Trump, Immigration, and the Testimony of Christianity in America
I say this as neither a Democrat or Republican. That being said...
For the past 50 years, the Republican Party has harnessed racism for votes through what’s known as the “Southern Strategy.” In the wake of African American civil rights gains of the 1960’s, the Republican Party drew disillusioned white, working class Democrats to its ranks by appealing to racism. Their language was not outright racist, however, because by that time explicitly racist political verbiage had become unacceptable. Instead, Republicans used racially neutral buzzwords to tap into white racial fears and anxieties. They did not explicitly oppose racial integration in the schools, for example, but instead opposed “busing”; they were not against racial integration per se, but supported “states’ rights” and opposed the long arm of the federal government; they didn’t oppose the noble aims of Rev. Martin Luther King, but did not agree with his strategies of civil disobedience which led to a breakdown of “law and order.”
Note: It may sound here like I'm Republican bashing, but I'm simply stating what the Southern Strategy was. Democrats have their own racism and racist history to be sure, but the Southern Strategy was an explicitly Republican political device.
Richard Nixon is credited with solidifying the Southern Strategy. In a famous 1981 interview, Republican strategist Lee Atwater disturbingly summarized this veiled racist strategy in the following way:
“You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.…“We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
You can hear the audio recording of the Atwater interview here: http://www.thenation.com/article/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy/
My old law school professor Ian Haney-Lopez calls these coded racial appeals, “Dog Whistle Politics”: http://www.salon.com/2013/12/22/how_the_gop_became_the_white_mans_party/
Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and, ironically, Ben Carson, are playing “dog whistle” politics with the American public over the issue of immigration. They are leveraging the racial antipathy held by many Americans towards immigrants for political gain. Tragically, a large segment of the evangelical Christian population is also answering to Trump’s dog whistle. By supporting Trump and Carson, the testimony of Jesus Christ is being destroyed.
Here are some of Trump’s racist, coded appeals:
- “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” http://www.ijreview.com/2015/07/359423-cnn-actually-fact-checks-donald-trumps-immigration-comments-well-you-decide-how-fair-it-is/
The fact of the matter is that many studies have shown that immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be imprisoned than the native born. Moreover, high immigration rates are associated with lower rates of violent crimes and property crimes. http://immigrationpolicy.org/special-reports/criminalization-immigration-united-states
- Trump calls for the rounding up and deportation of 11 million immigrants.
As many--Republicans and Democrats alike--have pointed out, this is morally and practically unacceptable.
- Trump calls for the denial of birthright citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants. He wants to revoke the citizenship that has already been given to millions of children in the United States. In other words, go house to house to find U.S. citizen children who were born to undocumented immigrant parents, cancel their citizenship, round them up, and send them back by force to their parents’ country of origin!
More on birthright citizenship: Birthright citizenship has been the law of the land since July 9, 1868. According to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, it means that everyone born in the United States is a U.S. citizen.
Guess why it was adopted—to ensure that African Americans would be granted U.S. citizenship status. Until 1866, African Americans were denied U.S. citizenship because of their legal status as human chattel. In fact, in the famous Dred Scott case of 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that African Americans—whether slave or free—could never be granted U.S. citizenship status because such status was not constitutionally guaranteed. Birthright citizenship was established in 1868 as part of the 14th Amendment to provide a constitutional guarantee that African Americans would no longer be denied citizenship.
Birthright citizenship is also granted to children who are born outside of the U.S., but to of a U.S.-citizen parent. Guess which current presidential candidate benefited from this provision—Ted Cruz! Ted Cruz was born in Canada. He was granted birthright citizenship because his mother was a U.S. citizen.
This is why the whole controversy behind President Obama’s birth certificate is a sham. First, President Obama did produce his birth certificate which clearly states that he was born in Hawaii. Second, even if he was born in another country (which he wasn’t’), he, like Ted Cruz, would still have received birthright citizenship and therefore be entitled to be President of the United States. Why is Donald Trump not questioning where Ted Cruz was born? We know he was not born in the United States.
Many white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups support Donald Trump because of his racist positions against immigrants.
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke supports Donald Trump and praised him as, "the best of the lot." According to Duke, “I’ve said from the beginning I think his campaign is good in the sense that it’s bringing these issues to a discussion which we have to have in America.” “And he’s continuing to move the envelope further and I think he understands the real sentiment of America.” http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/25/politics/david-duke-donald-trump-immigration/
Trump has received other white supremacist and neo-Nazi endorsements from:
The Daily Stormer: a major neo-Nazi news site.
According to the Stormer’s recent endorsement, “Trump is willing to say what most Americans think: it’s time to deport these people…” The Stormer then admonished white men to “vote for the first time in our lives for the one man who actually represents our interests.”
Richard Spencer: director of the National Policy Institute. The National Policy Institute supports the, “heritage, identity, and future of European people.” Capturing the fear-based nature of Trump’s racial rhetoric, Spencer recently stated:
“Trump, on a gut level, kind of senses that this is about demographics, ultimately. We’re moving into a new America.” “ Trump represents “an unconscious vision that white people have -- that their grandchildren might be a hated minority in their own country. I think that scares us. They probably aren’t able to articulate it. I think it’s there. I think that, to a great degree, explains the Trump phenomenon. I think he is the one person who can tap into it.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-white-supremacists_55dce43ee4b08cd3359dc41a
Jared Taylor, editor of the white nationalist magazine, American Renaissance.
Michael Hill: leader of the Alabama white supremacist group known as League of the South.
For more on these white supremacist and neo-Nazi endorsements, see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-white-supremacists_55dce43ee4b08cd3359dc41a
Christians, are you sure you want to stand on the same side as David Duke and the white supremacist/neo-Nazi movement in America?
From a biblical perspective, “dog whistle politics” appeals to the worst of sinful human nature. As the prophet Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9)?” Apart from God and the renewal of our hearts by Jesus, our natural tendency is to feel threatened by those who are different from ourselves. As an outgrowth of this tendency, sinful human nature leads human beings to exploit, oppress, and scapegoat immigrants. This is what Donald Trump has tapped into in this American moment.
This is why the Bible is filled with dire warnings against the exploitation of immigrants. In fact, the Bible teaches that when we mistreat immigrants, we are actually mistreating Jesus Himself. Here are several poignant biblical warnings:
“The Lord watches over the strangers [immigrants]; He relieves the fatherless and widow.” Psalm 146: 9.
“Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger [immigrant], the fatherless, and widow.” Deut 27: 19.
“Then he [Jesus] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger [immigrant] and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” Matthew 25: 41-45.
Through his coded, racial appeals, Donald Trump is leveraging racism for votes. He’s simply following an old, and sadly, successful, pattern in American politics.
As Christians, we need to not take the bait. We need to hear the “dog whistle” for what it is—racial exploitation for votes. If we don’t, then we destroy the witness of Jesus Christ in America.
Even more damning is that if we support Trump’s hateful rhetoric, then, according to Jesus’ own words, we are supporting the exploitation and oppression of Jesus Himself. You cannot stand with Jesus and Donald Trump at the same time.
With much disappointment and a deep chill that cuts to my bones,
Robert Chao Romero