The Trump Administration is ripping apart families at the border, a policy that 55% of Republicans support and few have condemned. In the last week, reports have surfaced of immigrant children being drugged and beaten in detention facilities, and the government has permanently taken at least one child away from his mother.
This is not my America. This America belongs to the 19.5% of the electorate who voted for Trump — a minority of indecent Americans who fail to conform to “generally accepted standards of respectable or moral behavior.”
There are five types of Trump voters, but most are distinct in their high levels of racial resentment (no, not economic anxiety), carefully stoked by decades of propaganda from Fox News, Breitbart, and other platforms to convince white people that people of color are the source of their declining economic status as opposed to corporate exploitation. Trump diehards are itching to return to a time “before Black Lives Matter protesters asserted their right to not be killed by police, immigration transformed the country into one that will soon be majority-minority, transgender teens can use the bathroom of their choice and a black man has held the presidency.”
Trump has drawn upon a deep well of racism in the U.S. that predates the founding. In the late 17th century, economic elites invented race in order to “divide and conquer the poor.” Racism is baked into into America’s founding documents, societal institutions, practices, and beliefs. The Civil Rights Movement transformed public acceptability of overt racism, but racial discrimination is just as prevalent today as it was three decades ago, and one-in-three White people believe that “America must protect and preserve its White European heritage.”
During the election, Trump tapped into the biases of the Fox-primed segment of the electorate by calling Obama’s citizenship into question; labeling Mexicans “criminals” and “rapists”; disputing the objectivity of a judge based on his Mexican heritage; suggesting that immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS“; calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S.; exaggerating urban crime to malign Black Americans; and refusing to condemn Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke after receiving Duke’s endorsement. Trump’s “win” emboldened racists, and the number of hate crimes shot up after the election.
Since the election, Trump has instituted his Muslim ban; labeled Neo Nazis “very fine people“; demanded less immigration from “shithole countries” (i.e., Haiti and Africa) and more immigration from (mostly White) Norway; criticized Black athletes for peacefully protesting police killings of Black people; pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio who was sanctioned for racially profiling Latinxs; and rolled back DACA protections for 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
Trump has now taken at least 3,700 children from their parents at the southern border, with no clear plan for reunification. The audio and video of children being separated at the border is heartbreaking. Mental health professionals confirm that this draconian government action is traumatizing immigrant children. However you measure it, the immorality of border separation is obvious.
Most Trump supporters are not shocked or dismayed at this cruelty since anti-immigrant sentiment is what got Trump’s floundering campaign off the ground. Instead, Trump supporters are enjoying a “bonding experience,” digging in their heels in response to the loud public outcry over the family separation policy. Nine-in-ten Republicans give Trump a positive rating, galvanized by media criticism of their president’s character and decisions. Trump has withstood a dozen self-inflicted scandals that would have ended other presidencies (because scandals actually improve his ratings with the GOP!) Trump’s presidency, but especially his child separation policy, draws a clear line of decency in the sand. Decent people don’t think it’s okay to rip children from their parents. Decent people don’t vote for a man with 22 allegations of sexual violence. Decent people don’t vote for a man who mocks people with disabilities. Decent people don’t cosign the daily dismantling of democratic norms and institutions that have kept the American experiment afloat for 230 years. Decent people don’t put partisanship above country.
In the face of Trump’s cruelty, and the indecent people who enable his cruelty, decent people must set aside idyllic norms of politeness and push back at every turn. Because decency and democracy are more important than being polite.