Dehumanization Is The Name Of Trump's Racist Game
The president of the United States called a black woman a "dog" on Twitter Tuesday morning. It is common for folks who pride themselves on their supposed rational "level-headedness" to insist that Donald Trump's Twitter antics are part of some three-dimensional chess-like machinations intended to "distract" us from the Mueller investigation. But despite what Trump might think about my genetic stock, I'm capable of maintaining more than one competing thought in my head.
Sure, there's Russian collusion out the wazoo. Yes, immigrant children are still separated from their parents because of the Trump administration's cruel policies. But I also think whenever we dismiss something Trump does that would be a major story in any other presidency with a mammal chief executive, we help normalize this repulsive behavior.
I've mentioned before that every time Trump whips out his racist bullhorn, the "level-headed" brigade rapidly responds with examples of Trump also being an asshat to white guys and won't someone please think of them? "Doesn't Trump frequently call people dogs? He likes to take a Michael Vick theme to his personal insults." Charles M. Blow, who is more dedicated than I, looked into this claim, and it doesn't appear to be true.
I just searched the complete list of Trump's insults since he declared his candidacy that included the word "dog."… https://t.co/UE51URqMhx— Charles M. Blow (@Charles M. Blow)1534268795.0
Trump was challenged during the 2016 GOP debates about his habit of referring to women as "fat pigs" or "slobs," which he shrugged off as simply something "Celebrity Trump" had said about Rosie O'Donnell, who the debate audience likely knew is openly gay. Hillary Clinton later confronted him at a presidential debate about calling a Miss Universe contestant "Miss Piggy." Alicia Machado, of course, is Latina. Trump also doubled down on insulting O'Donnell, whom he insisted "deserved it." I dare say many of the people who'd later vote for him might've agreed.
Trump consistently dehumanizes people of color and women and pretty much anybody who is different. The insults taken out of context might seem disconnected and crudely shaped but when assembled they form a clear, bigoted picture. The brown MS-13 gang members are animals, as is the lone individual who drove a car into security barriers outside of the Houses of Parliament Tuesday morning. (Trump oh-so-presidentially jumps to the conclusion that it's a terrorist attack.)
"These animals are crazy." "Crazy" is another word he likes to throw into the racist casserole his mind is half-baking. There's also "low IQ" and "stupid." It's how you describe subhuman creatures you see as less than you. Joe Scarborough tweeted a link to a 2011 NPR interview with David Livingstone Smith, who argues in his book Less Than Human that dehumanization "opens the door for cruelty and genocide."
SMITH: Thinking sets the agenda for action, and thinking of humans as less than human paves the way for atrocity. The Nazis were explicit about the status of their victims. They were Untermenschen — subhumans — and as such were excluded from the system of moral rights and obligations that bind humankind together. It's wrong to kill a person, but permissible to exterminate a rat. To the Nazis, all the Jews, Gypsies and others were rats: dangerous, disease-carrying rats.
We've seen shadows of this already when Brian Kilmeade on "Fox & Friends" defended the Trump administration's policy of family separation at the border because these "aren't our kids." Trump's tweeted insults aren't just distractions from his awful policies; they help form the foundation for them.
Now, the woman who Trump insulted so viciously Tuesday is admittedly causing him some inconvenience. That alone is enough to unleash hell from your typical (allegedly!) paper-eating narcissist. However, a former reality TV star gadfly spreading embarrassing gossip is certainly nothing compared to FBI agents the president believes have been out to get him.
Lisa Page, who is white, was temporarily a lawyer on Robert Mueller's team. She exchanged texts with now former FBI Agent Peter Strzok that most people interpret as "anti-Trump." Trump describes her as "lovely." He is relatively restrained against Strzok, while still managing to describe Page differently, because she's a woman.
But maybe the FBI stuff is strictly business and not personal. Maybe it just grinds Trump's gears when someone he considers close to him betrays that intimacy, recording private conversations and using them later for their own gain.
Cohen, as you know, was taping Trump possibly admitting to a crime. That's far more serious than claiming he's said a racial epithet anyone in their right mind knows Trump likely exclaims whenever he stubs his toe or sees a NFL player kneeling on television. Maybe we'll all just accept that Trump is a racist. Or maybe we'll just continue being blind to what's happening around us.
Forget Robert Frost: Americans will always take the road most traveled.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."