By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
The image of four magnificent women of color: Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rep. Ayanna Presley of Massachusetts, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, defiantly clapping back at Donald John Trump on July 15, may have been a milestone in America’s long, sordid history of racial polemics.
“The Squad,” as they are known responded prodigiously to what Trump tweeted on July 14:
“So interesting to see Democrat “Progresive” Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, how are government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Well, Black Americans surely have seen this movie before.
But, for those who claim they haven’t here’s the translation:
If you n—–s don’t like the way I’m running the country, you can carry your Black a—- back to Africa.
Is that clear enough? Black and Brown people, you don’t belong here.
The racist refrain of `go back where you came from’ is older than the republic itself. But, it doesn’t prevent Trump and his millions of supporters from invoking it with what they perceive as impunity (“of course it isn’t racist” has been a popular retort by Trump’s minions). The absurdity of Trump’s nativist fiat, given the fact his mother was an immigrant from Scotland (and he is a White man residing on land stolen from Indigenous North Americans), doesn’t register with him because he is so hopelessly obtuse.
Yes, he is extraordinarily stupid. He is extraordinarily incompetent. But, he is also extraordinarily cunning; he knows exactly what he is doing. He is provoking his extraordinarily rabid, racist White base to action. Trump’s `go back to Africa’ narrative is a concise preamble to the type of racist violence that has been visited on Black people for generations.
When historians look back at the confluence of events of July 14 and 15, 2019, this may be the clarion moment those predicting, or yearning for the seemingly mythical race war had been waiting for.
Ultimately, Trump’s manifestation of the racism, which resides in his bones, from the most powerful seat on earth is linked to a global movement of facism, totalitarianism and yes, White nationalism.
And it is dangerous.
Black people have endured oceans of inhumanity since our “official” arrival in North America in 1619 and despite it all, we’re still here. We are powerful. We are resilient. But, we are not invincible. An avowed White nationalist in the White House is a clear and present danger to Black people and people of color. His policies (low income housing, the environment, education, healthcare, among others) are anathema to the majority of people of color and poor people in America.
But, the racist bile that spews from his lying mouth inflames and emboldens the ilk of Timothy McVeigh and Dylan Roof. His words weaponize their fear of a Black Planet.
When I think of the members of the Squad, the women Trump so gleefully targeted, I think of the dozens of remarkable Black women and women of color I call allies. The point is we have all been targeted. And I believe it would be a catastrophic mistake to take the passive position of “this too shall pass.”
My friend Merrick Moses prophesied on the diabolical nature of the 45th president almost exactly a year ago, when the barbaric and inhuman Trump child separation immigration policy was brought out of the shadows.
“If he is locking babies in cages what will he do to us?” Moses asked in June 2018.
We dismiss the depth of Trump’s cruelty at our own peril.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and the author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.