While much of the alarm has centred on Trump’s strident rhetoric and policy proposals targeting Muslims and Mexicans – the “Muslim ban” and the ”Mexican wall“ – Trumpism has hardly spared African-Americans, the group he simultaneously courted and disparaged before a predominantly white audience in Akron.
Trump rambled, mixing ill-articulated acknowledgment of government neglect and racial inequity with callous stereotyping, and the classic racism cop out, “I have black friends,” or in the case of Trump, “I hire blacks.”
This fear of a black and brown United States is the grand narrative of the Trump campaign, symbolised by individuals of colour – of every shade – being ejected from one of his raucous rallies, and a zealous support base pushed to the polls by the Trumpian trilogy of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia.
Trump’s campaign has brought the underbelly of American racism to the fore. In February 2015, the Ku Klux Klan endorsed the eventual Republican nominee.
For days, Trump remained casually silent about this endorsement, refusing to expressly disavow the group and its endorsement. More recently, on August 30, the KKK leader David Duke reaffirmed his endorsement of Trump, explicitly citing anti-immigration and abhorrence of “Black Panther cop killers” as primary bases for his support.
Duke’s “Black Panther cop killers” was not an offhand phrase, but a malicious characterisation of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Echoing Duke, Trump characterised the movement as a group “calling death to the police”, and responsible for “dividing America”.
If Trump’s corporate and campaign record is any barometer, African-Americans have a great deal to lose with a Trump presidency. This includes every segment of the African-American population, particularly Muslims.
African-Americans comprise the largest segment of the Muslim American population. In a watershed piece examining the intersection of anti-black racism and Islamophobia, Donna Auston observes: “Yet, in spite of the fact that a full one-third of the US Muslim population is black, we rarely tend to think of issues of anti-black racism, poverty, mass incarceration, or police brutality as legitimate ‘Muslim’ issues. This is because we rarely consider black Muslims.”
There is a long history of black Muslims in the US, which predates the inception of the country. Today there is also a sizeable African immigrant Muslim community which faces Islamophobia, anti-black racism and xenophobia.
Trump’s most recent comments were geared towards the Somali American community in Minneapolis and Maine. While delivering a speech in Maine, Trump suggested that the 12,000 Somali Americans living there were responsible for the recent surge in crime rates.
He did not spare the 70,000 Somali Americans residing in Minneapolis when he stated, in the very same speech, that the, “state has become a ‘rich pool’ of potential recruiting targets for Islamist terror groups”.
In the same breath when he targets the black Muslim community with racial and religious epithets connecting Islamophobia and anti-black racism, branding different segments of the broader Black population as both “thugs” and “terrorists”.
In line with this demonisation, Auston observes, “we are profiled both on the street and at the airport – as existential threats to white, Christian America. Yet we refuse to answer to any of our given epithets – either ‘thug’ or ‘terrorist’“.
For black Muslims, both African American and immigrant, Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened violence in their direction. And if elected, his policies will carry forward policing and profiling measures that intensify scrutiny and surveillance.
‘Make America Great Again‘ actually spells fear of a black and brown US, where racist rhetoric will graduate into racist policy, and concurrently, the emboldening of the racist violence we see unfolding on the streets of the US’ black communities.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Fear of a black and brown America’.