Opinion

Renée Graham

Donald Trump’s dangerous rhetoric

Donald Trump.

AP/file 2015

Donald Trump.

Fine, Donald Trump. Let’s ban all Muslims from entering the United States — but only if you’re willing to do the same regarding white men.

Or, perhaps, those already here should be tracked or deported since the majority of mass shooters — or terrorists, as they should rightfully be called — are white and male. When American lives are at stake, Donald, there’s simply no line of reasoning or constitutionality that should not be breached, am I right?

Advertisement

If Trump were serious about keeping this nation safe, he would talk about why we have more mass shootings than any nation in the world, and why the perpetrators are often white men. These are terrible, unassailable facts. Instead, Trump’s flatulent campaign is propelled with so much anti-Muslim invective, he makes former segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace look like Bernie Sanders.

After the Paris terrorist attacks, Trump said he would “strongly consider” closing mosques “where hate is preached.” Meanwhile, from James Holmes in Aurora, Colo., and Adam Lanza in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, to accused murderers Dylann Roof in Charleston, S.C., and Robert Dear in Colorado Springs, Colo., this year, white men, angry and armed, are more of a clear and present danger than any ISIS sympathizer.

Get This Week in Opinion in your inbox:
Globe Opinion's must-reads, delivered to you every Sunday.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Yet Trump would never say such a thing, because it doesn’t fit the rancid narrative that has allowed him to dominate all other GOP candidates for president. He has plunged into the deep vein of racism, cultural disparagement, and religious mistrust that has coursed through our nation since its inception. When Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people by blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City 20 years ago, his crimes were viewed as the murderous action of one deranged man. It did not brand every white man as a potential terrorist.

In Trump’s America, if one Mexican is a criminal, then all Mexicans are criminals; if one Muslim is a terrorist, then all Muslims are terrorists. It’s a treacherous mindset that seeks only to demonize and vilify, to prop up the superiority of one group while digging its sharp heels into the backs of others.

As an African-American, I know what it’s like to watch a news report about a heinous crime, and to hope and pray that the suspects don’t look like me. And I know the great relief I feel if the accused is anything except black. Conversely, I have also experienced that peculiar wave of despair when a suspect is African-American. To be anything other that white means you are expected to answer for any criminal act committed by a member of your race — much as Muslims are specifically called on to denounce terrorist acts. This divisive attitude has existed long before Trump, but his malignant rhetoric stokes our rush to “otherize” anyone who looks, behaves, or worships differently.

Advertisement

Already we’ve seen its sour effects. In August, two South Boston brothers battered a homeless Hispanic man; one of them claimed to have been inspired by Trump. Anti-Muslim violence is on the rise, and while that may not be entirely Trump’s doing, his demagoguery has pulled such unchecked hatred from society’s fringe.

There is a French saying: “Après moi, le déluge.” It’s often understood to mean, “After me, disaster,” but carries the damning notion that the speaker doesn’t care about the chaos left in his wake. That Trump will never be president is irrelevant. His front-page bigotry is soiling this nation, and long after his corrosive campaign is over, we may find ourselves with a new interpretation of that Gallic expression: Après Trump, le déluge.

Renée Graham writes regularly for the Globe. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.

Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.