By Morak Babajide-Alabi
There have been lots of reactions to the tweets of the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump urging four US lawmakers to go back to their “crime infested countries” of origin. There has been no intervening ground to the reactions – you are either against his choice of words or you are in total support of him. The trends of reactions have exhibited a troubling pattern, as interestingly notable individuals who should know better have not seen anything wrong in the President’s choice of words.
As you would expect, his fellow Republicans are rallying support for him, and some top-ranking politicians publicly saying that he was exact in telling the four female lawmakers off. It is no surprise, therefore, that some politicians outside the US are not straight forward in their assessment of the tweets, as well. The two candidates for the United Kingdom Conservative Party leadership position, Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, have till date, deflected questions on this.
Trump had tweeted in part: “So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat 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 our 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. Then come back and show us how….
These tweets once again opened up the debate about racism and the role leaders play in strengthening the act. It is disappointing to note, but racism remains nonetheless a standard practice in a world that is developing daily in all other areas. Race relations have continued to be a significant drawback for the seeming major progress achieved in technology, economics, etc.
From Europe to the Americas, racism is still prevalent. People of colour are taunted and abused daily by racists that abound all over the places. And where they are not called out openly, the blacks, Asians are institutionally skewed to be racially discriminated against. This is because the practice is congenital in some societies and the citizens grow with it. Racism is allowed to fester when people at the corridor of power are the lead-racists – by their words and actions. They present impressive public statements on how bad racism is, yet their words and deeds privately are devoid of reality.
Trump’s tweet is no surprise to political followers. Going by his antecedents, he has never concealed his loyalty to the extreme white nationalists’ base. Right from the campaign trails, Trump signalled that he was on a mission to give America back to the whites. Since his election and assumption of office, the President has made it clear that he has taken the corner of the racist elements. His supporters enjoy him because they see a leader they could identify with. His unpredictability had endeared him to more white Americans who are on the bandwagon of making “America great again.” It is shameful as he explores the divisiveness of a country he presides over for selfish reasons.
Many people are outraged not for the content of the tweets but the fact that racism agenda is set by the President. The condemnations have been primarily about the not so presidential behaviour of Trump who has time after time refused to play above petty politics. His “them against us” discourses have continued to portray him as far from being statesmanlike. Astonishingly, he is not fazed by these reactions rather he is utilizing them as stepping-stones to achieving his re-election bid.
It would be a catastrophic error of judgement to think Trump is the only “racist elephant in the room.” Trump is just the vociferous and shameless leader that is uncultured to think of restraints in his public racial comments. But with a little analysis of behaviours and thought patterns of some world leaders, it would not be surprising to identify similarities with Trump’s.
It is not only in politics that leaders fan the fire of racism. They abound in all aspects of society. It is saddening that at this modern age, we are yet to shake off the dastardly act of racism. We recall the racist tweet of Danny Baker, the axed BBC radio presenter. He had at the time of the birth of the royal baby of Meghan Markle, and Prince Harry tweeted the picture of a white couple walking out of the hospital with a dressed up baboon.
Danny is just a racist individual in a corner of the wide world. He probably loathes black people with passion and as a racist saw the birth of the royal baby as an opportunity to throw a jab at the race. Individuals such as Baker and Trump do exist in a vast number in society. They care less about any political correctness, as they could not set their inner thoughts to check. For the blacks in the US, the UK and elsewhere, these are what they go through every day of their lives. Trump is just one of the numerous white racist individuals who nevertheless think blacks walk around with tails tuck in their trousers. A racist does not care a hoot about what others think.
Do you know how many people of colour are called out every day and advised to return to their countries? The “call-outs” may not be vocal, but they get them by emails, text messages, body languages, rejection at interviews, immigration/airport halls, etc. They encounter these on the streets, on buses, at work, at schools, etc. It does not matter if you are born in the country or not, but as long as your skin is not white it is assumed you have an ancestral home that you could be publicly advised to go back to at any time. It is disgraceful, to say the least.
I smile when I encounter racists who try to suppress their feelings. It is typically not a pleasant task for them, because once they open their mouths, you could see the struggle between being politically correct and their real selves. The hate comes out instinctively. When they are not speaking, you could feel the fire of racism in their eyes and bodies.
It is effortless to comprehend why countries pay lip service to change racism narratives. The leaders that should be at the front of the campaign to eradicate this practice are indirectly promoting it. Do not be fooled by the laws and policies released everyday preaching race equality and multiculturalism. They merely exist on papers while nothing is achieved to carry the out.
After watching the BBC documentary, The Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files, I reflectively understand that Trump had not acted out of character. This is on the scale of what the documentary revealed about British leaders in the genesis of the Windrush migration. Presented by the award-winning British-Nigerian historian, David Olusoga, it “opens secret government files to show how the Windrush scandal and the ‘hostile environment’ for black British immigrants have been 70 years in the making.”
It was a documentary that exposed the hypocrisy of British leaders in trying to keep as many coloured people away from the country so they do not lose their “Britishness.” It is a documentary that exposed the dishonesty of the British government in dealing with the Windrush generation. The suffering of these immigrants is clearly understood with the exposure of various ways leading politicians led their repression.
There is no surprise afterwards of the deportation and denial of British citizens to generations of the Windrush families. The hands of the political leaders in Britain are not clean in any way. They have been involved in the systematic denial of the rights of this class of British citizens.
If you had not seen this documentary, I hereby recommend it for you to understand that racism has been passively institutionalised in some of these Western countries. I rest my case. Search for this documentary on YOUTUBE or check the BBC iPlayer and you will understand that Trump’s tweets or the thoughts of politicians such as Nigel Farage are not out-of-place.
As written for the column, DIASPORA MATTERS, Sunday Vanguard of July 21, 2019.