By CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid
The final State of the Union speech by President Obama and the GOP follow-up address by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, both given last week, overtly called Americans toward civil political discourse. Although both speeches had different tones and contained certain problematic points, the messages repudiated the language of blowhards, Donald Trump being the foremost of them.
The following day Haley was more explicit in calling out Trump. She said, “Mr. Trump has definitely contributed to what I think is just irresponsible talk,” on NBC’s Today Show. I could not agree more.
Trump was an easy target because he is obnoxious and boorish. What is more insidious are the coded messages and grossly inaccurate statements to arouse fear and further divide people. For instance, it is said nothing is being done to stop so-called “illegals” from flooding our country, which in turn is a national security issue that weakens our economy. Our country however is facing reverse immigration. In recent years, more immigrants that are Mexican have returned to Mexico in comparison to new immigrants entering the U.S. from Mexico. According to the Pew Research Center, there was a 1.5 million decrease in undocumented immigrants from Mexico coming to the U.S. from 2007 to 2014 with reverse immigration.
Moreover, Obama has been the toughest president in generations regarding deporting undocumented immigrants, separating families in the process. In his first two years as president, the Obama administration deported more people than President George W. Bush did in eight years. Two weeks ago In Atlanta, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was involved in a controversial mass round up of primarily Latino immigrants that had the civil and immigration rights activists up in arms. Soft xenophobe politicians, including Haley, who ironically is a child of Sikh immigrants from India, exclude these facts.
Similar xenophobia and Islamophobia is invoked when discussing blocking all Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. despite the lack of evidence that orphan children, including 400 who were slated to come to Michigan this year, pose a threat to the homeland. Rest assured our nation has one of the strictest and most sophisticated background check processes in the world for refugees. It takes nearly three years on average to enter our borders. Again, fearmongering politicians and media pundits would rather focus on poor Syrian refugees who are primarily Muslim as potential threats to the homeland rather than deal with empirical FBI data which shows those who plot and commit the most terrorism in America are U.S. citizens who are not of Syrian or Arab descent.
Rejection of overt racism and xenophobia and calls for civil discourse by politicians are welcome and needed to have legitimate political disagreements. However, implicit bias that underlies the incitement of fear in today’s political environment is harming America. Americans of different ethnicities and religious affiliations must be more active in contacting political leaders to encourage them to be engaged in productive discussions, which do not marginalize minority groups.
Trump may have moved the standard civil political discourse. His putrid speech makes others’ bias framework look tolerable. That does not make the softer rhetoric rooted in bias acceptable. Let us address that too this election year.