What Trump's 'go home' comment really means

What Trump really means when he tells 'The Squad' to go home
5 min read
22 Jul, 2019
Comment: In Trump's America, being anything but white is a crime in itself, writes Sam Hamad.
Trump speaks at a Keep America Great rally in Greenville, North Carolina [Getty]
One of my earliest memories is being told to "go home," or a variant of this common racist trope.  

Me, my older brother and sister had ventured out to the park behind our house. 

There, gathered around the swings, a group of white boys - giant to my three or four-year-old self back then - shouted at us to "go back to your own country," with an additional array of expletives and racist epithets that I didn't quite understand at the time.  

I remember being confused. I was home. I was born in Scotland and never had any other home other than the one near the park. 

But this would not be the last time I was told to go home. Obviously, as it would later dawn on me, my only crimes were having slightly darker skin than them, a "funny" foreign name and sometimes speaking an incomprehensible language that wasn't English. 

Throughout my life, being told to "go home" was a common theme, as was "go back  to the jungle." Most of the time it was something that would be used against me or my siblings when we got into arguments or fights with other kids, but the fact that the white kids fell back on this specific racist command with alarming regularity hinted at something more sinister than mere childhood cruelty.  

It was only as I matured that I came to realise that racism trickles or in some cases gushes, down. The kids learned to be racist from their parents, while the racism that their parents had probably learned in their own childhoods might have been agitated by then openly racist and anti-immigrant tabloids such as The Sun

Trump's angry white support base, littered with white nationalists, misogynists and Islamophobes, will be delighted

And the newspapers, to a certain extent, interact with and determine the political discourse. This trickle-down of racist poison would turn into a rapid flow when it came to election time.

And so, when Trump tells a tells a group of ethnic minority opposition Democratic Congresswomen, known as 'The Squad', to "go back to where they came from," he knows perfectly well what he's doing. 

He's simultaneously normalising a particularly nasty piece of racist discourse, while also reflecting the rabid racism and white supremacy of his electoral and support base.  

It's the well-worn fascist tactic of ceaseless radicalisation - normalising extremism on a popular level by pulling these continuous high profile racist stunts. It's exactly the same playbook as his constant incitement against the free press.

The more radical Trump's base becomes, the more passionately they will campaign for him in 2020. The more divided America comes along racial lines, the easier it will be for Trump to exploit and conquer the manufactured fears of white America.  

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At a recent Trump rally, he incited the crowd against Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who came to the US as a child refugee fleeing war, by linking her to al-Qaeda. The response was the rabble chanting "send her home".  

This ought to send a collective shiver down the spine of the world. If this was the rally of some heterodox Republican figure, one might be concerned, but this is a rally of the President of the United States.  

In the US' bitterly divided political environment, you might find that Republicans who hadn't quite gone "full Trump" being swept up in this appeal to ultra-nationalism.

Meanwhile, Trump's angry white support base, littered with white nationalists, misogynists and Islamophobes, will be delighted at their figurehead taking on these uppity, left-of-centre, women of colour who represent everything they hate.

Though a few Republicans, mostly in swing states, have expressed a rather limp "disagreement" with aspects of Trump's remarks, in Congress only a measly four of 197 members joined the Democrats' official condemnation of the president. Republicans have largely supported or said nothing about Trump's comments.

To be anti-racist in Trump's Republican Party is to be "anti-American".  

Though it has been pointed out that Trump's racist proclamation against the Congresswomen makes no sense given three of the four were born in the US, the comments are perfectly rational if you're a racist. 

This is what my childhood self didn't understand. To the racist, the point isn't about where you were born, the point is about your heritage: Your name, culture and skin colour. 

It's exactly the same playbook as his constant incitement against the free press

In this sense, Trump's attack on these women is unadulterated blood and soil ('Blut und Bloten', as was the Nazi slogan) racism. You can be born in the Bronx or Detroit or speak with a New York accent, but if your name is Ocasio-Cortez, or if your religion is Islam, or if you speak Spanish, or, most importantly, if your skin colour isn't white, you're not a real American. The chillingly simple white nationalist slogan reflecting these sentiments is 'my race is my nation'. 

America obviously has a vivid history of this kind of racism that was once sustained by the system of apartheid against Black Americans in the South and the dreaded Jim Crow laws, abolished only in the 1960s.  

But while these attitudes may no longer be endorsed by the law, they  never disappeared, and have come roaring back in the form of Donald Trump. And he knows and exploits this terrifying reality.   

Trump has reacted to the backlash regarding his comments by ramping it all up a notch. 

The chillingly simple white nationalist slogan reflecting these sentiments is 'my race is my nation'

In the days since his initial comments, he praised the rabid crowd screaming "send her back" as "incredible patriots". In addition, he retweeted a series of tweets from the English far-right agitator Katie Hopkins. In the past, Hopkins has called for a "final solution for Islam" and called immigrants "cockroaches", but here, was calling for British leaders to echo Trump's rhetoric of "sending home" people of colour who "don't like the country".  

Of course, Trump's rhetoric is matched by his actions. His racist rhetoric is backed up by a raft of barbaric racist policies.

Through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Trump has deported tens of thousands migrants from the US. And despite his rhetoric claiming that such people are "the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America", 
research has demonstrated just the opposite - those deported by ICE under Trump overwhelmingly do not have criminal records. 

Their crime is their race in Trump's America.  

Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer.

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.