There is a new form of hate speech that white people use to poke at Latinos. It goes like this:
“Trump! Trump! Trump!”
As President Trump concludes his first year in office, his “street cred” as a bully, demagogue and racist is well established. And Latinos – especially Mexicans and Mexican-Americans – are his favorite pinata.
Whether he’s slamming an immigrant, beauty queen, or federal judge, Trump can barely hide his contempt for America’s largest minority. It’s not enough that Latinos start businesses at a greater rate than others, receive the Medal of Honor in high numbers, help shape popular culture, pay their share of taxes and raise kids to respect authority.
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Now Latinos must put up with constantly being told that they’re ruining the country and that America would be a better place if they weren’t in it. And all this isn’t just coming from some random crackpot. No sir. This crackpot is the leader of the free world.
When you consider everything that Trump has done to antagonize Latinos – from threatening to create a deportation force modeled on 1954’s “Operation Wetback” to pardoning lawman-turned-outlaw Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who profiled them while enforcing immigration law – it’s not surprising that Trump’s name has become a racial taunt.
Politicians use code to send messages, but the public is pretty good at deciphering. The message that many Americans have received from Trump is that Latinos are a foreign menace that usurps resources, takes jobs, lowers wages, commits crimes, imports drugs, speeds urban decay, and gobbles up welfare.
And who will protect the country from this plague? Why, Donald Trump.
That’s why two white announcers, a few weeks ago, made racist comments when calling a high school basketball game in Iowa. The team from Forest City was hosting a more diverse squad from nearby Eagle Grove High School, when the two started making wisecracks about the Latino names of some Eagle Grove players. “They’re all foreigners,” said 76-year-old Orin Harris, a longtime broadcaster. “As Trump would say, 1 / 8they should 3 / 8 go back where they came from.”
At other high school sporting events, the chant “Trump! Trump! Trump!” has emerged as a popular way for white students – and onlookers in the stands – to put Latinos in their place.
In March, at a basketball game at suburban Canton High School in Connecticut, white fans in the bleachers shouted the chant as players from Hartford’s Classical Magnet School, which is largely Latino, took foul shots during a basketball game.
This sort of thing has been going on for the last two and a half years, ever since Trump announced his candidacy for president by accusing Mexico of sending its worst to the United States and calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals.
Sometimes, there are variations to the taunt.
Last year, the girls’ soccer team from Beloit Memorial High School in Wisconsin, which is made up largely of Latinas, left the field traumatized after fans of the team from Elkhorn Area High School chanted: “Donald Trump, build that wall!”
After the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a report called “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the 2016 Election on Our Nation’s Schools.” After surveying more than 10,000 teachers, it found an increase in incidents involving such racist symbols as swastikas and Confederate flags. There were also multiple references to immigrants.
Calling this a “Trump Effect” goes a bit too far. It implies that Trump made Americans racist, while there is ample evidence that Americans were already racist long before Trump descended that escalator at Trump Tower and entered politics.
You want to talk racism? Take a good look at the ugly campaign that Bill and Hillary Clinton – and their surrogates – waged in 2008 against a brash young African-American senator from Illinois who didn’t want to wait his turn.
Trump didn’t really divide Americans, but he did an awfully good job of pushing buttons and exploiting divisions that were already there.
Sometimes, at high school sporting events, the reference to Trump is followed by an even more troubling chant: “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”
That’s the line, folks. Don’t cross it. You don’t go up to a group of people – who, when it came to paying the ultimate price for freedom, died on foreign soil, from Normandy to Pork Chop Hill to Khe Sanh to Fallujah – and question our patriotism.
You want to claim the name “Trump” as your own, be our guests. You’re welcome to it.
But hands off the phrase “U.S.A.” That belongs to us as much as it does you. And, just as we have countless times before, we'll fight to defend our claim.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.