on. They validate his racial animus while hate groups perpetuate it to successfully recruit thousands. America must come to terms with the notion that it is facing a chronic problem of hateful extremism that can’t be ignored. We can’t blame it all on the messaging from someone with the platform of a former president. Whatever we’re doing as a society to combat hate isn’t working because it continues to grow unabated.
Trump’s Affinity for Violence
Knowing what we know about the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, makes clear that the attackers didn’t just have help from the police, but they had help from within. They were hyped up by online extremism that had been building since Trump’s loss to Joe Biden. Again, the former president’s puppets spent nearly every day enabling him and promoting his message which led to the attack on Washington. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for Trump.
The reality of Trump’s penchant for violence against minorities and minority interests was made even more evident when he tried to push Gen. Milley to “crack skulls” and “just shoot” protesters rallying for racial justice after the murder of George Floyd. Reports also indicate Trump’s aides drafted an Insurrection Act order allowing him to authorize the use of active-duty military against demonstrators. Milley opposed the use of the act. Trump never invoked it.
On June 1, 2020, the Guardian obtained a recording of Trump in a group call with Governors and law enforcement angrily demanding they “dominate” their cities and states. During that call, Trump also said, “In Washington, we’re going to do something people haven’t seen before.” A statement that resulted in Trump’s infamous photo-op at St. John’s Church. An act that came at the expense of peaceful protesters whom police attacked with riot control tactics to clear a path for him. You could see the elation on his face. He loved it.
There is a wealth of evidence telling us Trump salivates at the thought of using violence and torture against people of color. He thrives on promoting fear of the “other” and convincing White people that they are under attack. That their very lives are at stake. The rhetoric has gone so far that suburban White people bought into the extremist lies about “Black Lives Matter and Antifa are coming” for them in their neighborhoods. It’s ridiculous.
Those baseless fears lead people like Crusius to kill Latinos by the dozens; the McMichaels to murder Ahmaud Arbery; Bowers to kill 11 people at the Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. The “they’re coming for us” mentality has also translated into attacks on teaching real history; into outrage about Critical Race Theory (CRT) being taught in K-12 schools. Reactionary attacks on history White people don’t want to face and theories they don’t understand are born out of willful ignorance coupled with fear. Now, it appears that calling out the racism we see in abundance among Republicans is anti-American and anti-white, neither of which makes any sense.
But whatever, right? WRONG. We need to confront them. We don’t do it by explaining what things are. We do it by asking them directly what it is they hate about CRT; about teaching real history; about racial justice and equality efforts. It typically doesn’t take long for their racism to show itself. It happens constantly. You can predict which people are interested in an actual discussion versus someone who is trying to be a covert racist. It shows in their tone.
Racists ALWAYS tell on themselves.
Trump’s Fondness for Hate
In Ohio, Trump invoked the, “they’re emptying their prisons” trope that has its own xenophobic history in the United States. He used rhetoric such as, “They’ll try and take away your guns … they’re going to take away your guns. Your Second Amendment is under siege,” to play on the same white fears that have for decades driven white rage against Latinos who are presumed to be one and the same.
Trump’s language is meant to drive hate. There’s no question about it. He clearly knows what he’s doing and the willful ignorance of his base knows it too. His crowd may have been smaller than most in Ohio, but those that were there, the number of people, represent the most hateful among them. When he says the Democrats are putting families in danger by “releasing criminal aliens,” and follows that up with the rise in violent crime in “New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, they have great police forces … not allowed to do their job,” while insisting “they” are taking your guns. He associates all of those things with asylum seekers they call illegal aliens.
He intentionally makes inflammatory statements in specific consecutive order to invoke the most emotion from those that hate. He does the same with Black Lives Matter, the Black community, Indigenous people, and even Asians when the Coronavirus struck. His attacks on anything non-white have the same structure in which he delivers his message. He uses inflammatory anecdotes and ties them directly to groups of people he slanders and blames for the misery white people may be enduring. They always have strawmen and they’re never white.
The speech being employed by the vast majority of the Republican Party is all the same. There is a concerted effort to employ the use of anti-Black and anti-Latino rhetoric. These efforts are in use not just because of the Republican Party’s history of such language, but because they are escalating racial animus by being on message as a party. That same language is what makes so much voter suppression possible; police misconduct possible; the mass incarceration of Black men possible. That’s always been America’s absurd reality.
Donald Trump banks on the irrational behaviors of racist white America. Many of them argue that they aren’t racist, yet they buy into the “white racial anxiety” bullshit. They voted for Trump because they feel like Black people and immigrants have it better than they do. They think that all of their problems are because of poor people in inner-cities and Black and Brown people coming across the Southern Border. They never once mention how none of “those people” and their struggles are anywhere near them because White people avoid non-white people out of fear.
The loudest racists in the United States are those that are rarely, if ever, in proximity to Black and Brown people. They know not what they fear. They buy into racist propaganda wholesale and regurgitate it every chance they get. There’s no such thing as a benign racist. Many families dismiss their racist uncles or grandpas thinking, “what harm can they do?” Well, I’ll tell you, fellow white folks. They get online and spread hate. They donate to hate groups and buy their merch. They normalize racism and bigotry. You letting it slide helps perpetuate the problem.
So what do you do? Well, that’s not so simple. But I’ll give you a start.
There are thousands upon thousands of Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color working on anti-racism and equality efforts that lack broader support. White America prefers to hear from white people who claim to know what anti-racism is. But true anti-racism efforts begin with the Black and Indigenous communities. Sorry, but I’ll read a Black writer before I read a Robin DiAngelo. You can’t know what anti-racism is without educating yourself about the Black experience. And you aren’t going to learn anything about that from a white woman.
In short, stop reading that drivel from white people about race and read more Black writers.
Similarly, white-dominated media continues to focus on Trump’s election fraud claims and his growing hate speech gets little-to-no attention because, well, whiteness. Another of the biggest problems in American society today. As hate speech continues to grow, we see less focus on hateful rhetoric and more focus on its result. We saw it with the explosion of attacks against Latinos when Trump took office and again against the Asian community when the pandemic struck. The media reported on the attacks while asking “what can we do?” and acting all broken-hearted.
The reality is, they only care about ratings and we know what drives those.
But what do I know, right? I’ve only studied racism for 20 years and have hundreds of thousands of words out there on the subject. To them, I, like so many of you, am just some anti-racist dude who they refuse to open the gate for because of what I might say. The white power structure doesn’t want to hear from us because of their complicity.
They know we know. And that scares them.
*Originally published on Medium.