On July 14, Donald Trump tweeted about four Democratic congresswomen, telling them to “go back” to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came.” While he did not specifically name names, it is likely the tweet was aimed at first-term Congress members Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, who are all U.S. citizens.
Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx, Pressley was born in Chicago and Tlaib is from Detroit. Omar was born in Somalia and became a U.S. naturalized citizen when she was a teenager.
With the tweets freshly on their minds, attendees of a Trump rally in North Carolina on July 17 broke into chants of “send her back,” aimed at Omar. The following day, Trump said he disagreed with the chant and tried to stop it by “speaking very quickly.” Trump looked around and let the chant go on until it died down — 13 seconds later.
But one day after trying to distance himself from the chants, Trump hit reverse and began defending rally attendees. Reverting to classic Trump sayings of “record crowds” and “packed stadiums,” Trump said those who were in attendance are “incredible people, those are incredible patriots.”
While Trump can go back to his life of ignorance with no consequences and media outlets face the decision of whether they should label Trump and the chants as racist, life goes on in America. And in this America, more and more people have to prove their American-ness. Even President Barack Obama was subject to this during his time in office.
On the same day as the North Carolina rally, an Illinois gas station clerk told two Hispanic women, “You’re in the wrong country.”
After questioning the women’s citizenship status, harassing their nieces for speaking Spanish and telling the women “ICE will come,” the clerk was fired, according to NowThis News.
Erica Thomas, the minority vice chair in the Georgia House of Representatives, went live on Facebook to share what happened to her on July 19.
Thomas, who is nine months pregnant, had 15 items while waiting in the 10-items-or-less line in the grocery store with her daughter. She said a white man came up to her, called her a “lazy son of a b**ch” and told her “you need to go back where you came from.”
Racism is not on the rise in this country; it never left. The reason people think they’re seeing it more is because cell phone videos and social media allow those being victimized to share their experiences. Additionally, we now have someone in power who constantly spews hate, making like-minded people feel emboldened. They do not have to hide anymore.
When asked if he was concerned that people saw his tweet as racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with it, Trump said he was not concerned because “many people agree with me.”
Always wanting to be the most popular in the room, Trump does not care how his tweet came off or what it will ignite as long as people agree with him.
The United States has a history of treating non-white people as “others” and second-tier citizens.
During debates centered on the abolishment of slavery, white leaders agreed that rather than grant slaves citizenship, the solution was to have them “return” to Africa, according to the Boston Globe. Abraham Lincoln said in a speech from 1854 that his “first impulse” would be to free slaves and then “send them to Liberia, to their own native land.”
In 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that authorized the internment of Japanese Americans. During this time, Japanese Americans were arrested without evidence.
After the September 11 attacks, Congress passed the Patriot Act — legislation that granted new power to domestic law enforcement and international intelligence agencies. A 2003 report from the Justice Department’s inspector general showed Muslim Americans were being profiled in airports, verbally harassed and physically assaulted.
There are currently ICE raids targeting Latinos. People from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala seeking asylum in the U.S. instead have their children stripped away from them and spend time locked in camps along the U.S.-Mexico border.
These events continue to happen in our country that prides itself in being a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures. People of color continue to be reminded that we are seen as “other.” It does not matter whether we were born in the U.S., became citizens, what our education level is, how perfect our English becomes or whether we served in the military. We will simply never be American enough to Trump and people like him.
As soon as a person of color presents an idea that is different and could change the way the U.S. operates, they are confronted with the notion to “go back.”
And yet, despite the chant that echoed in the North Carolina rally and the nativism that continues to see the light of day, there are people like the Minnesotan crowd that greeted Omar upon her arrival on July 18.
“Welcome home, Ilhan,” the crowd chanted while holding banners showing their support for the congresswoman.
In response to Trump’s tweets, Ocasio-Cortez recounted the story of the first time she visited Washington D.C. Her father had her look at the Washington Monument and the Capitol and told her that “this belongs to all of us.”
“The first note that I want to tell children across this country is that no matter what the president says, this country belongs to you. It belongs to everyone,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“Go back to your country” will continue to be the lazy, unoriginal concept regurgitated by those who are afraid of people like Omar, Pressley, Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez. Newsflash, this is their country, and they’re the ones who are actually going to make it great.