The Unrepeatable Elephant in the Room

First off, this isn't intended to be a partisan political post. I really am trying to approach this from a history/social science angle. The topic I'm addressing is already being vigorously discussed in social media, at home, in the hallways, and in the classroom. I'm writing with the hope of helping to ground the discussion in American history.

We are living in a time when societal norms, what is acceptable and what isn't, are being challenged every single day. Challenging some of these norms is for the better, people are trying to address wrongs and inequities that have gone on for far too long. But some of what we’re seeing is regressive and is taking us in a direction we should be concerned about. Yesterday's denigration of African and Caribbean countries by President Trump (you know what he said) falls squarely into the latter category. People around the world have been outraged and offended by both the language the President used and the sentiment he expressed. I know I was. What I want to talk about is that while it's important that we speak out and say “this is unacceptable!”, I also believe that we need to understand where this hateful bigotry comes from. It's not just from the mouth of President Trump; it's rising from the darkest and ugliest part of our nation's history. Below are links to three articles which I believe provide some important historical context to anti-immigrant bigotry and bias through American history.

Fear of Foreigners: A Cartoon History of Nativism in America

A History of American Anti-Immigrant Bias, Starting With Benjamin Franklin's Hatred of Germans

Racist Anti-Immigrant Cartoons From the Turn of the 20th Century

So what's my point? It's that Trump isn't new or unique in his racist views. He's the bigger-than-life manifestation of a nasty through-line in American history. The silver lining here is that people are waking up to the fact that one of the worst parts of our American society—a part that many of us, perhaps naively, thought we had moved beyond—is still with us, alive and well in the White House. And hopefully, with this realization, we can unite around the shared belief that this kind of language and behavior is unacceptable, then rise up and get rid of it once and for all.  

 

Stephen Watkins

Husband. Dad. Former ad guy. Current grad student. Future teacher. Unrepentant geek.