During summer breaks while my father, Lewis Pringle, was attending college – at that time already a Korean War veteran – he worked at the Post Office in downtown Huntington, West Virginia. One of the stories he told me about this time was that he’d always have to go home for lunch; because of the color of his skin, he wasn’t allowed to eat at any restaurants.
I found myself thinking about this the other day, after Trump told four duly elected members of congress – all of them women, all of them of color – that they should go back to the countries they came from. Later, at a rally, he added: “They don’t love our country…I think, in some cases, they hate our country. You know what? If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it.” This racist and retrogressive view is of an era where America was defined by a white supremacy viewpoint – and yet, here he was, saying it in 2019. To add insult to injury, about Ilhan Omar, an American citizen who was born in Somalia, the crowd at Trump’s rally chanted: Send her back! Send her back!
I am familiar with that cry. I have heard it a very many times growing up, and also as an adult. “Go back to Africa!,” I’ve been told on more than one occasion. I’m sure almost every person, of any color or race, with an accent would have heard something similar at some time or the other as well. Every one of us who has heard it knows what it implies: we are the backward “other” from places antithetical to what America is. One usually discounts these insults with a shrug – trying to demean us is just plainly ignorant.
Trump, the President of our country, has often said things that grinds on racist stereotypes. But this time is different: he was bold and in your face, undeniably a racist. This is a direct assault on our multicultural experiment that began with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Meanwhile, Republican senators and congressmen, almost to a man and woman, were brazen enough to give him back up. It was the womens’ fault!, they argue. Apparently they’re willing to do anything for a few justices, or a chance at revoking Roe vs Wade.
If this is to be Trump’s election strategy we must meet him with the truth. As Edward R. Morrow noted in the McCarthy era “we must not confuse dissent with disloyalty…and accusation is not proof.” We must not abdicate our responsibility to confront one who bullies, defames, slanders and asserts that he alone knows all truths – as if he can define what it is to be an American. We cannot let his negativism isolate and divide us; we have a duty to fight back. America’s greatness lies in our country’s embrace of a multicultural reality.
If we all vote – and if we focus on getting people who don’t vote to vote – we can veto these terrible messages that aim to destroy our America. We MUST fight back.
Political Director, MARCH ON