Stop Defending Your Right to be Offended
Since the latest news from the White House broke at 4:30 pm this afternoon, the media and those of us who watch it have been aflutter with disgust at the President’s most recent statements about immigrants from underdeveloped countries. Progressives have expressed continued horror (as they should) at the ever eroding democratic norms and the President’s open racism. Intellectual conservatives decry his lack of ideological bona-fides, and establishment Republicans, well, most have conveniently found themselves in meetings or “have not seen the statement.”
This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that President Trump insults an entire group of people. It will not be the last time his overt racism and xenophobic fears become front page news. And when it happens again, we will very likely have similar conversations to the ones we have are having now. But at some point, we must figure out a way to get past being offended and have a real national conversation about race and immigration. Those that fear the browning of America need to come to terms with the reality that demographic changes have been underway for at least twenty years; it cannot be stopped, nor do we want it to. I do not know how to make those fears go away, nor do I know how to convince those fearful of change that in America, there has always been room for everyone; that opportunity is not a zero-sum game.
Those more tolerant of change have been asked – no, expected – to be understanding of these fears; to listen, understand, and be patient. But we have now reached a point in the discourse in which the American Brand is adversely affected by the President’s comments and his administrations’ policies. Today, people around the world look to America and begin to see something other than what they have seen in the past. Sadly, this afternoon, with just a few words, our “brand” became the sovereign power version of the Samsung Note 7. Yes, the phones that randomly caught on fire. America is rapidly becoming toxic.
In both private and public industry, branding is everything. President Trump’s words today – in fact, all of his words have an impact. But specifically, those that are hostile, derogatory and racist towards other nations and peoples put us at risk. They expose us to threats that most of us do not even realize. His words put our military at risk. He puts business investment at risk. His words – our President – poses a national security risk to all Americans.
One last thought before I call this day complete. Whenever a group is insulted, there is a tendency for others to race to their defense; to trot out examples of famous members of the cohort in an attempt to explain why the group is deserving of respect. For example, after Trump’s inflammatory remarks about Haitians today, several commentators on both the right and the left, in their disgust, cited memorials to Haitians, erected in Savannah, Georgia. The monuments, spread throughout the city, are a testament to Haitian support for the fledgling colonies in the latter’s fight for independence against Great Britain in the late 18th century.
Haitians have contributed a great deal to American and world history, as so many other deserving groups have. We should find a way to incorporate those contributions into our public education system, rather than wait for an opportunity to defend those individuals’ integrity. No one needs to defend or explain the importance of Haitians, Africans, El Salvadorians, Guatemalans, or Hondurans, simply because the President of the United States is an overt and devout racist. No one, least of all those being offended, should have to explain the contributions that they make or have made to the United States and to the global community. After all, each and every one of them is a human being.
I will end where I started. This has been a really disgusting day. Perhaps what is most disappointing is not the President’s racist remarks or lack of policy comprehension (remember, his comments on immigration were not the only fuck-up today. In addition to the “shit-hole” comments, he almost blew up the Congressional FISA reauthorization after receiving direction from FOX & Friends’ Judge Andrew Napolitano). What is most disappointing is the utter lack of condemnation from members of his own party (with few exceptions) and the sheer enablement that the Republican Party continues to impart upon this incompetent President.
I do not need to know that Haitians supported the colonists in their fight against British rule. I do not need to know that refugees from El Salvador have been working, legally for almost two decades, in public and private businesses, paying taxes and contributing to their communities. I know everything I need to know because these people are human beings that have for some reason, landed in America. And they, like so many other immigrant generations before them, work harder, for lower wages, in jobs that Americans will not do, because they feel blessed to live in the United States of America.
Save your defenses. Opponents to immigration will remain opposed, regardless of the argument. It is now on them to prove they are not racist. For those of us who have nothing to fear and understanding the tremendous economic value that immigration brings to America, let’s move on.